When the economy went bust a few years back, so did Anthony Caggiano’s shutter business. Creditors came knocking and he found himself in a financial rut. Since, he has worked at repaying debts and has made considerable progress.
“It’s an old adage that nine out of ten new businesses eventually fold and I wish I could have been the exception, but I wasn’t,” the city commission candidate told MargateNews.net.
The name of the business was Discount Shutters. It was formed in response to the robust demand for home hardening in the early millennium. But like similar others in the construction industry, the business went belly up when home equity lines of credit, home loans and financial markets took a turn for the worst when the housing bubble burst.
“My mistake was to borrow money to expand my business on the eve of the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression. I wasn’t alone in that. There are a lot of people who made the mistake of signing a personal guarantee for a friend, loved one, or business partner, only to suffer for it later. We all hope for the best, but sometimes the worst is more than anyone can ever plan for,” he said.
To exacerbate matters, Caggiano’s business partner bailed and stuck him with thousands in unpaid bills.
“The one bright spot was the support of my wife during that difficult time,” he said.
While Caggiano said he has paid back the majority of smaller debts, he still owes around $40,000. This includes outstanding judgments from the Yellow Book (Yellow Pages), American Express and Harvest Credit Management - a debt collection agency. Past liens for hospital bills relating to a car accident have been satisfied.
The father of two said he isn’t ignoring the debt, but in owning a home and raising a family there’s only so much to go around. Caggiano works in sales for a lighting contractor.
“In two years I will have paid off the mortgage on my house and will have more free cash to settle old debts,” he said.
Should debts be perceived by voters as a red flag when going to the polls in November? we asked.
“Absolutely not,” said Caggiano. “I have ignored nothing and done nothing unethical. In fact, the whole experience has made me more sensitive to the need to manage money more carefully.”
An outspoken advocate of holding the city responsible for a half a million dollars misappropriated to the Alzheimer’s Family Center in Margate (now closed), Caggiano said there is contrast between taking responsibility for personal debt and that of taxpayers.
“I acknowledge my debts and mistakes. The city doubles down on theirs with no lessons learned. I can’t walk away from my obligations, but the ones making these decisions know that it will be the taxpayers - not them, that will bear the consequences if they are wrong," said the commission candidate. "It's the Margate taxpayers who are on the hook and no one is being held accountable."
After closing the doors on his shutter business, we asked Caggiano why he didn't declare bankruptcy as a means of reorganization and debt dissolution.
“It would have been very easy to clear all those debts through bankruptcy. I admit that I had thought about it. But I was brought up to believe that debts owed should be paid. I understand a lot of people run up debt and choose bankruptcy to run away from it. In hindsight, making personal guarantees on my business was probably a mistake. But I’m not going to cry about it now,” he said.
Anthony Caggiano can be reached at 754-423-4260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.