Business address gone, ambition intact
A high-finance comeback through bureaucratic detours.
Ariel Goodman breaks her New York stride just long enough to flick through a rack of T-shirts, two for $15, at a downtown sidewalk sale.Skip to next paragraph
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Wearing jeans, she shifts the cloth saddlebag that's slung over her shoulder, then merges back into lower Manhattan's throng.
Ms. Goodman the mid-30s head of her own investment-advisory service and president of a small mutual fund hasn't worn a suit in almost a year.
On this late-summer Tuesday she'll hit a string of government and private agencies, gathering forms for assistance. She knows the route well. By evening, her bag will be heavy.
A new workday wardrobe and routine are only the most apparent of the changes the past year has brought her. Goodman worked in the World Trade Center, and lived in its shadow.
Like many of Sept. 11's small-business survivors, she remains bent on recovery. Like a handful, she is balancing her personal and professional comeback with a heaping measure of advocacy for others who struggle.
"I'm angry now," she says. "And I think that serves me better than being sad or scarred."
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Few published tenant lists reflect the true makeup of the Trade Center's workforce. Hundreds of low-profile businesses, many subletting from primary leaseholders, inhabited pockets of space among the satellites and subsidiaries of giant multinational firms. Tenants of the towers occupied real estate equal to twice the office space of downtown Albany.
Some were providers of basic services, locksmiths and shoe-repair shops clustered on the concourse. Higher up sat firms like Goodman's, filling arcane but important niches.
"On my floor there were easily 20 companies," Goodman says. "Every door had multiple signs on it."
They had in common a Zip Code exclusive to the towers and skyward-straining ambition.
On Sept. 11, Goodman figures she was about six months away from her dream. She'd won a contract that summer to handle the back-office work of another mutual fund. The job would have grossed her more than $300,000 a year, her biggest contract by far, and it had her thinking seriously about finally going mobile keeping a staffed office in the Trade Center but running it largely by laptop. "Probably from some island," she says. "Especially in the winter."
One year later, most thoughts of leisure have been shelved. "I used to visit friends, I used to have great dinners, I used to go to the gym," Goodman says.
Her main occupation now: mopping up from the day her world collapsed. "You know, I would say it's my whole day, every day. I spend just a few hours a day doing real work," Goodman says. "You're always looking for some receipt no one can give you. You're always fighting for something.
"I feel like I'm 18," she says, "and not an authority figure."
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Goodman's fight for credibility began early. Intrigued by an uncle who owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, she'd often prod him about his work.
"He would always say to me: 'It's much too complicated for a little girl to understand,' " recalls Goodman, whose resolve to know only deepened.
Goodman opened her first trading account when she was 18; three years later, she had her broker's licenses. By the time she completed her master's in clinical-counseling psychology, she was ready to take Manhattan.
In the '90s she worked as a financial adviser for Prudential Securities, Dreyfus, and A.G. Edwards and Sons. She became Rainbow Fund president in 1997, also picking up contracts with two other financial-services firms and doing some private mutual-fund consulting.
She proved adept at managing all the strands of a thickly braided career.
"I bartered for many things," she says, "sometimes using just my presence and licenses to be at a brokerage firm that needed me, other times my knowledge of back-office work," such as ensuring legal compliance and keeping records.
Goodman loved plotting new career angles, and sharing what she learned.
"She ended up in finance a lot earlier [than I did]," says Nerissa Alexis, a brokerage rating analyst who's known Goodman since high school. "She would put me in touch with people she knew."