As the Cazenovia-based national financial planning firm 54Freedom continues to increase its workforce and improve its headquarters at 5 Ledyard Ave., everyone involved shares a common bond: their zipcode.
The business is currently in the midst of a $4 million renovation project to restore the 8,500-square-foot historic building, and CEO Jim Griffin has hired area artists and local contractors to finish the job. He said no changes will be made to the house’s front exterior, and construction is expected to end within six months.
“I have offices around the county, and I’ve found the talent pool in Cazenovia is just as good as anywhere,” Griffin said. “I like challenges. I thought this is such a community asset, that it deserved to be put to use — both for its architectural beauty but also as a true commercial asset.”
The list of Cazenovia residents currently involved with the business reads like the local telephone book.
Tim Hughes, of Cazenovia Cutblock, has been busy building custom furniture for 54Freedom, including three tables crafted out of recently fallen trees from Cazenovia. Griffin proudly displays tables made out of Maple, Black Walnut and Cherry, telling that the wood had been harvested within the last two months.
Marlene Burrell, of Flowers on Main Street, supplies the company with bouquets of fresh flowers each week. Jennifer Schutzendorf, of The Gallery of CNY, works closely with Griffin, adorning the walls of 54Freedom’s many walls with a rotating selection of fine art. Each room boasts a different collection; local artists, established maestros and up-and-coming amateurs are all featured throughout the house.
Local contractor Chris Findlay has been renovating the basement level in order to accommodate 54Freedom’s planned call center, complete with 30 telemarketers. Jeff Hunt from Chittenango Lumber, as well as Ken Stratton and Jim France of Salt Point Services, have been consulting with Griffin, who plans to construct a large outdoor deck and handicap ramp around the side of the building.
Cazenovia artist Matt Vivirito, of Capricorn Painting, and Ed Dougherty each have painting projects within the house, restoring the exquisite 19th century details to their original splendor, and local Allstate Insurance Agent John Dermody has been lending his assistance and expertise to the growing company. Computer consultants Andrew and Derek Joncas have been busy setting up 54Freedom’s virtual network, equipping the old house with the technology needed to run a national business.
Renovations to 5 Ledyard Ave. have made office space and vacant rooms available for rent by local companies. However, all openings were quickly filled.
Bob Rose, the inventor of the Thermal Bar has office space on the second floor of the building, where he runs his flourishing business between trips to athletic events around the country. Local chef Susan Light is a frequent inhabitant of 54Freedom’s gourmet kitchen, and provides the company with meals and hor d’oeuvres for special events, and upon request.
Liz Moran, Cazenovia Town Councilor and owner of Ecologic, has moved her company’s offices to the historic structure, and also occupies space on the second floor. She had run her business out of Albany Street’s Atwell Mill Annex for the previous 11 year and was hesitant to change scenery, although she is now happy she did.
“I was very attuned to working [in Ecologic’s previous location], and moving is always disruptive, but a wise friend of mine … said, ‘Liz, you’ll be much more creative if you’re in a new space. You’ll look at things differently and have new ideas,’ and it’s true,” Moran said. “It’s a beautiful historic house and the layout is so nice. We have two fireplaces and space for our laboratory work. It’s fabulous.”
54Freedom’s workforce currently boasts about 10 employees, working on part-time and full-time schedules. Attorney Ryan McParland, Financial Sales Associate Duane Clark and Head Recruiter Eric Weber all work out of space near Griffin’s office on the second floor. Brokers Jason Rieth and John Spinner, Accountant Susie Michaels and Consultant Bob Gabor all help the business prosper, while administrative assistants Nichole Barilla, Carrie DeSordi, Nila Rodgers and Lorraine Lindsey help it run smoothly. Cazenovia resident Eddie Phethean lives on-site and cares for the historic structure, while Grounds Supervisor Michael Ney maintains the house’s exterior and property.
Stockbrokers Bernard McGee, Rebecca Quarantillo and Andrew Baker conduct their daily business from the property’s 550-square-foot carriage house, which has been updated but once housed the estate’s transportation. The adjacent barn, which once housed horses, is currently used as a private residence.
The main house on the 2.4-acre property was designed by Henry Ten Eyck Wendell and built in 1892. After changing hands multiple times over the past century, the parcel was purchased by 54Freedom last year. The company owns a patent for their gift annuity giving-process and licensed to sell insurance products in all 50 states. The number “54” in the moniker represents the 54 million disabled people in the United States.
“54Freedom is the first full financial services firm, dedicated to serving charities in the disability community,” Griffin said. “We’re still growing, but we already offer all the same services as the better-known brokerage firms.”
To learn more about the company, its services and accomplishments, visit 54freedom.com, call (877) 334-6964 or email email@example.com.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.