The Gift of Hospitality. Meet Janine Wasley of Avvino.

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Photography by Cara Livermore 

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Janine Wasley. I am 35 years old, from Rochester, NY and I own a restaurant called Avvino.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to run my dad’s construction business and be a doctor.

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How did you get started in your current business? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
I started in the restaurant industry when I was 14 years old washing dishes and prep-cooking. From there I never left. I eventually moved to the front of the house and was a host, server, expo, bartender, manager, purchaser etc. I put myself though college working in restaurants and absolutely loved it. After graduating I realized it was truly in my blood and I couldn’t see myself not in the industry. I then pursued my Sommelier certification and worked under some great leaders to learn the business aspects of a restaurant knowing that someday having my own was going to be a goal.

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In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up?
I think about all the things I am thankful for and reflect on whatever the hardship is to see what I can learn from it.

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What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Take everyone’s opinions lightly. When you open a business – as least from my experience – everyone comes out of the woodwork about what you “should” be doing; the business “needs” this. You may start to second guess your vision. Contractors, purveyors, friends and random people in the community were stopping by to tell me what I should be doing. I started to think I needed to listen to everyone because I had never done this before and I wanted all the advice possible, but at a certain point you just have to trust yourself and know the areas YOU WANT to ask for guidance.

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What inspires you?
Amazing hospitality experiences. When I go to a restaurant and the food is good, there’s cool wine and comfortable atmosphere; that’s awesome. But what truly inspiring is how all the components work together and how the staff executes it. This makes you FEEL a certain way. I always leave those experiences saying to myself “this is why I do what I do; this is how I want to make people feel.” Part of my job is to encourage the guest to escape reality for a couple hours and when someone can do that for me it’s the best inspiration I can get.

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What is your favorite part of what you do?
I get to work with an incredible staff that is so dedicated to what we do. It is truly like family and we all look out for each other. I think this is one of the reasons I stayed in the business. I have created such strong bonds with other like-minded individuals in the industry and we all work toward the common goal of giving the best possible hospitality. It’s a true team mentality. I love my team!

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What do you find most challenging?
Personally, most challenging are the hours you have to dedicate to the business, this makes it difficult to have healthy relationships with family and friends not in the industry. We work 12 hours shifts well into the night, we work weekends and holidays.

Professionally, it’s the subjectivity. Every guest that walks in the door is looking for a slightly different experience. They have different palates, different appreciations and different goals of why they are out and why they are at my specific restaurant. No two guests want the same thing and I have an unhealthy obsession with attempting to figure this out. It’s a people pleasing disorder? Reading each guest to see how we can make them the happiest is part of the fun of what we do, but still a very challenging aspect of our jobs. There are times you just can’t make everyone happy and that is an awful feeling.

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Name some local creatives that you really admire.
There’s so many! This is an incredibly hard business and I admire everyone that is doing this and giving it their all every day. Though, since this question is from Roc Girl Gang, I’ll specifically name some females in the community that I really admire: Suzanne DiCesare, Jenna Knauf and Terri Conroy… just to name a few.

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