March 04, 2010
Richard Nicotra '76NDC, '86HON began what would become an
exceptional career as a business entrepreneur while he was still
going to class on the Staten Island campus of St. John's
University. Richard's first venture into the marketplace was
a yogurt shop that he opened in 1976 on Wall Street, in the heart
of New York City's financial district. Aptly named Everything
Yogurt, the store grew from its single location into a major
international fast food franchise, providing a springboard for
additional business ventures that are today known as The Nicotra
From the earliest days of his first business, Richard was aided by
a dynamic young woman who first caught his eye as she strolled
across the campus on her way to the library. Lois (Malko)
Nicotra '77NDC, '83GEd was studying to be a teacher, and Richard
was immediately attracted to everything about her. He invited
Lois to the opening of his yogurt shop, and later offered her a
summer position during her time off from teaching.
Richard and Lois were married in 1979, and their partnership,
both personal and professional, has grown stronger with every
"In the beginning of Everything Yogurt, I ran the business and Lois
did the books and handled the accounting," recalled Richard. "We
were a great team in so many ways, and we still are today."
"The yogurt business really got us started into the real estate
business, and what ultimately developed into The Nicotra Group,"
said Lois. "The one store grew to two stores, then to 10, and then
we started franchising. We wanted to meet potential
franchisees in a professional-looking office space, which we didn't
have at the time. We wanted to stay on Staten Island, and so
we looked around and were able to buy an office building and had
our first office there."
Reflecting the flair for business shown by Richard and Lois, The
Nicotra Group has become Staten Island's largest private real
estate development company. "Lois and I own 100% of the
company," said Richard. "There are no partners. We own or manage
about one million square feet of commercial property, including
hotels, office space and retail locations."
"We're both Chairpersons," remarked Lois. "I'm Chairman/CEO and
Richard is Chairman/President."
One of their many businesses is Lorenzo's, a restaurant that
bears the name of their beloved dog. Located in the Hilton
Garden Inn on Staten Island, this unique dining establishment
offers patrons an outdoor area set aside for those who enjoy the
experience of having their canine companions dine with them.
Richard credits his St. John's education with providing valuable
insights that helped him begin his business career. "One of
the best things about my time at St. John's was the number of
adjunct professors that I had," he said. "They were true
business professionals who were actually doing what they were
teaching about. They owned businesses, they knew business, and the
practical knowledge that they gave me was priceless. No one
in my family ever had their own business, and it was the St. John's
experience that was, and still is, a big part of our lives."
True to the Vincentian values that mean so much to them, the
Nicotras have established The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation
to support the children of their employees in their pursuit of
higher education. The Foundation's mission also provides support
for a variety of not-for-profit organizations, particularly those
located on Staten Island. "We have no children, and we started
looking at our own mortality," noted Richard. "Lois and I have
accumulated some wealth, and we wanted to have a legacy that would
be meaningful to us. We want to see our money working and doing
good while we're still alive."
"We've always tried to do good for people," agreed Lois, "and now
the Foundation will let us be a little more formal about how we do
it. We're really now going from individual philanthropy to
organized philanthropy. We live our Vincentian values every day,
and they're second nature to us. They're a part of our
The Nicotras love for alma mater is reflected in the
hiring practices that permeate their many businesses. "I like to
hire St. John's alumni," remarked Richard. "If somebody went to St.
John's, there's a connection to us, and if we get an application
from somebody from the University, I make sure that the application
gets in front of the right person in our organization."
A grateful University presented Richard and Lois Nicotra with the
President's Medal in 1999 and the Fidelitas Award in 2005.