Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Barbara Fox were
prepared for the May 30, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Life in the Fast Lane
Mark Gross’s family has been in business for a long
time — more than 100 years, but not in the same business. Spurred
on by new ideas, or derailed by changing consumer behavior, his family
went from poultry to wallpaper, and when wallpaper ran into a wall
it couldn’t beat, his father retired, his brother sought work as a
controller, and he founded Bon-Ton Financial Strategies.
"My great grandfather, Harry Gross, had a poultry store,"
Gross recounts. "Every Thursday, instead of hanging chickens in
the window, he hung wallpaper." Customers liked the display, and
soon wallpaper sales and installation replaced poultry as the family
business. Called Bon-Ton, French for "good for you," the
opened a chain of retail wallpaper stores from south Jersey to
and operated them from 1899 through 1962.
The stores were sold in 1962, the year before Mark Gross was born,
and the company switched its focus to manufacturing, import, and
Gross studied economics at the University of Chicago (Class of 1985)
and went to work for Arthur Andersen as a systems analyst for several
years after graduation. He then went to work for the family business,
which was headquartered in Philadelphia, and employed some 50 people
in the late-1980s.
By 1996, Gross saw that the game was up for regional wallpaper
Superstores like Home Depot had put hardware stores out of business,
and the ripples went down the line, affecting all sorts of companies
that had supplied the hardware stores, wallpaper distributors among
them. "It was very disappointing to see it could not go on,"
Gross says. "It was what I hoped to do with my life and my career,
but it just was not viable."
Gross’ father and brother continued on for four more years, and then,
last year, sold the company to Duron, a Beltsville, Maryland paint
manufacturer as an "also." Duron previously had purchased
another family wallpaper distribution company, and now, Gross says,
will sell paint and "also" wallpaper.
Bon-Ton was the last regional wallpaper distributor in the
"It’s all national now," Gross says of the business. But Gross
wanted to keep at least the name.
His Bon-Ton Financial Strategies will cater to both individuals and
small companies, selling a very 21st Century product — advice.
In some ways more competitive than poultry or wallpaper, the financial
advice business also has big players, the Merrill Lynchs and
Securities, for example. Gross says this does not concern him.
technology means I can sell more products," he says. "And
I can keep my cost structure lower than multi-level corporations."
Another advantage for the independent in this arena, he says, is that
they don’t have to worry about corporate goals. "A corporation
has to increase its profits at a certain level each year," he
says. This can create tension between a need to get clients’
to perform at a certain level and a need to focus on each client’s
Gross says each client is different, and no formula for asset
fits everyone, but he does have some general guidelines for beginning
an investment program.
Gross says. And many are pleasantly surprised. But whatever the bottom
line, it is important to tote up the current value of all assets,
and then subtract all debts. This exercise will provide valuable
on how much money can be put into investments.
to the doctor for a check-up," Gross says. "It’s the same
with a financial consultant." The reason people procrastinate,
he says, is "they’re afraid of what they’ll hear."
retirement, folks who put their goals in writing are more likely to
achieve them. There will always be uncertainty, Gross says, but not
knowing how inflation will perform, whether all seven of your children
will go to college, or how many years past retirement you will live,
should not be a bar to mapping out a financial path.
says. Even if the winds of change take your business from poultry
to wallpaper to financial planning.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Suite 200, Lawrenceville 08648. 609-844-7639; fax, 609-844-7618.
Home page: www.bon-tonfinancial.com.
Floor, Princeton 08540. Karen Brown, area general manager.
fax, 609-514-1584. Home page: www.americredit.com
The national consumer finance company opened its eighth New Jersey
branch on Vaughn Drive last month. Even though AmeriCredit makes
of its loans for used cars, and the used car market is generally flat,
the company is growing at the rate of 30 percent a year and has 4,000
franchised automobile dealer customers and more than 700,000 vehicle
Matt Malatich of CB Richard Ellis represented the tenant in a
lease for 1,860 feet. Diane Chayes represented the owner, Mack-Cali
Realty Corp. Karen Brown, the area general manager, has five years
experience in the auto loan business, most recently with AmeriCredit’s
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, AmeriCredit concentrates on middle market
auto loans and bills itself as "the world’s largest and most
independent middle market auto finance company." (Larger
such as Ford and Chrysler, are associated with auto manufacturers.)
"Middle market" is another way of saying "sub prime."
Applicants for these loans probably have some kind of credit problem
and do not qualify for the best loan rates. Nevertheless, the company
has worked out a way to manage its risk effectively . "We have
an elaborate scoring system, considering some 200 behavioral factors,
that we review through computer models," says spokesperson John
Hoffman. "Yet the vast majority of our decisions are same-day
loans. We try to focus on this area and do it very well."
Center, Second Floor, Princeton 08540. Jeff Detweiler, president of
CFSB Financial Corporation. 609-627-5095; fax, 609-627-5011. Home
Into the newest building of the Carnegie Center has moved an arm of
the bank’s residential mortgage sales and trading operation. This
30-person office originates residential mortgages and trades mortgage
debt and loans. (Mortgage debt, a security is issued by Ginnie Mae
or Fannie Mae, is backed by a pool of mortgages.) A data center of
CSFB still has about 130 employees at 700 College Road.
Jeff Detweiler, president of CSFB Financial Corporation, is in charge
of acquiring residential mortgage whole loans, and he is responsible
for sales, operations, analytics, technology, and servicing. He was
with Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette when it was acquired late last year
by CSFB; he is integrating the strategies of the two organizations.
An alumnus of Princeton University, Detweiler has worked at FBS
Independence One Mortgage Corporation, Michigan National Bank, and
Windsor 08520. Dinesh Goswami, branch manager. 609-371-2373; fax,
609-371-2866. Home page: www.citifinancial.com
The loan company expanded with a move from Suite 17 to Suite 5 and
has five employees. It offers personal and home equity loans and
mortgage refinancing. Another retail branch is at Ames Plaza on
Brunswick 08901. Thomas Pisello, president and CEO. 732-296-8844;
fax, 732-296-0330. Home page: www.connotate.com
Early in May the data mining software company announced that it raised
$1.7 million toward its $2.7 million goal in Series A financing. New
York-based Trautman Wasserman & Company managed the private funding.
Connotate has automated software tools to monitor and mine Internet
content and convert it into a form available to enterprise portals,
business intelligence, and content management databases. The software
"learns" the page layout of a website, extracts the content,
and delivers it to a wireless device (U.S. 1, March 21).
08648. Carl Thompson, general manager.
No sooner had Carl J. Thompson opened an office for Advanced TelCom
Group on Quakerbridge Road than ATG decided not to continue to fund
this market. Thompson flirted with the idea of continuing to work
in New Jersey under his own umbrella, as Mercer Communications, but
has taken a position with ATG as general manager of the Stamford and
Westchester market. Formerly with AT&T and Lucent Technologies,
is an alumnus of Notre Dame and has an MBA from the University of
ATG is a facilities-based integrated communications provider that
offers one-stop shopping to underserved middle-sized business markets.
A competitor to Verizon, it leases fiberoptic networks to deliver
all its services. "We were having difficulty building on our
in New Jersey because of the lack of fiber — we couldn’t get our
arms around enough of it — and we didn’t think we could deliver
proper service," says Gene Sokol, vice president marketing
at the company’s headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. "In some
areas it was not available. In some cases, they had promised the fiber
was there, but when we arrived, it had not been laid."
5, Flemington 08822. John Bedard, president. 908-782-7900; fax,
Andrew D. Ross has closed his tax practice on Route 27 in Kendall
Park and joined Bedard Kurowicki & Co. in Flemington. Bedard Kurowicki
also has an office on Pennington-Washington Crossing Road.
Princeton schools for 26 years.
and hematologist at the Medical Center at Princeton. A service will
be Saturday, June 9, at 11:30 a.m. at Trinity Church on Mercer Street.
Princeton Nursery for more than 60 years.
safety engineering consulting firm in Robbinsville.
family business, Conover’s Bus Transportation Co., until 1988.
manager at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Valley Medical Associates, Allergy & Pulmonary Associates, Ewing
Associates, and the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center.
Corrections or additions?
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