It’s been a whirlwind of activity for Michelle and Steve Sieling in the weeks since taking over local coffeehouse chain Aromas, but through it all, they said that they’ve been most thankful for the community and Don and Geri Pratt, the restaurant chain’s former owners.
The first-time business owners bought the three Aromas restaurants in Williamsburg and Newport News along with The Hound’s Tale and Corner BARkery in Merchants Square from the Pratt family in September; they took over the businesses last month.
Since then, Michelle said the guidance she’s received from the Pratt family has been invaluable.
“It’s been amazing, they’ve been wonderful mentors and they’ve been so heavily involved in the day-to-day operations, the three of us work together as a team,” she said. “It’s been a true partnership, and that really was our goal with the purchase.”
After moving to the area from Chicago three years ago, Sieling said she met Don and Geri Pratt as a sales representative for The Virginia Gazette’s Williamsburg Magazine. From there, she quickly developed a friendship with the well-known restaurateurs, and after hiring Michelle as a bookkeeper, the Pratts began speaking with her about taking over the local restaurant chain.
“I would say that my whole family are just very thankful for the Pratts,” Michelle said. “I’m thankful that we found Williamsburg, we absolutely just love the town here and the friends that we’ve made. It’s just been such a great opportunity for us and a change for our life.”
Although both Michelle and Steve Sieling own the business, Steve often travels to Washington, D.C. for work. This, mounted with the everyday responsibilities of raising an 11-year-old, could have made it difficult for the young family to manage the four area restaurants, but Michelle said the Pratts are always available to answer her questions.
“It’s been an interesting change,” she said. “On the days that my husband is here in Williamsburg, you’ll find the three of us at Aromas in the morning or The Hound’s Tale at night, but it’s been fun.”
Don and Geri Pratt, who opened the first Aromas bakery and cafe on Prince George Street 18 years ago, said they’re also thankful to have found young business owners eager to carry on their legacy and keep them involved in an advisory role.
“One of the many things that I’m thankful for is that they have allowed us to be able to continue working in the business alongside them and continue to enjoy the relationships that we struck with others in the community,” Don Pratt said. “They’re also just a few years younger, so that made things appealing from a standpoint of Aromas and The Hounds Tale having a healthy, long-term future in the community.”
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.