PROFILE: Lisa Ianita and Paula Marum of Sisters’!

October 30, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…
BY OLIVIA CAMERON- What makes Boca Grande unique isn’t just the paradise appeal or the proximity of the beach. It’s the people. Each story told is one piece of the island puzzle. But it takes two to open a restaurant called Sisters.
Twins Lisa Ianita and Paula Marum have been proud owners of Sisters for over 12 years. They put their heart and soul into the operation of the business, and it shows through glowing reviews from the community. With one sister tossing dough in the kitchen and the other providing service up front, customers can’t get enough of the restaurant’s family charm.  
For Lisa and Paula, becoming the owners of the restaurant 12 years ago was a fresh start. The two were adopted in New York by a couple they love and miss dearly. “Our childhood was fantastic. We had great parents,” said Lisa.
Their father, a shoemaker with a second job to support the family, and their mother, there to support the girls in every way, cared for the twins wholeheartedly. “They took on two kids they didn’t even know, gave us a home and treated us like their own from day one,” said Lisa. 
The sisters have since been grateful for their parents’ consistent support of every endeavor, including the eventual opening of their own business down the line. 
In the 90s, Paula moved with her parents to Florida, which left Lisa up north in the service industry. “I jumped around in the restaurant industry before moving to Florida many years after,” said Lisa. “But our dad used to commute for work, so I’d get to see him often.”
Their father would bring pizza back and forth from their favorite pizzeria, which they’d chant about in unison. 
Once Lisa moved to Florida, she worked alongside Paula at a restaurant just off the island, Jams. At the time, Jams was managed by Patricia and Eric Oberg. “I learned so much about the industry from them,” said Lisa.
“I am a people pleaser, but in the restaurant industry, you just can’t please everybody; it’s the nature of the business,” Paula said.
The sisters also served at the Lock N’ Key before making an offer to buy an island restaurant. “It was Lisa’s idea to own a business,” said Paula. The deal itself threw them for a loop.
“One day, the owner I spoke to had called, saying he was ready to sell,” said Lisa. “I thought that was our key to get back to Boca.”
In preparation to take on their new business, the sisters gave their two weeks’ notice at the Lock N’ Key, but the deal was suddenly off the table. 
“Our attorney told us to go down the road and have a couple of drinks and process it all,” said Lisa. “So, with twenty dollars in our pocket, we went,” said Paula. “And then our attorney called back and said it was a done deal.” The twins rushed over in their Mustang with their new restaurant keys in their hands. “That day, we felt like we were coming home,” said Lisa.
Together, they opened Sisters with $700 to their names and a loan from their gracious mother. When Jams closed, Eric and Patricia lent a helping hand to the twins. With a full crew and an Italian-American menu, Sisters was open for business, and for the sisters, everything began to fall into place.
“Our chef, Monty, has been with us for the past 11 years. We have such a close-knit crew,” said Paula. “If you’re working with people more than you are at home, they become your family too,” said Lisa.
Lisa and Paula have made their fair share of mistakes in the restaurant industry but have taken each tribulation with a grain of salt. The sisters also admit to bantering but shrug it off. “We may argue and banter sometimes, but it’s just our thing,” Paula proclaimed with a smile. 
In their 20s, the two even battled it out in the ring on a whim. As soon as they touched gloves, one sister socked the other, and the match was on. “We’ve had our moments,” said Lisa. But that’s exactly what makes them the perfect duo.
“I am more of a thinker,” said Lisa, to which Paula replied, “Baloney!” Lisa elaborated as to how she can be an overthinker, but they balance each other out. “I have a heart, but my sister has a huge heart! She is such a giver,” Lisa acknowledged. “Well, I think Lisa’s got a heart of gold,” Paula countered. 
The sisters’ demeanor changed at the thought of a desolate year. Choked up, they explained how much the restaurant meant to them and how much more it would hurt if they lost it.
“Looking back on the moment when we actually got the keys to our place and came over the bridge together, it was the start of our new lives together,” said Lisa. “It’s something I’ll never forget. I think sometimes we tend to overlook it because it’s been so long, but I always come back to that moment. This is going to make me cry, but it’s been a tough year.” 
The sisters fought hard to hold onto everything they’d worked hard to achieve. When COVID-19 shut down local eateries, it hit close to home. “We were worried about keeping our doors open, but we offered to-go orders and the community supported us,” said Paula.
Through thick and thin, the restaurant has been their home away from home. When they lost their mother in 2016, the weight of the world was on their shoulders. But in some way, they feel like she is right there with them now. 
“There’s a reason we always say it’s five o’clock somewhere,” the sisters said in unison. In the bar area of their restaurant, a clock that used to belong to their mother rests on the wall. One evening, it stopped right at five o’clock, though the chime still moves. It does not operate on batteries, but they leave it as it is. “It’s the craziest thing, but it makes us think our mother is always here,” said Lisa.
Paula now has a daughter, Marybeth, who is a one-of-a-kind girl with the love of the whole community. The twins are always there for her, and in turn, she is always there for them.
Two weeks into the season, the sisters continue to operate with the safety of their staff and customers as the top priority. The team is COVID-trained and ready to ring in the orders of their regulars. A sign that hangs in their kitchen implies a positive future and reminds them of why they love to serve. It reads “86 COVID.”
In their free time, the young owners delight in cheering for the Buffalo Bills and Clemson Tigers. They also look forward to reconnecting with their four other siblings. For now, though, they’ve got a business to run and a community to feed!