Childhood Dream Comes Full Circle for Tiffany Daley

By Michael Moliterno

SHARPSVILLE, Pa. — Ever since she was a little girl, Tiffany Daley has wanted to be a cook. Today that dream is a reality, though she admits, the “young and dumb” Tiffany didn’t do her any favors.

“I don’t even know how I made it through some of those years,” she recalls.

Daley has plenty she would do differently but that doesn’t mean she’s full of regrets. She is the proud owner of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s diner at 45 S. Walnut St., which has been going strong for 13 years.

Most of her success, she said, is due to her positive attitude and outlook

“I definitely am a firm believer in what you think about you bring about,” she said.

Which may be why, like the saying, in many ways her career has come full circle. The Cortland native began her pursuit as a junior in high school, enrolling in the restaurant services program at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion. She immediately made an impression on her instructor, Jim Antenucci.

“She was an excellent student,” Antenucci said.

As general manager, Daley (left) worked closely with Antenucci as his second-in-command during food service at TCTC.

To showcase Daley’s talents, Antenucci created a new general manager position, which allowed Daley to act as his second-in-command during their food service.

“I created that position because of Tiffany Daley. She came out there with a great work ethic, organization. I speak highly of her and I don’t have to make anything up,” he said.

Shortly after graduating, Daley began as a waitress at the diner she would eventually own.

Daley had aspirations to buy the business, though she didn’t have the money and was unable to get a loan. One day, while waiting on an elderly couple, the subject came up. 

“I didn’t know who they were. They were just people,” she remembers.

The man turned out to be Jim Catron, the owner of what is today Catron Techno Industries.

Seeing something in Daley, the Catrons offered to finance the purchase of the restaurant. They put together the necessary paperwork and Daley “just dove in,” signing the 6.5% interest, fixed 15-year loan. She was 23 years old.

The purchase price for the restaurant was $150,000.

“Over paid. Young and dumb,” she said.

“Looking at the paperwork now, being 38 years old, and thinking about it,” she said shaking her head in disbelief. “I would not advise the Tiffany back then to purchase it.”

Daley struggled for the first few years, but managed to stay on top of her bills and the loan.

Since Daley was a little girl, she dreamed of being a cook. This childhood photo shows a young Daley with her play kitchen set.

“The first few years were awful. It was very difficult,” she said.

One of her biggest challenges was being taken seriously because of her age.

“People used to walk in and ask for the owner and I would say, ‘That’s me,’ and then they’d ask to speak to one of my parents,” she recalled.

During this period Daley said she had an “11” on her forehead, referring to the creases between her eyes caused by all the stress.But she kept working and learning, and though they have since passed, she repaid the loan back to the Catrons four years early.

“But they’re looking down. They know,” she said while looking up.

Keeping up with trends and embracing the community helped her grow the business, she said.

“Sharpsville is what made me,” she said. “I always say, ‘Past, present and future employees are important.’ “

During her struggles, Daley learned that you can’t please everyone all the time and that you can’t let the day-to-day tasks distract from long-term vision.

She also learned the value of delegating.

For most of her career Daley was a constant presence in the restaurant, but a few years ago she was forced to take a step back when her mother fell ill.

“That little hiatus showed me that my staff is perfectly capable. I was just micromanaging every detail,” she said. “And now my No. 11 is gone.”

But Daley isn’t wasting her newfound free time. After meeting Kathleen Price, the founder of Mission of Love, Daley decided to start volunteering for the nonprofit.

Price started Mission of Love in 1989 as a way to help people in need by collecting and donating items. The items are shipped all over the world by the U.S. Air Force and are then distributed by volunteers.

Daley and Kathleen Price with volunteers from Mission of Love in Guatemala.

Last summer, Daley accompanied Price to Guatemala to provide relief after the eruption of Volcán de Fuego.

“She was a magnet to the people. There was just so much love that she was able to share with those people in their time of need,” Price said of Daley. “A lot of people are a little shy, but she was hands-on big-time. She was a blessing.”

“There’s no other person like Tiffany,” Price said.

In February 2017, Daley received the phone call that brought her career back to where it started.The Trumbull Career and Technical Center offered her a full-time position teaching her old class.

So now, when she’s not running around her kitchen at her diner fulfilling orders, she’s running around the TCTC kitchen helping her students fulfill orders. Constant shouts of “Ms. Daley,” can be heard as the students scramble through the lunch services.

When Daley doesn’t have an answer, she confers with her former teacher, Jim Antenucci, who is preparing to retire after 25 years.

“Since she graduated, I have used Tiffany as an example to incoming students. What they can aspire to, what they can work to,” Antenucci said.

Olivia Speier became kitchen manager at Breakfast at Tiffany’s after graduating from TCTC in 2013. Destiny Gibbons, one of Daley’s students, is a line cook at the diner.

And Daley is passing her lessons on to the next generation. Olivia Speier, who graduated from the program in 2013, is now the kitchen manager at Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“I was looking for a change and one day I came in for breakfast and it just worked out,” Speier said.

Destiny Gibbons, an 18-year-old student of Daley’s, also works 30 hours a week as a line cook at Daley’s diner.

“I love her. She’s very inspirational to a lot of students,” Gibbons said.

If that all weren’t enough, Daley is also a college student for the first time in her life, after enrolling in a two-year career tech education program at Kent State University.

Through it all, she says her biggest assets have been her willingness to work hard and her positive outlook.

“If you are a negative person or you are constantly complaining about your job or your life, all that’s going to keep coming right back at you,” she said. “You have to believe it, you have to want it, and you have to work for it.”

Pictured above: Tiffany Daley has owned and operated Breakfast at Tiffany’s at 45 S. Walnut St. for 13 years. She bought the diner when she was just 23.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.