October 18, 2012 | 239 views
He’s about more than just coffee
When Charles Chiarello was attending school at Queens College, he never envisioned he would be selling coffee for the next 40 years. But a part-time job turned into a career and eventually his own business.
Chiarello, owner of Classic Coffee Systems on Merrick Road, was the Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce’s Small Businessperson of the Year award recipient at the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce breakfast on Oct. 12. Though he wasn’t able to receive the award in person because he was out of town on business, Chiarello said he was still humbled by the honor.
“I’m not a big shot,” he said. “I’m just a middle class guy who’s worked hard and has never forgotten his roots.”
Chiarello, 61, grew up in Far Rockaway and studied sociology in college, with the intention of becoming a social worker. He got a job for an office coffee service and kept it after graduation. Eventually, he decided to go into business for his own, starting Classic Coffee Systems in 1980 with business partner John Malizio.
It was an “entrepreneurial spirit” that convinced Chiarello to start the business, which supplies offices throughout the metropolitan area with beverages and related supplies. His business was located on Meacham Avenue in Elmont for the first 15 years before moving to Valley Stream in 1995.
Chiarello said while “coffee” is in the company name, it only represents about 40 percent of his business’s sales. They also provide bottled water, vending machines, filtration systems and all the accessories such as cups, straws, plastic utensils and napkins. “Anything to do with a beverage or a break room, we provide those supplies,” he said. “We’re very much a service company.”
He also described Classic Coffee Systems as a “solution company.” Chiarello said he works with employers to find out what their needs are and what their budget is, then designs a plan that works best for them.
As late as 2008, Chiarello’s business has 34 employees, but the recession hit the company hard. He now employs 15 people, but many have worked for him for years.