Dominic Martino is as good as gold.
As general manager of his family’s 23-year-old collision repair facility, Gold Coast Auto Body located in the heart of Chicago, he has taken his passion for service to a whole other level. Dominic’s story is not unlike many Americans whose families arrived in the U.S. in hopes of making a better life. His parents immigrated from Italy in their 20s without a dime to their names, but his father eventually learned the collision repair business. After 28 years of working hard, he had the opportunity, at the age of 54, to go into business for himself.
Now, two decades later, the Martinos attribute their success, not only to the work ethic Dominic’s dad instilled, but also to an authentic appreciation for those who selflessly sacrifice their own lives for Americans. Dominic explained that without such selflessness, the opportunities he and his family have had wouldn’t be a reality today. “What we have established in business wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the men and women who volunteer for the armed services; so we can have the freedoms we have in this country that allow immigrants to come from other countries as mine did; to learn the language; to learn to love our country; and to learn that hard work ethic, which is something I learned from my father.”
That simple, yet bountiful education was just what it took for a young Dominic to gain a prideful spirit at such an early age—a pride that eventually rooted into his heart and translated years later into a genuine adoration for America’s military. “I’ve always had an appreciation and a love for the military. Some little boys had sports figures as their heroes—I always really looked up to soldiers and the military [as mine].”
Adulthood meant many more opportunities for Dominic to mix, mingle and make the acquaintance of men whose personal stories continued nurturing that patriotic seed planted during his youth. In fact, after 9/11, Dominic and Gold Coast showed their support for the military by honoring veterans and giving out camouflage t-shirts in their shop—the effort resulted in many young vets coming in and continuing to request the patriotic swag.
As the years moved on, Dominic continued to use his family’s auto body repair facility as a vehicle to drive greater awareness and showcase commitment and pride for our military. However, it wasn’t until he befriended a client who was formerly part of the special operations community that his involvement outside of the shop began. “As my interest continued, [my friend] explained to me his love for our country and his patriotism. [But he also explained] the government isn’t capable of taking care of [our vets] the way they need to be taken care of.”
With his interest fueled into doing more for vets, he did some research and became involved with the Navy Seal Foundation. Then, earlier this year, a CBS radio ad sales representative approached him. The shop GM confessed that he normally wouldn’t be interested in advertising; but he would in fact be interested in something that would align Gold Coast with a military charity. The rep did some research and came back, not only introducing him to Boot Campaign and its services to the military, but also with a pitch that would raise money and awareness for the cause. The idea: to run an ad the month of May, which happened to be National Military Appreciation Month, and simply promote Gold Coast’s support for the military’s month by donating $50 for every car that came through and mentioned hearing the ad. As an extra show of support, he also ensured that all of his most visible employees in the shop had a pair of Boot Campaign’s signature boots to don throughout the month.
Two hundred cars came through because of the ad, and true to his word, Gold Coast donated $10,000 to Boot Campaign on its first-ever event on behalf of the foundation. With the success of Gold Coast’s effort, Dominic is encouraged and excited to do more. As a businessman in his community, he does want other business leaders to also look for ways to support our vets, and explained that it can be as simple as using local resources to hire veterans transitioning from military life to civilian life—something he also did two years ago with two of his current, highly-regarded, veteran employees.
The golden opportunity, in Dominic’s mind, is just for others to find a way to pay our military’s service forward. “I encourage all business owners to get involved at some level, whether you’re going to be employing veterans or donating directly to them; or facilitating or supporting a charity; or even a little bit of all of the above,” he expressed. “I just don’t think there’s enough that we can do for these people.”