A family story, a Ridgefield story: Pamby’s thrives over 70 years
From a two-man repair shop where one brother was a mechanic and the other did body work to a family-owned business with three locations selling and servicing four brands of motor vehicles and employing 48 people — six of them representing two generations of the Pambianchi family — Pamby Motors has grown and thrived in Ridgefield for 70 years.
“The business was started by my father, Matty, and my uncle, Harry, in 1948,” John Pambianchi said. “They started at 6 Bailey Avenue, in downtown Ridgefield. My father was an auto body repairman, and my uncle was a mechanic.”
Today, John, Mike and Fred Pambianchi are the senior family members, and the younger generation includes Tim, Nick and Andy — Pambianchis all.
“We’re on our third generation,” John Pambianchi said. “It’s good. It was my father’s intention — he built this business to leave to his children, and it’s our intention to do the same. The boys seem to like the business. They’re good at it. It’s their turn to carry the ball.”
It’s a family tradition.
“I started, in high school,” Mike Pambianchi said. “There were probably 12, and eight of us were related.”
“When I started, there were seven,” added John. “Five out of the seven were in the family. I had a great experience working with my father and uncles and aunt.”
The younger generation likes it, too.
“It’s interesting. I’ve learned a lot,” said Tim Pambianchi. “If you have a question and need help with something, it’s easy to find.”
“Definitely fortunate to work with uncles and cousins,” said Nick Pambianchi.
“I was his favorite uncle — until he started working here,” Mike Pambianchi said with a laugh.
Having the family work together works for the business. There’s longevity and continuity.
“It’s always good when customers see the same faces when they come in for service. Usually they know their name,” John Pambianchi said.
“There’s either one or more us in each department — service, sales or body shop,” he added.
And it’s not just the family members. Many employees stay for years — sometimes decades, working together with the family.
“We’re very fortunate in the people who’ve worked for us for years,” John Pambianchi said. “It makes it easy. They know our processes and what they’re expected to do to gain customer confidence.”
Packards to Jeeps
Studebakers and Packards were the makes Pamby’s first carried when they branched into automobile sales in 1954, when Otto joined Matty and Harry in the business and they moved from the Bailey Avenue in the village to Route 35 at the corner of Grove Street and Danbury Road — still the site of Pamby’s gas station.
Across the decades and at a series of locations, mostly on Danbury Road, Pamby Motors has sold a smorgasbord of automobile makes — Lincolns, Mercurys, American Motors’ Ramblers, Renaults from France, even Yugos.
Today, new Jeeps, Chryslers, Dodges and RAM trucks are on sale from the showroom on Route 7, along with a variety of used vehicles.
“Jeep has always been our mainstay. It’s an iconic model,” John Pambianchi said.
“There’s different trends,” he added. “Right now RAM trucks are a big seller — that’s probably the hottest truck on the market.”
“Pickup trucks and SUVs are the trend right now — and have been, I’d say for the last 10 years, at least,” said Mike Pambianchi.
Some of the locations remain part of the business — the Pamby’s service center and parts operates at the corner of Danbury Road and Copps Hill Road, and Pamby gas station at the corner of Grove Street is still where auto body work is done.
The flagship location is the Route 7 showroom, built in 1996.
Adapting to change
While there’s a lot of continuity, part of what makes that happen is the capacity and willingness to adapt.
As automobiles have become more complex and the role of computer technology has increased, Pamby Motors keeps staff — including family members — up to date on the latest innovations.
“As far as anything with regard to service, or the body shop, there’s extensive training they do,” said MIke Pambianchi. “There’s live-training and updates they have, to do to keep the certification up — the manufacturer is very strict on that.”
Even the sales aspect of the business is always evolving.
“The automobile business has changed with the integration of the Internet and social media,” said Mike Pambianchi.
“You get people from all over the country looking at your inventory and buying cars from you,” Fred Pambianchi said.
“What’s the farthest away we’ve sold a car?’ Mike asked.
“California, Texas, Florida,” said Fred.
Of course, it can work the other way, too — local people buying cars from far off.
But Pamby’s has a strategy to keep its local customers.
“Have every model in inventory,” John said. “You’ve got to give them good service. You’ve got to give them competitive pricing.”
“It’s pretty simple, when you think about it,” said Mike.
And it’s been working.
“We get a lot of referral business,” John said, “from customers giving our name out to other customers.”