When the Family Business Goes Down

Published For The Corridor

The Money Issue

Many of us face harder times ahead than we ever expected. What do you do when the family business goes under?

Green Street Financial was a family owned mortgage company in Huntington, in business for ten years. Peter Marino, his wife Pamela and her daughter Christie Pennino, created a highly successful business based on solid, ethical lending principles. “We never did sub-prime or ‘no income check’ loans,” said Peter. “We lost relationships with realtors because we counseled people who couldn’t afford to re-finance, not to.”

After 20 years in the corporate world with Bank of America, CitiBank, and as a Senior Vice President at the Long Island Savings Bank, Peter decided that he wanted to be in control of his own destiny. “Each job I lost,” he says,” was due to some kind of restructuring of the company I was working for - it was either bought or sold, or the circumstances of the business changed. I wanted to build something for myself.”

They started from home with an ad in the newspaper. Peter recalls “That first weekend we were flooded with calls. 250 calls! We advertised a rate that went from 7% to 6.875% and we were inundated in one weekend.”

The company evolved and grew with Peter at the helm, and Christie was soon promoted to Vice President. They were a community based company, developed relationships in the town and did well. “The market was great,” says Peter, “and people liked us. Our philosophy was to be different than the banks...” Their approach was right for the time, and their strategy worked. The business flourished over the next several years.

The decision was made to expand their scope geographically. “We were just flooded,” said Peter, “...we were trying to become a bigger company.” Green Street Financial left Huntington and moved to Garden City which changed the dynamics of the company. Christie developed rapidly, and grew a huge network of friends, acquaintances and clients. “I noticed a difference in the market that made me feel as if I needed a change,” Christie said. “...I couldn’t put my finger on it but I was getting restless.” Christie put “feelers” out and accepted a temporary position with the Huntington Bay Village Clerk two days a week. “I missed the corporate life, though” she said. So she sent resumes out and began her search in earnest. “I left Green Street before it was over, I was expecting my son and suddenly it wasn’t about me anymore.”

Peter had noticed that Christie didn’t appear to be as interested in the business as she had been in the past, and claims he was not surprised when she told him she was leaving. “I supported her,” Peter says, “...it was a great move to a great company, and she took all that she learned and brought a lot to the business.”

Shortly after Christie left, Peter realized that the market was changing. “We all knew that what was going on in the mortgage industry was incredibly wrong ...it was as if Wall Street had gotten drunk on money. I knew a storm was brewing but did not expect a tsunami. I never dreamt that that my BOA stock wouldn’t be good. I had faith in the BOA brand. My plan is gone.” Green Street fell victim to the economy and closed the books on October 27, 2008. “We maintained our integrity to the end, reputation is everything.” Peter said.

Christie is comfortable in her new position with Bethpage Credit Union. “It was a humbling experience. I went from Queen Bee V.P. to a loan officer and was suddenly responsible for my own actions. It wasn’t easy telling Peter I was leaving Green Street. I lost sleep over it. Ultimately, we both made the right decisions for us.”

While Peter’s Bank Of America stock may not have provided the golden parachute he was expecting, BOA is still an enduring presence in his life as his most recent employer.

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