RAYNHAM, MA—When opportunity knocks, the Mastria family has a history of answering.
Rick Mastria, a third-generation automotive dealer, runs the Raynham-based auto group that features the Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Mazda, Nissan, and Subaru brands.
When Rick was 3, he was told he was going to grow up and become a Chevrolet dealer.
A few years later, he quizzed his parents, “Why do I have to go to school if I’m going to be a Chevy dealer?”
To this day, he can guarantee that line will get a chuckle.
However, for Mastria, there was no joking about education. Bridgewater-Raynham High, Stonehill College and, in 1975, Chevrolet’s “Dealers’ Sons School” all were in his rearview mirror before he joined the automotive business full time.
Opportunity first had knocked for the family after World War II when Mastria’s maternal grandfather, Michael Bove Jr., relocated his family from New Jersey and took over a dealership that Chevrolet wanted to close in Fall River, establishing Bove Chevrolet in Seekonk.
His parents then made the family’s first automotive business expansion, opening Bove Chevrolet in Newport, RI.
In those days, GM only permitted a dealer to be the principal owner of one franchise. “They were afraid to give dealers multiple points for fear they would monopolize pricing,” says Mastria.
Still, opportunity continued to knock.
On Dec. 29, 1955, his dad, Richard Mastria Sr., opened Richard Chevrolet in Taunton, where young Rick worked after school, Saturdays, and on school vacations.
It seemed that his parents’ vision was going to be correct and Rick would become a Chevy dealer.
However, opportunity knocked twice before that.
His dad wanted to sell the Chevy dealership and retire.
So instead, at age 26, Rick Mastria became a dealer, buying the former Bugle Buick in Taunton and establishing Mastria Buick on the site of a former gas station on Rte. 104 in Raynham.
“The former Buick dealership was housed in a multi-story building in Taunton, much like Peter Fuller’s Cadillac-Olds on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston,” says Mastria. When the Arab oil embargo hit, his heating bill went from $300 a month to $4600 a month and he decided to close up shop.
“For us, starting out as a single point dealership in a remote spot helped establish what has become our enduring concept of customer satisfaction,” he says. “People didn’t happen upon us out there. We had to have referrals and repeat customers.”
Opportunity knocked again when Bill Powers’ Pontiac-GMC in Taunton became available and Mastria consolidated the three GM franchises at his remote location. “I thought that would be it,” he says. “We’d built a following. I was happy.”
Life was good. Mastria and wife Kelly had sons Richie (now 26) and Vincent (23). Sooner or later they’d follow in the business. “I intentionally didn’t have them working here until they were old enough to have a job,” he says.
Funny thing about that Opportunity Fellow. He kept knocking: the Mastria Auto Group was about to be formed. It’s become a family enterprise with his sister Michele Scaife as director of business development and brother Robert as the CFO. “Plus nephews biting at our heels,” says Mastria.
GM was looking to open a Saturn store in the area and was intrigued by Mastria’s record of customer satisfaction. The new Saturn brand would have a specially designed showroom, fixed prices, and be long on customer satisfaction.
“They interviewed our customers and employees, then granted us the franchise and helped us build a facility on Rte. 44,” says Mastria.
“It was an unbelievable awakening for us to be doing business in such a high-traffic area,” he says.
That was when the local car business took off, and he realized he was in the real estate business, too.
“Everyone wanted to be the next Saturn,” says Mastria. “Before you knew it Honda (Silko), Chevrolet (McGee) and Chrysler (Classic) all built around us. Suddenly we had our own Auto Mile in Raynham.”
He took another opportunity and moved his GM franchises to Rte. 44, later adding a Cadillac franchise out of Brockton to give him a rare Buick-Cadillac-GMC-Pontiac store.
In the mid-‘80s, Perini Construction built an industrial park on a 360-acre site that Allied Stores (which then owned Jordan Marsh) once had envisioned for a shopping mall. Wetland considerations left several parcels available along Rte. 44 that were accessible from the highway but not from the industrial park. In other words, ideal auto dealership material.
Mastria beat Ernie Boch to one parcel, one that Subaru was eying. Mastria not only bought the parcel but also the Subaru franchise from Boch.
The chance to buy the adjoining parcel along Rte. 44 arose about the time opportunity knocked yet again to say Rene St. Yves was selling his Nissan dealership in nearby Berkley.
“We were working out of a trailer for 18 months while our state-of-the-art Nissan building was being built,” says Mastria. “We wondered if we’d gone crazy.”
The real test came in late 2008 when GM filed for bankruptcy. “In June, we got a letter saying we were losing Saturn, Pontiac, and Cadillac,” he says. “All in one day. Fortunately we kept Buick and GMC, and GM rescinded its decision on Caddy almost immediately.”
With Saturn closed, Mastria found himself with an empty Saturn building.
Opportunity again knocked.
A local Mazda dealership became available.
“It was a perfect fit,” says Mastria.
In the course of conversation, Mastria mentions he’s been a musician all his life and sings and plays keyboard in a ’60’s rock band, Paradyce. He also plays basketball regularly and likes to golf.
That would be a nice side note for most dealers, but Mastria, does it all with one arm.
That was a hard knock from life, one Mastria again turned into an opportunity.
“If you want to play me in a golf match, you have to give me a stroke a hole,” he says, “Or play me one-handed. Your choice.”