Sister team works Gil’s Appliances into a modern community niche

DILIGENT DUO: From left, sisters Gail Almeida Parella and Lisa Almeida Sienkiewicz in their store, Gil’s Appliances in Bristol. The two have worked to modernize the store and make it an integral part of the community. 
 / PBN PHOTO/KATE WHITNEY LUCEY
DILIGENT DUO: From left, sisters Gail Almeida Parella and Lisa Almeida Sienkiewicz in their store, Gil’s Appliances in Bristol. The two have worked to modernize the store and make it an integral part of the community. 
 / PBN PHOTO/KATE WHITNEY LUCEY

Business Excellence Awards 2018
Excellence at a women-owned business: Gil’s Appliances


Sisters Gail Almeida Parella and Lisa Almeida Sienkiewicz take pride in the fact that their Bristol store, Gil’s Appliances, is a family-owned business.

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The store, which carries all major home-appliance brands, as well as luxury brands, started as an old-fashioned record store in 1961, launched by Gil and Sarah Almeida on Wood Street in Bristol. The family lived upstairs from the store, and their two daughters, Parella and Sienkiewicz, grew up in the store, which eventually shifted its focus from music to television and appliances. Not only did they learn from their parents about business and community, they watched their grandparents run a small grocery store nearby in town.

“Gil’s is unique in that it is now both women- and family-run. Their mom was involved in the store, and their grandmother was at the grocery store, so they had some strong entrepreneurial role models in the family,” said Marketing and Community Engagement Director Lisa Ferreira.

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In 1976, Gil’s moved to its current Bristol location on Metacom Avenue. Parella and Sienkiewicz graduated from high school in 1983 and 1987, respectively. In 1995, they took over the business. They have raised their families inside the world of Gil’s, as their parents once raised them. Parella’s husband works at the store as well.

The sisters remain dedicated to reinvestment, retail growth and expansion. In 2016, they opened a second retail showroom on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown. The location made it more accessible for its South County customers. That year also brought about the rebranding of Gil’s to fit in with the digital era, with a new logo and redesigned website, which gave them a stronger presence on social media channels.

“It was a balance of not wanting to lose what is wonderful about a family business that has been around forever but also not wanting to get stuck there,” said Ferreira, referring to the company’s shift to the digital age. In 2017, they expanded and renovated the Bristol location, adding a working demonstration kitchen and a larger showroom, which is now home to the new “Gil Loves Local” initiative.

“Gil Loves Local” began in 2018 as an effort to support and promote local businesses by showcasing chefs, artisans and farms from around the state. Planned in collaboration with Edible Rhody magazine, it features events in the new demonstration kitchen in Bristol. Additional events include seasonal cooking classes with local chefs and ingredients and “Lunch & Learn” demonstrations for designers and builders.

“The emphasis on all things local is part of a broader community-engagement effort that aims to give back to the community while creating a buzz that keeps Gil’s relevant for new generations of customers,” said Ferreira.

Parella and Sienkiewicz’s extensive work in the community has not gone unnoticed. Recent awards and recognition include an Excellence in Business Award for Women-Owned Business in 2017 by the Newport County Chamber of Commerce and by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Rhode Island office as the Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year. They were also recognized by the Women’s Resource Center of Rhode Island as “Wild Women” in 2018 for being inspiring role models in the business world in Rhode Island.

Validating its approach, in the past two years, Gil’s Appliances has posted revenue growth of 15 percent.

Looking toward the future, the sisters’ goals include continuing to stay true to core family and community values while remaining competitive in a changing retail space.

“Community involvement is what sets small businesses apart these days. You have to have a reason why you’re unique, why [the customer] is going to choose you, as opposed to going online or going somewhere and having a less-personal experience. … The sisters really believe in that philosophy. They just have such a great story,” said Ferreira.

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