The “Faces of Fountain Hills” project by Sonoran Lifestyle Real Estate, is a look at interesting business people that make up the fabric of our community. We encourage you to visit the entire “Faces of Fountain Hills” project to read more about how these dynamic entrepreneurs create a masterful blend of success and satisfying lifestyle in “The World’s Greatest Hometown.”
“Paying It Forward” Builds A Successful Business
When you’ve got the moxie to leave Communist Albania as a 26-year-old–not a word to family or friends— and seek political asylum on a new continent, creating a successful restaurant business on the other side of the world must have seemed like a “piece of cake” for Merita Kraya, owner and manager of Euro Pizza Café. “I was a civil engineer looking for a perfect restaurant location for a client when I found Fountain Hills. The client decided to pass on it, and I decided to stay. I had absolutely no experience in the restaurant business…none! But 43 employees later, I never had an inkling of failure.”
Through 17 years of a steep learning curve, Merita is as proud of her relationship with the extended family (four by birth, hundreds via the café’) as she is of her 2012 Chamber Business Person of the Year honors.
“The restaurant’s proximity to home and school gave me the gift of time and the flexibility to raise my kids in a safe environment. Our ‘guests’, as we call our customers, have nurtured my kids as they’ve grown, and like all small towns, I heard about any troubles in their school day long before it was the topic at the dinner table! My children grew up in a multigenerational environment where more than just Mom and Dad are invested in them. When my oldest son graduated from Marine boot camp in San Diego, two of our loyal Marine regulars drove to San Diego to celebrate ‘Semper Fi’ with us. Who could ask us for more than that?”
But Merita pays it forward in a unique way, weaving her staff’s families into the Fountain Hills family-friendly lifestyle as well. Over the years, she has purchased condos in Fountain Hills and rented them to her key employees. “It is a good investment for me at many levels. I get employees who are on time, who are relaxed and cordial to our guests, and who take marvelous care of my properties. When they are at the local grocery store and one of their café’ regulars asks to see where their little one lost a tooth, it reinforces the sense of family that we all treasure in Fountain Hills. And by the way, when people complain about today’s teens being spoiled or lazy-my experience is just the opposite! We love the energy and seriousness our teen workers bring to the café and enjoy being their first job experience.”
“Although I felt I had no choice but to succeed in my café, many other business owners in Fountain Hills have coached and supported me, becoming treasured friends. The scenic mountains encircling Fountain Hills are unforgettable, but to me they are a kind of symbol of what it is like to live and work embraced in a nurturing community.”