Great Places & People: Hometown Memories, Learning We Take Along



Charleston, South Carolina. Most of you reading this will have some sort of preconception of the place, if you’ve never been there. A “Gone With the Wind” antebellum fantasy place, a seaside resort community, maybe even a little East coast New Orleans affinity, Charleston is a lot of things.

Today I want to reveal the absolute best thing about this little southern legend though, some of the fantastic people and professionals that give the place its best title, a great hometown in the low-country. Hometown’s like Charleston, families like the Scarafile’s there, and the lessons we take away in life, this is what’s “it’s” about.

IR of Mt. Pleasant

IR photography – “the mind’s eye” of Charleston – courtesy Adam

Taking Lessons in Possibility

I met Patty Scarafile and her family back when I owned a custom remodeling company back in the 90’s. The former President and CEO of Carolina One Real Estate was, and is, one of the most professional and classy people I have ever met. Back then, she and her husband Vito (below right from LinkedIn) lived on the front beach on the Isle of Palms off Charleston. In the article below you’ll meet (sort of) somebody to learn from. That is if you want to enjoy more success in life.

Vito ScarafileA story in the Post & Courier tells of a lady who taught school at nearby St. Andrews, who basically transfigured herself into what some would call a “self made millionaire businesswoman” of course Patty was not stranger to the human relations intrinsic of real estate sales, her husband Vito once owned a highly successful ad agency.

However, as I remember, Patty fairly well performed the perfect “hat trick” of balancing a highly successful career, with raising her wonderful kids Michelle, Michael, Matt, and Mishka and being the devoted wife to Vito – in short, working on visiting with the Scarafiles’s one always got a sort of modern “Father and Mother know best” feeling. Patty integrated working with the iconic Charleston broker Dave O’Shaughnessy, to helping lead the low-country’s biggest real estate entity, and finally re-branding her company as Carolina One.

Right here is as good a place as any to point out how crucial a loving and confident partner can be to striving. Vito is an ultimately confident and supportive person, one whom I considered the real spirit of family fun and cohesiveness. As a business person, creative and detail oriented too (I remember the palm/Christmas tree Vito). This sentiment also holds true for their entire family too. I expect when they read this, each and every one will be humbly touched. There’s the joy in my job you see, doing things that are unexpected, creative, and no provoked.

Patty Scarafile, the super successful working mom, her pragmatic approach to work and family is encapsulated in a quote she gave the Post & Courier back in 2010:

“I think sometimes people misperceive flexible and part time,” she says. “One of the good things about real estate as a career is that it’s flexible. You can still drive carpools and go to soccer games and manage if your child is sick, but it is not part time. It’s probably a job and a half.”

Patty Scarafile with her son Michael.

Patty Scarafile with her son Michael

One thing I would add here, especially for the budding real estate tycoon out there, is that a great part of Patty’s success seems to emanate from her razor sharp ability to organize. I do not think I ever ran across a more detailed and scheduled person. The intent reader should also understand, real success is never about acquiring accolades and money either, the Scarafiles were always about community too.

From O’Shaughnessy’s and Scarafile’s help with FOSIS (PDF) and the ongoing Carolina One Cares (Visit Carolina One Facebook) initiative to help the less fortunate, to the “expectations” we should all take hold of in our endeavors, Scarafile and her entire family always seemed a ripe example for emulation.

Charleston gardens

The places we come from, the people from there, etched in our minds – courtesy our partners © Dave Allen – Fotolia.com

The professional side of Scarafile, brings to mind my recollection of how Patty and Vito handled their home life too. Some people say “you can’t mix business and pleasure”, but clearly the character of the individuals in business and family life work better leveraging their best traits. Quoting from Your Best Ideas (PDF):

“It starts with clearly communicating expectations, continual coaching, and accountability. If that doesn’t happen, we meet with the
sales associate to go over the original agreement.”

Carolina One / Charleston Basket Brigade

When all is said – A community remembers what you did to make a difference

Wearing Responsibility

This passage speaks of Patty’s “expectations” for her new agents straight away. Each new associate is spurred to be accountable, and to have a new listing or sales contract within 60 days of signing on with Carolina’s One. Now some readers may scoff at this as some sort of “hard nosed” agents brutality, but nothing could be further from the truth. After all the question; “What are you here to do?”, would seem to surface at some point anyhow.

The other side of the Patty Scarafile profile, her success equation if you will, is really caring about her profession and the people her work for her. The newspaper story I quoted from up there also speaks of tough times and Patty’s demeanor when the recession his every real estate company. I can just see her at her desk now, having to call an associate in, letting them go or cutting a salary. You see, the so called “Great Recession” did not just hurt small independent agencies, it hit everyone. Patty and Vito’s legacy goes forward though, with Michael now at the helm Charleston as a home to more people is affected by the Scarafile’s.

Phase II of The Cottages at Johns Island

Phase II of The Cottages at Johns Island

Success, family, community, whether as a professional you search for super success or just sustenance, finding excellent individuals and emulating them is always a necessity. You don’t have to have a so called “mentor” to have a mentor, examples are actually quite prevalent. The Scarafile family revolves around the Mom and Dad, the kids and now grand kids are all part of their little piece of the so called American Dream. I am not sure, hut it seems as if each and every member of the family is somehow involved in what Vito and Patty started. And not in a common or typical way – I mean “really” involved, really caring, really taking part in what each of the others is interesting in. I guess you could call this idea some kind of family solidarity.

Patty Scarafile

Patty Scarafile at North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center.

Take Away

I live in Germany now, with my lovely wife Mihaela and two of our sons. We are, in some ways very removed from Charleston and all the gifts that place has to offer. But still, immersed in our own home’s wonders. I though of Patty, Vito, the Scarafile family this morning, who knows why? Maybe thinking about real “character” in general prompted me? Maybe some wispy memory of Vito’s beloved palm tree out front of their house, or the open and hospitable way he and Patty, their whole family, treated visitors or workers in their home. A lovely place, right on the front beach there, their home was an extravagant, yet warm and lovely place, I remember.

To end up our little story here, I recall one day getting a call from Patty. I was on Kiawah Island, far across the other side of Charleston from the Isle of Palms. You see one of my workers was at the Scarafile home doing some painting, he had made a pretty bad mistake.

“Hi Phil, one of your men spilled some paint on the new carpet, I just wanted to let you know.”

The carpet was Karastan, Patty and Vito had just had it installed by Southeastern Galleries, you see. No arm waving, high pitched nor intense interchange ensued, Patty always had a special gift for conveying things perfectly well.

I drove to Isle of Palms, knelt down with magnifying glass, solvent, and razor blade in hand – meticulously scraping each-and-every-fiber where oil based paint had touched. And here’s the thing to glean – I knew Patty or Vita would not raise Cain over a mistake, I also knew full well my responsibility and the clear communication from Patty. “Expectations”, you see, are pretty easily met in the end, and if not then accountability should be sure.

There you have the give and take that really should be between us all. This is the sort of thing Patty Scarafile was very good at. It is safe to say every mom has a bit of this, and every great leader too. In the end turn about is always fair play in my book. It’s an old say, but a good one. Patty and her family were nice to me, to everyone. Now you get to read about a professional that can, with this story alone, assist you in becoming better at what you do. How’s that for altruism? I hope my story, the Scarafile family, adds something to your life.

Thanks Vito and Patty, for life lessons you never knew you gave.

Remley's Point and the Cooper River

The marshlands and the Cooper River from Remley’s Point – courtesy Becky