Pettinaro in Wilmington, Delaware

Gregory Pettinaro shows a framed document that hangs in the office of his father, Verino Pettinaro. On the 14- by 18-inch document, one word is repeated dozens of times: “Work.”

It’s the ethic that guided Verino when he left his job at a local construction company and started his own. In 1970, Verino bought some land with money he had scrimped to save, developed it, then quickly became the largest non-union builder in the state.

At the time, Gregory, just a boy, wanted to be a veterinarian. He started accompanying Verino to job sites at age 10. By 14, he was “putting bricks and sticks together.” After college, he joined his father, helping to build an office building in Wilmington, then went to work in the office, where he became interested in leasing and property management.

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The Pettinaro company, with Gregory as CEO, has evolved from a construction business to a design firm, building contractor and property management company that owns 5 million square feet of commercial and residential space, including the gleaming Christina Crescent Building on the Wilmington riverfront and The Pointe at Brandywine Park condominiums. In addition to 50 commercial-industrial properties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, Pettinaro holds 2 million square feet more slated for development. The company employs 44 people at the corporate headquarters in Newport, another 100 to 300 in the field.

“I don’t think my father started out thinking he’d build buildings he’d own,” Gregory says. “We build projects that last a lifetime. We’re going to be here a long time.”

He admires Verino’s tenacity. From him, he learned “to never give up, to never take no, or take the answer that doesn’t work for you as the only answer.”

Each of his three sisters have been involved with the company at one time or another—Cindi started a thriving corporate relocation business—but all now do other things.

“I have an opportunity to take the company in a different direction,” Gregory says. “We don’t sell a lot. We develop projects and hold them. Real estate always works out in the end.”

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He enjoys the art of the deal, and he is constantly on the hunt for good opportunities. He’s also grooming a management team that can someday take over the operation. The eldest of his three daughters is 16. He doesn’t foresee any of them wanting to follow in his footsteps, but one never knows.

“I’d love the next Pettinaro to keep Pettinaro going for the next generation and the next generation,” he says. “For now, there’s someone to take over every division over the next couple of years. This team can keep things going for while.”

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