Name: Paul Guglielmo
Profession: Entrepreneur, Radio Personality
Title: Founder of Guglielmo Sauce and co-host/producer of the Brother Wease Radio Show
Location: The home of Lauren Dixon and Mike Schwabl
Interview: John Loury Photography: James Bogue
1. What life events have had the greatest impact on who you are today?
First by being an American exchange student in Italy when I was in high school. I spent a full year abroad and learned to accept and understand other cultures at an early age. That lesson has stayed with me for years and has made me a much better learner ever since. I attended college at John Carroll University in Cleveland. The freedom that I was given there to be creative and find my way with just enough guidance to make sure I didn’t stray too far off the path at any time was so impactful for me. Let’s not forget moving to Rochester and being able to live in a community that is so accepting of art and creativity. Also, working with Brother Wease on the radio. He’s a legend, and his status has granted him 5 hours of talk time every morning on Rochester radio. I went from being his back-up phone screener to his right-hand-man, getting to have a 5 hour conversation with him every morning. Lastly, meeting my wife. Seeing a beautiful, smart, sweet woman, asking her on a date, and not only having her say yes, but becoming my wife 7 years later. These are the experiences that have made me who I am today.
2. How do you define success? And What metrics do you use to confirm it?
There are a couple ways that I measure success. One, are you happy? Two, can you honestly say that you’re happy? I know it’s corny, but I haven’t worked a day in my life. I’m so passionate and in love with what I do (both radio & sauce) that none of it feels like work. At home, I’ve married my best friend. She’s way too good looking to be my wife, but she picked me for some reason and she makes coming home fun and something I look forward to. And three, have you created something that has bettered the world in any way? Not everyone can create Apple or Facebook. But we can create things, small things, and put them out into the world. Between creating radio and my sauce business I feel very fulfilled. Now, I just need to talk to my wife about creating something else and… well… that’s private!
3. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m friendly and I do root for everyone but I’m also driven by competition. Knowing that right now my competition is out there doing something to better themselves drives me. It makes it hard for me to ever allow a minute, hour, or day go by without doing something to better my position. Also, like many others, I’ve been told that I can’t. I’ve been told that the odds of having my own radio show are slim to none. I’ve been told that the pasta sauce category is too crowded and I won’t be able to sell a jar. If you want to scare me, tell me I can, don’t tell me I can’t. That’s motivation for me, and it drives me. It’s also made consider how I treat others more. When someone pitches me an idea, there’s a 0% chance I’m going to tell them it can’t be done. Although, by my logic, maybe I should. It could help them become more motivated? But then I’d just feel like a jerk.
4. What is it about your approach that is unique or separates you from others?
I love what I do so much and I’m incredibly passionate about what I do. I’ve worked jobs that I didn’t care about before. I was in sales and I had a promotions job at one point, I was not good at either. I just didn’t believe in it. I never thought that I could sell a thing based on how bad I was at that sales job. But selling my grandpa’s sauce… somehow, I can do. Because we’re so connected, there’s no stumping me. Objections? No problem, I can answer every single one. As for being unique, I remember when we were going to launch the sauce business, I visited the sauce aisle at the grocery store and stared at all the sauces. There were so many of them. How would we ever stand out? I started to look at the jars and each had a similar message. And what was it, you ask? I realized that every jar of sauce was bragging. Every jar was saying either “I’m better” or “I’m cheaper”. Well, my sauce was coming from a place of love. It’s my grandpa’s sauce. So what if my sauce doesn’t claim to be better or cheaper but just claims love? I know food and emotion go hand in hand, I’ve always battled weight issues because I’m an emotional eater. So what if I inject some emotion into my marketing strategy?
5. How do you use information (data) to make decisions related to your profession or craft?
I’m a bit of a numbers nerd. I like to look at how things are trending or how they did week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, season to season, and year to year. I like to identify ups and downs, and analyze what caused them. I find that inside those numbers is where I develop some of my best ideas. I think that paying attention to numbers is important. Not every idea is a winner. If you see something in the numbers that says an idea you had isn’t working then you have to tweak it and put your ego aside. So what if you were wrong? How about an idea you weren’t too sure about is showing very positive signs in your analytics? Explore that more, fall in love with that idea.
6. If you could, give me some adjectives to what being a Rochesterian means?
First define adjective…just kidding! I think that in order to be here, you have to be passionate, you know? I think that Rochesterians are kind, generally speaking, but also passionate. There’s also an element of hustle. Rochester isn’t going to sit around and wait for you; if you want to stay at home and let the world come to you, this isn’t your city. People here are hardworking too, and I think that is a good thing. That’s why there are so many successful small businesses here. Look at the house we’re at today. It all started when Lauren Dixon called 75 businesses said, “what would you like?” And now we are sitting here in her beautiful lake home. Well, all that hard work paid off. Family-oriented, passionate, hardworking… that is what it means to be a Rochesterian.
Rochester has this beautiful thing going on where it’s a city, but also has the Finger Lakes right next door. There is this outdoor nature vibe going on with a lot of hiking and parks, too. It’s big enough where Bruce Springsteen plays here, but it’s small enough that when you go to a restaurant tonight, you’re going to run into someone you know. And I think Rochester is the perfect size because of that. You know? I mean New York, Chicago, L.A., are monster cities. You can’t say anything bad about those cities, but the bottom line is that you are sort of… I like the size of Rochester. It’s big enough that there is opportunity for everyone, but it is small enough that you will know somebody when you walk out through the grocery store at Wegmans. I think that is another great thing about being a Rochesterian.
7. What does being a Rochesterian mean to you?
What it means to me, I think, is a little bit different than maybe some of the other people you talk to because I’m not actually a lifelong Rochesterian. I moved here 10 years ago, but I consider myself to be a Rochesterian. I love it here; this is home. I ‘m never leaving. I’m in, but I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio. So I have a perspective I think is a little unique. I came from a real small town where people just didn’t root for each other. It was almost made fun of if you stayed in that town. Local was not a thing there; it was not supported. If it was local, it must not be good enough, because nothing good could come locally. I grew up with a real small-town mentality around me. A lot of people were kind of miserable.
I came to Rochester in 2007 and I was immediately surprised by the size. I didn’t know much about it when I came here. I knew Buffalo, I knew Syracuse, because I am a sports fan, so I knew the sports cities, but I didn’t know Rochester. So when I first came here, I thought, “wow, it’s lot bigger than I thought it was going to be.” I’m talking about the moment when I saw downtown Rochester’s skyline. I came here to work in radio, so I was immediately immersed into the culture of Rochester, and after a few months it was then that I really fell in love with the place. I started to see how much stuff there was here, how many good, smart people are doing things to make this area better. It just didn’t exist back home. That was the thing, the spark that made me think “yes, this the place that I want to make home.”
This is the place I want to raise children because it’s almost like we are on a team and we really are rooting for each other. There isn’t a lot of those bad seeds that I was exposed to before, where people were kind of like, you know, not rooting for each other. I feel like I am on Team Rochester. Team ROC versus the world! And in some ways we are friends with the world and, of course, Buffalo. It’s funny the relationship with Buffalo, isn’t it? We love Buffalo, it’s like our brother. We like to compare ourselves and fight with Buffalo a little bit, but if anyone else says something bad about Buffalo? Nah-uh, that is western New York. So I feel like I am on a team, we’ve got some stars, and we’ve got people who play all kinds of different roles. You can do anything here and not be laughed at. That’s what I love.
8. What are the greatest challenges Rochester faces in terms of future growth and success?
This may sound stupid or shallow because I didn’t grow up here, and it’s just my opinion, but I can tell you exactly why I didn’t know Rochester. I’m a sports fan. I knew the Buffalo Bills, I knew the Syracuse Orange, and I knew the New York Yankees. So I think that if we are talking about what challenges Rochester faces, it’s that as far as New York State goes, there are a few cities that have things that are flashier than we do. We are an artsy little city. I don’t know if we are glitzy and glamorous here. And I think that, unfortunately, on a national scale and a statewide scale, the glitzy and glamorous sometimes grips the headlines. New York City gets almost all the headlines for New York State.
Let’s take New York City out of the picture and say that there is someone who is planning a vacation in New York State and is choosing between Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. We are a solid choice, but I don’t know if we are going to win every time. We have some things about us… and I hope that this answer doesn’t sound too shallow again, but you do need some sort of natural mass appeal in order to be become a true tourist city. The Finger Lakes are touristy to people who like wine, craft beer, nature and appreciate the beauty of lakes. But Rochester itself is missing something. We have a couple flashy people from Rochester. Kristen Wiig is from Rochester, but it’s too bad that she doesn’t champion Rochester. Philip Seymour Hoffman, that obviously ended tragically, but he was from Rochester. It’s too bad that he did not champion a little bit more. I bet you’re wondering what exactly I mean by championing Rochester. I wish I knew the answer. But when you have someone that is real and an A-list star, there is an energy that I wish Rochester could benefit from.
What is a little funny about Rochester, I think, is that our biggest modern celebrity is probably a grocery store owner. Locally, I mean there is Don Alhart, Brother Wease (Alan Levin), but Danny Wegman and the Wegmans brand have grown into countless cities and now several states, and to be honest with you, that is something. It’s a little star on the map. They have Wegmans in Erie, PA, near where I’m from. People love that place, man. They travel from near and far to come to that place. I grew up in an area where grocery stores were just a grocery store. It was just where you went to get food. Nobody cared. Here, people actually care. That is fascinating to me. What do we need to actually put ourselves on the map? I don’t know. You know, my original answer was that we don’t have a major sports team and that is why we are not on the map. I think getting a sports team would help, but I don’t know if that’s realistic, though. So if something is going to happen, then it needs to happen in the arts, maybe a musician who makes it big from here. We have had a few who have gone on. Or maybe an artist or actor… Another Kristen Wiig or something. I don’t think I’ve given the you the best answer.
9. If someone were to film a movie about your life, what actor/actress would you cast to play you?
I’ve had my skinny times and fat times. I’ve gone back and forth. People tell me I look like Ray Romano. At the moment, not so much; picture me 30 pounds lighter. Not many people follow Ray Romano, but he is a solid star. I don’t think there are many Ray Romano documentaries. I don’t even know if they exist, but my impression is that he’s a very genuine and authentic person. He’s a comedy writer, and comedian at heart, that got into acting.
I think he also represents me in that there are a lot of things that I do not do well. In fact, I think the list of things I do do well and the list of things I do not do well is much longer, but one thing that I think I do well, I’m pretty authentic with. I don’t think you will ever catch me in a lie. Not to say that I have never told a lie. Look, when your wife says, “Do I look fat in these jeans?”, you lie. Understand? Don’t put that in the interview. I’ll kill you. All joking aside, Ray Romano has the ability to be serious when it comes to talking about comedy and comedy writing. He actually takes it very seriously, even though many would say it’s just comedy. I can relate to that, too. I’m making food and I’m on the radio. They’re both forms of entertainment that I take very seriously. I’m not saving lives here. And there is nothing about me that is actually important, but I take both seriously. I’m not trying to make the entire world a better place, just the tiny little fraction of what I get to have some control over. You know? Even at the end of the day, these are lighthearted things. I’m pretty realistic that a jar of tomato sauce or a segment on the radio is not brain surgery.
At the same time, I’ve had the opportunity to positively impact others by talking on the air about my anxiety and tiny, little bouts of depression, and I know this has really helped people. I know I’ve saved some people money on therapy by basically going to therapy myself. I talk on the radio about what my therapy session was about, and people have actually said, “That works for me!”
10. Do you have any nominations of individuals who ROC Our City?
- I think Lauren Dixon is a really good one. She used to be on the news as a news anchor, and then she went on to start what is now Dixon Schwabl and has built it into… well, look around you. She is really a hard worker. This is a lady that wakes up in the middle of the night to make little notes on what to do the next day. And me as an entrepreneur, and you as well… you know what that feels like. You know what losing sleep to ideas is like. And I think it is interesting to see when someone gets to this level and still has those kinds of thoughts, you know? You wonder when those thoughts start to go away. I do not think they ever do. I think no matter how big of a company you are currently running, you still have that nightly, “what do I need to do next?”
- This one is a tough break, and I mean I can’t even get him on the radio, but I’ve already mentioned him: Danny Wegman. That guy and his family continue to leave their thumbprint on Rochester. This city is really identified by being the home of Wegmans. So if you could ever get him, man, holy cow that would be awesome. That’s an interview that a lot of people are clamoring for. He doesn’t grant a lot of interviews; they are very rare.
- You can never go wrong with Don Alhart. Somebody who has done the news every night for more than 50 years! This is a guy that has been here for every moment or around every major news story in the last half of a century. So he would be a real interesting person to talk to because he has seen firsthand what the city has gone through over half a century. The good news about Don Alhart is he is very interview-friendly. He appeases everybody. You know, he has done some local podcasts.
- Brother Wease, too. He’s a guy that really has experienced this city for years on a daily basis, and has seen firsthand what this city has gone through. He has been involved in many charitable efforts to help those in need and to make this city better. He would do the interview, too. Wease would do the interview and would most likely want to do it on the air because it would kill two birds with one stone.
11. What would you like people to know about you, and what would you want people to know most about Rochester?
I guess what I’d want people to know most about me is that I feel like I have already achieved my dreams, and now this is all just gravy. I really appreciate the outspoken support I’ve experienced for my endeavors. This sauce thing, this little sauce adventure… the whole goal was to put a jar of sauce on the shelf for my grandpa to see. That was accomplished on August 9, 2014. Everything beyond that has been like having a winning lottery ticket. Radio, same thing. I got into radio when I was 22, and I swear to you I thought I would do radio for as long as they would have me. At some point, I thought they would realize that I had no idea what I was doing and I would be let go. It has been 11 years. And so far they haven’t realized it yet. So just the fact that I get to wake up every morning and talk on the radio… that’s it, man. Dreams accomplished, you know what I mean? So from both standpoints, dreams accomplished. The only dream I have left to accomplish is now that I’m married to my beautiful wife, we want a family. That’s the only dream I have yet to accomplish.
I also want people to know that I am truly grateful, because I have only been able to accomplish my dreams because of others. I didn’t accomplish these things on my own. I can make sauce, but if nobody buys it, it doesn’t go anywhere. The same thing with radio. I can go on the radio and talk, but if no one listens, then I wouldn’t be anywhere. So it boils down to that I am truly grateful. People have gotten me to this point. I didn’t do it by myself.
I want people who are not from Rochester to understand how cool Rochester is. People don’t realize, in the summer, every weekend, there are festivals, there are things going on. There’s live music every night, there are art exhibits, there are sports — granted, minor league, but they are still sports! Back in my 20s, my friends would come visit me all the time, and man, did I turn them on to this city. Nobody quite got how cool Rochester was. Rochester is not just another city. People are doing big things and little things here. I don’t think people from out of town realize that. I think they probably think we shut the lights off and maybe on a Saturday night there is a band playing at a bar. Nah, man, every night of the week, yeah. Come visit, we’re having fun here.