Toscanini's Rocky Road

For the April issue, Gus Rancatore, the owner of Toscanini's, a beloved ice cream parlor in Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote about his struggles to pay $177,000 in back payroll taxes. Rancatore came up with a novel solution for settling his debts: He began soliciting donations online. His customers had a wide range of opinions on that, but Inc.'s readers were largely supportive.

Gus Rancatore is a gem and one of those characters who make a city more than just a place of commerce and people. He brings soul, compassion, and humor to Cambridge. He admits he was not the best business manager, but he makes great ice cream and contributes mightily to the community. Why are people ready to tar and feather him? One thing I am sure of: Gus will not ever fall behind in his taxes again, and he will have paid a heavy price both financially and personally.

Christopher Reichert-Facilides
Co-Founder
InvenioUSA
Somerville, Massachusetts

As a small-business owner, I certainly know how Gus felt. How many of us have had to delay a payment to someone so we could meet our most immediate needs, like payroll? That said, too many entrepreneurs run their business like a hobby. I say, if you want your business to pay you like a business, then treat it like a business.

JC Williams
President and CEO
Fehu Uruz Investor Services
Tucson

I don't understand why people are so bitter--nobody's making people bail out Toscanini's. Gus treated people so well over the years that they're willing to give him money. The money is a gift, but the loyalty isn't. Gus earned that loyalty.

Jon Denney
CEO
Avalon Copy Centers
Syracuse, New York

If Gus had run away from all of this, the state of Massachusetts would have permanently lost the tax revenue. He's using hard work and more than a few helpings of fudge swirl to fix the problem. Anyone who has ever run a small business will have respect for that.

Dave Rosenthal
Branch manager
OCS America
Woburn, Massachusetts

My guess is that most of the people who thought it was wrong for Gus to ask for donations have never owned a business. I own a pizza shop and always pay my suppliers and employees before I pay myself. Sometimes the people who work for me take home more than I do, but my employees are always first. This summer I plan to go to Toscanini's. I'll have some ice cream and shake Gus Rancatore's hand.

Bob Leveillee
Owner
Pizza Post
Oxford, Massachusetts

Gus Rancatore didn't swindle, embezzle, defraud, or fund a $50 million retirement package for himself. Those most opposed to helping Gus have never had to decide between paying their employees' wages or their business taxes. I would also guess that they haven't strained their pocketbook lately by giving to anyone in need.

Jim Mangum
Owner
Mangum & Co. Planners
Round Rock, Texas

Of course customers don't want to bail out business owners, even though the government does it time and time again. Think of the savings and loan crisis, Chrysler in the 1970s, and the recent bailout of Bear Stearns. I do see one thing that would motivate me to donate to Toscanini's: Rancatore wasn't living the high life. He wasn't having lavish Christmas parties; he wasn't giving out huge bonuses. That is difference enough for me.

John Carey
Desktop services manager
Shell
Houston

My father had a small, lucrative sandwich shop and lunch truck business in San Francisco right after World War II. He was a generous, good man and gave to the needy on a regular basis. He became ill and eventually went broke. No one came to his rescue. I wish the media and Internet were around in those days.

Armond Scaccalosi
Novato, California

As a former small-business owner (I sold my catering company last year), I see no harm in Gus asking for the money he needed to reopen his store and pay his debts. Gus was being responsible about the mistakes he made. It also sounds like he was a tremendous asset to the community. My hat's off to everyone who donated.

Cathy Baird
Seattle

Gus probably could have avoided seizure if he had just hired a good attorney--it sounds like he was represented by his accountant. Still, Rancatore was creative. I've been representing businesses in tax collections for many years and have never heard of the online-donation approach. I might like to try it, particularly with some of the nonprofit organizations represented by my firm.

Stephen K. Galgoczy
President
Fortress Financial Services
Bend, Oregon

It's never wrong to ask anyone for money. People do it daily for numerous reasons, and those they ask are free to decline. Gus didn't steal from, extort, or coerce anyone. He freely admitted that the situation came about because of his own mistakes. If you feel generous, by all means, help out. But if you don't, then simply say no or ignore the plea altogether. Crying foul and calling it wrong implies that he shouldn't have had the freedom to ask for help.

Eric Westbrook
Placitas, New Mexico

I was a bit agitated at some of the responses from the Toscanini's community. If Gus is open to asking for donations through his website, I say, good for him. Yes, he may have made mistakes, but donations are, by definition, voluntary gifts. Who has the right to tell others how to spend their money?

Chrys Grigoriou
Associate
Life Force International
Vernon, Connecticut

Corrections

In the March issue, we misidentified the location of the tollbooth in Behind the Scenes. The Bedford toll plaza that was shown is in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

In States Eye New Taxes (April), we incorrectly stated that Ohio's tax commissioner was directed to raise the state's commercial activity tax if revenue fell short of certain targets. The original law did establish this arrangement, but legislators inserted a provision in the most recent state transportation budget that will prevent rates from automatically rising.

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