STAYING CLOSE TO THE FIREHOUSE

Vince Sarullo, right, and Colin Seitz on the fire escape of their new office, next door to the Navesink Hook & Ladder on Mechanic Street. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

This was going to be an article about a building.

redbankgreen‘s original impulse on this story was to call attention to the fact that a prominent second-floor space in downtown Red Bank had been filled after a prolonged vacancy – yet another sign of the business district’s robust comeback from the economic woes of recent years.

But things changed when we found out who occupies that space, and what their presence says about their sense of responsibility and commitment to a place they don’t even call home.

Vince Sarullo in his office overlooking Broad Street. (Click to enlarge)

The building is at 25 Broad Street, at the corner of Mechanic Street, a yellow-brick two-story with a handsome cornice  and massive second-floor windows looking out on the business district. Women’s clothing retailer Dor L’Dor has the ground level.

It’s also next door to the Navesink Hook & Ladder firehouse. Mere inches separate the firehouse from the side door that leads upstairs to the new home of Apex Fund Services, an international accounting business to the hedge fund industry.

Vince Sarullo, a managing partner in the firm, launched the Red Bank office in 2008, choosing a building at 10 Mechanic for its home. That address happened to be directly across the street from the firehouse. When volunteers from the fire company responded to alarms, the headlights on the fire trucks would shine right on Apex’s windows.

But even before Apex had opened for business, Sarullo started getting to know some of the volunteer firefighters and felt the urge to help out, he said. A Lincroft resident, he’d long been a commuter to New York, unable to pitch in as a community member as much as he’d like. So, at age 40, he joined the Red Bank fire department, where he’s now a second lieutenant.

“I finally had the opportunity,” he said. As for the physical rigors of becoming certified as a firefighter, he said he had enough “old man strength” in him to get by.

Almost from the day Apex started doing business, Sarullo would be out the doors when the alarms came in, ready to roll.

A little over a year ago, Colin Seitz, a 36-year-old ex-Marine, came to work at Apex. He’d been a firefighter in Hamilton Township. Right away, he also signed up with Navesink Hook & Ladder. Seitz lives in Brick Township.

Two volunteer firefighters, neither of whom lives in town, dropping their pens to answer alarms.

In recent months, Sarullo decided it was time to relocate Apex. The firm had outgrown its space and needed more elbow room, Sarullo said.

He didn’t have to look far. In fact, he only had to tilt his head up a few degrees.

The space above Dor L’Dor, empty for three years, beckoned.  The open, 2,200-square-foot room fills with light that bounces off a tin ceiling painted white, while the dark, all-wood floors lend a coolness that is perfectly in sync with Apex’s culture, in which employees are free to wear t-shirts when no clients are expected and cupcake runs are frequent.

Earlier this month, Apex moved in, carrying its desks and computers across the street. And the company’s rent didn’t go up by even a dollar, Sarullo says.

But if that space had not been available?

“I would only be looking at spaces along this area,” said Sarullo, gesturing toward Broad Street. Access to the firehouse is too important to him and Seitz, he said.

“Red Bank has just one truck company, and when there’s a fire, the truck company is the one that has to get there fast and search for people,” said Seitz. “Being able to get there before the engine companies, to get a ladder up and start the search – that’s the paramount thing.”

Oh, yeah, and a honking vacancy downtown has been filled, even if another one now needs a tenant.