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Louise Arnone, who helped build the largest independent real estate company in New York, is relinquishing ownership in Stovroff Realty.

Arnone is the last of three partners to retire with an undisclosed buyout from Stovroff, leaving the area's leading home seller under sole control of 48-year-old Merle Whitehead. Arnone's official departure date is today.

"I'm 62 now and I've been at this for 40 years. It's time to smell the roses," Arnone said.

Judy Benjamin and Thomas Doran have already retired as Stovroff partners.

The large real estate company, with 18 offices and about 700 agents, was formed in 1996 when Arnone and Benjamin merged Stovroff & Herman Realtors with H. Potter Realtors, controlled by Whitehead and Doran.

Much of the growth for what is now Stovroff came through Arnone's work prior to the merger. She acquired Stovroff & Herman, along with Benjamin and David C. Eckel, from Morton and Joan Stovroff in 1983.

The trio set the company on a growth path, expanding the company from 5 offices to 21 by the time of the Potter merger. Arnone was involved in many of the negotiations to acquire other independent area real estate brokerages.

"I always believed that she somehow got 30 hours out of the days that every body else got 24 out of," said Margaret Hartman, a Stovroff agent in Lancaster who sold her Cheektowaga office to Stovroff & Herman in 1990.

"She patiently prodded me for years and was always letting me know that the door was open if I ever wanted to join them."

Whitehead has already begun positioning Stovroff for further growth on a statewide level. His strategic plan includes establishing a chain of real estate offices through acquisitions across Upstate New York.

Earlier this year, Whitehead acquired a major stake in Realty USA, a 325-agent firm in the Albany area. Stovroff and Realty USA have maintained their separate franchise names, but the combined firm would be one of the nation's 30 largest residential real estate companies with a transaction volume of $1.25 billion.

Arnone plans to keep her real estate license for at least a year and continue practicing part time. She will also travel and plans to do more volunteer work. Arnone, who was believed to be one of the most successful agents in WNY, has also supported the homeless during her career by raising funds for the City Mission, Friends of Night People, and other local charities.

She leaves behind a legacy of agents she helped train over many years as head of corporate training for Stovroff & Herman.

"I've taught a lot of agents how to sell real estate," Arnone said. "I was always one that was very strict on quality of service. I felt that if you provided quality service, business would follow."

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