Through the Generations
Valenti remains a family business after 90 years
When asked how they got their start in the family business, each generation of Valenti sons had the same response: washing cars.
For decades, the youngest generation of Valentis have started their employment by helping to clean and recondition the vehicles for sale at the Valenti Family of Dealerships. Ferdinand Valenti Sr. opened the first Valenti dealership in 1927, when he began selling vehicles in Wallingford. His son, Bob Valenti, started working for him in 1946. He recalls how there was a postwar boom in auto sales, and he had to help clean the cars and get them ready for delivery to customers.
“We all grew up in the automotive industry,” says Bob. “You’re kind of born into it.”
The Valenti presence in Mystic began in 1973, when Bob opened a Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership in the town. His brother Fred stayed in Wallingford, and this branch of the Valenti family continues to run a number of dealerships in that area.
Ten years after the Mystic dealership opened, Bob relocated to the current site on Jerry Browne Road. Throughout the 1980s, a variety of other dealerships came to the location to create the Valenti Auto Mall, allowing customers to peruse a number of different makes and models at a single address. The Valentis also established a Volkswagen dealership in Mystic in 1996, a Toyota dealership in Westerly a year later, a Subaru dealership in Westerly in 2008, and State Line Auto—a used vehicle marketplace—in Pawcatuck in 2016.
As the Valenti Family of Dealerships expanded, more and more family members came to work for the business. Rob Valenti, Bob’s son, says he started out reconditioning and detailing vehicles. He says he also worked as a mechanic, in the body shop, and in sales – everywhere but the parts department.
“You feel almost driven to carry on the tradition that [Bob] and his father started,” says Rob. “It’s contagious.”
Joel Valenti, Rob’s youngest son, remembers how he started this work as an after-school job in sixth grade. He would get off the school bus, hop on his bike, and coast down to the Valenti Auto Mall from a house the Valentis rented nearby.
Joel earned a degree in finance from Arizona State University and worked for awhile as a financial adviser. However, he said he ultimately decided that the auto business was a natural fit for him. He is now the sales manager at Valenti Ford.
“I feel fortunate that I started with a leg up and get to work with people who have the same goal in mind, to push for growth and sustainability,” he says.
Robert Valenti, Rob’s oldest son, worked at the dealerships during high school, washing cars and assisting with auto swaps. After going to Northeastern University in Boston, he decided to return to work at the Valenti Family of Dealerships. He became the business manager of the Toyota and Subaru dealerships about two years ago, and recently completed courses at the National Automobile Dealers Association Academy.
Robert says he enjoys working with members of his family, and that he is looking forward to being part of the growth of the business in the future.
“You have a sense of pride every day when you go into work,” he says. “It’s something your family built, and it’s something you’re helping to keep going.”
Rob’s daughter, Lauren, is currently studying physical therapy at Sacred Heart University. She has also worked at the dealership, answering customers’ phone inquiries.
Several other employees at the Valenti Family of Dealerships are also members of the family. Rob’s three sisters—Beth Goodwin, Cheryl Quirk, and Jean Morrow—are all owners in the business and help run the office. Each of his brothers-in-law is a general manager, with Bill Goodwin overseeing the Toyota dealership, Bruce Morrow managing the Subaru dealership, and Tom Quirk in charge at Chevrolet.
Their adult children have also started working for Valenti. Eric Goodwin is general manager of Valenti Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. Scott Morrow is business manager at the Toyota location. Chris Quirk is the Chevrolet parts manager.
In addition, Bob’s stepson Josh Clark is a used car manager at Valenti Toyota. Bob’s stepdaughter, Courtney Kaplan, works in the Toyota office, and her husband Adam is a Subaru salesman.
Rob says the Valentis have always been a close family, coming together for picnics, birthday parties, and other occasions. He said he thinks the family camaraderie has helped make the Valenti Family of Dealerships a healthy working environment for other employees as well. Some of the managers, salespeople, and other workers have been with the business for decades.
Four generations of Valenti family members have worked at the dealerships. Five of Bob’s 17 grandchildren are part of the business. The family also expects that at least some of his 13 great-grandchildren will be interested in joining the Valenti Family of Dealerships as well.