By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
June Marcus grew up in Bensonhurst, but, as a teenager, she would often ride her bicycle along the Shore Road Promenade from Bay Parkway to the 69th Street Pier. The stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline took her breath away.
“I looked at the World Trade Center and I used to say to myself, ‘That’s where I’m going to work someday.’ My first job was right across the street from the World Trade Center, so I guess I can say I came close,” Marcus said.
Marcus, who now lives in Bay Ridge, is the vice president of the Shore Road Parks Conservancy, a volunteer group that conducts park cleanups and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in local parks.
Marcus is president of a travel agency, BBM Travel, and has helped her clients go on their dream vacations to exotic places.
She started out in a career in finance, however. The travel agency came later.
Marcus worked for Merrill Lynch as an account manager in the commodities trade. She managed accounts for propriety traders, facilitating orders and dealing with million-dollar transactions on a daily basis.
“It was a huge responsibility. Within 10 seconds, you can make a mistake that costs $10 million. I never made a mistake, but it was a lot of pressure all the time,” she recalled.
She also worked for other financial firms. during her career in finance.
“I was there for 17 years. At the end, I was making good money,” she said. “I was living in a beautiful apartment in Battery Park City.”
But her high-pressure job had her feeling burned out.
“I said to myself, ‘What is this money going to get me, a gold coffin?’ Things in my life have always fallen into place and I decided that I wanted a change,” Marcus said.
Marcus had a friend who was the manager of a restaurant. She was also seeking a career change.
“Her mom’s friend had a travel agency in Carroll Gardens. We took over that office,” she said.
It was a leap of faith for Marcus.
“I did not have experience as a travel agent, but I thought, ‘I’ll figure it out!’”
She has never regretted her decision.
“I love to travel and I love helping other people make travel plans. Flying into Cairo and seeing the Pyramids is breathtaking,” Marcus said.
Marcus and her friend called their company BBM Travel. The company has been in business for 15 years. Marcus now does much of the work from her Shore Road apartment.
“The key to being a successful travel agent is what we in the business call ‘qualifying.’ That involves finding out what the client’s interests are and what type of traveler they are. Do they want to go to a place where they can do plenty of sight-seeing? Or do they want to go to the beach? I ask my clients a million questions to find out their travel interests. No one seems to mind my asking a lot of questions,” Marcus said.
It’s all in the best interest of her clients, she said.
“I like to give people my time. I don’t like to rush them into making a decision. They have to be happy with their vacation,” she said.
Part of her job also involves inspecting cruises and hotels in order to familiarize herself with the amenities out there and offer suggestions to clients. Unlike a vacation traveler, Marcus isn’t doing it for fun. It’s business.
“You are always looking at things with a travel agent’s eye,” Marcus said.
She moved to Bay Ridge when she left the world of finance. She and her husband Bob Hutt became active in the Shore Road Parks Conservancy out of a desire to help, Marcus said.
“When I saw the condition of the parks, I felt terrible. I mentioned to friends that I wanted to start an organization to clean the parks. I took a walk to Narrows Botanical Gardens to talk to Joan Regan,” Marcus said.
Regan, the founder of Narrows Botanical Gardens on Shore Road and 70th Street, is credited by many in Bay Ridge with raising the public’s consciousness about the importance of parks. Regan and a small group of volunteers turned a weed-filled section of Shore Road Park into a floral paradise.
“I expressed my interest in starting a parks group. I thought Joan was going to hug me and never let me go. She told me about Linda Allegretti,” Marcus said.
Allegretti is the founder of the Shore Road Garden Council, a group that was cleaning up the section Shore Road Park located between 90th Street and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
“Linda had decided to expand the mission to other areas. She was starting the Shore Road Parks Conservancy and had already held a meeting in her apartment. Thirty people came to that meeting. Bob and I weren’t there, but we went to the second meeting,” Marcus said.
Marcus’s volunteer work, coupled with her strong work ethic, moved her up to a leadership role. She became vice president and loves her role.
Marcus is now bringing her professional life and volunteerism together. As part of a fundraising drive for the conservancy, she is planning a cruise.
“Fundraising is important. I don’t believe anyone else is doing a fundraising cruise,” she said.
Marcus said she is hoping to fill between 15 and 20 of the cabins on a cruise ship with people taking part in the fundraiser.
“We’ll see how it goes,” she said.