After earning a degree from Los Angeles City College in 1954 and serving two years in the United States Army, Rusnak ventured into the world of retail automotive. “I started selling cars part-time in my senior year of college, and I loved the business,” he said. “I opened my first dealership, Jet Imports, with a partner at the age of 25.”
In 1960, he founded a new car store in Los Angeles, selling the British import Triumph. “The imported car industry was in its infancy at that time, and we became very successful by concentring on foreign sports cars,” Rusnak said. He sold his part of the business in 1966 and purchased an underperforming Chrysler Plymouth dealership in Pasadena, which he turned around.
In the 1970s, Rusnak began to focus on European imports and today, he owns California dealerships in Pasadena, Westlake, Anaheim Hills and Loma Linda, selling brands Audi, BMW, Bentley, Hyundai, Genesis, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Volvo. His two daughters, Victoria Rusnak and Elizabeth Arizmendi, serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Rusnak Auto Group, and his late daughter, Kathryn Stone, also worked for the family enterprise.
“America and the amazing car industry have truly propelled me beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “This has given me the opportunity to share my good fortune by becoming involved with many charities. I am deeply grateful.”
To that end, Rusnak is proud to support the American Cancer Society; Ronald McDonald House Pasadena; Cancer Support Community Pasadena; Make-A-Wish; Children's Hospital Los Angeles; Five Acres (Altadena, California-based organization that provides support to families and children in need); Hillsides (Pasadena group that offers services and advocacy to help children, young adults and families heal, grow and thrive) and many others.
For his charitable contributions and business acumen, Rusnak has received numerous awards and recognition, including an honorary doctorate of humanities in 2016 from Sias University, the first solely owned American university in mainland China, located in the Henan province. He gave a commencement address reinforcing the importance of dreaming big, working hard and taking risks to succeed in today’s world.
Rusnak was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association.