Article in American Banker (7-5-06)
On Main Street: Move Over, Martha Stewart
From: American Banker
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
By Katie Kuehner-Hebert
A Westport, Conn., banking executive is following in the footsteps of Martha Stewart.
"The Mar Jennings Home & Garden Show" appears Saturdays on local cable and will soon hit the air on network TV.
Mr. Jennings became a lifestyle guru by accident, while a regional manager for the $9 billion-asset Hudson United Bancorp. of Mahwah, N.J., before it was bought this year by TD Banknorth Inc. of Portland, Maine. (He is now a senior vice president of Harbor Bank, a private bank being organized in Southport, Conn.)
In 2002 he was asked to show his home and garden in a home tour for a local charity, Dress for Success. Soon after, many started coming to him not only for banking needs but for tips on how to decorate bathrooms or prune shrubs.
"That's when the light-bulb went off and I said, 'I should be doing more of this,' " he said.
Mr. Jennings, started his second career by doing guest spots on other home-and-garden TV shows; he launched his own last year. North Star Media, recently agreed to syndicate it nationally, and several network stations in Connecticut and New York were to start broadcasting it this month.
He has also launched a Web site, www.marjennings.com, featuring tips on how to find antique shutters, cultivate "hassle-free roses," and make corn, avocado, and tomato salad.
But Mr. Jennings said he has no intention of quitting his banking job soon. "This way I'm using both sides of my brain," he said.
Stephen M. Carta, the president and chief operating officer of the proposed Harbor Bank, said Mr. Jennings has developed quite a following on the Connecticut shore, an upscale area where gardening and home beautification "are very serious activities."
He said Mr. Jennings' reputation should be good for Harbor, which organizers aim to open this year once they get a final nod from regulators and raise as much as $20 million of capital.
Mr. Jennings has "the kind of respect and following you would hope to have in a community like Fairfield County, especially when you're the new guy on the block," Mr. Carta said.