With six decades of experience under his belt, Tony Gullo knows the auto industry inside and out. His first job was at a West Texas dealership in 1955; today his family business, the Gullo Auto Group, includes dealerships in Texas and Louisiana.
An entrepreneurial spirit
Gullo comes from an entrepreneurial family. His father, Dominic Gullo, immigrated from Palmi, Italy in 1916 and dabbled in numerous business ventures becoming, as Gullo describes, a self-made man. Gullo said he was the first in his family to show any interest in cars.
“It was kind of an unusual profession if you think about it,” Gullo said. “I think back in time when I was at St. Thomas High School [in Houston], and I looked around at the people in my class [of] about 180, I don’t know if I can recall one other person getting in the car business. Most people back then would go into insurance or something to that effect.”
But cars always held his interest, beginning with his first car, a 1935 Ford Coupe with a rumble seat, he said.
After a short stint working at a dealership in West Texas, Gullo returned to Houston in 1956 to work as a salesman with Kreiger Motor Co. In 1970, he began establishing his own business, Gullo and Hass. The partnership with Fred Haas ended after 22 years when Gullo decided to sell his shares and acquired a Toyota dealership of his own in Conroe.
Today, he lives in Magnolia with his wife, Dolly, and owns Ford, Toyota, and Mazda dealerships in the Conroe area, three of which are run by his sons, Corky, Sparky and Tony Gullo, Jr. Work at the dealership is time-consuming and often demanding, Gullo said. He credits his wife for maintaining balance at home and being supportive.
“I have the most wonderful wife in the world,” he said. “I was a workaholic and still do a big part of that—I work every day when I don’t have to, and I just have to give her credit.”
An avid car collector, Gullo still maintains his first classic car, a 1930 Ford Model A purchased in 1962. A private museum in his Magnolia home features vintage automobiles from around the world. The museum is typically reserved for family functions, however, Gullo offers the space to area organizations or charitable events.
Not just a business owner and auto enthusiast, Gullo’s passions include a love of his community. His involvement spans multiple organizations and initiatives, but he said he is especially proud of the dealership’s efforts with Montgomery County families and youth.
Every year, the Gullo Auto Group invites 55-60 low-income families from around Montgomery County to attend the annual Gullo Christmas for Kids, an event with food, games and Santa Claus—usually played by Gullo himself. Each family receives a Christmas tree, ornaments, lights, a meal and a $400-$600 gift certificate for Target.
“The teachers [from area schools] give us the names of families—these are people who wouldn’t have a Christmas if it wasn’t for us,” Gullo said.
The Gullos also provide scholarships for high school students and sponsor a reading program, Learning by Earning, where third-grade students can receive $1 per book they read and are tested on, he said. The group has awarded $14,000 to students who have read more than 13,000 books over the last few years.
Dona Hunt, executive director of the Greater Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, said Gullo is embedded in the community and always participates in Christmas parades and other chamber events. Later this year, he will receive the Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Club of Magnolia, the club’s highest honor to those who represent service above self, she said.
“Mr. Gullo is just a pillar of our community, and he has been a support for many, many years of various organizations,” she said. “He has a great community spirit and [wants to] belong and be a part of where he lives.”