Mattioli Women Keep It All in the Family at Pocono Raceway

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IMay 7, 2009

While Dr. Rose Mattioli may be the grand dame of the Pocono Raceway and its true matriarch, her eldest daughter is keeping the business all in the family.

Marilouise "Looie" McNally, the daughter of Dr. Rose and Doc Mattioli, currently serves as the President and CEO of Mountain Concessions, Inc.  She also sits on the Board of Directors of Pocono Raceway, along with her siblings Michele Mattioli Kulick and Joseph Mattioli III.

On the day of my interview with the Mattioli women, Looie was holding court in her office with several representatives from Budweiser.  With her feet tucked under her, Looie listened carefully to their "pitch", agreed to the deal, and sealed it with a quick hug and a peck on each cheek.

Looie's company, Mountain Creek Concessions, Inc., supplies all of the corporate catering, novelty, program sales, merchandising, displays, and promotional material at the Pocono Raceway.

This petite, yet strong-willed woman has one goal in mind, "to make sure the fans have a good time at the show." 

While she knows the racing is critical, she also feels passionately that the entire fan experience at the track has to be "just right" for them to have the best time possible.

So strong are her feelings that she often puts in calls to Pocono Raceway ticket holders just to gauge their feelings about the track. She specifically asks what the fans do not like. 

"I hate 'fine' as an answer to my questions about the track," shared Looie. "I want them to tell me what's not fine."

Indeed Looie got an earful in one of her phone-a-thons a few years back.  Fans were quick to indicate at that time that there were not enough bathrooms at the track and too much waiting time for the toilets that were there.

Looie brought this to the attention of the Board, and her father Doc Mattioli jumped on it right away.  To this day, Pocono Raceway prides itself on the longest row of johns, rivaling any other track.

Not only did Looie address this from a fan perspective, but it was also a strategic business decision as well.  Since Mountain Concessions controls the flow of soda and beer at the track, functioning rest rooms were a critical success factor in allowing fans' continuous enjoyment of their beverages throughout the race day.

The Mattioli's elder daughter also prides herself on offering "different" experiences at the track for the fans. She is a strong believer in the difference between "selling the race experience versus bringing new fans to the track."

In an effort to entice new fans, Looie pursued Mario Batali, one of the Food Network chefs.  She had heard that he was interested in doing a NASCAR cookbook, so she quickly connected with him and got him to the track.

"Molto Mario" as Batali is known, tailgated with the Pocono race fans, sharing recipes and tips about easy-to-cook track food.  This innovative marriage between NASCAR and the Food Network brought a whole new set of race fans to the track to see Looie's beloved "show."

Looie admits that she has always been a businesswoman, but not always comfortable in her own skin as a saleswoman. Her first business was a dental company making teeth.  She then went into the cleaning business, one that was near and dear to her heart as a self-confessed "clean freak."

But even as a successful businesswoman, she was also painfully shy. It was difficult for her to even have the most basic of conversations with her business associates and she really struggled with "letting others define" who she was.

On a business trip, Looie read Dale Carengie's book and was struck by the principles of salesmanship and self-empowerment. She shared that she immediately started practicing the principles on her seatmate on the plane, with wonderful results.

And by the time Looie landed, she had transformed herself into a much more self-possessed and confident businesswoman.  This "metamorphosis," as she calls it, enabled her to then take her business national.

Looie describes these business experiences as preparation for her involvement at Pocono Raceway, or "Doc's Playground," as she affectionately calls it.  She shares that "sooner or later, all of the children and now the grandchildren have been lured by Doc into the family farm."

At Mountain Concessions, Looie has a staff of five full-time employees that work all year round.  But on race weekends, her staff swells to over 3,000 individuals who manage the "controlled chaos," that she describes as the race weekend.

Looie advises that the key to success is having all "the right people on the bus."  She also feels strongly that "everyone on the team must be prepared and cross trained" as well.

When asked if she has ever faced obstacles being a woman in a predominately male sport, much like her mother, Looie answers quickly, "If you know your stuff, it doesn't matter your age, sex, color or creed."

Looie continues, "You just have to mark your territory."

While Looie enjoys her role in the "family farm," she has a new goal in her life, that of being "Nana" to her 5-year-old twin granddaughters.  Because of her close relationship with her own grandmother, Looie is determined to "create memories" with her grandchildren.

So, the next generation of the Mattioli women lives on in Looie, her children and grandchildren.  And there is no doubt that they will continue to shape and grow the "organized chaos" that occurs every race weekend at their family farm, Pocono Raceway.