GARDEN STATE LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE FIRST JOBS, FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLES, AND THE MOST LAVISH AMENITY IN THEIR ULTIMATE DREAM HOMES
BY ERIK SCHONING, ARCHANA AITHAL ROSE, AND AMANDA MCCOY PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO AND TOM ZAPCIC
Vito F. Cardinale
Founder and President, Cardinale Enterprises, cardinaleenterprises.com
Cardinale is a mechanical engineer who knew at a young age that he wanted to be a developer. In the 1980s, he founded Cardinale Enterprises, and since then the company has built developments in upstate New York and Staten Island, as well as shopping centers in New Jersey. Among his proudest achievements, he said, was being a part of the creation of the Linda E. Cardinale Multiple Sclerosis Center in Freehold.
This self-described “country boy” is determined to find a cure for MS and plans to donate all of the proceeds from the company’s newest sports and entertainment venture, Adventure Crossing (in Jackson), toward building one of the largest brain institutes in the country. “We’re going to do research on brain lesions and transmit information to MS labs around the world,” he said. “My focus is to end this disease on earth before I leave it.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? My first job was working for Eutectic Corp as an engineer where I met my mentor, Tony Rotolico. I learned some invaluable lessons from him.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF HOME? Lakefront cabins. I was a huge fan of the TV show Ponderosa, and that style of home just reminds me of that show.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM HOME’S MOST LUXE AMENITY? A picture of my family on the front porch.
Realtor/Sales Associate, The Katz Team thekatzteam.com
For this Long Branch real estate agent, the seeds for a fruitful career were planted long before she sold her first property. “My first job was an after-school part-time sales position and it kindled my love of sales,” said Katz, adding, “It’s all I’ve ever done.” Her fervor for sales, community, and family eventually inspired the mother-of-four to pursue her real estate license, and after whetting her skills at a national agency, she and her husband, Todd Katz, launched their own brand: the Katz Team with RE/ MAX Synergy in Long Branch.
Katz specializes in high-end listings in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and has been recognized as a RE/MAX Top 20 Agent in Monmouth and Ocean County and as the No. 1 Commercial Team in NJ, among other accolades. In addition to traditional transactions, Katz also specializes in x-and-ip properties. She currently has 30 projects under her belt, and counting. “I do everything from finding the properties, bidding on them, hiring the contractors to doing the renovations, picking out all the fixtures, finishes, and furnishings, and ultimately selling the properties,” she noted. “I love turning a house into a home.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? My first job was working retail at Siperstein’s Paint store in Long Branch. I was 16 years old and the owner (and my future father in law) Larry Katz taught me so much, not just about business but about being a good person. Some things I try to practice every day never judge a book by its cover, treat everyone equally, do good.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF HOME? I can appreciate all styles of architecture. My own preference has changed as I have matured. It used to be very modern and then it became more traditional, and as I think about becoming an empty nester and moving closer to the beach, I am drawn to coastal casual.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM HOME’S MOST LUXE AMENITY? Since I play tennis several times a week, I would have to say a tennis court!
Partner/Vice President, Nicely Done Hospitality Group (The Black Swan and The Bonney Read) theblackswanap.com, thebonneyread.com
After partnering with chef James Avery on New Jersey’s newest gastro pub, the Black Swan, restaurateur Sebastian Walker is currently basking in the glory of his newfound success. Colombia-born Walker said his foray into the restaurant business happened by chance: “I started as a server and quickly moved into the general manager position. That’s where I met my wife who was bartending at another place in town. We both love the industry and dreamed of opening our own place someday. I quickly realized that in order to feel content in my work I would need to continue learning/growing. I went on to work at restaurants in NYC and Atlantic City, when the opportunity came to work with chef James Avery. His creativity and desire for growth matched mine, and the rest is history.”
Walker attributes the success of two diverse watering holes in the competitive Asbury Park enclave to the owners’ commitment to crafting an overall experience. “Our goal is to create a memorable time in a unique environment with simple rules, like making sure the beer is cold, the food is hot, and the staff is happy. Both restaurants offer a great vibe, and that’s what we continue to strive for in future ventures.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? My first job was at Citibank. This made me realize my strength in customer service, which transferred to the hospitality business easily.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF HOME? My favorite architectural style of home is Spanish, with the clean lines of stucco and terracotta roofs.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM HOME’S MOST LUXE AMENITY? The luxe amenity that I would love to have in a future home or restaurant would be a see through or multi-sided fireplace.
Owner, Stout Building and Remodeling / stoutbuild.com
When Chris Stout launched his home improvement business two decades ago, he started out as a “one man, one truck” operation, performing small kitchen and bath renovations throughout Staten Island. His company grew gradually as he tackled bigger projects, building an impressive portfolio of roof raises, spec projects, and large-scale commercial jobs, eventually expanding into the Garden State. Today the contractor is well known throughout NY and NJ for his impressive builds and quality service. “Our main focus is to get the job done efficiently and create something that is unique to each homeowner’s taste and style,” said Stout. “We pride ourselves on extremely dedicated service, and we like to add a design element to our builds which sets us apart from other contractors.” Currently active in multi-family real estate investing, Stout has plans to grow the business even further, with sights set on tackling larger New Jersey projects. “I started this business by taking an ad out in the Marketeer,” he added. “I could have never anticipated how much it would grow in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to see how it will continue to develop in the future.” Born and raised in Great Kills, Stout currently resides in Prince’s Bay with his wife and three children.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? My first job was to install crown molding on the top of cabinets. I guess the lesson from that is be very wary when the last person leaves halfway through the job. (laughs)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF HOME? Modern. I’m a big fan of creating stuff that other people don’t have. So I like that there’s not a tremendous amount of modern houses around.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM HOME’S MOST LUXE AMENITY? A car turntable. Either that or a car lift in the garage.
Realtor, LoRusso and Rodriguez Realty Group lorussoandrodriguezrealty.com
There are few types of houses Marian Rodriguez hasn’t sold. The veteran realtor made her name selling in Staten Island and Brooklyn with Awaye Realty, and last year she expanded to the New Jersey market, partnering with Lillian LoRusso in LoRusso and Rodriguez Realty Group. How committed is she to her newest market? Last month, she moved there, settling in Colts Neck.
Rodriguez’s skills and adaptability has made her especially valuable to clients moving from Staten Island to New Jersey a classic and familiar progression for families seeking more space and a less hurried pace of life. From Sheepshead Bay to Todt Hill to Freehold, she’s seen just about every kind of property.
But no matter the home, the stakes are never low in real estate. Rodriguez has always given her properties the attention and love they deserve.
“You’re helping people make probably the biggest purchase of their life,” she said. “It has a lot of emotional attachment, your home, because it’s the center of your life. I love my home, I love entertaining and hosting holidays. So I enjoy guiding people and finding a home that fits them. I like being part of the process.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? I was a secretary for someone who did property management, and I liked it. I enjoyed the business. And that’s what gave me a foundation.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF HOME? Mediterranean. I designed my old house from scratch and it was all about Mediterranean. I love that style.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM HOME’S MOST LUXE AMENITY? A robot housekeeper!
Scott Nelson Jr.
Co-Owner, Oceanside Service and Air Doctors oceansideserviceinc.com, air-doctors.com
For Scott Nelson Jr., business and family have always been linked. He and his father, Scott Nelson, run not one but two Allenhurst-based ventures together: Oceanside Service, an HVAC company, and Air Doctors, which specializes in air duct cleaning. The duo’s longstanding success as partners stems from a mutual ability to keep business and personal life separate. As Nelson Jr. noted, there’s rarely any business talk at the dinner table.
Nelson Sr. is a lifelong little league coach, and his son said it’s that coach-like attitude that has kept their businesses running smoothly over the years. Running two HVAC businesses in highly residential Allenhurst is a big proposition, and without a good game plan, things fall apart quickly. Both Nelson Jr. and his father place major emphasis on talent retention, even using their Air Doctors service (duct cleaning requires less training than HVAC installation) to train and retain promising workers. There’s a sports team ethos to their business, one of respect, responsibility, and trust. It’s a winning formula.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? I was an install helper when I was first learning HVAC. That taught me to be a team player and just to be responsible and accountable.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF HOME? I would love an old farmhouse with a wraparound porch.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM HOME’S MOST LUXE AMENITY? I would have to say a true sports man cave: 30 flat screen TVs, a sports ticker showing live scores, and a bar.