Ciocca’s road to prosperity started in his mother’s garage in Warminster, Pennsylvania, where he began buying and selling cars to support his family after his mother suddenly became a single parent.
“I was 17 years old and in high school when I bought and sold my first car,” he said. “I paid $700 for a 1967 Camaro Rally Sport and using my mom’s garage, I cleaned up the car, parked it in the front yard and sold it for $1,300. I gave my mom $600 and never looked back.”
By the time Ciocca graduated from William Tennent High School in Warminster in 1976, he had already started building his automotive empire.
“Working in the morning and at night, I sold one car at a time from the garage at first before selling them at corner gas stations, paying the owners $50 if a car sold off their lot,” he said. “And like a real business, I added a phone extension in the garage. I also gave myself a name: Ciocca Motors. General Motors was a big company so why not me?”
Ciocca then moved into wholesale, buying and selling cars at auctions. This success propelled him to open nine used-car lots in the Philadelphia/Bucks County area. “In the lower-income communities, I helped some of my customers who couldn’t afford a car by financing their vehicles,” he said.
By 1993, he was ready for his next venture and purchased his first new-car dealership, a Ford store in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, that was going out of business. Today, the Ciocca Dealerships include 24 locations across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, representing 17 brands. His most recent acquisition of Kerbeck dealerships in Atlantic City, New Jersey, included the iconic Kerbeck Corvette store, now Ciocca Corvette, known as the world’s largest Corvette franchise.
“Right from the start, I’ve been surrounded by good people,” Ciocca said of his growing enterprise. “Three of the four employees who started out with me 46 years ago in my mother’s garage are still at Ciocca today.”
And his five-year plan is to double the number of dealerships to 50. “I know we can do it because we have a great team in place that is fueling our growth,” Ciocca said. “There’s a ton of nepotism – not just the Ciocca family – and I encourage it strongly. My three sons are all involved now, and they have the right mindset to help take the business forward. I also have three grandchildren and my suspicion is there is another generation there.”
A new member to the board of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, Ciocca looks forward to advocating on behalf of dealers and improving the retail automotive industry statewide. He also supports numerous organizations and nonprofits in the communities where his dealerships are located, from food pantries to animal shelters to hospitals to cancer charities.
Ciocca is particularly proud to partner with Toys for Tots each year; children’s initiatives at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown; and the Auto Dealers CARing for Kids Foundation, which delivers new coats to children in need.
“This year, our $50,000 donation will provide 2,856 new coats to keep kids warm,” he said. “I have a big heart for kids, and the company’s success has allowed me to do a lot for children’s charities and many other nonprofits.”
Ciocca was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by John Devlin, president of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association. He and his wife, Sharon, have three children.