As soon as you hear the refrain from the holiday song, you instantly think of snow-covered streets, grandma’s house and Christmas lights.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
Except that it’s the middle of summer on the hottest day of the year and Christmas is months and several notches on the thermometer away.
“We’re always thinking about Christmas here,” said Fred Schwam, owner of American Christmas, Inc. “We’re a year round business that focuses on one three- or four-month period.”
American Christmas is one of New York’s leading commercial Christmas firms, designing, fabricating, installing and storing commercial decorations and displays for buildings, retail establishments and offices throughout the tri-state area. Schwam’s father started the business in 1968 and Fred took over the Christmas division 20 years later.
As the company grew in the 2000s, Schwam ended up renting 65,000 square feet of space in five different buildings (four in the Bronx and one in Jersey City). “We were spending a lot of money and time transporting products between our facilities and not being as productive as we could have been. We also were losing out on the benefits of owning our own facility,” Schwam said.
“I had always wanted to own, but I was never in the financial position to get us the building that the company needed,” he said. “Because we are growing, I wanted to get us into a building that would consolidate our five locations and still allow us room to continue to grow.”
All of the building leases were expiring in 2010 so the time was ideal to find a facility for American Christmas that would be large enough to allow the company to grow. Schwam began working with a broker and eventually located an ideal facility in Mount Vernon.
Then, he needed to get the purchase financed.
“I was aware of Empire State CDC: The 504 Company and Chet Sadowski – he had actually helped my father with a loan several years before,” said Schwam. “So I gave him a call when I found this property and explained to him what I wanted to do.”
“The complication with American Christmas is the very unique nature of the business. Their season is only four weeks long or so. Some traditional lenders may have had trouble accepting that,” said Sadowski, an NYBDC senior vice president. “We were able to be more flexible and we could see that it is a great, well-run business that is continuing to grow.”
Empire State CDC: The 504 Company, in partnership with Wells Fargo, was able to help American Christmas finance the purchase of the 110,000-square-foot building in Mount Vernon with a $3.75 million loan combining SBA 7a term loans with 504 funding.
“We have been working with the NYBDC for years and are very comfortable with their processes and expertise in providing financing for small businesses,” said Joe Vanella of Wells Fargo bank. “When American Christmas was looking for a building to accommodate their growth, The 504 Company was a perfect solution.”
“We were able to put the deal together to get American Christmas into the new property quickly and in time for their busy season,” said Sadowski.
“This was one of the best business decisions that I ever made,” said Schwam. “Empire State CDC: The 504 Company was terrific; they were easy to work with, very organized and cooperative throughout the process. They engaged me as a partner and that made it easier to work with them.”
Schwam estimates that his business will grow another 15 percent this year. Thanks to The 504 Company and the purchase of his new facility, he has plenty of room for growth.
As Schwam says, “We have a great business. No matter how tough times are, everyone still celebrates the holidays!”
Pictured Above from Left to Right: Joe Vanella of Wells Fargo, Fred Schwam of American Christmas Inc., and Chet Sadowski of NYBDC.