Through Rough Waters, Autoland Toyota President Proves to Be a ‘Beacon of Light’


Mark Montenero isn’t the type to focus on the negative. He’s a glass-is-half-full kind of guy who knows how to translate his optimism into action.

So, when life as we knew it took a big turn earlier this year, the president of Autoland Toyota did what he does best — adapted to help his employees and the community around them.

“His heart is as big as he is,” says Joe Catena, vice president and general manager of the dealership, who’s worked with Montenero for 20 years. “He puts everyone else first.”

Taking Quick Action

And in typical form, Montenero was swift in his response to COVID-19 — acting even before New Jersey went into its official lockdown.

He created a daily email to keep employees in the know on the latest COVID-19 and community updates.

Big Changes Fast
Mark Montenero (far right) and Joe Catena (far left) stand at the entryway of Autoland Toyota, where glass partitions were put up to allow safe interactions between employees and customers.

When it came to the dealership itself, he changed the ventilation system, initiated a cleanup and sterilization process and outfitted the campus with glass partitions and digital keypads to encourage social distancing between departments.

Then, he honed in his efforts on some of those hit hardest — teachers and local health care workers.

Montenero teamed up with Q104.3, an iHeartRadio classic rock station, asking residents to nominate teachers and health care workers who were positively impacting lives.

Every morning for two weeks, the radio station shared one of their selected stories. And Montenero called the recipients to personally thank them, giving them each $500.

“All these workers, they deserve to feel special,” says Montenero, whose own daughter is a first grade teacher. “They deserve to be recognized. Their stories were shared with millions of people on the radio. And that’s what this was about — taking the time to publicly acknowledge their sacrifice and hard work.”

A New Way to Break Bread

And while Montenero is known for his work with the community, his coworkers say his kindheartedness starts close to home — at the workplace.

Employees at Autoland Toyota felt firsthand the deep and real loss COVID-19 has dealt so many across the nation.

“The store lost an employee of 30 years to COVID,” Catena says. “It hit us very hard.”

It’s times like these one can get lost in the darkness, but employees praised Montenero’s leadership.

‘Let’s Make It Happen’
Joe Catena (left) says when things need to get done, “Boom, Mark Montenero (right) makes it happen. People Don’t have to sit and wait on anything.”

“He’s a beacon of light,” says Stevens Pierre, a TMNA district sales manager.

“It was Mark’s focus to make sure everyone felt safe, protected and comfortable,” Catena says. “Money was not the concern, families were.”

And that remains Montenero’s focus as he works to keep those around him uplifted and connected.

“I’m a hugging person,” he says. “I’m used to hugging people when I say hello. I’m used to breaking bread. But during this social distancing, obviously a lot of that has gone out the window.”

So, in his effort to continue “breaking bread,” he’s set up weekly social-distancing lunches at the dealership — providing hundreds of meals from local restaurants for his staff.

“We are all trying to be as virtual and safe as possible,” Montenero says. “But I don’t look at it as we’ve had a disconnect. I look at it as we’re more connected than ever.”


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