IN THE PEWS: A conversation with Joanne Gerace

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Joanne Gerace has owned Tiny’s Grill on State Street in Utica for 26 years. Joanne said Tiny’s was not her first choice when she decided to own a restaurant: “I took advantage of the fact it was an original bar and grill. I like tradition. Success comes with hard work in this business.”

Joanne Gerace is the prototypical independent woman. She owns and operates her own restaurant, was a general manager of a minor league baseball team and has traveled the world. But she’s also devoted to her family and her parish. She takes care of her 95-year-old mother, grew up in the parish and volunteers her time. She manages to fit it all in during a 24-hour day.

Sports are a very big part of your life. You love the Yankees, are a big hockey fan and you were general manager of the Utica Blue Sox when they won the New York-Penn championship. How did you learn to love sports so much?

I listened to Yankee baseball on the radio from when I was a very young person and watched the Giants football team on TV, black and white of course. I, for some reason, fell in love with baseball and wanted a mitt and ball and bat for Christmas.

You were general manager of the Utica Blue Sox when they won the title in 1982. What was that time like?

It literally was a storybook situation. We were a so-called ragtag team, what I would refer to as a Cinderella team, who won the New York-Penn League championship against all odds. It was hiking uphill all season long with a lot of energy in motion and a gut feeling that we might win this thing, and we did

Famed author Roger Kahn was part owner of the team because he wanted to write a book, which he did (“Good Enough to Dream”). What was he like and how was it working with him?

Roger Kahn was an outsider and a huge sports person. I don’t think he anticipated what was going to happen that season — the field, the resistance from the league, our awful conditions of our ballpark, the bus, etc. Not great material to work with. I am the person responsible for him coming to Utica, so it was my duty to “guide” him. It was very difficult and we both learned a lot from each other.

You love to travel.

I have traveled all over the world, from Tahiti to Canada. I do not mind hotels, airplane rides, etc. I traveled with the teams and also to six (Major League Baseball) winter meetings.

You’ve owned Tiny’s for 26 years, carrying on a long tradition. How did you get involved with that and how have you been able to make it a success?

I got involved because I always wanted to work in baseball and I always wanted to own a restaurant. Tiny’s was not my first choice. I took advantage of the fact it was an original bar and grill. I like tradition. Success comes with hard work in this business. I have worked every day, unless I was sick, and even then. Working every day is key.

What’s your favorite part about owning a restaurant and what’s the toughest part?

Owning is that you can make it your way —the food, décor, sponsoring, etc. The worst is the expenses and the managing of employees.

Your family is very important to you. You take care of your 95-year-old mother. How difficult is that?

I choose to take care of my mother. I always tell her that she is going to live forever as long as I take care of her. I cannot turn her over to anyone.

Mount Carmel also is a very important part of your life. You went to school and received all your sacraments here. What does the parish mean to you?

The parish means home. Home is a place you can always go back to. We move around, we have our lives to live, but you can always come back to Mount Carmel. I love my church. I was very active in it when I was younger (CYO) and have found a lot of fulfillment here in whatever I can do for the church.

What do you hope the future holds for you?

Good health and happiness. And I would like to retire and see the rest of the world that I have missed.

JOANNE “JO JO” GERACE

Age: 64.

Resides: Utica.

Occupation: Restaurateur (owner of Tiny’s on State Street in Utica).

Past occupation: Former general manager of the Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League.

Education: Mount Carmel School, Utica Catholic Academy, Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica College.

Favorite activities: Go to sporting events, movies, camping, traveling.

Favorite sport: Baseball

Favorite TV show: “I Love Lucy.”

Favorite movie: “Key Largo.”

Favorite books: John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee novels.

Favorite quote: “Let each become all he is capable of being.”