BATAVIA — The 2020 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year, Pellegrino Auto Sales, has grown over the 16 years it’s been around — adding to its original building and staff. However, owner Guy Pellegrino says, community involvement is the No. 1 reason for the award,
Pellegrino estimated that when the business began in 2005, it was about one-tenth of the size it is now.
“When we started, we had, maybe, 25 cars. We operated out of a small, original building, which was probably 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. Back then, the lot was much smaller. It didn’t have lights. It was very, very basic,” he said. “We pretty much built right around this facility over the years. I know the lot has at least tripled. We’ve probably tripled to quadrupled the size of the lot so that we can hold 120 cars comfortably now. The building, we doubled the size of.”
Pellegrino said the building size may have gone from 4,000 to about 8,000 square feet. He and Office Manager Melissa Geissler said there have been additions onto the building itself, including a service facility built in 2015 and offices, a detailing shop and a car wash, all built in 2017.
The business started with Pellegrino and one employee, Geissler. As of 2020, there are 14 people on staff at Pellegrino.
As to community involvement, Pellegrino said the Chamber noted how visible he has been locally and how much he’s done for the community.
“Obviously, that’s humbling,” he said of the recognition.
That involvement includes supporting youth sports programs from Batavia Stingers softball to the Genesee Amateur Hockey Association (GAHA), soccer, Notre Dame High School sports and Batavia High School sports.
“I just think we’re very active in the community and we donate very generously,” he said. “It’s hard to say ‘No.’ Especially the better you do and the bigger you get, it’s hard to say, ‘You know what? I helped you last year, I can’t do it this year.’ You move forward and the people you helped through the years, you continue to help.”
Pellegrino admitted he thought the original phone call telling him the dealership was Business of the Year was a prank. It came from Paul Figlow, who films awards videos for the county Chamber of Commerce,
“I thought he was joking with me. He called, and Paul’s got that radio voice. He says, ‘Guy, congratulations — 2020 Business of the Year!’ ” Pellegrino recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, yeah. Maybe next year.’ He said, ‘No, I’m calling on official business.’”
Geissler said, “We were very excited. There were some tears and lots of enjoyment — a little bit of a celebration.”
Pellegrino said he was happy and honored to hear about the award.
“This business was built by everyone here. I think they were just as happy, just as excited about it as we were. Really, I feel like it put us on the map, so to speak,” he said.
Pellegrino Auto Sales has been able to grow thanks to its customer base, its owner said.
“Certainly, we’re attracting more customers and growing that way, but keeping existing customers has always been something we’ve been very good at,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t affect Pellegrino’s business, per se, in 2020. Rather, the company grew, Pellegrino said.
“Unlike some other businesses, we were not hit by COVID, fortunately. But, things we had to do and change with disinfection and mask-wearing, early on, it was tough. In March or April, it was certainly challenging, but we came out it OK,” he said.
The dealership didn’t have to make any painful decisions concerning staff reductions or reduced hours due to the pandemic, Pellegrino said.
“There was some concern in the initial onset, but we have, actually, more employees now than we did then,” he said.