Timothy Comparato, 32
Vice president, Open Road Auto Group
If this were sports and not automotive retailing, Timothy Comparato would be the proverbial Cinderella story: The freshman walk-on who makes the collegiate team, ends up beating the odds to turn pro, and goes on to become a champion.
"I always loved cars. I got my first job as a porter, three weeks after getting my driver's license when I was 17. And as soon as I turned 18, they put me on the sales floor," said Comparato, now a vice president with Open Road Automotive Group, running flagship Volkswagen and Audi dealerships in Midtown Manhattan.
The first vehicle he sold: A deep-red metallic Mazda CX-9. "It was a Saturday, my first day on the sales floor. I still remember the couple, too — he was a fireman and she was a teacher."
Comparato fell in love with the job and never looked back, building a career first as a sales rep, then as a sales manager and general manager before becoming a divisional vice president in January at Open Road, where he has worked for 11 years. It has been an interesting period, to say the least, as one industry crisis seems to follow the next, including Volkswagen's 2015 diesel emissions scandal, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and social justice protests, and this year's struggles to keep vehicles on his lots amid the global microchip shortage.
He learned a great deal from each, but "I would probably say the pandemic was the worst because health was involved, people's livelihoods were involved," Comparato said.
He caught the virus himself, and it laid him up for three weeks. "That hospital ship was docked just a few blocks from our store, and there were refrigerator trucks on the corner literally stacked with bodies," he said. "It was scary."
But just as he recovered, so did the two stores — they share a building — that he now oversees. "Who would have thought last year would end the way it did? And it's still going gangbusters," Comparato said.
During his career in sales and management, Comparato — an amateur chef and a fan of the reality TV show "Bar Rescue" — said his secret sauce for success is fostering a healthy attitude and culture.
Like the show's premise, "Give me the hard store, give me the store that's losing money, the store that has high employee turnover, because turning it around is all culture and attitude," he said.
— Larry P. Vellequette