Family Business Awards: Small Companies

Napoleon Co.
Seated, left to right: Susan Magnano Salazar, Joe Magnano, Milo Magnano Jr. Standing: Tony Magnano.

The Napoleon Co.’s roots go back to Antonio Magnano, who
came to America from Italy in 1903 at age 24 and started a wholesale food
business on Seattle’s First Avenue, A. Magnano Co., one of the first importers
of Italian products in the region. Magnano’s three sons, Angelo, Marco and
Antonino, joined the business in 1928, which was renamed A. Magnano & Sons.
In 1960, the sons sold 51 percent of the company and started a new firm: The
Napoleon Co.
, named after the Magnanos’ private-label olive oil.

Napoleon established itself as a distributor of brands like
Mauna Loa and Nestle, as well as an importer of artichokes and olives. It also
began selling its own private-label products including vinegar, olive oil,
olives, canned seafood, artichokes, pickled and grilled vegetables, and more.

The Napoleon Co.

Location: Bellevue
Employees: 12

It now imports more than 150 specialty food products.

In 1970, the third generation of Magnanos joined the
business: first, Angelo’s son Joe and Marco’s son Milo, and later, Angelo’s
daughter, Susan Magnano Salazar. The company also was the first in the
Northwest to import organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Tony Magnano, an account executive in the fourth generation
of the family, says that the family members start their careers with the
company during high school. However, they are encouraged to go out into the
world to work in other businesses before deciding whether or not to join The
Napoleon Co.

“The family encourages a broader spectrum of business that
would complete you,” Tony Magnano says. “We want you to try your hand at other
things and to chase your dreams. We’ll always be here.”

Will there be a fifth generation? Possibly,
says Tony Magnano, who is still in his 30s. “The idea is to leave this company
to the next generation better than we found it,” he explains, pointing to the
family’s values of trust and hard work. “That’s the way it’s always been.”


Bergstrom Aircraft Inc.

Bergstrom Aircraft

Location: Pasco
Employees: 30

The story of Bergstrom Aircraft begins with the emigration of Karl and Elenor Bergstrom from Sweden to the United States in 1965 “to live the American dream.” In 1972, Karl started his first business offering general aviation maintenance. His firm grew in size and popularity and was incorporated in 1976. Nearly 40 years later, the Pasco-based company has expanded into a multimillion-dollar corporation that offers a flight school, scenic flights, photography, aircraft rentals, refueling services and pilot supplies. Though Karl and Elenor are still involved, a second generation of owners—Malin and Daniel Bergstrom—is now at the helm of the business.

“My brother and I have carried on with the reputation that our parents established long ago: Treat your employees and customers like family and success will find you,” explains Malin Bergstrom, president and general manager.

Seidelhuber Iron and Bronze Works

Seidelhuber Iron and Bronze Works

Location: Seattle
Employees: 17
Website: N/A

Based in Seattle’s South Park, Seidelhuber Iron and Bronze Works has a rich 104-year history. Samples of its work are sprinkled throughout downtown Seattle, and include the rebuilt Pioneer Square pergola. The firm is run today by Heidi Seidelhuber, granddaughter of founder Frank Seidelhuber, and Heidi’s husband Terry Seaman. Despite the tough economy, the firm has remained in business without laying off any of its 17 employees or replacing them with automation. The company sometimes operates at a loss, but that’s a risk Seidelhuber is willing to take. After all, her employees have families, too.

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