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Winter 2012 • Volume 6 / Issue 3

Dynamic Duo VScreen Video

VScreen Founder Stephen Schweickart and his partner, Amie Jonsson, are taking real estate video marketing to the next level. They’re young, innovative and camera ready.

In this Issue: Triumph: Comeback Real Estate Professionals • A Culture of Giving • Foodie Extraordinaire


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Winter 2012 Volume 6 / Issue 3

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Letter from the Publisher There’s a change in the market and things are looking up. However, the real estate professionals in this issue have weathered worse storms. Read about their triumphs.

COVER STORY: The Yin and Yang of Business With a steady stream of one liners and punch-you-in-the-arm jokes, the VScreen duo of Stephen Schweickart and Amie Jonsson have captured lightning in a bottle.

Triumphant We’ve got four amazing stories of real estate professionals who have suffered tremendously but came back stronger than ever. This is a must-read.

Building a Culture of Giving For more than 100 years, the Stark Company Realtors® has been contributing to the community. Find out how they build the spirit of giving into their culture. Foodie Extraordinaire With restaurant-owner parents from Northern Italy, Marie Zazzi couldn’t help but share their love of food.

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Letter from the Publisher Real Estate Triumphs Housing sales are up. Inventory has shrunk so far that many markets are running low. Price increases are starting to look like the good old days. Perhaps, finally, we have an old fashion real estate recovery under way. Maybe we have something akin to the good old days coming back—where buyers outnumber the sellers! However, it’s good that some things don’t change. Real estate professionals continue to go about their business and their lives. For the most part, they take care of their families, stay close to friends and when the chance arises, take vacations. Among younger generations, the excitement of the future and the promise of new technologies provide a sense of wonderment and excitement. This issue of LORE covers both the traditional and the new. We hear from men and women who have fought hard against life’s calamities and persevered. These are real estate professionals who beat the odds against illness and tragedy. We also hear from two young leaders who are turning the real estate world inside out with video applications that weren’t even dreamed of just a few short years ago. The young and the old, the traditional and the new frontier— in this edition of LORE you will find both. These are the stories of our times. Warmest regards,

Stephen H. Murray Publisher 2 LORE

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www.loremagazine.com Steve Murray Publisher smurray@realtrends.com Tracey C. Velt Editor-in-Chief tvelt@realtrends.com David Grassnick Graphic Designer Travis Saxton Webmaster tsaxton@realtrends.com Doniece Welch Advertising dwelch@realtrends.com 303-741-1000 Lore magazine is published online via Issuu four times a year—in February, May, August and November—by REAL Trends Inc. 7501 Village Square Drive, Ste. 200 Castle Rock, CO 80108 (303) 741-1000 Free Subscriptions: Click Here or call 303-741-1000 tsaxton@realtrends.com


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Cover Story

The Yin and Yang of

Business

With a steady stream of one liners and punch-you-in-the-arm jokes, the VScreen duo of Stephen Schweickart and Amie Jonsson have captured lightning in a bottle. 4

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that Amie Jonsson, “We’re not afraid of 31, now vice change. That’s helped president of Stephen Schweickart, CEO of operations and an VScreen, is your typical young us stay ahead.” entrepreneur—high energy, moving in a officer of the company, — Amie Jonsson, million different directions and ready to joined VScreen. Vice President of The two met one take on the world. So, in 2006, when night in downtown his father came to him with the idea to Operations, VScreen Orlando and hit it off. start a video company that catered to And, she was the first person the real estate industry, Schweickart, Schweickart thought of for the position. 31, jumped on it. “I was a real estate investor and went sideways on a couple “Amie is extremely detail oriented. I’m difficult to work for, I’m a of bad investments, so when my father came to me with an idea and told me to perfectionist and all over the place, and she knows how to deal with me,” run with it, I was immediately on the he says. Perhaps even more important, phone calling my real estate contacts says Schweickart, is that she’s “very and gauging interest,” he says. diplomatic.” After all, he says, “Doing Six years later, VScreen has evolved business with my father has posed from random projects shooting virtual tours and listing videos to a cutting-edge challenges along with the rewards. My father and I are polar opposites. video production agency. “Our first big Amie has taken his wisdom and my project was in Daytona Beach, Fla. We hired a kid to shoot the video for us and desire to conquer the world and turned it into a company that’s now on the way there, the client asked us if we could do high definition (HD) video. breaking through after going through the worst economy ever,” he says. We had to buy an HD camera on the Currently, the VScreen team consists spot,” he says. The camera was of 15 people. “We’re like an agency. overnighted to the shoot and arrived only an hour before Schweickart’s team Some people work in this [Orlando] office, some are freelancers,” he says. was scheduled to begin. “It was a And, says Schweickart, “2013 is our nightmare, no one knew how to work the camera. But, the client stuck with it breakout year. We’re profitable and digging out of the trenches.” The and still jokes with us about that job to company has evolved as well. “We still this day,” he laughs. do community and video tours, but we also do custom videos such as Turning Point At the time, Schweickart was doing testimonials, how-to videos, company video tours and agent profiles—hiring promotions, listing videos and more.” kids out of film school. “We were Learning Curves learn-as-you-go,” he says. And, it was Despite the chemistry between going so well that Schweickart had Amie and Stephen, it was a rocky road to start hiring scriptwriters and at first. “When I first started, Stephen administrative personnel. It’s then By Tracey C. Velt

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VScreen Video would hand me a Dictaphone that listed everything I needed to do. I had to type it all out and go through the checklist with him every day,” says Jonsson, who stuck it out because she knew the company was going places. “When she first started with us I was a complete control freak. I made her send me reports on what she was doing every day,” he laughs. “It took me two years to finally trust her completely. Now, I’ve turned everything over to her. I’m the dreamer and the relationship guy, she runs everything,” says Schweickart. “If Amie had not

“I’m the dreamer and the relationship guy, she runs everything.” — Stephen Schweickart CEO, VScreen

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come on board when she did, I may have buried the company based on my temperament, quick judgment calls and snap decisions. Amie forced me to focus and because of her I didn’t get frustrated and distracted,” he says. The two have a brother-sister relationship—playfully needling each other one minute and locked in serious business conversation the next. And, they have fun. A recent Facebook post shows Amie’s shoe on a ledge in the window of Stephen’s second-floor office. She had thrown it there to get his attention rather than walk upstairs.

Lives of Real Estate


And, those antics are everyday occurrences to break up the day. “The company culture is defined by being undefined,” laughs Schweickart. “We thrive on chaos, and we never have a normal day. I’m a bit of a dictator from a management perspective; while all the employees love Amie.” And, the company fits what you’d think a young company would be like: there’s no dress code, no knocking on doors. Instead, expect constant bantering between employees and blaring music.

narration, charts and graphs. The company is also launching a video widget where a sales associate can populate a video player full of high-end consumer-specific videos. “The player is completely branded with Facebook and Twitter lead capture built into the platform,” says Schweickart. “The player comes ready filled with 20 videos on how to pick the right agent, home design, staging and more. Every month, we’ll upload four new videos and take four down. It will come with a newsletter for a push campaign and it’s all branded to the agent,” he says.

Survivors It’s these products and the neverending energy of Schweickart and Jonsson that keep VScreen going strong. “We’re pioneering the path and surviving while a lot of other companies are going belly up. People know they can call us, and it’s never a question of whether we can handle the project or Common Goals do it within budget. People trust us to Now, both Schweickart and Jonsson deliver a product that’s high quality, on are on the same page as far as growing time and on budget,” says Schweickart. the company. “From a real estate “We’re very entrenched in the video perspective we want to be the No. 1 space. We know where the video company for all things video,” says market is going and pride ourselves on Schweickart. “We want to be more being ahead of the curve. We can say to of a video agency, not just a video that broker or agent, ‘We’ve done the production company. We want to do research, and we know what you’re everything from concept to design and going to need.’” marketing,” says Jonsson. And, they’ve Says Jonsson, “We’re launched some new products that move not afraid of change. “We’re not afraid of the company in that direction. The first That’s helped us to change. That’s helped is Automated Market Videos, developed stay ahead. If there by VScreen and powered by metrics were a huge shift in us stay ahead.” provider, Terradatum, Inc. By entering a technology tomorrow; — Amie Jonsson, zip code, users can instantly generate a we wouldn’t Vice President of Market Analysis Video that includes key automatically throw Operations, VScreen data elements like active inventory, out our business plan. median listing price, days on market, We can handle it.” median sale price and number of units Schweickart agrees. “We thrive on sold. The video explains these metrics being ahead of the curve and able to through the use of easy to understand adapt. We’re survivors.” L

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i n s p i r at i o n L E a d E R s h i p i N s t i t u t E

Emerging LEadErs CONFERENCE

JaN 2013 23-25

dENVER

Everyone in brokerage talks about the importance of leadership in creating healthy firms. and everyone seems to agree that the current leadership is not getting any younger. the REaL Trends Leadership institute (RtLi) – Emerging Leaders – is the first of a series of working sessions to address both issues. this is built for those new to brokerage leadership, for those who are early into their responsibilities of taking their firms forward. Regardless of what stage an emerging leader is in at this time, this program is made to refresh one’s thinking about how to grow again. We have custom designed the RtLi to be equally divided between presentation from topic experts and individual work groups that will attack key questions and share answers with each other and with the overall group. s p O N s O R E d

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Cover Story

Health scares, near-death experiences, and the death of a loved one—these major life obstacles can cause even the strongest person to crumble.

Not these real estate professionals. Read their stories.

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Running For Wounded Warriors

Hamlin calmly told the 911 operator his deputy code, gave her details about the accident and told her to have the emergency responders bring morphine and plasma. “It’s amazing what the human body can do,” says Hamlin, who says he’s a “spiritual guy” and was praying for strength. He then told her that he had to hang up, a no-no to 911 operators, who try to keep the victim on the phone until emergency responders arrive. “I knew the ambulance would have a hard time finding me, so I had to call a friend of mine who could lead them to the place quickly,” he says. Unfortunately, his friend was about 17 miles away, but says Hamlin, “He was here in 8 minutes and thankfully the ambulance was right behind him.” That’s when Hamlin took a shell from his pocket, loaded his hunting gun and shot into the air so that everyone could find him. As they loaded him into the ambulance, Hamlin went into shock, but still had the presence of mind to call his wife. “I downplayed it to her but she quickly realized how serious it was once she got to the hospital,” he says. Hamlin was immediately led into surgery. They saved his leg and less than three weeks after the accident, Hamlin attended a home inspection for one of his listings that was closing that month. “My colleagues were wonderful,” says Hamlin. “I had two closings

It was a beautiful fall morning when Terry Hamlin, a sales associate with Carolina One Real Estate in Mount Pleasant, S.C., decided to do some early-morning hunting on his property before starting his day showing properties. “I live on a horse farm and decided after sitting for about an hour hunting deer, I wasn’t having any luck,” says Hamlin, who’s been in real estate since 2006. Hamlin was high above the ground in a new tree stand, when he unhooked his safety harness to climb down. “I grabbed the fabric hand strap on the ladder and it just ripped out. I fell to the ground and landed in a standing position with all of my weight on my left leg. My leg literally exploded,” he says. Hamlin would soon find out he had six exposed compound fractures, his ankle and heel bones were crushed and he had severed his femoral artery. Hamlin was alone, in a semiremote part of the property and was starting to bleed out. “Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to grab my Blackberry and call 911,” says Hamlin, who memorized the date and time of the accident: September 18, 2009 at 8:04 a.m. In addition, Hamlin’s training as a Berkeley county deputy taught him basic first aid. “I knew that if I lost consciousness I would die, and I knew that I needed to slow the bleeding, so I pulled my belt off and tied it as a tourniquet to my thigh,” he says.

I downplayed it to (my wife) but she quickly realized how serious it was once she got to the hospital. — Terry Hamlin, Carolina One Real Estate

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Triumphant inspiration from the men and women of our armed services who lost limbs in combat. “I was talking with John Fernandez, an Iraqi war veteran and

Not only that, but it featured a painting of the American flag. “That was a special day,” says Hamlin, who years ago founded the Cooper River Bridge 10,000 meter run and was determined to run it again. But, this time, Hamlin wanted to do more than just run it. Before his amputation, Hamlin had been getting

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coming up and they helped me with my business.” Over the next seven months, Hamlin rehabbed his leg all while working. Unfortunately, it was determined that he would have to have it amputated. “I just wasn’t getting better.” Hamlin now wears a prosthetic limb. Despite being an athlete, who at 61-years-old was still running daily, Hamlin took the news in stride. “I had to improve the quality of my life and amputation was the only way to do that,” he says. Finally in December 2010, Hamlin got his prosthetic leg. In addition, his doctor surprised him with a running blade; similar to the one South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius wore in the Olympics.

I’ve been moving forward ever since. I believe this was a message that there’s more for me to do here. — Terry Hamblin, Carolina One Real Estate

West Point grad who lost both his legs in combat. “He worked for Wounded Warrior Project, so I decided to dedicate the run to that organization.” The run organizers named a division in his honor: the Terry Hamlin Mobility Impaired Division and Hamlin used it as a way to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. He’s raised over $43,000 so far. “I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run in March 2011, and I’ve been moving forward ever since,” says Hamlin, who still runs up to five miles, three to four times a week. “I believe this was a message that there’s more for me to do here. I’ve always loved my country and helping my fellow man. It sounds corny, but I really do have an innate love for people. I choose to have a good attitude and push hard.” Through it all, Hamlin never took a leave of absence from selling real estate. He continues to ride horses, hunt, run and raise money and awareness for war veteran amputees. “My wife always said she wanted to marry a cowboy, now she’s not so sure,” laughs Hamlin.


Love and Loss wonderful people around me,” she says. Every day, she has to drive by the accident scene, which is right around the corner from her office. “I came back to work sooner than some thought I should after Seamus died and to tell you the truth, it’s still quite a blur. I just knew that I needed to connect with people to keep going and to make sure my son’s life went on somehow through me,” she says. “I honor him every day through the work I do helping his friends who come to me as first-time homebuyers.

It was the middle-of-the-night phone call that every parent dreads—a call from the police. “While the rest of the family was in Gloucester the night before Thanksgiving, my 22-year-old son, Seamus, had to work and said he was going to bed and would join us the next day,” says Stephanie Densmore, an associate-broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group in Sanford, Mass. “Of course, he ended up going out with friends that night. He was a spitfire, a real man about town,” she says. The rest, she says, is a blur. “When we got the call from the police, I thought Seamus had burned the house down or something, they wouldn’t tell me why they were calling, just told us to come down to the station. I woke up my husband, Jimmy, and our older son, Brendan, because I just knew something was very wrong,” she says. “My son, Seamus, passed away on November 23, 2006 (Thanksgiving) in a car accident. He was almost 23-years-old. It will always take my breath away,” says Densmore, who says her son had been drinking and hit a tree while swerving to miss something that was in the road. The car burst into flames. “His friends tried to take the keys away from him, even handing them to the bartender, but he went behind the bar and took them back,” says Densmore. “Almost six years later, I’m still angry. Brendan is getting married soon and he’s not even going to have a best man. He says that no one can take Seamus’ place,” she says. A few weeks after the death, Densmore shocked her office by returning to work. “It was my outlet. I needed to reach out and have

I just knew that I needed to connect with people to keep going. — Stephanie Densmore, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

I see Seamus in all of them, and we talk about him and say his name often; sometimes in laughter and sometimes in tears, always with the joy of having had him in our lives even for a short time.”

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Triumphant

Like Father, Like Son Like most devoted sons, Derik Baumgartner would do anything for his dad, Dean. And, when he says anything, he really means it, even going so far as to give his dad a kidney. The Baumgartners are a father-son team with Prudential Florida Realty in Stuart, Fla. “I got my license in 2006, right after the boom,” says Derik, who has been helping his dad by answering the phone and filing papers since he was young. But, two and a half years ago, Dean’s health took a turn for the worse. “I had always suffered from kidney stones, but in 2000, I was in the hospital in Italy for 14 days,” says Dean. “My creatinine level (which measures kidney function) was 300 times what it was supposed to be. A kidney stone had gotten stuck in my ureter and caused my kidney to fail,” he says. “As soon as my dad got sick I checked about donating a kidney to him,” says Derik. “After all, I had a fantastic, supportive father who not only allowed

me to walk out of college debt free, but went on to ensure I had a successful real estate career as well,” he says. But, Dean had other plans. “I was very conflicted. If Derik gave me his kidney, what would happen to him in 20 years if he needed a kidney?” says Dean. Thankfully, two people stepped up and were blood type matches, however both were overweight and not candidates for surgery. As the wait continued, Dean’s situation turned dire. Dean was put on a donor list and started dialysis. “I took him to the hospital to a doctor’s appointment and when dad went to the restroom, I asked the doctor to test me to see if I was a match,” says Derik, who is now 35-years-old. “It was May 2011, and we had the surgery in October 2011.” By that time, Dean knew that he might be dead before a kidney became available and the ports coming out of his kidneys scared his younger son, who was 7 years old at the

Father and son team, Dean (left) and Derik (right), let nothing stand in their way.

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time. “I was scared. Would I donate a kidney to my son? Absolutely, but I had a hard time accepting it from him. After all, people die in minor operations and taking out a kidney is a major surgery. You’re asking someone to suffer a lot of pain,” says Dean, now 65-years-old. But, Dean was desperate and Derik persisted until both realized it was the only thing to do. “I was dying,” says Dean. “Plus,” he says, “I figured the surgery would be harder on me than on Derik, but I soon found out that was inaccurate,” says Dean. “I awoke from the operation elated.” So elated that he grabbed his laptop and

also have a responsibility to my young son—to be there for his soccer and baseball games, to play Legos and read together, just like I did with my older children. I have a full-time job during the day and am a full-time father the rest of the time,” he says. Now, both father and son are back to work. “I’ve had three near-death experiences,” says Dean, who, in addition to the kidney disease, was pronounced dead at age 3 from heat stroke before his father brought him back to life with CPR and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 18 and had emergency surgery to keep him alive. “I’m so grateful to Would I donate a kidney to Derik for keeping me alive this third time,” he says. So my son? Absolutely, but I grateful, that Dean flew had a hard time accepting Derik to Italy to join him on his first trip back since the it from my son. operation. “I got to spend — Dean Baumgartner, time with my dad and that is priceless,” says Derik. Prudential Florida Realty Dean continues to work cell phone and started doing business hard every day and, says Derik, “he the day after surgery. Derik was out doesn’t give up even when he doesn’t of work for 2.5 weeks. “But, when feel good.” And, says Dean, “I’ve been I came back, I had to come back with so fortunate. This type of illness makes a vengeance. I worked 12 hour days you think twice about life and what’s for 9 months to get our business back important—family.” on track,” says Derik, who must get that gene from his dad who is a selfprofessed “workaholic.” In fact, Dean worked full time despite being on dialysis three days a week. Although, says Dean, “I enjoy what I do but I

As a thank you, Dean took his son on a trip to Italy. From left, Derik, step-mom Alessia and step-brother Dawson.

Derik builds a home for Habitat for Humanity.

Derik and his dad, Dean, are avid fishermen.

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Triumphant

Breathing a Sigh of Relief

extent of my injuries,” says Archer, the vice president of marketing, affiliated businesses and leads management for ERA Sunrise Realty in Alpharetta, Ga. The good news—Archer suffered no injuries from the accident. The bad news: She had a fist-size lump in one of her lungs. “It turned out to be a fast spreading type of lung cancer,” says the non-smoking Archer. “There is only a 15 percent survival rate.” Archer was floored. She had never smoked and didn’t have any symptoms. “I was 40 years old with three young boys to care for, this could not be happening,” she says. Fifteen days after the car accident, Archer was on the operating table subjected to a 14-hour surgery where doctors removed her right lung and 31

lymph nodes. “Being in a management position, every project I had been working on was put on hold as my focus had to be shifted to getting well,” she says. The brokerage she was working for (she’s since changed brokerages) showered her and her family with food, cards and flowers. “The hospital told me they had never seen anyone receive more flowers than me,” laughs Archer. Archer’s surgery was successful, but she had six months of chemotherapy treatments to endure, followed by years of treatments. “I took a leave of absence and as a Type A personality, it was very difficult for me to accept help from others. It truly was overwhelming,” says Archer, who came back to work with a new appreciation. “Every single morning, I wake up with a positive outlook. After all, if it had not been for that car accident, my cancer would have gone undetected.” And, she says, working helped her get better. “I couldn’t stand the four walls. I wanted to get back to work and get back to normal. It was hard, I worked shorter days and my company worked with me,” she says.

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A car accident saved 22-year real estate veteran Jacqueline PatrickArcher’s life. “It sounds crazy, but in August 2005, I was in a car accident and the emergency doctor ordered CT scans and X-rays to determine the

Every morning, I wake up with a positive attitude. If it had not been for that car accident, my cancer would have gone undetected. — Jacqueline Patrick-Archer, ERA Sunrise Realty

Archer is now considered cancer-free, as she has had no other occurrences for the past seven years. “It [the loss of a lung] obviously still impacts me but I’m


in tune with my body and I just work with it. You make the best of it,” she says. And, “the best of it” for Archer was to give back and serve. “I obviously recognize that I am a miracle, and I believe in God’s grace. What I’ve done with that is help raise awareness and funds for lung cancer,” she says. Already connected in her community through her work as a councilwoman, about a year ago, she met with a representative and told him she wanted to have a license plate for lung cancer awareness. “We did it in record time—it took seven weeks from start of process with Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles (GDMV) until it was signed into law,” she says. “I did a lot of hoop jumping, but because of these efforts and support from others who have been affected, we are the first state to have a license plate designated to lung cancer research and awareness,” she says. The money from the $25 vanity plate charge that the GDMV collects, will be forwarded to the The Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Fund and used for lung cancer research, early detection, patient advocacy and support.

In addition, Archer has worked with the lung cancer alliance and traveled to Washington, D.C. to support the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. But, says Archer, despite it all, she draws her strength from those around her, especially her mother. “My mother took me to all of my chemo treatments, and I can only imagine how she must have felt, watching her daughter going through all of this pain. When I was defeated, she picked me up. I can’t even begin to express how much that means to me. I hope that others who go through this

will have someone they can draw the same strength from,” says Archer. “I’ve found that more than anything I smile a little bigger, I notice the sunrise, I enjoy the outdoors and time with my kids. There are no bad days anymore.” L

Jacqueline PatrickArcher, seen here with legislators, was able to work with legislators to get a license plate for lung cancer awareness signed into law in record time.

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Eyebrow to come

Building a Culture of

Giving For more than 100 years, the Stark Company Realtors® has been contributing to the community. Find out how they build the spirit of giving into their culture.

The Sun Prairie office collects and sends care packages to U.S. troops. “We do this every year,” says Bonnie Dixon.

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Keep on Giving Stark Company Realtors capped off the 100th anniversary celebration with a giving-back golf outing. “We picked different charities, such as Project Home and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and raised money for them,” he says. “This was personal to us. We had lost two

Stark Company family members to pancreatic cancer within a year. It was very emotional.” In addition to the money raised by each individual office, the golf outing raised about $9,000. What happened next is a testament to the giving nature of Stark’s real estate professionals and the legacy of its founding fathers. “While giving was already part of our company culture, this further drove home the point and really solidified that reputation for us,” says Stark. “It goes way back to the history of our company and my grandfather. He was influential in real estate in the 20s and 30s, helping to get the Board of Realtors going and an early pioneer in the local United Way,” he says. The United Way has been Stark’s “most consistently supported organization.” Stark has been chairman of the United Way board and a chair of the United Way campaign. But, after the 2008 organized effort, each office continued to thrust themselves into community efforts. “Once the community got wind of our willingness to help, we were approached by several different causes,” says Dixon. One such cause was the Sun Prairie Education Foundation. “Board “Once the community members of the education foundation got wind of our willingsaw what a fabulous ness to help, we were job we did with the food pantry and asked approached by several us if we would organize different causes.” a silent auction for — Bonnie Dixon, them. We, of course, said, ‘Yes.’” So far, the Branch Manager, Sun Prairie office has Stark Company Realtors raised more than $80,000 for the foundation, which offers grants to teachers to

It was 2008, not a stellar year for real estate, but it was the 100th anniversary for the Stark Company Realtors, and they wanted to celebrate. “Our tradition has always been giving back to the community,” says Dave Stark, president of Stark Company Realtors, a Wisconsin-based brokerage founded by his great-grandfather in 1908. “So, while planning our 100th anniversary we decided to solidify that community activism by planning charity events in each of our seven offices.” The company now has six offices and 180 sales associates. Bonnie Dixon, branch manager of the Sun Prairie office was part of the group that made the anniversary plans. “We decided it wasn’t about us—it was about our communities and our agents, so we challenged each office to pick a charity and plan an event to raise money,” says Dixon, who says 2008 was a turning point because it made the giving they had already done more purposeful. “One office decided to do a run/walk and raised over $2,000 for a community education center in their neighborhood. My office partnered with a local food pantry that was celebrating its one-year anniversary. We collected 14,800 pounds of food,” says Dixon.

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Building a Culture of

Giving participate in activities or buy supplies not in the public school budget. “In 2010, they named their construction classroom after our company,” says Dixon. Company Culture The culture of giving back permeates each office—from the big events, to the little things. For example, at several offices, there is a jar in the break room where people throw in their coins. “During the holidays, we find a needy family and we deliver the jar of money along with a book called, “Christmas Jars,” by Jason F. Wright. Dixon recalls one time where agents from her office put out over 300 American flags in people’s yards for July 4. “Veterans were pulling over to say thank you,” she says. “They get teary eyed to know that people out there cared about what they did for our country.” “There’s a certain openness that we pride ourselves on having,” says Stark. “We had an agent who joined us from a competitor come to us and say, ‘There’s something different about your company. Everyone wants to help you. It feels like everyone is there for you,’” says Stark. “And, we are. We’re like a family.” That’s why Stark continually reinforces a nurturing environment and encourages agents to take up personal causes. “Baskets go around and that’s just who we are,” he says. And, says Dixon, “This kind of cultural message comes from the top. People in the community see the local connection we have, and they’re drawn to it,” she says. “We certainly see a different kind of agent coming to work with us. After all, without a strong 20

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community and strong connections, you have nothing. Giving back feeds your soul,” she says. “We’ve created a culture here where we attract great people who want community service to be a part of their lives,” says Stark.

The truth, says Stark, is that his company is part of the fabric of the community. “It goes back to our history. If our company went out of business, it would be recognized in the community as a real loss,” he says. After all, he says, “Community activism is true to the spirit of what we do and who we are. It’s fun to see the agents put energy into it—not because I tell them to, but because they’re just really into it,” he says. L


The Most Trusted Name in Real Estate for over 100 years Four Generations

oF

trust. As the oldest, and one of the largest real estate companies in South Central

Wisconsin, Stark Company Realtors® has a rich heritage and a respected name. The Stark Company was founded in 1908 by Presbyterian Minister Albert C. Stark. His son, Paul E. Stark, soon joined the company. Paul believed that “a community isn’t built one house at a time, but rather one handshake at a time.” Like his grandfather Paul and his father Phillip, David K. Stark now continues the family tradition of providing every home buyer and home seller with an experience that is satisfying in every way. And yet today, The Stark Company’s four generations of success is founded on promises kept; to our customers, to our staff and to our community. David K. Stark makes this pledge: “No other real estate firm of any size will be organized to serve customers’ needs as completely, as professionally, and as successfully as Stark Company Realtors®.”

Company Headquarters Mifflin at Fairchild

Paul E. Stark played a prominent role in Madison’s development 1920’s – 30’s Dave and Phil Stark in 1989

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Foodie

Extraordinaire With restaurant-owner parents from Northern Italy, Marie Zazzi couldn’t help but share their love of food.

At some point

in every conversation with buyers and sellers, the talk turns to food. “I generally ask them if they’ve eaten at any good restaurants lately,” says Marie Zazzi, senior vice presidentassociate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty in East Hampton, New York. “Since I’m close to New York City, many of my customers love to share their favorite place.” And Zazzi, who says she loves to research new places to eat, can offer up a few of her own. An Auspicious Beginning “My father owned a restaurant in Manhattan, but I swore I’d never have anything to do with food,” laughs Zazzi. Despite her best efforts to follow her other love—fashion—once Zazzi graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), she

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Marie Zazzi with Sotheby’s International Realty in East Hampton, holds a four-pound chicken mushroom, which she chopped, sauteed in olive oil and mixed with a scambled egg. “I put it on top of pecan raisin bread and it was delicious,” she says.


Making Friends While she doesn’t talk about her foodie tendencies in her real estate marketing, she says she finds it easy to connect with buyers and sellers because of it. “I ask if they cook and we exchange recipes. I’ve become friends and traveled with customers because of food,” says Zazzi, who goes into New York City every chance she gets and is known to ask a random person on the street where he or she likes to eat. And, Zazzi still cooks, although for health reasons, she sticks to vegetarian meals at home. Zazzi travels frequently to Italy, where she walks neighborhoods looking for interesting restaurants. She’s fluent in Italian, so will often stop a businessman and ask where he likes to eat lunch. “I find it stimulating,” she says.

ended up as a sous chef at the NYC Waldorf Astoria. “Even then I loved to research recipes and restaurants, so I would go to Strand Bookstore (which sells new, used, rare and out of print books) in the city and buy used cookbooks,” she says. It was there she discovered Diana Kennedy, the “Julia Child of Mexican cooking.” Zazzi immediately called Kennedy and told her she would like to work with her. “As luck would have it, she was looking for a cooking-class assistant,” she says. Eventually, Zazzi moved to East Hampton and for a short time catered Mexican food in the area. She was also engaged in the organic movement. “I’ve been involved in the sustainable agriculture/organic farming movement,” she says. “I helped bring the Northeast Organic Farming Association to our area.” After catering, she taught cooking classes at the local public schools. From there, she says, she needed a change so she moved into real estate.

“I ask if (real estate clients) cook and we exchange recipes. I’ve become friends and traveled with customers because of food.” — Marie Zazzi, Senior Vice President, Sotheby’s International Realty, East Hampden, New York

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Zazzi’s Fav Food While Zazzi refuses to say these are her all-time favorites, (she has so many!) she put together a list of some of the places she frequents every chance she gets: 1. Tartine Bakery in San Francisco for bread and desserts 2. Didovich Pasticceria in Venice, Italy for vegetable tarts 3. Ciampini in Rome for gelato 4. Roscioli in Rome for Burrata (a fresh Italian cheese) and semi-dried tomatoes 5. L’Ourcine in Paris. “A charming restaurant with delicious food.” 6. Grandaisy in New York City for, “Delicious thin focaccia-potato and rosemary, zucchini and parmesan sandwiches.” 7. Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. “I haven’t eaten here yet, but it’s on my list.” 8. Maialino NYC. “Everyone I take there consistently tells me it’s the best meal they’ve ever had.” 9. Baoquette in NYC for Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) L

Diana Kennedy’s Guacamole Recipe One of Marie Zazzi’s go-to recipes, she learned to make this guacamole during her apprenticeship with cook Diana Kennedy. It’s easy to make and delicious. Yield: Makes about 2-1/2 cups Ingredients 1. 2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped white onion 2. 4 serrano chiles, finely chopped (yes, seeds and all), or to taste 3. 3 heaped tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro 4. Sea salt to taste 5. 3 avocados, (about 1 pound/450g) 6. About 1/2 cup (125ml) finely chopped, unskinned tomatoes For the toppings: • 1/2 cup (63ml) finely chopped tomatoes • 1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped white onion • 2 heaped tablespoons finely (but not too finely, just prettily) chopped cilantro Directions Put the onion, chiles, cilantro, and salt into a molcajete and crush to a paste. Cut the avocados in half and, without peeling, remove the pit and squeeze out the flesh. Mash the avocado roughly into the base and mix well. Stir in the tomatoes and sprinkle the surface of the guacamole with the toppings. Serve immediately. “From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients,” by Diana Kennedy, copyright © 2003 by Diana Kennedy. Used by permission of Random House Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Random House Inc. for permission.

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Lives of Real Estate

Lore 2012 Winter Edition  

Lives of Real Estate magazine featuring personal interest stories within the residential real estate industry.

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