Franco reflects on 50 years

A half-century in the auto industry has been quite a ride for 79-year-old Franco Annicchiarico and his family.

Longtime Kamloops businessman, Franco Annicchiarico said he enjoys giving back to a community that’s been good to him for more than 50 years.

Recently, Annicchiarico and his staff hosted a charity take-home meal event to give back to frontline workers during the pandemic, offering 1,000 meals through Colombo Lodge. The meal-for-two was served to Kamloops’ first-responders, doctors, nurses, paramedics and firefighters.

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Annicchiarico and some of his staff were on hand to serve meals in the parking lot of Colombo Lodge, as vehicle after vehicle streamed by, stopping to open trunks and have a hot meal of penne pasta with meat sauce and Italian sausages placed inside.

They happened to come to the rescue of a woman whose tire went flat while in queue. Annicchiarico’s mechanics were quick to turn a wrench, sending the grateful driver on her way in short order.

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Franco Annicchiarico said he still enjoys working with the fine mechanics and staff he has with his shop.

It’s that readiness to be part of the community that Annicchiarico has shown throughout his life.

His foray into a lifelong study of auto mechanics began in a much more formal environment than most craftsmen experience.

“In Italy, when you’re in Grade 9, you go into a four-year apprenticeship,” Annicchiarico said. “I was enrolled in Fiat school, being schooled not only in mechanics, but French, Latin, Italian and arithmetic.”

After graduating at the age of 20, Annicchiarico was drafted into the Italian army in 1963, serving a compulsory 18 months, during which he repaired tanks, jeeps and military trucks.

Following the death of his father, Annicchiarico left his work as a mechanic in Torino, Italy, with plans to immigrate to North America. He took a job with Ferrari in the U.S., but because of the ongoing Vietnam War, decided instead to come to Canada.

“They gave me the visa in three weeks,” Annicchiarico said. “Because of my experience, my education provided two things: a background check to make sure I was not in jail and the health system.”

After spending Christmas in his hometown with his mother, Annicchiarico made the decision to leave for Canada.

“I landed in Kamloops on January 8, 1967, with a cashmere coat, Italian tie, Italian shoes,” he recounted. “It was 40 below zero here.”

That next year, Annicchiarico met his wife. They married one year later and together raised four children in following years.

In 1965, Annicchiarico borrowed $5,000 to open a BMW and Alfa Romeo dealership downtown at the corner of Seymour Street and Sixth Avenue. For the next two years, he would work 14-hour days, seven days a week.

In those days, the streets of downtown Kamloops were home to many car dealerships and gas stations. The cost of gasoline was a mere 30 cents a gallon (about 7.5 cents per litre). He hired his first mechanic, and then another, as his business grew.

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Franco Annicchiarico in a ride from yesteryear.

Annicchiarico sold 21 BMWs and 20 Alfa Romeos within his first year — an ambitious achievement.

Annicchiarico, 79, recalls Kamloops having many British and European doctors who had also moved to live in the city.

Many shared his love of fine German and Italian cars — and it was a boon to his specialty automotive dealership.

In 1974, Annicchiarico was given a free trip to tour BMW’s head office in Munich, Germany, a reward for his Kamloops dealership’s top sales. It was during the overseas flight that Annicchiarico made contact with a gentleman who encouraged him to take advantage of a dealership opportunity with an up-and-coming car company, Honda, which had yet to make its foray into the Canadian auto market. Long story short — Annicchiarico became the second Honda dealer in B.C. and, shortly thereafter, opened Torino Motors Ltd., where he sold Honda Civic hatchback and sedan models. The list price for the hatchback in September 1974 was $1,450.

In the years to follow, Annicchiarico took on a business partner, increased his staff to more than 50 employees and sold vehicles to countless customers in Kamloops and surrounding area.

Twenty-seven years ago, Annicchiarico sold his dealerships and opened Franco’s Auto Service on Lorne Street.

Annicchiarico said he still enjoys working with the fine mechanics and staff he has with his shop.

If you happen to spot Annicchiarico downtown, cruising in his beloved red Ferrari Testarossa, be sure and flash him a smile and give him a high-five to show appreciation of his five decades of business in Kamloops — giving back to the community that welcomed him here with open arms.

© Kamloops This Week

 


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