MacEwan University has named Teresa Spinelli as the 2018 Allard Chair in Business. The university established the position in 1985 in partnership with the Allard Foundation to create an honorary teaching position that recognizes a renowned business and community leader.
Spinelli is well-known in Edmonton as the beloved owner of the popular grocery and café, The Italian Centre. Founded by her father in 1959, the Italian Centre got its start in the Capital City by selling magazines, chocolate and imported Italian food. Spinelli worked at the store as a cashier at age 13, but ownership was expected to pass from father to son.
Sadly, both Spinelli’s father and brother passed away unexpectedly, and she found herself as the president of the company in 2000.
When Spinelli assumed ownership, The Italian Centre had 30 employees and a net worth of $9 million. With a vision to fully maximize all that the Italian Centre could be, Spinelli evolved the business. Today, she is the proud president of an establishment with more than 500 employees, sales of over $64 million, and four stores between Edmonton and Calgary.
“My business philosophy comes from my dad,” she said in a McEwan University media release. “He believed that the more you give, the more you get.”
Spinelli is also known for her community involvement, and her many hours of volunteering with the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s Task Force on Sustainable Communities, and the Edmonton City Manager’s Advisory Committee, among many more initiatives.
She is fearless in taking the lead on causes that require attention. For example, years ago she noticed a park in Little Italy did not have functioning swings. They had been damaged and removed. Concerned for the area’s children, who she knew needed access to the park as a safe recreation place, she called the City asking when the swings would be reinstated. The City informed her that she would need to raise a committee and half the funds. So she did. It took five years, but she did not rest until the park had swings for the children.
Yet, Spinelli remains incredibly humble despite the difference she had made in Edmonton for so many people.
“I do very, very little,” Spinelli insisted in an interview with Business in Edmonton magazine (2014), “I do very little and I’m always shocked that the little difference makes such a great difference. What they remember [my father] for was asking how their kids were or sending milk home with someone that didn’t have any. That’s what it’s about. The human connection. I think we are hard wired for that.”
Throughout 2018, in her role as the Allard Chair in Business, Spinelli will meet with MacEwan students to share her knowledge about being a businessperson and an entrepreneur.
Spinelli concluded in the MacEwan media release, “For me it’s not about selling salami, it’s about the people. The reason I get up in the morning is because I want people to grow, and I want to share the experiences that I’ve faced over the years and impart how all experiences help people grow.”