J. would have felt terrible if we stirred up trouble in paradise, but fortunately for us, both Steven DeGraff and his wife Andrea, a travel agent, walked away with readers’ choice awards. DeGraff, of Steven DeGraff Accountancy Corporation in Burlingame, has 41 years of accounting experience under his belt, and thinks his passion for his clients is what sets him apart. “I have a loyal client base and they appreciate what I do for them,” he says.
Sandy Stadtler insists he didn’t stuff the ballot box. “I didn’t pay anyone off,” the former board member of the j. says. “People probably like me because I have a lot of interest in my clients.”
Stadtler, who has won the Readers’ Choice award several times before, credits individual attention for his success at Rothstein Kass in San Francisco. “The biggest difference is that we are a national firm that treats people and clients more like a local office,” he says. Just excuse Stadtler if he’s a little out of breath first thing in the morning — he bikes 30 miles from Marin everyday.
With a commitment to his clients and ethics, Andrew Fulop of Andrew Fulop Tax & Business in Walnut Creek is a customer favorite. When he’s not working, he’s exploring Hawaiian language and music. “He loves what the music represents in Hawaiian culture,” says Mardie Fulop, his wife and office manager.
Andrew Fulop Tax & Business
Steven DeGraff Accountancy Corporation
Financial services adviser
Times are tough, no doubt. The economy is weak, the job market poor, and the stock market redder than the governator’s fake tan. So take the advice of your favorite financial services adviser: go out and … have a drink?
That’s what Keith Goodman is hoping people do. The 16-year veteran financial agent for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in San Mateo is also a co-owner of swank San Francisco clubs the Cellar and Sugar Café. The popular hangouts, located next door from each other on Sutter Street in San Francisco, host a wide-range of events for people of all ages. “I host monthly parties for the young adult Jewish community at the Cellar the second Saturday of every month,” Goodman says. “A lot of my friends married people they met at Second Saturday events.”
Goodman understands the importance of working closely with his clients, as does Ira Fateman of SAS Financial Services in San Francisco. Fateman, a regular at the JCCSF gym, cites the attention he gives each client as the secret to his success. “I’ve helped them understand how money can help identify their goals and achieve those goals,” he says.
Even with the troubled economy, David Gould of Gould Financial Resources in Piedmont is hopeful. “This has been the toughest market I’ve ever seen,” says Gould, who has 15 years of experience in the industry. “We will get through it. It may take some time and frustration and a lot of patience. People are not going to lose their good judgment and reason.”
Phyllis Helfand of Merrill Lynch in Oakland came in second.
SAS Financial Services
Gould Financial Resources
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
“Experienced” 49ers fans may remember Ray Jason, a street performer from the 1970s whose signature act was juggling three torches while blindfolded on game-days at Candlestick. Jamie Zimmerman had the unusual task of trying to insure Jason.
“Our clients are people with insurability issues,” says Zimmerman, of Jamie W. Zimmerman & Associates in Oakland. Whether it’s a torch-wielding juggler or a motorcycle-racing father of three, Zimmerman combines the mundane with the unique to carve out a niche in the insurance industry.
Norman Schlossberg is more of a traditional insurance agent. His philosophy is simple: “We try to do the same for them as we would want done to us,” he says. An agent for more than 40 years, Schlossberg, of Jaffe-Schlossberg in San Francisco, credits the continued support of the Bay Area Jewish community for his success.
An avid gardener, Jeri Fink transfers the same patience she uses to grow vegetables to her insurance agency, State Farm in Palo Alto. With 28 years of experience, Fink is a trustworthy name in the industry. “We provide excellent service to our customers,” she says. When Fink is not working, she enjoys working out and “maintaining excellent physical fitness.”
Jamie W. Zimmerman & Associates
What makes j. readers’ favorite lawyers special? How about getting a man off death row in Texas? Capital punishment not your forte? What about $9 million in punitive damages for uncovering insurance fraud?
A born-and-raised San Franciscan, Rebecca Bauer Kahan of O’Melveny & Myers in the city lends a helping hand wherever she can. “The mix of my practice makes me unique,” Bauer says. “I spend a good amount of my time doing pro bono work.”
On one such pro bono case, Bauer found herself trying to save a man from execution for a crime in the ‘90s. “Due to some constitutional violations, we had his conviction overturned,” Bauer says proudly.
Stephen Schear is no stranger to high stakes trials either. Representing a physician who was terminated after she complained about insurance fraud, the Oakland attorney won $9 million in punitive damages from the jury.
With more than 30 years of legal experience under his belt, Schear is one of the few lawyers who specializes in individual health care. “There are not many folks like me that represent health care providers, clinics, and people who have a problem with the very difficult health care system that we have,” he says.
Barbara Moser and Neil Taxy of San Francisco came in second.
Rebecca Bauer Kahan
O’Melveny & Myers
East Bay/South Bay/Peninsula
Stephen D. Schear Law Offices
Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick
Admit it: You don’t understand the housing market. It bubbles and bursts faster than you can say President Obama’s Homeowner Bailout Program. So do yourself a favor and use j. readers’ favorite mortgage brokers for your home financing needs.
The father-son team of Eddy and David Rubinstein has earned the recognition and respect of clients. “It’s a competitive market,” father Eddy says. “The only thing that can really differentiate you is the service.” With 28 years of experience, the Rubinsteins have mastered the art of pleasing their clients. “Knowing the market and controlling the expectation of the client is part of the professional that we always use,” Eddy says.
Rachel Bernstein has not let the recession alter her basic philosophy. “I operate the same way in that I’m here to work for my clients and do the best job for them,” she says. As a proud mother of one son, Bernstein knows how to cater to her clients: “I tell them it’s going to be a very long process and you’ve got to be patient,” Bernstein says.
In second place was Joel Spolin of Absolute Mortgage Banking in Palo Alto.
(650) 212-5050 ext. 177
David and Eddy Rubinstein
Absolute Mortgage Banking
Real estate agent
With the tumultuous housing market and foreclosure and for sale signs popping up over the Bay Area, it’s no surprise that the j. readers’ favorite real estate agents are constantly on the move.
Dana Cohen of the Grubb Company in Oakland has found an easy way to set herself apart from other agents. “I’m always zipping around, running up the stairs,” the second-generation Realtor says. Once Cohen grabs a potential client’s attention, she cites her reputation and integrity as the keys for holding onto customers and her overall success in the industry.
Katy Dinner is always on the go and always available. In today’s changing real estate market, Dinner prides herself in contract negotiations and problem solving. In her spare time she enjoys community work with her husband and sprint triathlons.
Shari Ornstein of Alain Pinel Realtors on the Peninsula is no stranger to travel either. From excursions to the other side of the world with her husband to resorts in Lake Tahoe with her grandchildren, Ornstein loves spending time with her family.
Yet it isn’t too tough for Ornstein to pull herself away from her family and into the office. “I enjoy my job,” she says. “It’s fun.”
Apart from the positive attitude she brings, Ornstein thinks the relationships she has developed over the past 20 years in the business accounts for much of her success. “People know me, and my clients refer me to other clients,” she says.
Moe Rubinstein’s stability and professionalism is the reason she earned a Readers’ Choice award. With 31 years as an agent for the First Marin Realty in Mill Valley, Rubinstein is a favorite for North Bay residents.
In second place were Michael Rudman of Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco, Celia Concus of Marvin Gardens in Berkeley, Leah Noher of Coldwell Banker in San Mateo and Judy Freedman of Frank Howard Allen Realtors in Santa Rosa.
The Grubb Company
(510) 339-0400 ext.348
Alain Pinel Realtors
First Marin Realty
Zephyr Real Estate
Frank Howard Allen Realtors
For most workers, mixing business and pleasure is a recipe for disaster. For Andrea DeGraff of Travel Wizards in Burlingame, it is her recipe to success. “When I go places I spend a lot of time looking at different hotels,” DeGraff says. “I’ve developed private guides all over the world.”
With over 30 years of experience, DeGraff does not see the advent of travel sites as a threat. “Service is what makes an agent different from a Web site,” says the avid sports fan and mah jongg player. “I provide a service and I get to know my clients and get to know what their needs are.”
A native Israeli, Michal Ron Reihanian uses her extensive knowledge of the region to plan trips to the Middle East. “What I do is a passion,” says Reihanian, who has 21 years of experience in the industry. “It’s not a business. I do it because I feel like a diplomat to my country.”
Reihanian, who enjoys cooking and music, looks to go above and beyond other travel agencies in her work at Tamalpais Travel in Corte Madera. “I try not to sell the ordinary tours that all the tour companies are offering,” she says. One trip that was far from ordinary was planning a bar mitzvah for a family that had to leave from various locations in the U.S. and all meet in Israel. “It was a great challenge and a great success,” she says.
In second place was Nancy Burger of Ladera Travel in Menlo Park.
Michal Ron Reihanian