"There is only one success ... to be able to spend your life in your own way," befits Mark Calvano — like a perfectly tuned Ferrari.
He was a dynamic wunderkind who scored big sales in computers and computer networking systems from his San Francisco State dorm room, who, after graduation with a degree in business and a few years experience selling commercial real estate for Marcus & Millichap, forged an innovative path on his own as a commercial real estate broker — becoming a multimillionaire two years later. After successful forays in retail and movie making, he's been on a continuous, kinetic path of growth and expansion. "When I started with George Marcus I wanted to make a $100,000 commission. Four years later I was paying him $100,000 in commissions to sell my buildings."
A "full-blooded second-generation Italian-American," all four of Mark’s grandparents emigrated from Italy: his mother’s antecedents were from Lake Como; his father’s from Santa Lucia, "like the song." Born in San Jose, raised in Cupertino and Los Gatos, Mark was mentored early on by his grandfather Anthony Panozzo, a "very accomplished, self-made investor." A study in motivation, Anthony was so determined to enter this country, he concealed an injury caused by his transport ship turning on its side; then, upon arrival, Anthony "hit the books," rising at 4 a.m. to take classes in the stock market, plunging into railroad stocks "because of the assets." "He taught me when to get in. When to get out. And that big money runs in herds. Everyone’s thinking if the ‘big guy’ is buying, others want to get in."
The spirit lives on in Mark. At 23, selling 100,000-square-foot buildings (Montgomery Ward), shopping centers (Argonaut), Mark concomitantly began to invest on his own, buying and selling 30 houses by his late 20s and trading equity for commercial real estate, especially research and development (R&D) buildings in Silicon Valley in the ’90s, just in time for the tech boom.
"I knew the market. I bought from people I sold to as a broker."
Everything came to a halt when Mark was 35. His father died of cancer. "I was working double fulltime. It was a reality check for me." He took two years off, traveled, "nonstop partied the world. Retiring, I thought I’d never want work again."
But he did. He formed a production company, executive-produced full-length feature films: "Big Diamond Mystery," then "Later Days" with Jacqueline Bisset. "I’m a creative guy. I like to be creative." Plans are in the works for more films.
Purchasing and renovating sumptuous homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Mark "met a girl" in San Diego, and on a whim, "made her some pants," which was the incipiency of the Mark Calvano men’s clothing line. Realizing "L.A. was not my thing," Mark has returned to San Francisco and commercial real estate, forming a new company: Berkshire Pacific Ventures, Bp-ventures.com, "buying and selling all over Northern California,especially the Central Valley, the new growth area."
He quietly gives to philanthropic organizations, supports charities. Involved with the Knights of St. John — "the youngest member ever," he’s also involved with political and social causes.
Mark’s San Francisco penthouse on Nob Hill is a two-and-a-half story aerie, with 20-foot high wraparound, sheer walls of light. Over 1,000-square-feet of glass paned-walls are transparent stanchions admitting a surfeit of sunshine, rendering the entire edifice aglow around midday, a warm treat in winter. It’s a skyscape amid tall city buildings, rising high above the street, yet with a front-and-center view of the Transamerica Pyramid, the Financial District and the South Bay. The décor is city-sophisticate, rendered more dramatic with Lagos Azul limestone from Portugal covering the floors, and modern furnishings abiding with Mark’s art and collectibles. At night, the city lights enter and dance in the rooms, outdoor panoramas interplay with indoor joie de vivre.
Mark says he likes to invite friends over — to laugh and relax. One wonders if, with such an engaging host in such an animated setting, if the residence has indeed reflected the resonance of the man or if the two have a winning symbiosis.