WINTERSVILLE - When John Cucarese graduated from Ohio State University back in 1994, he didn't give much thought to coming back to the Ohio Valley to carve out a career.
He'd landed a good job with a good company in the Columbus area before he even had his bachelor's degree, so it seemed the logical thing to do to stay on after he had sheepskin in hand.
"But the company I was with went through about four mergers in 10 years," he said. "It was difficult. And I had clients around the country, so I was spending a lot of time on airplanes and traveling ... it gets old. I found myself looking for a change."
BACK IN THE VALLEY — John Cucarese gave up a good job in the big city to return to the Ohio Valley. After working out of his home for the past six years, Cucarese, a financial services professional with New York Life, is opening an office at the corner of Buena Vista and Sunset Boulevard later this month. - Linda Harris
So Cucarase sold his house in Columbus in 2004 and headed home. He took a consulting job with his employer while he looked for a long-range business opportunity, "so I still had a job and I still had income. I was just doing it locally.
"It was family, more than anything," he said. "I'm very close with my family. The one thing about it was, I did have to start a business to be able to come back. I didn't find an opportunity to come back to work at an existing business place, so it wasn't exactly easy. But, thankfully, it all worked out. Hopefully, things will be growing in the area to where people will have a choice to either start their own business or join an existing business that's doing well."
When he wasn't doing his consulting assignments he investigated job prospects, keying in on the financial industry.
"I called a few of the big name companies, and I wasn't really happy with what I found," he said. "They didn't know me and I didn't know anything about their product lines, except for their name, but they wanted me to fax them my information. Then I called New York Life and they immediately put me through to the managing partner in the Pittsburgh office his first question was, 'when can we meet?' I thought, score a point for New York Life. He had 32 years with the company at that point, and I probably interviewed with him three or four times over a seven-month period. I learned as much about him as he learned about me."
Cucarese joined New York Life in August 2005 and spent the next months learning about the company and its products before opening his own home office.
"It was very scary," he admits. "I'd left a good job with a good company with a very good salary, one where I had a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks to literally opening a shop with no clients and no revenue. A lot of people told me I was crazy to do that, especially in (this) area. It was definitely tough going the first year or so, but now I have a substantial book of clients and it's growing every year. I won't say it's easy now, but it's certainly much easier than it was originally."
Later this month he'll be opening his own office at the corner of Buena Vista and Sunset (3911 Sunset Blvd.) next to Federico's. "My business has grown every year for six years," he said. "I want the space, the visibility, an office on main street provides."
Cucarese, in fact, figures he's proof positive that you can go home again.
"When I came back, I thought I'd have a lot of time on my hands," he said. "I was used to being in a big city, and I thought I'd have a lot of empty time. But since I started my business, I've found out there's not a lot of extra time and now I have family nearby, so there's always something to do. It's never boring, I'm always busy.
"I thought long and hard before I made the leap, but I have no regrets," he adds. "It was absolutely the best move I ever made."
(Harris can be contacted at email@example.com.)