New in Finance

Contracts Awarded

Leaving Town


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.

Take stock. "Most people don’t know what they’re


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.

Face the music. "A lot of people are scared of going

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."

Quantify goals. Whether it’s a new car or a comfortable

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.

"The sooner you start, the better you’ll end up," Gross

says. Even if the winds of change take your business from poultry

to wallpaper to financial planning.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

Bon-Ton Financial Strategies, 993 Lenox Drive,

Suite 200, Lawrenceville 08648. 609-844-7639; fax, 609-844-7618.

Home page:

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New in Finance

AmeriCredit Corp. (ACF), 5 Vaughn Drive, Third

Floor, Princeton 08540. Karen Brown, area general manager.


fax, 609-514-1584. Home page:

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

Philadelphia office.

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."

Credit Suisse/First Boston Corp., 302 Carnegie

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


CitiFinancial (C), 510 Route 130, Suite 5, East

Windsor 08520. Dinesh Goswami, branch manager. 609-371-2373; fax,

609-371-2866. Home page:

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

Quakerbridge Road.

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Contracts Awarded

Connotate Technologies, 303 George Street, New

Brunswick 08901. Thomas Pisello, president and CEO. 732-296-8844;

fax, 732-296-0330. Home page:

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).

Top Of Page
Leaving Town

Advanced TelCom Group, 993 Lenox Drive,


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."

Bedard Kurowicki & Co., 318 Route 202 North, Suite

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.

Top Of Page

Theodore Lynch, 79, on May 7. He was an art teacher in

Princeton schools for 26 years.

Rosemary F. Gault, 75, on May 19. He was a bacteriologist

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.

Wilma M. Moran, 84, on May 21. She was a secretary at

Princeton Nursery for more than 60 years.

Norman R. Goldstein, 72, on May 22. He founded a forensic

safety engineering consulting firm in Robbinsville.

Gertrude V. Conover, 78, on May 23. She worked in the

family business, Conover’s Bus Transportation Co., until 1988.

John F. Ozwirk, 73, on May 25. Until 1990 he was


manager at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Linda Louise West, 53, on May 26. She had worked for


Valley Medical Associates, Allergy & Pulmonary Associates, Ewing


Associates, and the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center.

Corrections or additions?

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— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

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