September 2004

Bill Pearce
Succeeds Father & Grandfather in Family Business

by Joseph H. RADDER

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Bill Pearce couldn't have been more sincere than when he told his visitor, "I really didn't have any idea how wonderful Buffalo and western New York are until I went away for twenty plus years."

William Pearce Jr. has done a lot of traveling all over the United States.. "I have been to almost every large metro area in the country and many small towns, but Buffalo has the greatest potential of all of them. Our quality of life, our location, our friendly people, are assets no other city has."

Bill realized this after he came back to Buffalo five years ago to succeed his late father as head of the company business, Pearce and Pearce Co. Inc. He had been working as an executive in New York City for Stern-Stewart & Co. When his father died five years ago, Bill, his mother and his sisters had two options…sell the business or keep it in the family. They chose the latter and Bill was elected president.

There's something special about a locally-owned family business. Too often, in situations like this, local businesses are sold to out-of- town interests. The Pearce family didn't want that to happen. Since then they have "grown the business cautiously" acquiring properties as opportunities presented themselves.

Founded by Howard and Earl Pearce in 1936, the company was originally in the home-building business, at first building thousands of moderately priced homes for young families, later upscale homes in Amherst. In the 1970s, Bill Pearce Sr. decided to switch to purchasing and managing apartment buildings and some commercial properties.. Today the company has hundreds of apartment units and several commercial properties, all of which are located in western New York.

"When I moved to New York, I promised my father and my two sisters, that if ever anything happened to make it necessary, I would come back to Buffalo to head up the family business," he said. Clearly, the family could have sold the business for a huge sum, but they didn't. And Bill kept his promise.

One reason he's happy to be back is that it's much easier to make a difference through philanthropic work here than it is in New York. "There's so much money floating around New York," he said. "It's relatively easy to raise funds for worthy causes. Here it's a real challenge, and one I'm happy to be involved in."

He firmly believes that Buffalo's welfare should be enhanced by volunteerism as opposed to political activity. "The three things that interest me," he said, "are like the three legs of the stool…the culturals, education, and health care." He practices what he preaches through heavy involvement in the Buffalo Zoological Gardens, the Buffalo Seminary, Medaille College, and the Kaleida Health Foundation. . Mrs. Pearce, the former Lee Delsasso, a native of Southern California, is also active in civic affairs as a director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the City Mission. "Lee loves Buffalo," Bill says, and she agrees when he says "you can feel the cultural currents of the city. I could take you to a lot of cities that don't have the same cultural verve that we have here in Buffalo."

William Pearce Jr. was born in Buffalo in 1957 and grew up in Amherst. Following World War II, his father worked for the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit before being persuaded to move back here and join the family business. Over the years, he was very active on local boards. His mother, Betsy Ward Pearce, then became heavily involved in philanthropic work. He has two sisters, Nina Erensel who lives in New York City and Betsy Cronin who lives in Indianapolis.

Bill attended Smallwood elementary school in Snyder, the Hill School in Philadelphia, and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he graduated with a BA in government.

Bill and Lee Delsasso were married in New York in 1995. They have two daughters, Zoe, age 7, and and Vivien, age 5. Both of the Pearce's daughters attend the Nardin School in the Montessori program.

Philosophy of life? He believes that honesty, generosity, respect for the individual, and a sense of humor are basic principles of life. "The most important thing my dad taught me," Pearce said, "was to be honest and respect your fellow man. He totally disagreed with the old adage 'good guys finish last'."

From a recreational standpoint his favorite pursuits are traveling, food, wine, golf, squash, and tennis which, he adds, "may not complement each other."

Bill has actually been working for Pearce and Pearce since he was in high school. "My first job at age sixteen," he remembers, "was on the maintenance crew." immediately following college, he moved to New York City to seek a career there and ended up taking his first job in the real estate department at Petrie Stores. Later, he advanced to executive positions and then moved to Stern-Stewart as a senior VP.

"We had our life in New York all mapped out," he said. "We were just days away from closing on our dream house in Westchester County, when my father took ill." he remembered. "As we kept getting closer to the house closing, I still held out hope that my father was going to get better and everything would be all right."

Of course it didn't happen that way, and he found out that, down deep, coming home to Buffalo was something Bill Pearce Jr. really wanted to do."

This community is fortunate that he felt that way, otherwise we might have another major western New York company owned by out-of-town interests. Thank you, Bill Pearce, for your loyalty to your family and to your home- town.

 

Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.istbooks.com

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