Tony Troilo, a Truly Humble Man
Tony Troilo was laying in a hospital bed bemoaning his rotten luck. He had escaped death -- even going so far as to kick the priest delivering last rites out of his room -- and would fully recover from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
But Troilo was feeling low. "Boy, I've got it tough," he thought.
A nurse fed up with his whining and belligerence wheeled his bed over to a 21-year-old man with no arms or legs.
"How are you getting along?" asked the man. "We've been worrying and praying for you."
Falling asleep at the wheel of his 1975 Jeep pickup and surviving a head-on collision with a concrete bridge abustment evidentally didn't send the right message to Troilo.
But seeing a fellow human far worse off than he did have a profound effect.
"He had no arms or legs and I thought I was bad off? That whole incident turned my life around."
Twenty years later, Troilo, an independent tire dealer from Brandy Station, Va., has experienced more than his share of highs and lows.
He has known the sheer joy of becoming a father, sharing birth with his wife on two of four occasions. "It's the greatest moment in life," he says.
He has also witnessed the horror of death more times than he can count as a volunteer fireman. In that same job, however—one he refers to as his “hobby”—he has also played a role in saving lives.
“You don’t think about it. It’s just a way of helping your neighbor. You just do it.”
Not surprisingly, 45-year-old Tony Troilo, a deeply religious man, finds himself humbled by his success as a tire dealer.
His five Rosson & Troilo Motor Co. Inc. stores and retread shop grossed $6 million last year.
It’s Troilo’s successes both on and off the job that have earned him Modern Tire Dealer’s 1995 Tire Dealer of the Year Award from among more than 30 nominees.
The competition is sponsored by Michelin.
Like father, like son
“At 14 I could align a car before I could drive it down the road,” says Joseph Anthony Troilo Jr., known as “Tony.”
His father, Joe Troilo, has helped run the 67-year-old dealership in some capacity since founder Harvey Rosson, Joe’s father-in-law, died in 1940.
Joe became a partner in the business with his wife Bootsie’s brother, Franklin, in 1946. “We excelled in front-end work,” says the elder Troilo. “It’s what our business was known for.”
Tony came along in 1950, the third of four children.
As a kid he remembers doing everything from cutting the grass to washing tools at his father’s business.
His ties to the company steadily grew until 1976 when, one year after Tony’s fateful auto accident, Joe Sr. turned 25% of the business over to his son.
Tony became an equal partner in 1982. His parents are now retired, but still own 37% of the business.
“He consults me on anything big, and sometimes even small things,” says Joe. “Whether he feels that obligation or wants me to feel better, I don’t know!”
Tony’s son, Joseph Anthony Troilo III, nicknamed “Peppe” after his grandfather’s Italian name, is the third generation Troilo to work at the tire dealership.
Only 11, Peppe is learning the ropes from his father and many of the other 40 or so employees. It isn’t uncommon to see Peppe driving a pickup truck around the 19-acre corporate complex in Brandy Station while doing his chores.
Until last year, there were eight Rosson & Troilo outlets in central Virginia. But Troilo sold three of them.
“At times you turn things loose for profit and look in other areas. That’s called strategic management,” he says.
He hopes to open another store in the near future.
One of Tony’s three sisters, Frankie, and her husband are part-owners of the Staunton outlet.
General manager Allen Seale is part-owner of the two stores in Harrisonburg and Warrenton. The other store is located in Culpeper.
His employees receive full hospitalization, life insurance, sick leave, vacation, six paid holidays and a Christmas bonus. The service technicians and salesmen receive a substantial commission in addition to their base salaries.
Tony meets with his managers regularly to stay on top of things.
“No one individual could do this alone,” says Tony. “You have to have good people. To me, when you get good people, being successful is very easy.”
Troilo has one word for competing with tire dealers such as Merchant’s Inc. and mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart service.
“Our customer is our boss. We’re customer driven.”
Troilo is one of the largest independent Goodyear dealers in Virginia—part retail, part commercial, with a little wholesale thrown in. the computer-linked stores sell everything from lawnmower tires to rear farm tires.
“We’re a one-stop shop.”
The dealership services reach beyond Brandy Station, population 450. To attract customers from the surrounding area, Troilo advertises his service and the company’s huge inventory of tires.
Rosson & Troilo has received numerous awards for its creative advertising, which emphasizes local activities such as high school sports, 4-H farm programs, fire department parades, Rotary Club and Veterans Day events, NAACP programs and church functions.
Television spots in Staunton, for example, feature Zeus, a Labrador retriever owned by Tony’s sister. Many customers come in asking where Zeus is, he says.
And customers still request tapes of a 1976 Rosson & Troilo Motor Co. Bicentennial radio program presenting the histories of the United States, Virginia and Culpeper Country, a hotbed of Civil War activity.
Troilo won’t turn down a sale even if it means picking up non-Goodyear tires from other distributors.
If OTR tires are needed, he goes to a longtime friend, Donnie Weber, owner of Weber Tire in Fairfax.
They’ve known each other since their fathers worked together as Uniroyal dealers prior to 1976.
“If one of my customers needs tire service near his place, Donnie can get to him right away.
“He bills me and I rebill it… and I end up with another customer satisfied.
“One of the primary assets of being in associations and having associates and friends throughout the country is the help you can give your customers when they are in other areas.”
Taking care of customers also includes complete automotive service. ASE-certified Rosson & Troilo technicians using continually updated equipment do everything but overhaul automatic transmissions.
Troilo handles commercial business with nine service trucks and a modern communications system. His Goodyear procure retread shop retreads 35 medium truck tires a day.
“To be successful in the commercial market and to compete you have to retread, because the cradle-to-grave theory is valid. The quality of the retread today is much better than it was 10 years ago.”
COMMUNING WITH THE COMMUNITY
Troilo has been active in a wide range of community activities in Culpeper Country.
He helped organize both the Culpeper County Fire and Rescue Association and Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Department, and continues to serve as a volunteer fireman.
He was named Outstanding Young Man of the Year by the county Jaycees in 1981, has been president of a number of local organizations and a member of many more.
He also serves on Goodyear’s Dealer Council.
Troilo and his wife, Pat, are active in church affairs and attended the mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his recent visit in Baltimore.
“My goals are being successful and happy, but not at the expense of hurting or using other people,” he says.
“Sometimes money gets in the way of people—they let money be the primary object. You have to keep your priorities in order. That’s where Christianity plays a part—you have to be able to live with yourself, face yourself and respect yourself.”
NOT SO ‘CIVIL’ WAR MEMORIES
“The Civil War was the greatest catastrophe in the history of this country,” says Tony Troilo, part-owner of Rosson & Troilo Motor Co. “But it was inevitable because of slavery.”
Brandy Station, located in Culpeper County in Virginia, is more than a footnote in Civil War history.
On June 9, 1863, the greatest cavalry battle North America has ever known was fought there.
Both sides claimed victory. The Confederate cavalry held its ground and suffered fewer casualties.
But the Union cavalry, looked down upon prior to this battle, showed it was a force to be reckoned with.
Those hostilities still lingered when Joseph Troilo Sr. moved from Pennsylvania to pro-South Virginia in 1939.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, these people are still fighting the Civil War,”’ he remembers.
“There was more action through Culpeper County than in any other county in the U.S., and the people here just lost everything.
“The Union forces didn’t pay for it, they just took it. In 1939 there were quite a few people still living who had experienced the Civil War. And they passed along their feelings to their relatives as well.”
Confederate flags still fly in some Virginia homes. But times have changed, according to the elder Troilo, who lives part of the year in a home on Fleetwood Hill, a crucial position in the Battle of Brandy Station.
“There is no animosity here now,” he says. “Salt of the earth people live here.”
The only lingering controversy surrounding the Civil War in Culpeper County stems from fighting between the Foundation, an historical preservation society, and real estate developers.
The railroad has run through the village since 1854. “That’s what made Brandy Station and Culpeper County what it is today,” says Tony Troilo.