Sam began his real estate career as a sales agent in 1976, and then switched to real estate lending in 1983. His success over 31 years in the lending field is legendary. In 1987, he was Home Savings’ top lending officer in the nation among more than 400 loan officers in the U.S. That year, he closed a record 486 transactions representing $77 million. He remained number one in San Diego County for seven years, from 1987 until he left Home Savings in 1993. He worked with American Savings and Washington Mutual before founding his own company, Sam Calvano Home Loans, a division of Sierra Pacific Mortgage, in 2000.
But did you know that, decades earlier, between 1981 and 1983, when real estate was slow, Sam worked as a bartender at a popular nightclub on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He poured drinks for politicians, movie stars, recording artists, corporate moguls and baseball players. “This place was the hottest joint on the strip,” said Sam. “The bar was always filled, sometimes four or five people deep. The small parking lot was jammed, end to end with expensive cars. The head valet was amazing for his ability to park Ferraris so close together, and then maneuver one of them out of the lot at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
But working nights left his days free. So, a bar patron who operated a store fixture company offered Sam a job distributing business cards to the hundreds of stores located in high-rise buildings in L.A.’s Garment District. “This guy looked like Bozo the clown with a bald top and gobs of uncombed hair on the sides,” Sam recalled. “His business cards were the size of a 3-by-5 card.”
On Sam’s first day with the store fixtures company, he visited 168 businesses. “The boss didn’t believe that I had talked to so many prospects. Fortunately, I wrote the names of the businesses on a clipboard and showed him the pages. He looked at all the names on the papers and calmly asked, `Can you come back tomorrow?”
Sam was born in Pasadena. He has lived in San Diego since age 9. At age 5, his mom passed away. At age 14, his dad passed away after falling from an olive tree, an accident Sam witnessed. “We were picking olives along Old Highway 80, in the middle of nowhere,” said Sam. “I heard the crack of a tree limb and then saw my dad lying on the ground, bleeding. I ran until I found someone who called an ambulance. He was in a coma for two months before he passed. When something like that happens in life, you grow up fast.”
Sam and his three older sisters, ages 17, 18 and 19, lived with different relatives for a short time before moving-in together into an apartment on Montezuma Road, near San Diego State University. “We convinced Uncle Gene that we would be fine on our own, by ourselves, and we had a terrific time,” said Sam. “All of our neighbors in the complex were Jewish, and they looked after us, fed us matzo ball soup, they were wonderful to us. But, we couldn’t get in any trouble or else someone would call and tell Uncle Gene.”
At the time, Uncle Gene was an executive with Safeway Stores, overseeing produce operations in 246 stores. “One day, I told my uncle I was ready to go to work and would he help me get a job at one of his grocery stores,” said Sam. “He said okay, but then gave me the strictest warning. He said `Never call-in sick, always show up for work.’ I did, even when I had a fever or the flu.” Today, Uncle Gene, age 90, lives in Apple Valley.
From age 15 to 24, Sam worked at the Safeway Store at Park Boulevard and Howard Avenue in University Heights. Today, the store is a Sprouts Market. “Even after all these years, I still am in contact with some of my fellow employees from that store,” said Sam.
For years, Sam worked very long hours at Home Savings. “My schedule was 9 a.m. to noon, then lunch, followed by 1 to 7 p.m., followed by dinner, and then back at the office to work on paperwork until midnight. And I followed that routine, five days a week, including Fridays, for years,” said Sam.
“One time, Home Savings thought there was too much business for me to handle, so they cut my territory,” recalled Sam. “I had everything south of Highway 94, which they thought was much. So, my new territory was everything east of Interstate 805. My new territory was this new area, something called Terra Nova and EastLake. I was ecstatic. They did me a huge favor. As a result, no other employee came close to me in production.”
At age 47, Sam got married for the first time (he previously was engaged three times to three different women). Sam and Loyda recently celebrated their wedding anniversary. They were married on Oct. 22, 1999. “I first met Loyda in 1986, and we started dating in 1997. She was my fourth ring, and marriage with her has been wonderful,” said Sam. They live in Del Cerro.
Sam is a staunch supporter of PSAR. “I love our association because we are greatly involved in the community, we are active in the communities we serve,” said Sam. “We are out there lobbying for property rights, for economic growth. We are meeting with government officials shaping land use policy. I love it because we’re making a difference.
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Don’t forget to read next week’s story. Hint: He is a black belt in Tang Soo Do.