STONINGTON — Like a fairy tale with a happy ending, Stephen and Suzanne Capizzano have figured out how to slay the dragon in order to live in the land of peace, harmony and health.
The Capizzanos, who opened their ultra-niche business — Capizzano Olive Oils & Vinegars — on Coggswell Street in Pawcatuck in 2014, have not only managed to keep their customers close and satisfied and their business afloat during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, but they're busy creating "new and exciting products" for their shop and celebrating Stephen's latest remarkable accomplishment.
Stephen Capizzano — a Westerly native who played basketball at Westerly High School and the University of Rhode Island as a young student-athlete, earned a master's degree in health care administration and a had a career in health care management before opening his olive oil business — has just published his first book.
"I'm a very proud wife," said Suzanne, a New Hampshire native who had a career as a physical therapist specializing in cardiac rehabilitation back in her home state before she and Stephen moved to the region. Her husband's book, she added, is totally aligned with their business and personal philosophies: building community and building health education.
"The Forgetful Organization: How an Organization Struggles to Remember Itself; A Fairytale For Those Who Still Have A Wish" is a slim but weighty volume, peppered with wisdom from the ages, tips for a harmonious existence ... and not without humor.
"If you have come this far," he writes in the beginning of Chapter 9, "Purpose," from an organizational standpoint, you are one odd duck."
And while this is clearly a book about organizations and organizational development, Capizzano includes quotes from Robert Frost, Shakespeare, Rumi and G.K. Chesterton (among others), and points out the power of myths and fairy tales and the wisdom of ancient philosophers.
"It's not a dry book," Capizzano said with a small laugh one morning last week on a telephone call from his home in Mystic. "It's a poetic book."
Capizzano said his book, which urges readers to look within for answers to life's riddles, reflects a lifetime of learning.
"I always loved reading Joseph Campbell," said Capizzano, who keeps a copy of Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces " on his nightstand along with John Bennett's "The Dramatic Universe," "and I've always worked on improving myself."
In addition to Campbell and Bennett, Capizzano said other favorite authors include Scott Peck, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.
His favorite quotation is from Bennett, who once said, "We tend to see ourselves primarily in light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in light of their actions, which are visible to us."
People tend to forget the important lessons they've learned about living a full life, and fall back to sleep, said Capizzano who has an affinity for the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty."
Capizzano, who said he tends to look at life through a "metaphorical filter," likes to remind others that "the only person you are destined to become is the person you decided to be."
"His book is about habits," interjected Suzanne, noting that the book is on sale at their shop, which is open every day but Tuesday for four masked customers at a time.
"All through our story there is a constant reference to habits and Aristotle's claim that through these habits is the path to excellence," Stephen writes in the book. "In this day and age, we think of habits as negative, something to avoid and more importantly as the lack of choice."
"This book embodies what a business can do to engage people and rouse their commitment to the companies' goals," he writes on the book's jacket.
The Capizzanos have certainly engaged their customers — whom they describe as loyal, supportive and amazing — their business community and their "team" of employees.
Active members of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, the Capizzanos have successfully developed a community around better eating with their olive oils — all containing high levels of antioxidants — and aged balsamic vinegars from around the world "full of health benefits."
Last year, they developed "a healthy balsamic beverage that people really love."
Their customers not only continue to buy their products — in addition to olive oils and balsamic vinegars, the Capizzanos sell skin care products — but they refer others and "want us to succeed."
Their online business has been robust, they said, and customers continue to tell friends and family members about the products sold at Capizzanos.
"Word of mouth is really a wonderful way of support," Suzanne said. "I cannot say enough about the community support we've had over the last seven years."
"I am not a writer of fairy tales, although this is one, and I am not a philosopher, although I am writing about Aristotle," Capizzano writes in his new book. "What I am is a man who has worked all his life and in that working I have observed many of the absurdities that go with working with others."
Capizzano said if he could invite one special person to join him for dinner and conversation, he would invite his grandfather, the late Frank Terranova, "to talk about what it was like living through the first world war, the Spanish Flu, the depression and poverty, the rise of Nazism and coming to a new country and still feel like he was a rich man."
If he ruled the world, he "would give everyone a stick as a reminder that every stick has two ends, as does everything."