March 2, 2023

But Who’s Counting? Season 2 Episode 2: Preserving a Family Legacy One Hot Salami at a Time with Alex and Amanda Donley of Gioia’s Deli

Running a family business is difficult but ensuring that the business grows and thrives through generations can feel impossible. Developing a sense of balance, settling on a vision and making hiring decisions to work smarter, not harder helped turn Gioia’s Deli into a multi-generational St. Louis institution.  

In this episode of But Who’s Counting?, host David E. Hartley talks with hot salami royalty, Gioia’s Deli owners Amanda and Alex Donley to discuss the challenges they’ve faced as fifth generation small business owners and what they’ve learned over the years, including: 

  • The importance of establishing a network of mentors and peers 
  • Social media is an important tool, but letting it become a distraction is bad business 
  • Empowering employees to take ownership in the business and creating opportunities to encourage employee buy-in 
  • Challenges and opportunities involved in scaling up the business 
  • How to bounce back from mistakes and truly learn from them, not run from them 

“Social media brings people in the door, but it’s not going to keep them.” 

Alex Donley

“One of the biggest things that we learned is that we have an aligned vision as a team … Our vision is to protect this brand and to ensure it’s around for another hundred and five years.” 

Amanda Donley

About Gioia’s Deli

Established in 1918 and purchased by the Donley family in 1980, Gioia’s Deli is a favorite St. Louis eatery. Their hot salami sandwiches made them a famed landmark in The Hill, an Italian neighborhood in South St. Louis. In 2017, Gioia’s Deli was honored as a James Beard America’s Classic, the first restaurant in St. Louis to receive the award.

Resources to Count On

Check out these additional resources for more insight into Gioia’s Deli’s history and present:

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