Meet the Team
Chris Arena, CPA - President
I started this firm because I love the small business community of Durham and wanted to be a part of it. Running a business is hard enough as it is, without jumping through all of the administrative and compliance hurdles that exist, and my goal has always been to provide these services at a fair cost with a friendly attitude and open communication.
I am a licensed CPA in the state of North Carolina (#37360) and I have over seven years of experience in the fields of accounting, finance, banking, and start-ups. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and later returned to UNC for my Masters of Accounting. I currently serve as the Treasurer of Preservation Durham.
I live in Durham with my wife, Laura, our daughter Ellie, our son Forest, and our dogs, Champ and Pepper. I've called Durham home for almost ten years and have previously resided in San Diego, CA, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Long Island, NY, and Charlotte, NC. My favorite hobby is eating - luckily for me, Durham is the tastiest town in the South and I am proud to call some of Durham's best restaurants my clients! When I'm not eating (which isn't often) I love to play tennis, watch great movies and television, vacation in the mountains and at the beach, drink craft beers, and play games of all varieties.
Lauren Gregory, CPA - Tax Manager
I am a licensed CPA in the state of North Carolina, and have experience in income tax compliance and consulting, including due diligence, and audit and notice resolution issues. I have served a wide array of individuals and businesses in various industries, primarily focusing on issues involving federal and state taxation of closely held businesses, and high net worth individuals.
I started my career over six years ago, at a public accounting firm in Raleigh. I have loved the experience of working at a smaller firm, where a personal touch is welcomed and appreciated. I strive to make tax compliance as painless as possible for my clients, and enjoy developing tax strategies that are valuable to them and to their families.
I live in Apex with my husband, Tim, and my son, Daniel. Our first baby, a rescued boxer mix named Eli, rules the house. If I’m not working on tax returns, you can find me at CrossFit Zeal in Holly Springs, where I coach fitness classes for adults and kids. Because, as we all know, and Mark Rippetoe once said, “Strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general.”
Sherri Stewart - Seasonal Tax Manager
I was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC, so I am a true native North Carolinian. Upon graduating Magna Cum Laude from North Carolina State University, my husband and I both obtained positions in Durham and have made our home here for 35+ years. I have always been fascinated with the diversity and ingenuity of small businesses in this area and have focused my career on helping the small business community.
I am a licensed CPA in the state of North Carolina (#15610) and have 35+ years of experience in Public Accounting. The first 30 years of my career I was both an Auditor and a Tax Professional in both Durham and Chapel Hill. I also served as the initial Executive Director of the Institute for Medical Research for 3 years. I have served a wide variety of industries (both for profit and not for profit) as well as individuals. I found that I especially enjoyed working with small businesses. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on that area and left the audit arena to focus primarily on federal and state taxation of small businesses and individuals. Having worked at both large and small firms, I found that the personal interaction that a small firm allows more enjoyable and rewarding.
I live in Durham with my husband Barry and our 2 rescue dogs, Quila and Peanut. My son, William, graduated from North Carolina State University 3 years ago and is now on his own living in Raleigh. I love to read, play with my dogs, swim, and work in my garden. I also enjoy eating…and there is no better place to do that than Durham.
Diane Amato - Adminstrative Whiz
I am originally from Massachusetts where I worked as a Program Manager for General Electric. I earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Lesley University. After moving to North Carolina in 1996 I returned to school to obtain a degree in Commercial Photography and opened a photography studio in Chapel Hill where I photographed artwork for local artists while also exhibiting my own work locally as well as nationally.
I work at Preservation Durham and am currently the Board Chair of Liberty Arts and the Vice President of Trinity Park Neighborhood Association Board. I served on the board of Durham Habitat for Humanity Restore as Treasurer and then President and also joined on the board of Chatham County Arts Council as Treasurer. In 2009 I founded The Art of Giving, a giving circle committed to granting money to non-profit organizations in the Triangle whose programs benefit women and children. Since its inception, $100,000 has been awarded.
I live in Durham with my dog, Hannah. I LOVE to cook and eat good food. And workout, although I really only do it so I CAN eat.