FAIRFIELD — Vallejo Nissan was founded Nov. 16, 1966, by Stephen and Joyce Compagno and was then known as Vallejo Datsun.
Their son Greg Compagno worked in the dealership for years, starting as a janitor, and always knew that one day he would take over the family business. That “one day” that seemed far off in the future when he was attending San Francisco State was accelerated by tragedy.
“My dad passed away when I was 20 years old, so I came back in and began working here full-time,” Compagno said. “I hit the ground running and have been involved in all aspects of the dealership since 1976. Customers often have preconceived notions about how they are going to be treated, especially by the sales staff, but we treat our customers as family and many of them have been buying cars from us since the early ’70s and they keep coming back.”
One preconceived notion that customers often have is that the back-and-forth game of haggling over a price and having the salesman disappear to go “talk with his boss” will take place. Compagno addressed that in not only the culture he cultivated at his dealership, but in the very architecture.
“Years ago, I remember someone said they wanted to talk to the ‘Wizard of Oz’ behind that door because they were talking to people in the showroom but the person behind the door is the one who is really pulling the strings,” Compagno said. “So, when we remodeled our dealership after buying the closed Lincoln Mercury one next door in 2002, we made all of our sales office doors out of glass. My thinking behind that was that we should take those barriers down so customers can see there are no games being played.”
Vallejo resident Ron Jackson has been a return Vallejo Nissan customer for years. He and his wife and extended family have purchased at least 20 vehicles from Compagno’s company.
“I really like that if I have a problem I can talk to anybody there and they will take care of me,” Jackson said. “One day we went on a vacation on a Saturday and we had some car trouble. I have a Nissan Armada and they gave me an Armada as a loaner to go on vacation. That’s the kind of service you don’t get at a lot of places.”
To say that there is a low turnover of employees at Vallejo Nissan is an understatement. The service manager and sales manager who retired a few years ago both had more than 33 years with the dealership. The current service manager and parts manager began working there in their teens and are both now in their mid-40s.
“I typically promote from within because then I know that they know how we want to operate our business and the character we want to present to our customers,” Compagno said. “I have really good employees who are dedicated to us and to our product.”
While huge corporations – some owning 300 or more dealerships across the country – abound, Compagno’s message to potential car buyers is to do their homework.
“I think what consumers need to know is that bigger is not always better. You can go to a big dealership, but you won’t get a better price, you aren’t going to get better service and you aren’t going to be able to walk into the boss’ office and sit down and talk with him,” Compagno said. “There is still merit in shopping with the smaller business because you still get personalized service. We want to treat all our customers the way we’d like to be treated.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.
Address: 3287 Sonoma Blvd., Vallejo
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday