Cheers to 25 Years
Relationships Spanning Multiple Decades
Relationships are at the center of everything we do at Atlantic Bay, and these team members have been friends since the very beginning of our company’s history.
As we approach our Silver Anniversary (25 years!), we wanted to catch up with a group of team members who have been friends since the beginning of Atlantic Bay’s time – and even before.
Flash back to the mid-late 1990s. Tom Lusk (“Lusk”), Tom Kulis (“Kulis”), and Brian Mason (“Mason”) were just three guys who met under the Golden Arches of McDonald's. Each held different positions at the fast-food chain, and ultimately landed management roles. But eventually they started feeling burned out and craved something less greasy and more promising. Enter Brian Holland (“Holland”).
“We didn’t know diddly about mortgage.”
Mason waited until July 31, 1997, to resign from McDonald’s – the day before he opened the Atlantic Bay office. Lusk was an assistant golf pro when Mason approached him about joining him in a startup mortgage business. “I said, Brian! What do we know about the mortgage business?” Lusk recalls. Little did he know, Mason had been driving back and forth to Hampton Roads from the Blacksburg area for several months to learn everything he could about mortgages from Holland, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group’s future Chief Executive Officer. Let’s just say Lusk didn’t take much convincing, “because I didn’t make squat in my job. I didn’t have a whole lot to lose, ya know?” And that’s where the story really starts.
Friends Before Atlantic Bay: Some Backstory
Lusk reflected on a time when he was Mason’s manager at the Radford, VA McDonald’s location. "You could tell he was the leader of the clan in the grill area. I had to pull him to the side and tell him, “Look. I want to make you a Crew Chief, but I can only give you a nickel raise and free food. He took it! He has never forgotten that. Every time I receive an award, he always says, “That’s better than a nickel raise.” More than four decades have passed since then, and the bonds have never been tighter than they are now.
Support In the Early Days
Through the decades, the four friends have remained close and supportive of each other to great extents inside and outside the business. “If someone needs something, we’re there for one another,” Kulis put frankly. And Lusk gave us some heartfelt insight. “It was 1999 and Atlantic Bay was nearly three years old. I had a heart attack... and guess who shows up at my tiny townhouse. Brian Holland.” But that’s not where the caring stopped – actually, it never has. “I was devastated when my wife passed away in 2006. All of them travelled to her funeral, and that will forever mean a lot to me. Both Brians even came to my house, and it was just – I'm just... I’m grateful for them,” Lusk recalled.
Beyond that, the guys have been super supportive of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, which is extremely near and dear to Mason. “He hosts a respite camp for those living with MS every summer at Smith Mountain Lake – and we’ve all spent time volunteering over the years,” Kulis shared. “Those are some of the fondest, most impactful life memories I have. All of this because of Brian Mason and his passion for this cause,” Lusk added.
Support here clearly goes beyond the workspace, and really does encompass every aspect of our team members’ lives – and this has evidently been a fiber in Atlantic Bay’s DNA since the jump.
Relationships Matter – a lot
Nearly four decades. Wow. Longer than a vast majority of our team members have even been alive, yet there is such a shining example of this commitment to genuine care and building real relationships right here in front of us.
“We’ve always been close. In the beginning, our Christmas parties and get-togethers were like hosting a family function. All of us with our plus ones, and we just needed a small 12-15-top at the local pub,” Lusk reflected. And though the company has grown beyond what they ever could have imagined at that time, “the focus is – and always has been – on relationships. Whether it be industry partners, borrowers, community causes, or just lending a helping hand to a team member,” Kulis reflected.
“It’s been that family thing from the start. That has never changed – it's just evolved to include more people. Our family has just grown.”
And while we have grown leaps and bounds, we still maintain that same love and care about each team member – just as there was back in the very beginning around two tables pushed together in a pub.
Lusk went on to tell us why he really feels like Atlantic Bay has the winning formula. “It's a team effort. It’s everyone. It’s being given the tools from Mason and Holland to utilize and help grow. To help invest in our communities. There’s not one specific thing – it's all of the little things that truly add up.”
When asked if they could ever see themselves going anywhere else, Kulis was definitive with an, “Absolutely not.” And Lusk gave some additional insight, “I have been woo-ed to leave Atlantic Bay with all sorts of money. Big bonuses, extra basis points, anything you can think of. None of us ‘originals’ would ever think of going anywhere else. These are my personal friends, my family now. It’s like a brotherhood. We’ve known each other for 40+ years. It’s always been a respect thing. We’ve got each other’s backs. You don’t just find that anywhere else.”
A Culture of Support and intentional care will forever be a priority and has allowed our team members to forge special bonds just like these guys have. Friendships spanning 40 years and coworkers at Atlantic Bay since the very start – the perfect illustration of what it’s like to be a part of the Atlantic Bay family.