From the tech to the restaurant business, Susan Diamond has had a very successful career, despite the challenges she has faced. Less than a year ago, Uncle Joe’s Pizza & Wings opened its second location in the Depot District of Bay St. Louis. But this is just the beginning.
– By Maurice Singleton
If that sounds like a lot of change in a short time, it was – but it’s nothing new to Diamond, who thrives on keeping very busy and multitasking.
“I grew up hard, in foster homes; my mother had problems,” Diamond explained. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to be. That really built the ‘me’ that I am.”
Diamond holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Tulane University and earned her MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology. She earned both degrees while working full-time and raising four children.
She and her late husband, Seth Diamond, opened the original Uncle Joe’s in Diamondhead after Hurricane Katrina. Diamond explained, “It was right after Katrina. There was nothing; the community was decimated. We wanted to give people a little bit of happiness.” For seven years, Seth managed the restaurant while
Diamond worked at Stennis, “[Seth] was a food and beverage director, so he had that background.”
Their lives took a dramatic turn when Seth lost his battle with a long-term illness in 2014. Determined to maintain the business she and Seth had built, Susan continued her day job at Stennis for eight years while working at the restaurant in the evenings. “You do what you’ve got to do,” said Diamond, explaining how she adapted to the changes in her life after the death of her husband.
“I can’t change that we lost our house and everything in Katrina. You can’t change an act of God. Same thing when Seth died, and he had been ill for a couple of years. We fought, and we fought hard – with everything we had. When he passed away, I had a lot of medical bills. And I had a restaurant I really hadn’t been operationally involved in.”
Diamond attributes much of her success to her tenacity, “Mistakes are good things. Nobody builds success or just walks into it. You have to make mistakes in order to learn what not to do. It’s imperative to face the challenge and learn from it.”
“I am a roll-with-it kind of person,” said Diamond, another reason she has two thriving businesses. She likes to tell her children, grandchildren, and employees, “I don’t want to talk about the problem; I want to talk about the solution.” Her philosophy revolves around identifying the problem and discussing a solution—something she uses every day.
“Everyone has a choice: be shaped by your past or allow your past to shape your future. I would never say, ‘I wish Katrina would’ve never happened.’ I could never have taught my children some of the lessons they learned, like that material things don’t matter. Family matters. And that is a lesson that I am so thankful for.”
Uncle Joe’s is truly a family-owned and -operated business. All four of Diamond’s children have benefitted from the mentoring of their mother at one time or another. Two of her sons and their spouses hold leadership roles in the business. Seth Jr. is the general manager of both stores, and Todd manages the Bay St. Louis store.
Diamond also plans to make the most of other lessons she’s learned from life and classroom experiences. She is looking to continue growing that family business by marketing the sauces served at Uncle Joe’s and possibly even franchising the restaurant in the future. “We have a choice to look around us and make it better or to succumb and be a victim. There is one word I will not use, and I pray no one will ever use for me, is victim. I am not a victim. I have an opportunity.”
Diamond is looking forward to playing an active role in the growth of her business with her sons and their wives by her side. She plans to be very busy with her family, which has grown, as her husband has two teenagers. But Diamond is up to the challenge; these are just more opportunities.
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