• Kris Standiford

Piccolo- The Business/Family You Can't Help But Love

The first time I met Steve and Cassie D'Arpino, their restaurant wasn't even open yet. As you might know, I work in marketing for a local media company called Mid-West Family. I saw a new business going up in Nixa, so I stopped in during their construction phase and introduced myself. It's not uncommon for me to call on new businesses, but a little uncommon for the owners to actually take the time to talk to me. Cassie, having a background (and then active) job in marketing, was kind enough to accept that initial meeting with me and I am so glad she did!

What I thought was just a normal CNA (client needs analysis) turned into a friendship that is near and dear to my heart, for a few reasons. Oh sure, I was able to sell them some radio advertising on 92.9 The Beat, and 105.1 The Bull, but I had no idea, at the time, the impact of the people I was working with and the effect they were going to have on the community.

Steve grew up in a culinary family. His parents ran D'Arpino's, a well-known and loved local Italian staple in Springfield for over 13 years. His father- Mark, and mother- Mary Ann, along with sister- Jessica, ran the restaurant and attributed to its success by focusing on the customer experience, and of course, quality authentic Italian food.

Despite the restaurant closing after some unfortunate family health issues, Steve never lost his love for the restaurant industry, or quality Italian food. He managed a couple other restaurants over the years, like the Buckingham's in Nixa, but after years of working for other people, he decided to become an entrepreneur- clearly his calling. With his dedicated wife- Cassie beside him, and even his parents and sister helping out in the kitchen and front of house, after 4 years- they have successfully become a new household name- putting a new spin on the D'Arpino classics and making them unique by adding a contemporary flare of his own- and so was born; Piccolo Contemporary Italian in Nixa.

Their success was pretty much immediate, where most locally-owned restaurants can struggle to make it the first of couple years, (due to learning the industry and getting down systems) but Piccolo was different. It wasn't for lack of sweat and blood on this sweet couple's part, I know for a fact Steve struggled with taking time off the first couple of years- if the doors were open, he was there! But they had a

perfect, unique business model, and something the area had been missing- a contemporary spin on classic Italian recipes. Piccolo is a great place for a family get-together, date night, happy hour with the girls (or guys) or I have even used their event room for baby showers and birthday parties. Known for their generosity in giving back to the community with their catering and donating to multiple causes, what really impresses me most is just who they are as people.

In 2017, just one year after opening their doors, Cassie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she is a pretty private person- she loves to encourage others with her journey and story of remission, if it can help bring up spirits of other women going through the same battle. Watching her strength and growth (and just her overall evolving) over the past 4 years has really inspired me as a woman. If that had been me, I probably would have laid down and just felt sorry for myself. But with Cassie's attitude, you'd never know what she battled with behind closed doors. Steve somehow tended to both his loving wife, and maintained a successful business in the meantime, not missing a beat, and even being awarded "Best Pizza in 417," along with several other accolades- I can't even think of them all!

This last year, Cassie decided to go the extra mile in starting up a "project," which has evolved into something much bigger!

I don't want to speak for her, so please don't take this as gospel, but what seemed like just a cool idea has taken on a life of it's own! Cassie created an innovative product called "Bella Bags."

To quote her own words on her social media- "Bella Bags aims to help women facing serious health and situational hardships rediscover their confidence, strength, and beauty for improved emotional and physical healing. We accomplish this through the donation of "Bella Bags" - goody bags filled with uplifting surprises and clean-ingredient self-care product samples that are carefully curated from small businesses and lesser-known brands. Through this approach, Bella Bags in parallel works to support small business owners by helping to expand their reach and increase awareness."

For every $25 purchase of a Bella Bag, one is also donated to a woman in need of uplifting. This December, Cassie blew her initial goal [of just 40 orders] away, to over 200!! I don't know if this was meant to be a business, or a project like I said, but I see a future in this, and it not slowing down anytime soon! Cassie has used her marketing knowledge and experience to get the word out about Bella Bags and we are all rooting her on in her efforts!

Both Cassie and Steve are an inspiration to others and a valuable asset to the community they serve. I know I can honestly say I am better off having met them.

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