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Former high school algebra teacher Albert Holley and his wife, Dr. Melissa Holley, are proud Rita’s Italian Ice Shops franchise owners. The couple owns and operates three area Rita’s Ice, which boasts that it delivers the best cool treats.
After a dozen years as a teacher and a high school basketball coach where he passionately educated Baltimore’s next-generation, Albert Holley uses his entrepreneurial traits to continue helping young people.
“Most of your workers in Rita’s are going to be teens, high school, and college students,” Holley remarked. “So, it is another opportunity for me to train young people and give them the tools and skills that they need.”
The former teacher said young students— particularly those of color— can benefit a great deal by starting to work part-time at an early age. He noted the subtle difference between what he can teach in the store instead of what he taught in the classroom.
“In the workplace, it’s about work ethic and how to be accountable,” Holley said. “A couple of my stores are in underemployed areas, and I have 25 young people who work for me, so it is another way to provide jobs for these kids.
“This is valuable because for a lot of these young people, it is their first job, their first experience in the workplace, so they are learning.
“As they move forward, a foundation is being laid on how to work with others, how to take instructions. In the workplace, [if] you do not do your job; you get fired. It is not the classroom where you can always come regardless of how you perform. Here in the workplace, you must be able to perform, learn your job, and do it at a high level to stay employed.”
Holley and his wife often visited Rita’s locations in Maryland with their two children. Near the end of 2016, the couple purchased their first Rita’s franchise in the Windsor Mill area. A year later, they opened their second location, and now they have expanded to three, including at the Inner Harbor.
Holley said his goal always was to become an entrepreneur, even though he taught for years.
“I kind of fell into teaching because a neighbor was a principal who told me I’d make a great teacher,” Holley said. So, when the opportunity arrived, Holley grabbed the chance to pursue his dream. He has maintained the same passion for educating Baltimore’s youth and said he knew his leap into the business world would provide more opportunities for him to impart real-world experiences to young people.
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I also fell in love with the concept of helping young people,” Holley remarked. “I have coached young ones and won a couple of state [basketball] championships. But I looked at having financial security while also helping others.
“You have your dream and visions that you continue to pursue. Even in teaching and coaching, you have a long-term goal and vision for yourself.”
Holley added that he hopes his journey inspires others, particularly the young. “The advice or message I’ve always given children is to dream and don’t be afraid to dream,” Holley noted.
“There is a difference between dreaming and fantasizing, but dream big and see where you want to be. You are never too young or too old to push your vision out there and to pursue it. It can happen. It happened to me. Life will take you on a journey. You just gotta’ believe.”