Longtime Palm Beach-er Geri Emmett is stepping away from three decades in the beauty industry to focus full time on philanthropy.
Emmett recently announced she’s leaving her position as marketing vice president for Trish McEvoy and dedicating her time to extending the reach of the Duffy’s Foundation.
Emmett, chairwoman of the foundation, launched the charity last year in honor of her late husband, Paul Emmett, founder of the Lake Worth-based Duffy’s Sports Grill chain.
Emmett said she was ready for the transition.
“At first, I didn’t want to make any change,” she said. “I loved (Trish) and the brand and the products, and every one of these widow books that you read, they say don’t make any life changes … think it through. But, at the same time, I realized that change happens and it’s how you embrace that change. At that point, I thought this was the year I really want to take what I’ve done for 30 years in marketing and put it to use for the foundation.”
Emmett said expanding the foundation is especially meaningful because it’s what her husband would have wanted.
“In the years before my husband was ill, and even during his illness, he was always charity-minded,” she said. “He was always a guy that never wanted credit for what he did, but he’d give the shirt off his back to anyone. We thought that after he died that the foundation would be a good way to keep his memory alive and the spirit of what he was about… and to do good in the community.”
To boost efforts
Company President Jason Emmett, Geri Emmett’s stepson, said he thinks his dad would be proud and happy his mom has joined the team.
“Now having Geri full time at the helm, I think we really will be able to significantly increase our efforts to be more than just a group of restaurants selling hamburgers,” he said. “We want to be a contributor to the community. Not just receiving but giving back as well.”
Emmett’s younger son, Alexander, is an operations analyst with the business.
Last year, the Duffy’s Foundation donated about $200,000 to charity. It has three main charities: the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Special Olympics and the area chapter of the Girl Scouts, which all have touched the family in some way. The foundation receives money through the company’s “change for charity” program, in which customers can donate by rounding up their bill, portions of Duffy’s restaurant sales and targeted campaigns to loyal MVP customers.
Geri Emmett said she plans to raise more money this year by adding a golf outing, a 5K race and a cycling event. She said the team also is developing a Duffy’s patch for Girl Scouts who learn how to make healthy meals at the restaurant’s new culinary studio in West Palm Beach.
Unlike several charities familiar to island residents, she said, Duffy’s is fundraising penny by penny. “In Palm Beach, there are so many big charitable groups that have events and maybe raise $2 million,” she said. “That’s going to take us a while to get to. I think eventually we’ll get there, but we’re starting in a small way.”
Longtime family friend and mentor Nick Valenti said Emmett is the perfect person to continue to build the foundation.
“Geri is committed to all things that are important to her — her family, her business and the charities that are important to her,” he said. “Both she and Paul were committed to the community in which they live and the communities in which the Duffy’s restaurants are located.”
Duffy’s opened its latest location in Sarasota on March 10, Paul Emmett’s birthday.