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Sal Lupoli sells his Salvatore’s restaurants to several of his top managers

Sal Lupoli knows well how tough it can be to start a restaurant. So he’s giving four loyal managers an edge — by selling his five Salvatore’s restaurants to them.

The CEO of Lupoli Cos., the Lawrence-based property and restaurant owner, said he has just finished handing over the Salvatore’s restaurants, and giving the managers no-interest loans to help them pay off the deals.

Lupoli, who still owns his Sal’s Pizza chain, concedes he got another offer, but decided to sell to his own people instead. He wanted to make sure that these managers had an opportunity to pursue their own dreams of restaurant ownership.


Peter Ackerman has taken over the two locations in Boston, while Kevin Branco acquired the restaurant business in Andover. Denise Baker now owns the Medford restaurant, and Michael Agricola owns the Salvatore’s in Lawrence. All five, Lupoli says, were profitable. The last of these transfers took place this week.

Lupoli says he’ll still play a role: The new owners need to run menu changes or price increases past him. He owns two of the restaurant buildings, and has some responsibility for the leases in the rest. But this transfer still represents an unusual opportunity.

“These managers [had previously] come to me and said, ‘If there’s ever an opportunity, I want to buy,’” he says. “They can do a better job than me right now because they’re local and in the stores every day.”

Talk to Lupoli, and his affection for the managers comes through. He refers to them all as “my kids.” He’s only 49 years old now, and he still vividly remembers starting Sal’s in a 700-square-foot shop in Salem, N.H., at the age of 23. He’s come a long way since then.

“Being in the food business is tough stuff,” Lupoli says. “We don’t have to have the same blood from the same mother and father to be considered family.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.