When You’re Here …You’re Family
The story of how one man’s legacy lives on through his friends.
Back in the late 1990s, the Ferrari dealership in Great Neck on Long Island – the one that replaced the dealership in New York City – was to be closed down. Gianni Agnelli appointed Count Roffredo Gaetani D’Aragona Lovatelli to take it over and relocate it. Ferrari North America asked the then-parts manager Giacomo Ciaccia to take inventory in Great Neck. Giacomo – or Jack, as his friends call him – met Roffredo and they instantly hit it off.
Roffredo, born 4 March 1953, moved to America in the ’80s and immediately began playing with cars. He was a thin man with a thick Italian accent; a charmer who backed down from no one but never talked down to anyone. He had style and charisma and taste – a former boxer who dated Ivana Trump for a while. Roffredo was the epitome of idolatry – the man who everyone else wanted to be and be like. He could often be seen in the dealership, a cigarette firmly wedged between his fingers, while he chatted away with some customer. There was no need for electricity because his smile lit up every room he entered
Gaetani moved the dealership to a new building in Glen Cove. He asked Jack to join him as the General Manager. With this new chapter in Ferrari history on Long Island, came a new level of customer focus. It had style and a familial air that let everyone know they were welcome at Ferrari of Long Island. Gaetani hired the best to join the team. He employed Luigi Scala – an unsurpassed technician from another Ferrari service center. From there, he built an unrivaled service department, all managed by Anthony Simone.
Ferrari of Long Island quickly grew to become an establishment that was known from coast to coast. The tractor trailers (not one, but two!) for the racing team showed up everywhere, and soon everyone knew the folks from FoLI. The showroom itself was packed with a constantly-refreshing rotation of cars. The service center, located just down the street, was always busy. The dealership was never empty. It was a hangout spot for owners and enthusiasts alike. Among other things, the cappuccino machine was a direct indication that Ferrari of Long Island was, for many, a home away from home.
Before long, Ferrari of Long Island’s customer base spanned the country. Not only were customers flying in from out of town, out-of-staters who already had a Ferrari (or Ferraris) were shipping their cars to FoLI for service. Business was good and it only got better.
Then, nearly a decade after nurturing a once-stagnant business into a thriving hub for racers, owners and admirers across the country, tragedy struck without warning. On 23 December 2005, while in Italy to visit his family for the holidays, Roffredo Gaetani was killed in a car accident. The untimely demise of a friend and a legend was a harsh reality for all who knew him.
Without its patriarch, the Ferrari of Long Island family was grief-stricken. But Gaetani’s efforts would not be in vain. Jack and the rest of the crew would carry on the traditions and values instilled by Roffredo. Customer service would not falter; the race team would not waver; and the enthusiasm and joy of Ferrari ownership would not be set aside. Roffredo’s name and hard work would continue through Ciaccia and the rest of the Ferrari of Long Island team.
The following year, a new chapter in the life of Ferrari of Long Island began, and with that came a regime change. A new owner, attracted to Ferrari of Long Island’s roaring and continued success, stepped in and bought Ferrari of Long Island from Roffredo’s family. This changing of the guard also fostered an approach to business that differed from Roffredo’s way of doing things. The tried and true old school methods passed on to Jack from Roffredo would not yield or conform to a cold new age of “moving metal”. This impasse gave birth to a new era of automotive excellence in New York.
Jack left Ferrari of Long Island and set out to maintain the level of perfection to which all of his clients were accustomed. Another Ferrari franchise on Long Island would’ve been superfluous – but there was certainly room for a different marque. At the same time, vying for a spot in the American super car market, Koenigsegg was looking for an east coast dealer and service center. A few phone calls and a prosperous relationship commenced. Jack met with Christian von Koenigsegg and Universal Autosports was born.
A condition of the purchase of Ferrari of Long Island was that the showroom needed to be relocated. Fate intervened and once the dealership moved, Jack quickly bought the building in which he worked with his late friend for so many years. The ink was still wet on the purchase papers when renovations began. The showroom was completely redone, and the basement was converted to a full service center. Now customers only needed to go to one place for sales and service. A blank canvas soon shone the colors of Universal’s aspirations. And with each brush stroke, an old friend and colleague was brought over from Ferrari of Long Island. One by one, brothers were called upon to fill different positions until the family was once again whole. Everyone – the service technicians Luigi Scala and Kent Woodworth, Creative Director Michael Lussos, Service Manager Anthony Simone, and the sales staff – moved from Ferrari of Long Island, and completed the old family.
With annual production of 25 units per year, Koenigsegg requires time to meet the needs of its customers. With a yearly U.S. allocation of ten cars – and only three through Universal Autosports – the UAS team can’t survive on Swedish sports cars alone. So the showroom is a veritable garden of European exotica: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, Aston Martin and more. The service center is host to Ferraris from almost every decade. One bay is busy with a pontoon-fendered Testa Rossa while the next one over is the temporary home for an F50. The combined experience of the Ferrari-, Maserati- and Porsche-certified master technicians exceeds half a century.
Even when it’s full of people, the showroom still feels a bit empty without Roffredo in it. No airy waft from his cigarette; no echo of his hearty laughter. The illuminated glass plaque that celebrates his memory is no substitute for the flesh and blood of a friend. But his passion and traditional values live on through everyone in the building, and through all of their efforts. The background of red and yellow Ferraris is a sharp contrast to the stout blue Koenigsegg CCX at the front of the showroom. And beyond its representation of the evolution of sports cars, it also bears with it a continuance of elevated customer dedication and satisfaction. Universal Autosports isn’t the new kid on the block – it’s the same kid you always knew, only all grown up.