Top Achievers

Top Achievers are award-worthy personalities with a single common trait: an unflinching ability to provide value on the customer’s terms.


2024 Top Achiever — Service Agent

Angela S. Petitti co-founded Gary’s East Coast Service with her husband — the Gary in Gary’s East Coast Service — out of the family’s garage in 1994.

Top Achiever Service Agent Angela PetittiWith Gary (himself an FE&S Top Achiever) leading the service side and Angela overseeing the business functions, they’ve grown the company to 19 employees serving all of Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts and New York state. It is a firm with a reputation for being honest with its customers and partners and supportive of its employees. Angela’s skill as a businesswoman and commitment to the foodservice industry makes her stand out as leader in the service segment.

Angela’s expertise in corporate finances stems from her eight years in banking, where she started as a teller and worked her way up the ranks to serve as a mortage officer in the retail lending division, where she helped people obtain financing.

At Gary’s, Angela quickly mastered handling the books. “I knew how to get financial information out of a tax return to show people had income and get them approved for loans. I just backed it out the other way,” she says of the transition from banking to business owner. Eventually, Gary’s grew enough that it needed a full-time business manager, leading to a fork in the road for Angela.

Angela recalls the conversation at that time: “When we started Gary’s, I said to my husband, ‘I will help you get this up and running, and then you can hire an office manager.’ What he heard was, ‘Once this is up and running, I’ll quit my job and do all of this for you,’” she recalls with a laugh. “That was a discussion at one point. I wasn’t fully sure that this was what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. It worked very well for our family all the way around.”

Once she committed to the role, she expanded her skills and knowledge base through seminars, newsletters and anything else that could help her learn how to run a growing business.

Building a Higher Profile

Angela was content to stay in the background. The firm was named after her husband, after all, so it made sense for him to be its face. While Gary would go to conferences, Angela would ask him to meet specific industry leaders or to attend certain sessions and tell her what he’d learned.

This worked well until late 2015, when a health crisis forced Angela to rethink this approach. While the threat of losing her husband loomed large, the situation was complicated by Angela’s low profile in the foodservice industry and the local business community. If the worst happened, she worried about how the company’s customers and partners would react. Would the business survive?

That prompted Angela to start raising her profile in small ways. She became active in the local chamber of commerce, focusing on the women’s networking group. She also attended industry conferences, where, for the first time, she got her name out front. And she has not stopped her commitment to the business and personal growth. She continues to build her reputation to this day. Locally she remains active in the chamber of commerce, where she continues with the women’s networking group and has sat on a committee that gives grants to women-owned startups.

Within the service sector, she has served on the board of directors for the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA) and is currently its secretary. These roles with CFESA weren’t part of her original plan, Angela says. As the oldest of six daughters, though, she’s naturally outspoken and gravitates to leadership roles. “I think it just flows from who I am,” she says. “I always have an opinion on something, and that puts you in a place where people look to you. When you voice an opinion, people look to you to do something about it.”

Within CFESA, Angela has been a proponent of education programs for technicians and back-end staff. While larger service companies may be able to organize their own education programs, she says, smaller firms like hers need this sort of resource. Similarly, she’s an advocate for the CFESA Certified Company program, which covers everything from training to finances to industry relations. Gary’s has the certification, which helps the company establish its bona fides.

“For a small company like mine it really helps to show that you are legit, that you are a good, solid company. It helps with manufacturers, and it helps with customers. It gives them that knowledge that you are someone they can invest with, that they can trust their equipment to,” Angela says.

One of Angela’s biggest priorities now is ensuring the success of Gary’s when it comes time for the owners to step back from the business. Just like the company started as a family business, the next generation is being groomed to take the helm, she says.

All three of Angela’s and Gary’s daughters, Lyndsi, Aylana and Alyson, work in operations, along with son-in-law Chris Lipka, who is a CFESA Certified Master Technician. One daughter has led a banking/financial security initiative, while another has helped the firm modernize internal processes and procedures. The third has worked in almost every department and added her own twist to various functions.

Angela, who helped launch the business by reverse-engineering accounting and learning best practices through newsletters and seminars, now finds herself as the mentor in a thriving family business. “I am trying to teach them all the different things I do day-to-day. They’ve been amazing. They have come in with technology and really helped to move us forward and take those next steps. As they do that, they make the different processes their own. That is great to see,” says Angela.

Something Fun, Something Done and Some Next-Gen Advice

Something you’re looking forward to in 2024:

My new granddaughter is due in March. I can’t wait to meet her!

Something you have crossed off your bucket list:

Running a race in all 169 towns in Connecticut. This was a true challenge for me. I’m a former smoker and someone who had never run a day in her life. I ran races from one mile to a half marathon. It’s definitely something I’m proud of.

Something you’d like to tell young people entering this industry:

It’s a great industry. There are opportunities for many skill sets. Work hard, and you will be rewarded.