ROB AND CHRIS BUCCINI
Brothers Rob and Chris Buccini grew up in the Little Italy section of Wilmington, but Market has been their defacto home for the last decade. Their company, the Buccini/Pollin Group, has been at the forefront of many of Market’s major revitalization projects – the renovated Queen theater, restaurants like La Fia, Merchant Bar and Stitch House Brewery, and living spaces like the REsidences at Rodney Square and the MKT apartments.
Next year we will see some of their biggest openings yet: A 12,000-square-foot, $3.5 million food hall inside the Dupont Building. The 231-unit Residences at Mid-Town Park just a block off Market. New restaurants. New people—a new Market.
Even with all this coming our way in the future, we asked the Buccini brothers to look backwards, at their early days in construction. And we took a picture we know at least one person will love...
ROB: My mom will like this. It's her two favorite sons. Well, she only has two children, but she's a proud Italian mom.
CHRIS: There’s this classic entrepreneur story that Rob loves to tell, when he and Dave Pollin were building a Comfort Suites.
ROB: It was one of our first properties in Lorton, Virginia, in 1994.
CHRIS: They were so far over budget, maxing out every credit card possible, you know.
ROB: We had run out of money for security, and so while I was back processing our accounts payable and trying to collect money, Dave would sleep at the property with a shotgun.
CHRIS: To make sure no one would break in in the middle of the night.
ROB: Dave was 6'5, so no one crossed the property line. But that’s how it was. Early on, you know, back in the day, I would sweep floors and pick up trash around the property and just try to help out with my limited construction expertise. And then I'd go do the paperwork. We had no accounting infrastructure back then. I was a self-taught user of Quicken.
CHRIS: My first hotel project with BPG, it was not a very fun first year in the hotel business. We were building an Embassy Suites at the Logan Airport, right at the airport. Boston's a difficult place to build – any airport is a difficult place to build – and we're getting ready to open up, and 9/11 happens. I was in Boston that morning. Rob and I both were there, having breakfast with our lender and we were watching it all on TV. But we were living in New York City, and our wives were there, and the telephones were all jammed. You couldn't get through to anyone. I think we found the last rental car in all of Boston and we drove from Boston to New York. There was no one on the roads. We ended up in the Bronx – the closest we could get to the city – ditched the rental car, got on the subway, and made it back to our wives.
We opened on Valentine's Day, I'll never forget. Feb. 14, 2002.
If you want to know why I think we're so steadfast and resilient in our belief in Wilmington, I think it comes from having been in much more difficult situations.
ROB: You learn a lot when you do it yourself. And you really appreciate the people who work on a construction project and the daily rigors of a project. It's a lot more physical than sitting at your desk all day.
CHRIS: I have to say my brother Rob is as scrappy today as he was then. And hands down, changing the narrative on Market Street has been the most intensive work we've ever done in 25 years in business. Because you're trying to change perception while also trying to change the real estate.
ROB: We go to a lot of cities – fortunately, our company does a lot of business in different cities – and I’d put the progress that Wilmington has made up against anywhere. We don't give ourselves enough credit as a community for all the good things that are happening in the city.
CHRIS: I would argue that the Residences at Mid-Town Park is the most important project that we've done here in the downtown. We've always thought you could build more shiny glass office buildings and it wouldn't change Wilmington one bit. What we need is we need more people living here. This will be the first new residential building that we've built in the central business district. I just think it's a huge shot of energy right into the heartbeat of our state.
ROB: This is the year, for sure.
CHRIS: Market Street is at the heart and soul of our business. It's a continuation of our early days in the business, being scrappy and inventive and steadfast and diligent. I think Market Street is just the manifestation of those early days.