As soon as Frank Fraulo hits the door at Jr's Hot Dog Stand on Riverside Avenue, people are greeting him by name. The staff call out a greeting and patrons entering after him stop to pat him on the back and shake his hand. For Fraulo, it's just part of entering and understanding a community.
"When you are growing a business and doing it properly, you really need to explore every market in the area," said Fraulo as he ordered lunch: bratwurst and sauerkraut, no bun. The waitress smiled and assured "Frank" his order would be right up.
Fraulo owns and operates the State Farm office at 95 Post Road. He's proud of the work he does there and the services he brings to the community. He notes they aren't just an insurance firm, but also a virtual bank offering all the services someone could get from a traditional brick and mortar institution. One of the things that sets him apart in the region, though, is his clientele. Fraulo, of Italian descent and born in New York state, has made it a point to reach out to the Latino community.
"With Latinos, many times there just isn't anyone talking to them about these things. Not about savings and planning, not at all," said Fraulo. So he works to bring those services to the people he said the other area institutions just don't consider a viable audience. Which isn't to say Fraulo offers services only to Latinos. He just understands they need someone to talk to them.
To that end, he is active in a number of events celebrating Hispanic culture and in programs that offer aid and support to families in need. Often those families are Latino. "I do a lot of active work in area churches. We host a lot of dinners in the Latino community. We even had one in the office with huge trays of food everywhere. That was a lot of fun," Fraulo said.
His food arrives and the waitress recognizes the problem right away: no mustard on the table. She grabs one from the next table and hands it to a smiling and appreciative Fraulo. For the fourth time, he offers to buy lunch for the man interviewing him and seems a little disappointed the offer is again turned down. On the way in he noted that the spot was one of his favorites in town, and he obviously wants to share the experience.
As lunch continues he mentions his involvement in area celebrations like the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Colombian Independence Day Festival in Norwalk. He talks about the booths they set up and how much fun it is. Sure there are State Farm branded balloons and bags, but that is all part of keeping the business thriving. And keeping the business, and through it the family, going has taken on new importance for him recently.
His oldest daughter, Rachel, was in a car accident that left her with impaired cognitive functions. She's been through therapy and they are working to find her work placement so she can remain active in some capacity. But Fraulo fears that Rachel, who was only six credits away from a master's degree in social work with a 4.0 from Fordham University, is forever changed. The story is all the more difficult for him because as an insurance broker he has spoken at schools and events for years about driver, passenger and vehicle safety. The driver was inebriated and Rachel, the passenger, was not wearing her seatbelt. "We continue to forge ahead," he said of the family's struggles to adapt and of his role as businessman, husband, father and now caregiver. "We aren't in charge of the plan."
As lunch concludes, he makes a point of introducing the reporter to people working the cafe. Fraulo feels part of being in the community is getting to know everyone, and when possible giving a helping hand. He nudges the reporter and asks for a little plug for Jr's. He's told, "I'll see what I can do." Fraulo smiles and heads out the door with a few well-wishes from the people inside trailing after him.
Fraulo's State Farm Insurance has joined the Main Street Connect family by investing in an annual visibility package.
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