Cheryl Curtis’s passion is caring for children.
That is why, in the fall of 1993, the mother of three began thinking about quitting her part-time waitressing job at Villa Paul’s in her hometown of Hampton Bays, with the hopes of one day opening a daycare center inside her Squires Boulevard home.
“My co-workers thought I was crazy,” Ms. Curtis recalled during a recent interview.
Nonetheless, she had a plan that, if successful, would enable her to spend more time with her young children because she no longer would have to work night shifts.
It turns out she was right and her daycare center, Charlie’s Little Angels, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Ms. Curtis’s plan started to take shape in late 1993. She started by caring for two children from the neighborhood, in addition to her youngest son, Conor, who was only 1 at the time, in her living room. By 1995, renovations were under way in the basement of the home that she still shares with her husband, Gregg, a plumber and, earlier, their two older children, Travis and Hayley.
She soon secured a family group license, and Charlie’s Little Angels became a state-certified daycare facility a short time later. It was also around that time that word began to spread in the neighborhood about the new business and, before long, Ms. Curtis had to hire an assistant to help tend to the 10 children in her care.
The popularity of her business also forced her to quit her waitressing job—which she did happily.
She noted that the decision to name the business after her father, Charlie, was a no-brainer. Ms. Curtis explained that her late father often referred to her three children as his “little angels,” and notes that he has had a profound influence on the way she runs her business.
“He told me not to be greedy, and always lead with your heart,” she said.
Ms. Curtis notes that the two keys to her success are keeping her operation small and not overcharging for services. She noted that she now charges $7 per hour—just $2.50 more per hour than when she first opened the doors to Charlie’s Little Angels two decades earlier.
Additionally, she said that her business specializes in caring for children between the ages six months and four years. And she is always looking for ways to improve her program. Recently, she started offering a new initiative, called “Carol’s Affordable Curriculum,” that submerges her students in a program titled “Jumping Kangaroo.” Established in Minnesota, the program specializes in teaching essential learning skills that better prepares children for kindergarten.
The entrepreneur noted that, in addition to the intimate environment offered at her daycare center, the varying age of the children she cares for helps in their development. “Everyone learns to play and grow with each other,” Ms. Curtis said, “and it is very rewarding.”
Kate Palmieri, an elementary school teacher from Riverhead, said she initially brought her oldest daughter, Julianne, 6, to Charlie’s Little Angels. She was so satisfied with the experience that she has also placed her younger daughter, Lorelei, 3, in Ms. Curtis’s stead.
As for Ms. Curtis, she intends to stay the course, noting that she has no desire to expand her business. She added that the individual attention she can offer her children is all the motivation she needs to keep going.
When asked whether she would like to keep Charlie’s Little Angels going for another 20 years, she laughed and said: “Yeah, sure! Heck. Why not?”
For more information about Charlie’s Little Angels, email Ms. Curtis at email@example.com or call her at (631) 728-2106.