Member of the month: Robert Salerno
Spotlight date: January, 2014
Robert Salerno, Salerno’s Auto Service Center, Redlands, CA
In his own words:
"I was inspired to get into automotive repair early on. If my mother was alive today, she would tell you that starting at the age of two I took everything apart just to see what made it work. My dad at times wanted to terminate my life because he found some of those things in pieces. At age 15, for $50 I purchased a 1930 Model A sedan with a damaged engine. With the help of Sears, Roebuck & Company, and reading some books, I was able to overhaul the engine. With financial support from my lawn business I got that fine vehicle running. I also worked for a body man and painter at a local Pontiac dealership, in exchange for their free labor to paint my car. Then there was an opening for a new car-get ready helper. So my love of automobiles and of taking things apart became my road to a lifelong career.
I became an automotive shop owner because my parents didn’t like the idea of my being an automotive mechanic. The long hours I spent redesigning four-cylinder engines into V8s, lowering vehicles, along with the loud exhaust became total frustration for my parents. Then there was marriage and children. I still had a desire to do something I liked. My first love was working on vehicles, and with the approval of my first wife we borrowed money to open a service station. That was 37 years ago and since then I have owned several service stations, until eventually I felt the need for a larger shop. March 10, 2014 will mark 48 years in business.
Here’s how I got involved with ASCCA. Never be in a meeting and have to go to the bathroom! What happened on April 15, 1980 was the beginning of 34 years of involvement with ASCCA. I was at an ASCCA meeting and at the end our executive director John Goodman said to me and the membership that I would be a leader of the association. Like a lot of shop owners, I said, “No way, I do not have the time.” “Yes, you will make the time and effort,” said the person next to me (now longtime friend and adviser Dale Bright). Three shop owners were installed that evening and I was the last one chosen. What happened was I came out of the bathroom to find a group of people standing up and applauding my return to the room. I asked what had happened. Dale replied, “You have been voted in as a chapter board member.” At another meeting later on this happened again — I took a bathroom break only to come back and hear President Pete Peterson state that I had been voted in as mechanical governor (chapter representative today).
Nine years later I was elected to the State Board. In 1991 was voted to serve on the executive committee. After 14 years I retired to become a chapter representative and serve on my chapter board. I gained friendships throughout the United States, knowledge of how the government operates, and had the benefit of belonging to an organization of people with the same professional concerns as me. With this backing I walked into representatives’ offices and had them shake my hand and listen to our presentations. Senators and assemblymen were calling me asking for my input on items of concern to small business owners. Also, I have profited and gained so much knowledge from many shop owners over the years just by the discussions we have had in our meetings. The best business decision I ever made was joining ASCCA because it has made me a better business owner and a better person.
The group of shop owners that we have now are more knowledgeable than us old timers. My love for our association is still strong and I am proud to be part of ASCCA. Without the work of volunteers we wouldn’t be as strong as we are. Without membership we are just alone in our shops. When you look around the table at meetings and conferences you can see we are all individuals working together. I stated one time at a meeting that we are not competitors — we are comrades in the same industry. We must all work together to make a better image for the automotive industry. Amen!"