Perched on the front desk in its usual position, the photo of Rocco Sangiamo is a constant reminder of a man who, 40 years ago, founded the Unico Spring Corporation that has become a staple in the South Ozone Park community.
It is under the steady gaze of Sangiamo, who passed away at the age of 83 in 2007, that his family members who now run the business draw inspiration to continue growing the company that has evolved from employing three people at its inception in 1973 to having more than 20 workers as it celebrates it 40th anniversary.
Sangiamo’s daughter, Linda, and her husband, Jim DeLia, now own the business at 113-04 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park, and the two are working hard to carry out Sangiamo’s vision to new heights. As the couple celebrated the company’s 40th anniversary last week, business, in the form of truck drivers, bus companies and body part seekers, kept calling.
“I never thought it would get like this,” said Jim, 60, who has worked at the establishment since 1982. “At one point, all we did was springs on cars and little vans. Now, we don’t even touch cars. It’s only really big heavy trucks, trailers, tractors and buses.”
At one point on Monday, the phone rang 10 times in less than 20 minutes – and Linda said they are often even busier than that.
“For the most part, we’re jumping,” said Linda, 56, who worked for the business since her college days.
Unico Spring services trucks and heavy transportation, offering work on drive shaft rebuilds, springs, air bags, shocks, wheel alignment and many other services. The labor performed is primarily for under the vehicle, steering or machine shop work.
Business comes from all over, including city sanitation vehicles and correction officer vehicles from Rikers Island.
“As time went on we started branching out to different things,” said Linda.
As the company evolved, it also expanded.
About seven years ago, Unico Spring opened its front counter and entrance, adding a different dynamic. She added that there are “really three separate businesses under one roof ”: the front counter, where parts are purchased, the machine shop and the welding area.
Sangiamo passed away a year after the front counter area was added, but his daughter is more than happy he was able to at least see it through.
“I’m just real glad he got to see everything that was done,” she said. “He worked until the day he died and at this point, even if he was 90, he’d still be here working. He was that type of person.”
Unico Spring is actually a third-generation business now, as the couple’s 26-year-old son Jason “wears a million hats” for the company. It makes Linda even prouder, she said, to know her father’s company will be carried out even further.
“It’s really special that my father’s vision has been extended to his grandchild,” she added.”
One of the few challenges that Unico Spring faces is a competitor selling parts that are often less efficient for cheaper prices.
“The mechanics don’t want to use the good stuff, they want to use cheap stuff,” Jim said. “I can’t sell a lot to repair guys because my parts cost too much because I’m buying the best I can get which is made in America. Some parts that are made elsewhere look beautiful but they last six months. What we sell is the best you can get.”
“It’s the old thing of quality versus cost,” Linda added. “You buy a good American spring, it’ll last you a long time. If you buy a cheap knockoff, well, you’ll have to change it every six months.”
Yet the issue doesn’t stop the couple from Howard Beach from arriving at their shop every morning at 6 a.m. And they usually don’t close the front desk, where Sangiamo’s photo is displayed, until after 5 p.m.
“You couldn’t do this if you didn’t really love what you’re doing,” Jim said.
By Will Sammon