The Rise of Joe Faro
It’s just before 9 a.m. at Tuscan Market in Salem, N.H., but for Joe Faro, the day is well underway.
As local business people and families enjoy freshly made bread and breakfast dishes in the open-air, Italian-style market, Faro is in the back, pouring his passion and creativity into his Tuscan Brands empire, which now includes four Tuscan Kitchen restaurants (in Salem and Portsmouth, N.H., and Boston and Burlington, Mass.) two Tuscan Market locations (in Salem and Portsmouth), and the $1 billion, 170-acre Tuscan Village that’s rising from the former Rockingham Park racetrack across the street.
The sign outside his office door says “Joe Faro, Head Food Taster,” and inside, the modest space holds symbols of his passions — Italian cookbooks, family photos and blueprints. A lot of blueprints.
On this day, Faro has already hit the gym and held meetings. His phone is constantly beeping with texts and calls. He says the harder he works, the luckier he gets, which is why he likes to be hands-on — when he bets on himself, he likes the odds.
“I’m a very positively obsessed person,” he says. “If I latch on to something, I will pour myself into it so I make sure it’s a success. Nothing I do works right out of the gate. You have to condition yourself to get over that initial bump and make the climb.”
Having made enough money to retire many times over by the time he was 40, Faro, now 49, doesn’t need to be so busy. With houses in Seabrook Beach, N.H., and Sicily, he doesn’t want more properties. He says he has cars he doesn’t drive.
Several years ago, Faro tried to retire to the country club life, a failed effort he says was more of a “ramping down” after selling his first business, Joseph’s Gourmet Pastas and Sauces, to Nestlé in 2006.
“I did my very best,” he says. “I went to the country club, I got a nice set of golf clubs. I love golf, but at the end of the day, I love people. I love relationships. I love creating. I love the visionary part of it. I love to take that vision and craft it into a real business. That’s really what I missed.”
Faro admits he’s a perfectionist, which is not easy when you have several businesses and more than 500 employees. But he believes if he has his staff’s backs, they’ll have his, and that mutual respect is incredibly important to him.
As he walks through the kitchen of Tuscan Kitchen, he greets employees like old friends.
“¿Cuántos años ha trabajado aquí (how many years have you worked here)?” he asks members of his staff, speaking in fluent Spanish.
They answer 15 years, 17 years, even 20, long before he made it big. Faro knows the struggle of immigrant families firsthand. His parents came to the United States from Italy with nothing. They settled in Lawrence on the Methuen line, and his father, Joe Sr., started a bakery in Haverhill. Working hard was all young Joey Faro knew.
“There are a lot of great Merrimack Valley stories that were born out of Lawrence,” he says. “It’s a city that has spawned a lot of stories of people who have thrived through adversity — and utilized the diversity of the city — to create some great things.”
It is important to Faro that he remembers the people who have helped him along the way. When he sold Joseph’s Gourmet Pastas and Sauces, he set up his executive team with enough money to retire, and some did, but others stayed with him. He distributed another $2.5 million among his employees at the pasta factory.
Faro shares the story of one employee who stole money from the restaurant last year to support an opioid addiction. Faro called the police, but when he learned that the young man was facing a prison sentence, he sought an opportunity to give him a second chance through a recovery program.
“I told him, ‘You stole from the right guy,’ ” Faro says. Sober and ready to try again, the cook started back at the market in August.
Faro has faced struggles of his own. Dubbed by his peers as the “Student Least Likely To Succeed” at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Faro hit a low point in his first year at the University of New Hampshire, when he skipped his way to a 1.7 GPA. His father wondered aloud whether he’d raised “a post” in the ground, destined to go nowhere. If his son was going to get a college degree, he was on his own.
Faro worked two jobs, got student loans, and scraped up money wherever he could.
“Whatever it took to get it done, and we got it done,” he says.
His passion ignited, Faro came up with the business plan for Joseph’s Gourmet Pastas and Sauces as part of a college project. The rest is history.
When he returned to UNH to speak at their CEO Forum, he told students of his 3 P’s — passion, patience and perseverance.
“Passion means you love what you do, which will fuel you,” he says. “Patience means you are willing to wait to get to your goal. Perseverance means you will power through the bumps. You’re not afraid to fall down, because you will get up.”
These are ideals he wants to instill in his three children, and principles that are valued by the causes he supports, organizations such as Lazarus House Ministries and the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, which try to help the underprivileged, many from immigrant families, find a path to a better life.
It’s also why he remains in the Merrimack Valley, working from this small office in Salem, N.H. He wells with pride when talking about what Tuscan Village, with shops, entertainment, housing and, of course, fine Italian food, will do for the Salem community and New Hampshire.
Getting there will take a lot more work. It’s 11 a.m., and Faro has more meetings to attend and phone calls to make. He says creating Tuscan Village is like climbing Mount Everest — it will be painful on the way up, but worth it.
“When life gives you lemons, squeeze limoncello,” he says with a smile.