Early in 2012, during a Spruce Mortgage staff meeting, the Spruce employees suggested exploring the idea for a comprehensive retirement account, with the company making and matching employee contributions. Spruce’s CEO Gene Richards responded positively, saying, “Let’s review the budget to see if it is possible.” Spruce has historically been very generous to both its employees and the community but he was open to a review to determine if there were funds available for the implementation of an employee benefit plan. Upon review it was determined that there was not enough extra to be able to accommodate the type of retirement benefit that was being discussed. It was also noted that Spruce’s rent was the largest line item expense. The rent line item led Gene to an innovative solution to the request for benefits. As a member of many partnerships, he suggested that the Spruce employees form a partnership to invest in a property that would be employee-owned, and therefore part of the solution for an employee-investment account.
So to that end, Gene and the Spruce Mortgage team went out on the road to find the right property and location for its successful brokerage. After months of searching locally, Gene found a property on Shelburne Road, a block and a half south of its former office quarters. The family who had owned the property for many years was interested from the start. The family had moved out of the area and worked from afar with Spruce staffer, Buddy Singh and Gene to negotiate a price that reflected the value and the current condition of the property. Next, the employees at Spruce formed a partnership, called 430 Nest Egg LLC. The group devised a partnership agreement, share structure, and ground rules. Everyone could purchase their preferred number of shares with the expectation and written agreement that you have to be in it for 10 years. What’s neat about the concept is that it allowed everyone the opportunity to participate at any level and additionally gave others the ability to make a first and affordable real estate investment. All are looking at the purchase as part of their retirement portfolio. Richards says, “We took advantage of low interest rates, a short amortization, a generous monthly cash flow, and what we hope to be a great return on investment”.
Many of the Spruce employees have been with the company since its beginning in 1995, some as founding members. Some even worked together with Richards at BancBoston in the late 80s and early 90s. It is a tight-knit group with a familial feel. Despite the competitive nature of their business, they work collaboratively and cooperatively together, frequently supporting one another through their personal and professional lives.
The property is on a fast track with purchase in December 2012, Spruce Mortgage entry in April, and a complete renovation which was completed in the Summer of 2013. You will likely know it – 430 Shelburne Road where Gadue’s Dry Cleaning has their pick-up and drop-off center. As Richard’s says with conviction, “the building needed some love.” An expert in the local real estate market, Gene owns multiple residential and commercial investment properties in the area and in Fort Myers, Florida. He lovingly cares for and restores everything he touches – “the right way, “ always with quality, safety and integrity in mind.
The restoration has been completed creatively, efficiently, and with craftsmanship by Three Four Builders, a design build company owned by Eugene Richards, Gene’s oldest son—for more information; www.threefourbuilders.com. The neighbors are thrilled as they see the deferred maintenance diminishing every day and the subsequent replacement with a high quality restoration that will enhance and bring out the best in their neighborhood.
For the Spruce group, the project has been a natural team building experience where everyone participates at some level – some have done more of the administrative work, some the renovation and building work, and some research and development. The group talks about the building every day with enthusiasm, pride, and anticipation. Watching the evolution has been exciting as Richards and his crew turn what was a property with much deferred maintenance (but good bones) into a lovely addition to the gentrification of the Shelburne Road corridor,
Whatever their role, the Spruce employees feel a definite ownership for their investment and a unique partnership with their colleagues….