Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Operates Wayne Ford, Wayne, New Jersey and Dayton Toyota, South Brunswick, New JerseyInvolvement at Adelphi: editor of Guidon, member of the Omicron Pi fraternity, played intramural basketball and tennis
Memorable faculty: Professor Murray and Associate Professor Carol Beinert ’47
First car: “A 1936 black Ford convertible that I bought as a student at Adelphi. It had a bad engine I rebuilt for $150.”
Building a Business by Putting Family and Fairness First
“Sales teaches you to be humble,” said Frank Nappa, who first learned about customer service from his father who owned a shoe store in Little Neck, New York.
Mr. Nappa’s parents always wanted him to go to college. After working throughout his teenage years at his father’s business, he served in the Navy. Following World War II, he pursued his bachelor’s degree, with assistance from the G.I. Bill. After attending Queens College for one year, he transferred to Adelphi, attracted to the University’s business program. He recalled being a member of one of the first classes of men at Adelphi after World War II.
During his Adelphi years he furthered his experience in sales working at the department store B. Altman. After graduating from Adelphi in 1950, the father of classmate and friend Frank Lerner ’49 helped Mr. Nappa secure a job with the manufacturer, Helen Harper Sweaters.
He had been selling sweaters for seven years when his brother, who operated Hackensack Ford/Mazda, recruited him to join the New Jersey car dealership. “I learned the car business from my brother,” recalled Mr. Nappa.
On April 1, 1963 he bought his own Ford franchise in Little Falls, New Jersey. “I borrowed money… I mortgaged everything,” said Mr. Nappa, who had a wife and family of four kids at the time. He took a chance, but he believed in himself, and the risk paid off.
“In 1964, the Mustang was introduced. It was lucky timing. It helped me to make sales and grow the dealership,” recalled Mr. Nappa, who worked 80-hour weeks. Two years later, he opened Wayne Ford, an even bigger dealership in Wayne, New Jersey, equipped with service and parts departments and offered new and pre-owned cars for sale.
Mr. Nappa said the keys to success include being willing to take risks, work hard, and hiring good people. He believes in treating employees fairly, paying them competitively, offering flex programs and incentives, recognizing employee successes, and offering bonuses.
His employees’ dedication is proof that they are happy working for the Nappa name. Among the associates at his dealerships are some who have worked with the Nappa family for 20, 30, and even more than 40 years.
Mr. Nappa has a proven record of leadership and success. In 2001, he received the TIME Magazine Quality Dealer Award, awarded to car dealers who are successful, support the automobile industry, and are community leaders.
For Adelphi students who might be interested in getting into the car business, Mr. Nappa recommends getting your foot in the door in sales and working your way up. His own son, David, who is now his business partner, started cleaning cars at Wayne Ford at 14. Eventually he worked in every dealership department, including sales, parts, and service, at Wayne Ford and Hackensack Ford to gain a complete understanding of what it takes to run a dealership.
In 2006, Mr. Nappa and his son decided to diversify and purchased Dayton Toyota in South Brunswick, New Jersey. Dayton Toyota, New Jersey’s first Toyota dealership, founded in 1959, has received numerous customer service awards including ten Toyota President’s Awards as well as Toyota’s prestigious Signature Certification.
Mr. Nappa loves what he does and is proud to be part of the Nappa tradition of customer service excellence—past, present and future.
Published September 2013.
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