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"Savoy provides me with all the services of a major bank, but delivers them with the personality of a small bank."

Nicholas Guagliardo has been in business for four and a half decades. As Chief Executive of the Westchester County-based ESM Group, a holding company, Mr. Guagliardo wears several business hats, covering real estate, warehousing, and most especially, commercial moving and storage, including the management and safe-keeping of corporate archives and surplus office furniture disposal services.

When a mortgage was needed to refinance his 35,000-square-foot Yonkers warehouse in 2014, the initial response wasn't favorable. "My business is not an easy one for lenders to wrap their arms around, so the reactions we were getting from various banks was decidedly cool," Mr. Guagliardo recalls. But that abruptly changed, he says, when a mortgage broker introduced him to Savoy Bank. "From the beginning, I experienced a level of comfort I had never felt with a bank before, and I've dealt with many banks," he says. "At Savoy, I sensed an eagerness to understand the complexities of my business, its cyclical nature and cash flow variables, rather than be put off by them. Savoy wanted to be my bank, and four years later we are still going strong and haven't disappointed one another."

ESM has four warehouses in Westchester and Fairfield counties, totaling 125,000 square feet, and can boast of such major clients as Con Edison, Colgate-Palmolive Company and Hanesbrands Inc. Mr. Guagliardo feels that both small and large companies need to make the most efficient use possible of expensive office space. He says, "For example, they don't want to pay today's rents to house files that aren't frequently needed. But they do want easy access to them when they are needed, which is why we've developed a management system that allows for easy retrieval of data." In short, he sees a pathway to growth for ESM, and is comforted to know that his bank is with him on the journey forward. "I still find it so refreshing to be able to pick up the phone and talk with someone I know at Savoy, who will quickly steer me to the right person for whatever the current need might be," he says.

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"Savoy has been my rock…without Savoy, my vision would have been lost"

The speaker is Debbie Cruse, whose vision was to salvage, stabilize and revitalize a century-old gem of New York City multifamily housing that seemed destined for the wrecking ball. That she achieved those goals is a testament to the gutsy, entrepreneurial savvy and spirit that drive New York’s economy. Her success also demonstrates the value of having a bank that thinks like an entrepreneur.  

In 2002, Ms. Cruse, an accountant with her own practice, took a close look at the accelerating decline of the building in which her father lived: an early 20th-century five-story walkup on West 149th Street, in the Sugar Hill-Hamilton Heights section of upper Manhattan. 

It was a property in disrepair. As the 1980s and ‘90s passed, mounting costs overwhelmed the co-op, and apartments were abandoned or rented to non-shareholders. Deterioration accelerated, and the building seemed on the way to becoming inhabitable.

But Ms. Cruse envisioned how to alter that destiny. “I knew it could be, and should be, saved,” she said, noting the property’s seven-room apartments, proximity to Hudson River Park, and its desirable neighborhood. She set the legal machinery in motion that would allow her to assume control over the abandoned apartments. She then turned to small asset-based lenders for funds to enable her to correct existing violations, settle back utility bills and begin refurbishing the units.

However, relying on that type of capital source was expensive and troublesome. Her enterprise, although unconventional, needed a more conventional and solid financial backer.

“I approached many banks; most were not even interested in hearing my story,” Ms. Cruse recalls. “But at Savoy I finally found bankers willing to listen and make the effort to understand that my vision for this building was sensible and viable. At last, I was able to put a permanent mortgage on the property and begin a relationship with a financial partner that wanted to see me succeed.” Since Ms. Cruse took the reins, the property already has tripled in value. It has been substantially re-tenanted, with a new apartment added, and the basement rehabbed. “I’m proud of the new living environment that’s been created there, and I’m eager to find other buildings that could benefit from the same approach,” she says. “But it could only have happened with the right bank. Savoy enabled my vision to become reality.”

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"My business is seasonal. When financing is needed, every day that I don’t close the deal I’m losing money."

Sanjay Patel has been in the hospitality business for 21 years. His pride and joy today are the Freeport Inn and Marina, which occupies a privileged and breathtaking location on the south shore of Long Island.

Mr. Patel bought the 40-year-old hotel and boating complex in 2015, after it had been in decline for several years. To him, it was a rare opportunity to acquire and upgrade an almost one-of-a-kind property at a favorable price. It was what real estate professionals call an ideal “value add” opportunity.

But he had to act quickly. So, Mr. Patel turned to Savoy Bank, where he had been a customer since 2012. Within 60 days he had the financing in place, on terms that he calls “very competitive.”

“From the customer’s perspective, speed is a critical factor in the mortgage underwriting process, sometimes as equally as important as the interest rate,” he says, “Savoy seems to understand that, whereas many banks I’ve dealt with…don’t.”

Today, Mr. Patel reports that the Freeport Inn and Marina, restored to its iconic status as one of Long Island’s best-known boating hospitality destinations, is doing well enough to internally generate funding for its continuing upgrades.

The serial hospitality entrepreneur owns several other properties, including another on Long Island – the Inn at Jericho – which he just recently refinanced with a Savoy Bank mortgage.

“Throughout the economic turmoil of the last two decades, New York has proved itself to be among the world’s most stable markets for hotels,” says Mr. Patel. “The demand is always there, even in places where one might not expect it to be. So, I’m always alert to new and profitable opportunities. And the bank I rely on is Savoy, because I believe in supporting the people whose objective is to support my business.”

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"Before Savoy, banks all wanted to focus on traditional businesses… and I’m untraditional."

“Visionary” is a word often applied to successful entrepreneurs. However, in the case of Patrick DiRenna, the vision is especially remarkable for its timing. Sensing a sweeping revolution about to engulf filmmaking, DiRenna co-founded New York’s Digital Film Academy (DFA) in 2001. To appreciate his boldness, consider this: the seeds of digital filmmaking were planted only in the late 1990s. Today, digital filmmaking dominates not only how movies and other media are created, but also how they are distributed.

However, when his academy needed funds to begin an expansion phase, “banks were not interested,” recalls the former actor, director and producer. “They all wanted to focus on traditional businesses in traditional circumstances, and I’m untraditional.”

The search finally ended when DiRenna found Savoy Bank. “At Savoy, I found bankers who were willing to take the trouble to see what the academy was all about,” he says. “They visited on five occasions, evaluated the competition, and led me step by step through the SBA loan process. They understood the growth potential my school was tapping into and were with me all the way.”

That funding opened the door to a major expansion period. DFA –which has grown to occupy 12,000 square feet from its original 2,400– recently enlarged its curriculum to offer intensive course work in the rapidly growing field of website and software development coding. In addition, DFA is planning to open a facility in New Jersey, a major undertaking that will enable the school to confer degrees. The new campus will be financed by a line of credit from Savoy.
“It’s not a stretch to say that without Savoy stepping up to make it happen, my school would not be where it is today,” DiRenna says. “It’s a banking relationship that has been of great benefit to DFA, and I expect it will continue to grow for many years to come.”