"Canvas the town and brush the backdrop...” very esoteric words from the band that brought you 'Fun Fun Fun'. It's no wonder CREATE has borrowed America’s Band's 15 Big Ones as their anniversary slogan. Both founders come across as casual and entertaining but are as unequivocally serious when it comes to the art of what they do.
Over the years CREATE has been called everything from "The Developer's Architect" to the "Little Firm that Could" but what they like the best is being their client's "go to guys." Repeat business makes up most of their current workload and they can't think of a client that hasn't used them repeatedly or remained with them. 15 years goes by fast, yet can feel like 30 when you think of the countless hours Frankie Campione, CREATE's principal and his team have dedicated to providing top notch Service, Quality and Attention.Frankie noted a few years back in conversation with 'one of the big boys,' he was told, "You won't be concerned about your clients emailing and calling you at all hours a few years from now..." Frankie responded, "When they stop calling is when I will be concerned." He unobtrusively acknowledges, "That 'big boy' by the way has gone from over 150 to about 30 staff members since then.
He is as humble today as he was 15 years ago as a small startup firm at the apex of the Chrysler Building in New York City. He never takes credit for the work at hand, noting, "It's not my moniker on the door it's a firm name that simply states what we do. We have energy and a vibe over here that is a collective team effort that makes each project successful and the efforts unique to each." They are a boutique firm by choice. Refusing to establish a roll out team, they have never grown beyond their means which is probably why they weathered the recession without layoffs or salary cuts. They just held their own. If there is indeed a light at the end of this recession tunnel, they are in front of it. Countess square footage of retail, malls, power centers, supermarket, turnkey retail and outlets, they have done their fair share. They are the underdog, no more. Frankie acknowledges it's been a little harder to stay under the radar with international developers recognizing their abilities. They don't do any real marketing; have no business development director and no PR department. Their work, efforts and results stands as their true source of marketing. "Frankie has established a culture and continually reminds us just do what we are supposed to do," notes a team member, "and as principal he sits at a drawing board not a board room."
"He's amazing at multi-tasking," noted another member of the team. "Until you get to know him, sometimes you think he's not paying attention to you, his eyes start to wander or shift up and to the right. Then you realize he's figuring out what it is we are talking about right there in his head be it a design issue, a construction RFI, a tenant dilemma. It's great to watch and even more exciting to participate!" Yet when told of his team’s enthusiasm for his leadership he nonchalantly says, "it's all four walls and a roof." Nonetheless, we’ve figured out there is a lot behind that casual stance that has the clients' coming back for more. Mixed, use, urban planning, hospitality, medical offices, ecclesiastical and residential Frankie notes, "We have been very, very fortunate and blessed to work on a multitude of invigorating projects that reach outside our so called retail specialty. Working directly with developers both public and private has given us the opportunity to expand our project types because it's simply a matter of trust. Once a client realizes you are going to give their project everything you have and more, it is extremely rewarding when they hand you something else they are working on totally unrelated to the last project you did." This would explain why a shopping center developer turned over a high rise dorm to CREATE for schematic and design development responsibilities and another did same with a medical office condominium.
When we asked him to reflect just a bit on the past 15 years, good or bad Frankie still thinks of themselves as the little guy or the "kid" as one CEO still refers to him and if you know him, he is really a kid at heart. "Every new project or new client meeting your stomach is filled with the same butterflies you had at your elementary school play," he adds. He maintains an ultra-professional staff that refers to all clients as Mr., Mrs., Sir, etc. It's not an act, its architecture as it's supposed to be with a professional Client relationship. He recalls a Senior VP at a major construction company telling him at year 5 that he won’t believe where CREATE will be in 5 more years. The same guy said it again at year 10. This past year when they spoke the VP noted the next 15 years are going to be even greater, as he heard a long pause from Frankie on the other end, he asked, "What's wrong?" Frankie's response, "I hope they don't go by as quickly!"
Company of the Month, Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal, August 2012