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A labor of love: Running a business with your partner

Husband and wife duo Uriah Donnelly and Janet Moscarello are the owners of Arc{hive} Books and Snackery, a new bookstore of rare and unique used finds with a café/bar concept in Warren, R.I.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

WARREN, R.I. — “I kinda like Kara,” said Cathy Plourde, evoking a hearty laugh from both herself and her wife — and business partner — Kara Larson, in what was clearly a gross understatement.

When the couple visited the makers of Bimini Gin in Biddeford, Maine, a few years ago in advance of opening their own artisan distillery, they left with one piece of advice: Make sure you like each other enough to spend all of your time together, because that’s what it takes to start a business. You will never really be apart when you are working together and living together.


“And we were down with that,” Plourde said. The women founded Rhode Island Spirits, the only LGBTQ-owned spirits brand in New England, in early 2019. As their Rhodium line of gins, vodkas and liqueurs has grown, so has the need for more space. The women plan to open a new operations facility and tasting room on Bayley Street in Pawtucket at the end of March.

Rhode Island Spirits, the company that owns the brand "Rhodium" in bottles seen here on shelves at the distillery.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

“For the first couple of years, it was just the two of us, so we did everything. Now that we have more of a staff to work with, I think we are learning to get better at delegating,” said Larson, who along with Plourde leads a team of five full-time and five part-time employees, and they’re growing.

Support has also been the game changer for Matt and Katie Gray, owners of Ragged Island Brewing Co. in Portsmouth. Matt caught the entrepreneurial bug when he started Gray Matter Marketing in 2012, a firm that manages large-scale events and road races. Five years later, he wanted to launch a second venture with his wife.

“The intention always was to work together and to be hands-on, and have various roles. Mine would be more of the business management side of things,” Matt said. “And I definitely focus more on the aesthetics, and help run the taproom,” Katie chimed in, finishing his sentence.


The duo have been married for 18 years and have two teenage sons, so there’s hardly a moment they’re not on the go. But time and tenure have given the couple a synergy that helps them face challenges together with grace, like when the pipes burst at the brewery during the recent record-low temperatures, or when they bought a 37-acre working farm to expand their business shortly before the start of the pandemic. The key to crisis mitigation? “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Matt said.

Time has also taught the couple when to leave business behind for the day. “I think early on there was a lot of talk about work all the time,” Katie recalled. “Now we know it’s important to focus on our family. We focus on our kids at home and something other than work.”

David Strenio, left, and wife Priscila Moritz, right, fill a customer’s order. Glenn Osmundson
The pasta-filled display case at Prica Farina Fresh Pasta Co. in Warren, R.I.Glenn Osmundson

The pandemic similarly tested Priscila Moritz and David Strenio, owners of Prica Farina Fresh Pasta Co. in Warren. “We had to pivot and put everything online, and it was literally just the two of us for two years until we could get someone in the shop to help us,” Moritz said.

Veterans of the food industry, the two felt ready to start their own venture in 2014 and opened the neighborhood pasta shop. “It has been five years and we finally have help, which is huge,” Moritz said.


Strenio and an assistant make 450 to 500 pounds of pasta weekly, plus 150 pints of from-scratch gelato, pastries, focaccia, and other breads. Moritz manages the front of the house. “It’s hard work,” she said. “It’s 24/7. You go home and that is what you talk about and you wake up and that is what you talk about, but it’s good. It keeps you busy and it is something that we share.”

Capitalizing on each other’s respective area expertise has been the secret to Tami and Matt Mullins’ success since launching Newport Sea Salt Co. in 2016. A retired Naval officer, Matt keeps close watch on the temperature, wind, and tides before harvesting seawater in 5-gallon buckets off Newport’s Brenton Point. Then, he and Tami haul the truckful of brimming buckets to Hope & Main in Warren to simmer and package the flaky sea salt. Tami’s marketing experience allows their website, social media and customer interface to run seamlessly.

“It’s definitely a partnership of strengths… For example, I wouldn’t tell her how to do an Instagram post,” Matt said. “I wouldn’t even know how to do it to be honest with you.” Familiar faces at farmers markets from Providence to Aquidneck Island, the two, who have two sons in high school, said the markets are their time to connect with customers, share their story and sell products. They consider it the most fun part of the job. “I’m like, ‘Is this our date night?’” said Tami, as they both burst out laughing.


Husband and wife duo Uriah Donnelly and Janet Moscarello are the owners of Arc{hive} Books and Snackery, a new bookstore of rare and unique used finds with a café/bar concept in Warren, R.I.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GL
Sweet Potato from Arc{hive} Books and Snackery, with tahini butter and black sesame in front of an assortment of canned sardines and other fishes.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Parents to four young children, Mark and Alicia Bryson have their hands full at home and at their Wakefield restaurant, Duck Press. Since opening in 2021, the couple has collaborated on everything from decor to the menu to sourcing wine from small producers. “We do everything as a team,” Mark said.

On the two days a week the restaurant is closed, the chef tries to leave work at work and be present at home. However, he said they’re used to expecting the unexpected — and they are committed to ensuring their staff feels appreciated as well to make time off happen, even if only for a few hours for the couple. “You are only as good as your staff, for sure,” Mark explained.

Unlike many other couples in business together, Janet Moscarello and Uriah Donnelly didn’t initially plan for their professional lives to intersect. Donnelly, the founder and executive director of The Collaborative, a nonprofit arts organization in Warren, bought the building at 4 Market St. with Moscarello with the intent of using it to support his organization’s programming and events, but the space needed a partner business to help sustain it.

“We were out walking our dog, and we sort of turned into each other and were like, ‘We’re going to have to do this, right?’ So we decided to just take a leap, jump in and just give it a try, and see if we could make that vision possible,” Donnelly said.


Arc{hive} Book + Snackery, a cozy space stocked with pre-owned books, art, and small plates opened last summer and their different personalities — Moscarello — a “fly by the seat of my pants” type, and Donnelly, who thrives on structure and organization, have contributed to Arc{hive}’s success.

“I think some of the things that are helpful in being business partners with your spouse are the same things that help you be successful in your marriage,” Donnelly said. “If you are working hard in communication and leaving space for the other person’s ideas, then I think it will be successful.”