Family Business awards
General Business

28th Annual Event Honors Seven Family Businesses

The Rothman Institute’s 28th Annual New Jersey Family Business of the Year awards recognizes the relationship between kinship, community and economic success. 

A virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s winners were singled out for staying the course during the pandemic and “instilling confidence in all of us for a better tomorrow,” said award co-presenter Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist at SobelCo. 

Glick and keynote speaker Christian D’Andrea, CEO of Soldier Fuel and founder of, both presented statistics on family business continuity, the impact they have on the nation’s economy, and their overall strengths. 

According to D’Andrea, 90% of American businesses are family owned, accounting for half of the nation’s employment and half of its gross national product (GNP). 

Additionally, Glick said family businesses account for 64% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). 

“These numbers remind us of the incredible power of family businesses, and it is important – now more than ever – to applaud the grit and perseverance that is behind them during this time of crisis,” she said. 

This year’s awards categories included: Businesses with revenues up to $10 million; Businesses with revenues of $10 million and over; and an inaugural category – New Family Business. 

Black Swan Espresso cut the ribbon for its grand opening in September 2017. The specialty coffee bar serves quality coffee using medium roast beans to explore unique characteristics of the flavor and grinding coffee “by hand.” The business is named for a species of rare black swans, “Cygnus atratus,” thought to be nonexistent. It carries that unique theme through its daily operations with hand grinding and the highlighting of single origin beans and blends from award-winning roasters. Led by Laura Mashtaler’s sons, Adam and Jeffrey, the small but mighty team at Black Swan does work as a family – a trait that has been especially important during the pandemic. Black Swan is a social venture catering to the downtown Newark business and college market, hiring local employees, using sustainable locally sourced products, and showing and selling local artists work in the shop. Laura stays connected to local leaders and is convinced that Newark’s revitalization will continue in the long term and create even more opportunities for her business.

Laura Mashtaler, Owner 

93 Halsey Street, Newark 

In 1946, upon returning from serving his country during WWII, Nick Mikula launched Mikula Contracting, Inc. He had a shovel, a pick-up truck, and a vision. With his strong work ethic, his belief in the power of relationships, and a deep devotion to his employees, Mikula laid the foundation for Mikula Contracting, which is still going strong, 74 years and two generations later. The company provides commercial and residential customers with a wide range of excavation, demolition, environmental, snow removal, trucking and soil materials services. Dennis Mikula has learned many things from his grandfather and father. One of the most significant is the importance of building sound, life-long relationships with vendors, customers and employees. Dennis recalls learning about his family’s work ethic and its rewards at a very young age: “If we wanted something, we had to work for it.” Today, Dennis spends much of his time exploring ways to simplify company operations, while maximizing efficiency and maintaining high quality through communication and new technologies.

Dennis Mikula, Jr.,
Executive Vice President 

630 US-46, Clifton 


BRAD-CORE Construction 

Brad Ruder is founder and owner of BRAD-CORE Construction and Humanism in Building, which offers design, building, maintenance and single-point-of-contact property management services for commercial and residential clients. Construction is more than a way to make a living, it is also a vehicle through which it serves the community. BRAD-CORE is “multigenerational,” but it is also intergenerational in that it promotes programming that functions as a bridge between generations. Brad Ruder coupled the founding of BRAD-CORE Construction with the establishment of Senior Source – a place for seniors to gather, free of charge, to socialize and enjoy a wide range of daily activities. The company has done an amazing job of implementing programming that serves to connect local teens and the seniors who take advantage of Senior Source programming. Ruder is one of the few contractors to acquire Certification as an Aging-in-Place Specialist from the National Association of Home Builders. “We love to build walls, but building bridges is even better!” he says. 

Brad Ruder, Founder/Owner 

310 Riverside Square Mall, Hackensack, 


Shovlin Mattress Factory 

In the midst of raising five children, Marlene and Richard Shovlin decided to purchase a mattress business. This was in 1987. Prior to purchasing the company, Marlene was the office manager at the firm. Her son, Ronald, started working at the company at the early age of 13. Ronald would work in the factory cleaning, unloading trucks, and occasionally helping with deliveries. He has been running the company for the last 10 years, and prides himself on maintaining the family atmosphere and stressing a work life balance. While most companies are focused on mass production and cutting costs, Shovlin Mattress Factory continues to focus on quality and providing what the customers want. One of its original goals was to provide a premium product at a fair price. This tradition continues today. As the industry has gone to the one-sided mattress (no flip), Shovlin wouldn’t budge. Sticking to the traditional 2-sided mattress has given the company an edge over the competition with a longer-lasting mattress.  

Ronald Shovlin, Owner 

35 South Avenue, Fanwood 

It began in 1971 when two immigrants, Norbert Seitel and his partner Walter McDonald, first opened the doors to this innovative company. The friends were working 90-100 hours a week at a machine building firm when they decided to strike out on their own. Norbert’s son, Michael, officially joined the company in 1987, but unofficially started as a young boy, cleaning toilets and being paid with “a burger with the guys.” Now under the direction of Michael, Norwalt Design has become the preferred and trusted resource for elite automation machinery. From design to build, Norwalt break barriers to deliver efficient and innovative solutions. Norwalt always will be a family-owned company that looks out for its team and promotes a work culture focused on inclusion and collaboration. It values its employees not only as professionals, but as hardworking people; welcoming new ideas and prioritizing ambition rather than position. Norwalt hosts an apprenticeship program where participants gain hands-on experience, planting the seeds for future innovation and success.

Mike Seitel 

961 Rt 10 East, Bldg 2A, Randolph 


Alfred Sanzari Enterprises 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Alfred Sanzari Enterprises has long been one of New Jersey’s most-respected and successful office, residential, industrial and hospitality developers and property managers. Guided by the founding ideals espoused by Alfred Sanzari, the firm has adhered to the highest standards of integrity and trustworthiness and continues to uphold those values as it enters its third generation of family leadership. Alfred Sanzari Enterprises recognizes that the true mark of a successful real estate investment is measured not by dollars and cents, but by the lasting impact made on the community through being a trusted corporate partner. Sanzari prides itself on hiring and retaining some of the industry’s leading talent and applies many of its family-based practices to ensure a positive and rewarding work environment. Today, Ryan Sanzari, the third generation of leadership, guides the company forward while drawing on the expertise and wisdom of his father, David Sanzari, and uncle, Ben Sanzari, who are both still deeply involved in the organization. 

Ryan Sanzari, COO 

Court Plaza North, 25 Main Street, Suite 600, Hackensack 


Earle Corporation 

The Earle Corporation continues to lead the civil construction industry while upholding its core values: QUALITY. EFFICIENCY. INTEGRITY. Since its beginning in 1968, under the leadership of Walter R. Earle, and now the second generation of Earles, the company has been serving the region’s heavy civil construction needs, specializing in public and private contracting, including heavy highway construction, milling, paving, underground utilities, and site work along with manufacturing, recycling and transportation of construction-related materials. 

The Earles believe in leading by example with exceptional core values, but one of the qualities that is not on paper – but displayed with pride – was Walter Earle’s love of patriotism. Earle is instrumental in aiding veterans in transitioning to the civilian workforce as an American flag is proudly displayed on all vehicles and equipment. The Walter Earle Foundation was founded to honor the legacy of giving that Walter created. The foundation helps carry out the charitable endeavors of the employees. 

Rob Earle, Michael Earle & TJ Earle, Presidents 

1800 Highway 34, Building 2, Suite 205, Wall 

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