Small Business Success Story

NEW HAVEN – Lena’s Café and Confections owner Christine Casinghino visited Hillhouse JAG students Tuesday with advice on how to succeed as a small business, and what employers look for in their workers.

Casinghino worked at Friendly’s for 17 years as a server and manager, earned multiple degrees (sociology and accounting) and changed her career path several times before taking two years to find the right place. Wanting to buy into an established facility with regular clientele, Casinghino was introduced to Lena’s and “fell in love with the place.” After months of negotiations and an audit of the numbers, Christine took over the business in Oct. 2011.

lenas_3She told students that front store help and customer service is as important as the recipes and chefs that make the food. If a customer has a bad experience, they will share it with a dozen or more people and post negative comments on social media. She stressed to never serve something that looks bad. Also, she stressed that workers must leave their personal issues at home and stay off their cell phone during work hours.

Casinghino shared several difficulties in her first 15 months of ownership, which included price and portion control, employee theft, and near bankruptcy. However, she was able to persevere because she loves going to work every day —  and is now turning a profit on a regular basis.

Lena’s is known for its corn beef. Casinghino is proud of her team’s ability to stay current with trends in the food industry. In her words, “I inherited a tired menu. Things didn’t really change. We are better about freshening up our menu. You have to go with the times. Kale is big now. It’s a top selling omelette for us. We also offer a create your own omelette. The old owner didn’t have that.”

Lena’s is located at 873 Whalley Ave. in New Haven. The hours of operation are 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Lena’s is closed on Tuesday’s. Customers can save time by taking advantage of the call ahead seating option up to 30 minutes before their anticipated arrival. Call 203-397-5885 to place an order or to put your name on the waiting list. Click here for menu options.

Thank you to Ms. Casinghino for sharing her knowledge with our JAG students at Hillhouse, and we wish her continued success in the future.

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