Family members, friends, employees, civic dignitaries and presidents of various manufacturers honoured Joe Zanchin last Friday at a celebration for his 50 years in the automotive business as the Founder and Chairman of the Zanchin Automotive Group.
Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca presented Zanchin with an official certificate from the city recognizing his 50 years in business.
“It is nothing short of remarkable just to sit back — and not that Joe ever sits back — and consider 50 years,” said Del Duca. “I have a lot of words in my vocabulary, but there aren’t many I can think of that really do it justice. The success you’ve had for five decades, that simply does not happen by accident. You haven’t just survived, you have literally been thriving and you continue to thrive, and that’s because of your dedication and your work ethic, which is legendary. Your determination to make sure your customers are treated with care and affection, that’s really, I think, the secret to your success.”
Del Duca’s predecessor, Mauricio Bevilacqua, said Zanchin’s story needs to be told.
“I always tell people Joe Zanchin’s work is at least a documentary,” said Bevilacqua. “His story is an incredible story. Is it a unique story? Of course it’s a unique story because you don’t get to the place that he’s gotten to without perseverance, without hard work, without a deep belief in oneself and the people he works with.”
A teenage Italian immigrant who came to Canada in 1962 with only $15 and a dream of a better life, Zanchin began as a body shop mechanic and subsequently bought the business and then a used car lot. His dream was to own a car dealership, but when he approached the heads of domestic brands, they turned him down.
He then approached the head of Honda, which was fairly new in this market, and through persistence and passion he was given a dealership. Zanchin built it on land he purchased, and in 1973 opened Number 7 Honda in Woodbridge. He subsequently grew Zanchin Automotive Group into the largest in the Greater Toronto Area, and one of the biggest in Canada with 38 stores and 19 brands. Collectively, Zanchin has almost 1,500 employees.
“Never mind you’re part of my family, I’m part of your family now,” Zanchin told the audience.
He thanked his wife Cathy, who helped him in the early years thanks to her finance background, and daughters Laura and Andria, who followed him into the business and are now Principals and Executive Vice-Presidents, and his grandchildren. “It didn’t come only because of me, but also because of my family. My wife, my daughters, my grandchildren, we did it together,” said Zanchin.
He also thanked his business partners and connections.
“I have people with me that want to do just as much as I do,” Zanchin added. “They put pressure on me to do more. We do it with pleasure and we give service to our customers. I thank everybody around me that allowed me to be exactly what I want to be. This is who I am. I want to do things for everybody.”
Andria Zanchin praised her mother for her role in the evolution of the company.
“You have been behind dad in every venture and worked alongside him every day for many, many years, and we would not have grown to this capacity without your guidance and your support,” said Andria. “Not everyone realizes the contributions that you have made to our staff, although people in our organization do realize you are the true boss.”