Sambucci Bros. Thrives in New Location
Dan Sambucci Sr. stands between his two sons, Danny Sambucci Jr. and John Sambucci, at the family’s new Flushing, N.Y. location of Sambucci Bros., Inc.
Photo: Glamour Me Studio, Inc.
The building at Sambucci Bros., Inc., in Flushing, N.Y., is so nice that sometimes customers drive right by it. That’s despite its brightly lit signage - four-foot letters displayed prominently on three sides of the brick and glass building.
“Customers are looking for an auto salvage yard, and we don’t exactly look like one,” said Danny Sambucci, Jr. “They walk through the door, and tell me they almost missed it because it looks more like an office building.”
The Sambucci family did not construct the 17,000-square-foot building, but rather acquired it when they moved to this newest location in Flushing, in 2010. It was a step up from their former location in the Iron Triangle, the area in the borough of Queens, N.Y., so nicknamed because of its industrial focus.
“The new location is like night and day,” said Danny Jr., who joked that “one is like a third world country and the other a five star hotel.” His father, Dan Sambucci, Sr. concurred.
“The property is built like a police precinct yard,” Dan Sr. added. “We had to do a lot of modifications to the building, knock down walls and put in shelving for storage.” They kept the elevator, which Dan Sr. said he never personally uses. “I prefer to walk.”
The relocation to Flushing marks a new chapter at Sambucci Bros., a business that started back around 1950 with Dan Sr.’s father, also named Daniel Sambucci, and his uncles.
“My father and his brothers really started a scrap
metal business, not an auto recycling one,” said Dan Sr. “Back then, believe it or not, they were collecting scrap metal by horse and wagon.”
Sons of Italian immigrants, the founders of Sambucci Bros. were on their way to building the American dream. In 1951, the brothers borrowed money from their mother and bought cars and a piece of land in Corona, N.Y. That marked the official transition from scrap to auto salvage.
“In those early days, it really was still a junkyard,” said Dan Sr. “My dad and uncles worked 18-hour days to make it successful.”
Sometime in the 1970s, the business moved a few blocks over, from 34th Avenue to 36th Avenue. But the family made the decision to remain in the Iron Triangle, the small, noisy triangular neighborhood that was home to warehouses, car repair and auto parts stores and other industrial businesses. It was important to founder Daniel Sambucci to be close to his roots.
Family was important to him, too, and he welcomed them in the business. His son, Dan Sr. officially joined the staff in the 1980s. Dan Sr. brought an enthusiasm for the business - and some trendsetting ideas.
“He didn’t like any of them,” remembered Dan Sr. “He was still driving a boom truck which had these archaic hooks on the roof. I wanted to buy a forklift, and he’d say, ‘why do you need a fork lift when we have a perfectly good truck?’ We fought every single day about this, until finally he saw how much more work a machine could do.”
The first front loader arrived in 1985, marking the beginning of a new era at Sambucci Bros.
It became an auto recycling facility specializing in Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other German makes. Today, Sambucci Bros. handles both foreign and domestic and mostly late model.
“We do stock some older parts,” said Dan Sr. “We have a lot of people in New York who are still driving 20-year-old cars. But if you want to sell to body shops, you need all late-model. We try to strike the balance. It’s not about how many cars or parts we do but providing the best quality parts with the best service.”
Sambucci Bros. also made sure that everything passed the environmental “test.”
“This is not just about making money with cars,” emphasized Dan Sr. “We really believe in recycling. We have invested money in the business in new equipment that helps us be as environmentally friendly as possible. Our invoices say ‘go green’ to emphasize that to our customers. I really believe that if everyone does something for the environment, it will make a difference. Every little bit counts.”
Sambucci Bros. is now in its third generation. Founder Daniel Sambucci is in semi-retirement and Dan Sr.’s sons, Danny Jr. and John are now on staff. His wife, Christine, and sister, Angela, are also an integral part of the business, as is a cousin, Sammy Sambucci, who has been with the company 15 to 20 years.
But the original Corona location in Queens is no more. In 2007, the city announced a plan to transform the Iron Triangle into a $3 billion retail, office and residential district. It ordered the businesses to leave.
“Initially, we fought it,” said Danny, Jr. “We were one of 10 major businesses who banded together to save the Iron Triangle.”
But as his grandfather, quoted in a New York Times article, put it, “The city could fight us for 100 years. We’re going to run out of money, but they’re not.” In 2008, the Sambucci family conceded, and announced plans to sell the property to the city. They bought the space in Flushing and set to work. It took them a year to get ready.
But now they’re up and running. They also opened another location in Garden City Park in Long Island, N.Y., in February 2012. “We needed some extra space,” said Dan Sr., “so we bought an existing yard, cleaned it up, and changed everything.”
Customer response has been very positive.
“People who used to visit us at the old location will come in, and talk about how much different it is,” admitted Danny Jr. The staff has increased, too. There are now 15 employees in Flushing and 9 in Long Island. It seemed this was an American dream success story destined for a happy ending.
Then Hurricane Sandy came. Just before Halloween in 2012, the “Superstorm” made landfall on the East Coast. The Sambucci family prepared as best they could.
“We have car trees in both yards,” said Danny Jr. “We took a lot of cars off the top shelves and strapped everything down. We stored machinery in the garage or under the shed. In our Flushing location, we tied the fence to a flatbed truck.”
Luckily, the damage wasn’t too great. The locations never lost electricity, but the storm ripped off half of the roof at the Long Island facility. The greatest challenge following the storm was how to deliver parts, because of rationed gasoline, long lines at the pump and few stations open. Ever resilient, the Sambucci Bros. took a creative approach.
“We drained the cars in our yard looking for ounces of gasoline,” said Danny Jr. “But we got through it.”
The same “can do” spirit will carry them forward into the future. For a business that once balked at purchasing a front loader, Sambucci Bros. is now at the forefront of technology. Its Facebook page has 2,000 fans, and posts photos of current vehicles being dismantled. Its eBay store has a strong following and it is also in touch with customers via Instagram.
“We want to connect with our customers,” said Danny Jr. “We’re building relationships so that they’ll keep coming back. That’s what this business is all about.”