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Lee Certilman

Lee Certilman

Nardy Honda Smithtown
St. James, New York

“The most rewarding aspect of our business is seeing the success of the people we have hired throughout the years.”

“The most rewarding aspect of our business is seeing the success of the people we have hired throughout the years,” nominee Certilman said. “The training and education they received at our dealership has proven to be life-changing for several of our former employees. Some have even gone on to own their own dealerships and to achieve public office.”

Certilman is a 1978 graduate of Syosset High School in Syosset, New York. He earned a B.S. in marketing management from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, in 1981, where he was on the dean’s list and graduated in three years.

His original career path after college took him into the worlds of television and advertising, first as an account executive at J. Walter Thompson in New York, New York, and then as director of affiliate relations for the north central region at CBS Television Network, also in New York. But in 1995, his entrepreneurial spirit drove him home to his father’s car dealership, which was founded in 1964 as Nardy Pontiac Inc.

His father, Bernard, was in the automobile business before him for 40 years and his grandfather, Philip, had a Chrysler Plymouth dealership in Brooklyn, New York, before that for nearly 40 years. “As a third-generation car dealer, it almost seemed preordained that I would work in this industry,” he said. “I was eager to use the marketing management principals I developed at my previous companies and to build something that I owned, could be proud of and perhaps pass on to one or both of my children someday.” Today, Certilman owns Nardy Honda Smithtown with his two brothers.

He added, “Having worked at two large corporations, I gained insight into how a company should be structured, managed and marketed while being inclusive of the needs of the community.”

Certilman contributes to numerous local and national charities, including the Alzheimer’s Association, which holds a special place in his heart. “My mother suffered from the disease for years, and the drain on the family and the individual can be devastating,” he said. “Any help we can give to relieve the suffering of those afflicted and their family members are the most gratifying to me personally.”

He also supports the Special Olympics; March of Dimes; Smithtown Hadassah; Nesconset Fire Department; Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth; Marty Lyons Foundation (fulfills wishes of children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses); St. James-Smithtown Little League; Smithtown Historical Society; Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; and many others.

“The most meaningful and important achievement is making a difference in someone else's life,” Certilman said. To that end, he is committed to helping young people realize their dreams. “For several years, I have been meeting with kids to discuss their aspirations and the obstacles in their lives,” he said. “I listen to them and help them crystallize their goals and then coach them towards action. When they see even a small result, they become motivated to help themselves, which leads to a self-reliant individual. There’s nothing more rewarding.”

Certilman was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Amy, have two children.