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FRANK

HOLTHAM JR. A Master Motorist

T

he owner and general manager of Toyota of Hackensack and Glen Toyota in Fair Lawn has been a car guy his entire life, and in the last 20 years, his love for engines and transportation has taken him behind the wheel of boats, Harleys, choppers and even planes. He is a true adventurist—an adrenaline junkie—and he gets just as much excitement from taking off in his turboprop Piper Cheyenne as he does from waking up and interacting with customers and managing over 180 employees, or his “soldiers” as he likes to call them.

Road Map to Success

Holtham, 52, is originally from Mahwah, and now lives in Saddle River with his wife, Kate, and their chocolate Labrador Pizon, the official mascot of Toyota of Hackensack. Selling cars is in Holtham’s genes. His father, Frank Holtham, Sr., started out as a used car dealer, before becoming one of the first people to sell Toyotas in the United States back when the Japanese imports were first introduced to domestic markets more than 40 years ago. XX

BC The Magazine // November/December 2011


Back in June of 1969, Toyota approached Holtham, Sr. and gave him two Toyota Coronas on consignment. The Toyota representatives told him that after he sold them, he could have the titles. It didn’t take long to move them off the lot, and the rest is history. One of those Toyotas eventually found its way back to the Holtham family. About 20 years ago, an older woman took the blue Corona to Glen Toyota for service, and Holtham took it in on trade when she decided to buy a new car. He had it restored to its original condition when Holtham Sr. was just getting started selling new cars. Now it sits in Holtham’s warehouse, but every now and then he’ll take it out for a spin. “I just think it’s really cool that I have one of the first ten cars that my dad sold in his entire life,” said Holtham.

Overcoming Life’s Bumps

There was, however, one Toyota that they couldn’t restore. After those first two were sold, Frank Sr. took his son down to Port Newark to pick up some more Toyotas. Back then, cars were loaded off the ships with a crane. Apparently the system was somewhat flawed. “They had the ropes underneath this car, and they were loading it down and all of a sudden it fell off and it got jammed between the boat and the dock,” said Holtham, recounting one of his first Toyota memories. Holtham wouldn’t let one hiccup stand in the way of his love of cars, however. Always a glass half full kind of guy, Holtham laughs when he recalls that incident in Newark. Though that car couldn’t be sal-

vaged, Holtham would spend his high school years buying up used cars and then selling them with his father. He would buy a car with a blown engine, fix it up and sell it. For a 17-year-old kid at Mahwah High School, he was making pretty good money. When he was a senior in high school in the late ’70s, Holtham Sr. sent his son down to a car auction in Bordentown with a dealer tag. The instructions were simple: sell the car and return in a new one. This was right when Smokey and the Bandit starring Burt Reynolds was a smash hit in theaters, so it seemed logical that the teenager would win the bid for a black Pontiac Trans Am with an eagle on the hood, just like the one Bo “Bandit” Darville drove. “I got that home with the stereo kicking,” said Holtham of his prized purchase. His father hadn’t seen the movie, and couldn’t grasp how anyone would want such a ridiculous muscle car. “My Dad wanted to kill me. He chased me around the entire driveway,” Holtman Jr. reminisced.

But the teenager was right, and they sold it in two days, making more money than either had expected.

Dealership Leadership

As this early experience illustrates, Holtham Jr. has a knack for business, and surrounding himself with the right people is another strength. Back in 1981, a friend of his father’s wanted to sell his dealership, Leonard Toyota in River Edge. They agreed to sell it to Frank, Jr. There was one problem: He was only 21 years old. While he was more than capable of running the place, Toyota rejected the initial business proposal due to his youth. They drew up some new papers, and the former owner technically stayed on as part owner and mentor for a year, before Holtham assumed complete control. When Holtham became owner of Leonard Toyota, he immediately revitalized a stagnant store. He brought in all new people, including the general manager from Glen Toyota, his father’s dealership, who taught

BC The Magazine // November/December 2011

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Holtham Jr. the business of sales. “It was a sleeper store because it was sleeper people,” said the younger Holtham, who fired all the old salesmen puffing on cigarettes while sitting down on the showroom floor. It was unacceptable to him, and he turned it around quickly. Holtham recently found his original business statement when he was renovating his office in Hackensack. In that first month, November of 1981, Holtham sold 19 new cars and three used ones. Not bad for a young kid! Leonard Toyota took off under Holtham’s hands-on management. Soon, business was booming, and he eventually expanded to the space next door. That’s not to say it’s always been a smooth road. Holtham has

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faced adversity along the way, but like any great businessman, he knows how to deal with it with a cool head so he comes out on top. For instance, in 1999, a massive flood from Hurricane Floyd filled the showroom in River Edge with four feet of water. He needed a new place, and found out that a Cadillac dealership was for sale. Holtham and the previous owner agreed on a number, shook hands and a month later in November 1999, Toyota of Hackensack was born. Since then, his business has seen tremendous growth. Holtham is a Toyota Board of Governors dealer, meaning that he’s one of the top 60 dealers in the country. This year, Toyota of Hackensack expects to sell 4,500 cars, and Holtham will love every moment of it. “I just love cars. I love the look under the hood,” said Holtham, who once worked in the body shop for his Dad. “It’s fun to see how many cars we move out of here. It’s just amazing.”

Strong Support System

Adding to the enjoyment factor is the fact that Holtham surrounds himself with a sup-

BC The Magazine // November/December 2011

portive and positive workforce. His family also is involved in the business. His daughter Melissa works with him in the office, and his son Frank works in the business development center. His sisters Catherine and Patricia are part owners of Glen Toyota. And Holtham only hires people who wake up and love to come to work, and who always make customer satisfaction a priority. A technology buff, Holtham makes sure the business and personnel stay ahead of the curve through new ways to increase performance, service and marketability. In 1977, he convinced his Dad to use a computer system. Now, Holtham uses Facebook, Twitter, SEO (search engine optimization) and smart phone technology like Q.R. codes to stay in touch with his clientele in the digital age. “He shows you a vision and a path and he never fails at it,” said Fred Radulic, the general sales manager at Toyota of Hackensack, who has known Holtham for over ten years, and has worked with him for three and a half. “He looks at something and finds all the positives in it and takes those positives and just runs with it,” added Radulic, 39, who is training to become Holtham’s first general manager.

Life Rushes

This industrious businessman also knows how to play hard. Holtham, who owns two planes, regularly flies down to Miami and the Bahamas for the occasional extended weekend. When he got


started, the freedom of the air was a way to deal with life’s stresses, and he soon found out he loved it. “It was the freedom of just getting up into the sky and going and doing whatever the hell you wanted to do and go wherever you wanted to go,” said Holtham, who became a licensed pilot in 1993. Recently he took his dog Pizon for his maiden voyage. On land, he enjoys tournament fishing and riding motorcycles. Last year he caught five 650-pound Marlins down at the Bahamas Billfish Competition. He has a police bike that he rides for the Bergen County Sherriff’s Office, and every now and then you can catch Holtham in a parade. A true animal lover, Holtham donates to the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center. He also sits on the Board of Trustees at Hackensack University Medical Center, and contributes to the Molly Diabetes Education and Management Center for Adults and Children. Holtham has come a long way from the days when he would change oil and tires for his Dad. A well-rounded Bergen County resident, Holtham always does his part to keep the county going strong. There is no end in sight for his business, or his personal and charitable endeavors. The man has no speed limit. “I walk in the door, and I get that rush,” said Holtham. “I’m a million miles an hour when I’m here.”

Justin Davidson, a graduate of

New York University, is a regular contributor to BC THE MAG.

BC The Magazine // November/December 2011

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