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Toyota of Keene
East Swanzey, New Hampshire
“I am very grateful and proud that I was able to start with nothing and create a very large business with a solid reputation.”
“I am very grateful and proud that I was able to start with nothing and create a very large business with a solid reputation,” nominee Fenton said. “I have watched employees grow and prosper; was able to give my family a good life; give my children a good education; and enable all of us to give back to the community.”
Fenton is a 1970 graduate of West Springfield High School in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and he earned an associate in arts degree from Springfield Technical Community College, also in Springfield, in 1972. He always had an affinity for understanding how things work — and for sales. “As a kid, I took bicycles out of the trash, fixed them and sold them,” he said.
In junior high, Fenton worked at a body shop and learned all he could about the automotive business. “I later went out on my own and bought inexpensive cars, repaired and reconditioned them myself and sold them,” he said. “I've always loved cars and was fascinated with how they worked. I was also driven to make something of myself.”
And that he did. Fenton purchased his first franchises in 1986 and today owns five dealerships representing brands Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo in East Swanzey and Keene, New Hampshire. Both his son and daughter work for the dealership group.
“My wife and I grew up in challenging circumstances, so we are committed to helping those who can't help themselves,” Fenton said. “With the local, state and federal governments offering less support for much-needed programs, it is essential that private individuals and businesses help fill the gap.”
To that end, Fenton hosts an annual golf tournament to support the Community Kitchen in Keene, a food pantry and hot-meal program in the Monadnock region. “In 2017, we celebrated our 25th year of the tournament and also raised $10,000 for two much-needed stoves/ovens,” he said. “To date, we’ve raised almost $1 million for the kitchen.”
His family and employees also consistently give back to the community. “Since 1986, we have supported nearly 100 local charities and organizations through volunteer work, sponsorships and donations,” Fenton said. Some of the programs they support include: Keene Swamp Bats and the 7th Inning Grand Slam, where a spectator can win $5,000 during the game; Bowl for Kids’ Sake to benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire; Orion House, a nonprofit residential treatment facility in Newport, New Hampshire; Walk-a-Mile in Her Shoes, a fundraiser for Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention; Hundred Nights, an emergency cold-weather shelter in Keene; Monadnock United Way (Fenton matches all employee donations), the Keene Family YMCA and Monadnock Family Services, a community mental health agency in Keene; plus national groups like Habitat for Humanity; Salvation Army; American Cancer Society; Doctors Without Borders; March of Dimes; and Wounded Warrior Project, to name a few.
Fenton also partners annually with Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey to provide a car to one lucky student out of 10 finalists who qualify by earning tickets based on their grades, attendance and community involvement.
“Personally and professionally, I, along with my family, have always believed that commitment to the community we live in, work in and play in is extremely important,” he said.
For his good works and business success, Fenton has received numerous awards and recognition. He is most proud of being named Business of the Year by the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce. “It identified us as the premier business in our area and recognized our integrity, commitment and contributions to the community,” he said.
Fenton was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Peter J. McNamara, president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, JoAnn, have two children.