In 1979, a gallon of gas was 86 cents, a Corolla sold for $3,698, and a nineteen-year-old kid named Bob Wilson started at Ira Toyota on Route 114 in Danvers, Mass.
Bob was fresh out of auto mechanics school when Ira Rosenberg brought him on as a mechanic. At first, Bob’s responsibilities included doing stickers and sweeping floors, but after a few months, he moved to the tech line.
Bob remained in the service department for years, earning his ASE Master Technician and GM Master Technician certifications along the way. By the mid ‘90s, used cars had become increasingly popular, and Bob became the company’s first designated used car technician.
As Bob grew older, however, he realized he needed a less physically demanding job. He was even considering a career change, which he discussed with David Rosenberg, who had taken over for his father by this time.
Bob recalls, “David didn’t want me to leave. He told me, ‘No, I don’t want you to do that. I will take care of you. We’ll retrain you.’ And they did. I got involved with car auctions, including purchasing vehicles from auctions.”
This was around the same time David and Ira sold the Ira stores to Group 1 Automotive in 2000. Bob continued at Group 1, but when an opportunity came up four years ago to return to the Rosenbergs at Prime, he jumped.
Bob explains, “When Ira hired me back in ’79, his wife Judy worked for the company. So did Judy’s father, Joe, and Ira’s dad, Saul. Ira started the company as a family-run business. And Ira and David have kept true to that, even today. Even with the size, it’s still a family-run business. That’s the reason why I didn’t stick with Group 1. It was a corporate atmosphere and I missed the family type atmosphere with the Rosenbergs that I had grown up with.”
Today, Bob’s office is in Maine, but he’s on the road much of the time, doing work for Rick Bickford, an area manager who oversees ten stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
Bob says, “My current position is called remarketing, which I do for Rick’s ten stores. Remarketing involves all trades and all purchases. I get them through the shop and to the front line. Or I help get them to auction. And I’m still responsible for helping purchase vehicles for Rick’s stores. My thing is trucks and I purchase a lot of trucks and vans for these stores. That’s my forte. I also buy any company vehicles that are needed.”
The above is a solid outline of Bob’s career trajectory—the facts, if you will. But Bob is quick to point out that there’s another part of the story, a sub-plot worth mentioning: the second chance Ira Rosenberg gave him in the late ‘80s.
At the time, Bob was dealing with addiction. “Ira knew I was struggling,” Bob says, “and he gave me a second chance through a program for young people who were struggling with alcohol. Ira gave me a chance, through that program, and I’ve been here since.”
Today, Bob has been clean and sober for 28 years. Just as Ira gave him a second chance, Bob helps others who are battling addiction.
“I support the local community, especially given the current drug and alcohol crisis,” Bob says. “I’m involved in helping some of the younger people who have addictions. Much of my work requires anonymity, so I can’t talk specifics. But I struggled with the same issues with alcohol and drugs that many people today are facing. I’ve turned my life around. I’m trying to help others do the same.”
In addition to his one-to-one work, Bob participates in fundraisers to raise money for local halfway houses and residential rehab and drug centers.
Bob says his career has been rewarding—that the Rosenbergs have been good to him, and he’s been good to them in return, which is what a true partnership is all about. Bob says, “They’re like family to me and that’s why I’ve stuck with them. They told me, ‘If you want to work here for a long time, if you want to stay here, you can work here till you retire,’ which is exactly what I plan on doing.”