Sickel earned a B.B.A. from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, in 2000. He was born into a family of car dealers as his grandfather, Leon, founded Pine Belt Chevrolet in 1937 and his father, David, ran the operation for many years.
“I worked at Pine Belt during the summers while growing up,” he said. “As I got older, and had the confidence to suggest new ways to conduct our day-to-day business operations, I realized I had to prove myself and demonstrate that my ideas had value.”
During college, Sickel gained new perspectives on management while employed at a large Florida dealership group. He returned to his family’s company in New Jersey after graduating and furthered his training by working in every department. He eventually was tasked to run his family’s Subaru store.
“I was proving my capabilities, but my father wasn’t quite ready to retire, so I left the business for a brief time to create and run a successful clothing company and branch out into a few other businesses,” he said.
Sickel returned to the family enterprise on a full-time basis in 2013. Today, along with his father and brother, Jack Boylan, he oversees a dealership group that includes six new car stores in New Jersey, located in Lakewood, Toms River and Keyport, representing brands Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Nissan, Ram and Subaru.
Sickel credits his experiences outside of the retail automotive industry as pivotal in allowing him to reimagine a car dealership to better serve employees and customers in the 21st century. He was also challenged by three major events that particularly impacted New Jersey: the Great Recession, Superstorm Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“New Jersey dealerships, including Pine Belt, were at the epicenter of these monumental events,” he said. “We weathered them with proactive planning and an ability to adapt to evolving circumstances. These events were transformational in my career and personal growth.”
The challenges also put Sickel at the crossroads of where businesses and communities come together for the common good. He is very proud of his work on pandemic-related issues with Monmouth Medical Center, where he has served on the board of trustees, Southern Campus Foundation board and medical policy and community action committees.
When the COVID-19 vaccines became available and the vaccination rates among minority members of his community began to lag, Sickel jumped into action. “I spearheaded a Minority Vaccination Program with the medical center that was focused on two main areas, vaccine education and access,” he said.
In 2012, following Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of New Jersey, Sickel helped launch the Restore The Shore campaign through his ERGO clothing company. “We sold T-shirts, with all proceeds going to storm victims,” he said. “We were able to donate $300,000 directly to local families and spearheaded efforts to collect, organize and ship out $5 million worth of donated goods to families in need.”
Pine Belt dealerships also support a wide variety of organizations that serve the community’s health, educational, social and recovery needs. Sickel is particularly proud of his company’s sponsorship of the Toms River Field of Dreams, a playground and sports complex designed for children and adults with disabilities.
“The success of the Pine Belt dealerships, along with the support of my family, employees, customers and community have brought me to where I am today and will continue to guide my future in auto retailing,” he said.
Sickel was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. He and his wife, Taryn, have two children.