Society / Profiles

Which Wich Founders Follow Their Grandmothers’ Example and Give Back Everyday

How Courtney and Jeff Sinelli Became Instant Supporters of Dallas Children's Advocacy Center

BY Caroline Lidl // 10.31.19
photography Ana Hop

In its third year, NorthPark Center’s Luxury Ambassador program boldly merges the worlds of fashion, art and philanthropy, by way of celebrating the city’s top influencers and the nonprofits they support. NorthPark’s chosen few embody a rare-air kind of style — a droup that contains equal parts fashion sense, civic leadership and larger-than-life personality.

Here, we catch up with Courtney and Jeff Sinelli and learn about their passion for Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. Northpark supports Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s largest fundraiser Art for Advocacy, which takes place Saturday, November 9.

To view the full catalog of art available in the silent and live auction, click here. Courtney Sinelli tell us more:

Why the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. 

The first time we were introduced to the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC), and learned about the work they do to help victims of child abuse, we knew we wanted to help them however we could.

The fact that any sort of child abuse occurs at all is shocking. The number of victims that DCAC sees per year, around 7,000, is simply incomprehensible — and these are just the cases that get reported.

A benevolent memory. 

We started an initiative within Which Wich called Project PB&J, wherein we make and donate PB&J sandwiches to people in need. Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center was the first place we thought of when determining where the sandwiches should go locally. We have been dropping off 100 PB&Js there every single week since Project PB&J’s inception four years ago.

While for confidentiality reasons we don’t actually see the children at the center, the staff sends us stories about how the PB&Js are given as comfort food, or sent home with those who may be experiencing food insecurity. They often tell us that a PB&J has been the turning point in cheering someone up or brought a little comfort in very stressful situations.

Philanthropic Influence.

Jeff and I both had very strong grandmothers who really served as the North Star in our respective families. Neither had abundant resources, but they gave with open arms and hearts. They not only gave to their children and grandchildren, but they actively pursued in making their spot in the world a better place.

My own grandmother relentlessly volunteered for Meals on Wheels, and was so involved with and aware of each of the people she was helping. She had a list of people she called to check on and visit every day. I remember even at a young age the good feelings I would get when I was able to join her on those visits.

Jeff’s grandmother taught him a lifelong lesson: Always leave a place better than you found it.

Their commitment to community service was passed on to our parents. Our moms both have a long history of volunteering. I have been lucky enough to occasionally serve alongside my mom over the years as she has tirelessly volunteered to bring tennis opportunities to people with disabilities.

Role models. 

We have different role models for different things.

My parents are unwavering examples of loyalty, commitment and altruism. Our children are truly inspirations of pure kindness and thoughtfulness. Countless friends and business acquaintances are role models for everything from their commitment to family and friends to their passionate pursuit of their dreams.

We have a restaurant-industry friend who was our inspiration for growing our business internationally, which has been such an educational and rewarding experience for ourselves and our children. He and his family are truly global citizens. We strive to similarly make sure that our children are immersed in different cultures, experience the world as more than just tourists, and build lifelong relationships with our friends and business partners around the world.

NorthPark Center is at the center of combining art and fashion. Describe your own art and fashion interests. 

We are extremely interested in the art of storytelling in all forms. (So much so that we named our first daughter Story.) That includes art, fashion, music, literature and even branding, advertising and marketing. We are constantly finding inspiration from different forms of expression and the emotions each conjure. We truly love taking these inspirations and finding creative ways to apply them into our work and own lives.

On a personal fashion note, we are very passionate about our brand, and we are known for wearing our yellow and black corporate colors on a daily basis — even for special events. At our brand conferences we host a Black and Yellow Ball, where every year attendees try to outdo each other with creative yellow and black cocktail attire.

Our closets are full of black and yellow. We often get texts from our friends when they are shopping and run across something in those colors. They automatically think of us and Which Wich! Jeff likes to say, “Be the Brand,” and he probably has more yellow and black Nikes than the Pittsburg Steelers.

The perfect day.

It is one of two extremes: It either involves a little morning tennis, palm trees, friends, family, dinner at sunset on the beach, and a “yacht rock” playlist, or hitting the road and exploring someplace new with our kids.

Your day job.

We create and develop restaurant concepts. Jeff is the founder of Genghis Grill, which sold in 2003. Our first concept together was Which Wich, now 15 years old and has 500 locations open or in-development across the world. We also created Burguesa Burger. We are currently expanding it in the DFW market, with our eye on broader growth.

Last year, we purchased Paciugo Gelato Caffe. This has long been a Dallas favorite, and we are extremely excited about the potential this brand has for both consumer expansion, and in consumer packaged goods.

In 2019, we are committed to opening a beverage concept, Supernova Coffee, as well as continuing to expand on our sweets business, Courtney’s Cookies.

Looking forward. 

Every year we host several “Spreading Parties,” where volunteers help us make thousands of PB&Js in one hour.  They are then distributed to local community members in need. We are actually two-time Guinness Book of World Record holders, having made and donated the most PB&Js in an hour!

We also always look forward to Which Wich sponsoring The Great Create at Nasher Sculpture Center each spring. It is such a fantastic family event where kids get to create art by interacting with real working artists. The funds raised allow hundreds of children to experience the museum without charge.

 NorthPark memory.  

We will never forget how exciting it was when Which Wich was given the opportunity to be in the NorthPark foodcourt. It was many years in the making before we were a big enough brand to make the cut. Riding up the escalator and seeing Which Wich there for the first time was so surreal.

Now, years later, every time I see someone at the mall walking around with one of our bright yellow Which Wich cups, I still have a wow moment. We hope to be there as an iconic, legacy brand for years to come, for our children and the community.

We are so appreciative of NorthPark for its continued support.

Advice to your younger self. 

Sometimes I think my younger self should be telling my older self a few things, like stop working so much, check out a bit more, and have more fun. Ironically, the next restaurant concept I am developing involves bringing back the fun. It’s not lost on me that I am creating more work while doing that. Good thing we love what we do. 

On the horizon in 2019. 

We have a year of innovation ahead of us. We have a couple of new concepts on the way.

In addition, there are big changes rolling out in both Which Wich and Paciugo. Which Wich has an entirely new menu — already in the downtown Dallas location, with variations phasing in to all locations over the course of this year. It includes upgraded sides, elevated proteins and spreads, chef-created sandwiches, and a beverage bar full of exciting new offerings.

A big focus is also on our Paciugo asset, with eyes on an interior remodel and more café menu items, as well as innovation on products. . . such as an “after dark” alcohol-infused sorbet and gelato line coming to the Lovers Lane store soon!

Both at work with our team members and in our home life with our family, we are always looking to make progress on all fronts: to be creative, learn and explore new places and things together, do good, spread love, build some cool stuff, and have fun doing it.

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