Celebrating the American Dream

Aug 03, 2022 594

BY: Nick Lettini

It is hard to believe that 53 years ago my parents, Frank and Angela Lettini, ventured out on their own to open Frank’s Automotive. This is a brief story about the hard work and dedication of two people working together and making sacrifices to fulfill their American Dream.

Dad and Mom both immigrated to Sacramento between 1958 and 1959. Dad from Basilicata and Mom from Sicily. They left war-torn Italy to find better lives and greater opportunities. It was here in `1961 where they first met. During the summer of 1966, dad married his beautiful bride and together they set of on their journey. Over the next two year’s they would see their family double with the birth of me and my brother Ray.

Dad was working for another dealer at the time but wanted to venture out on his own. With Mom, they decided it was time to start their own business. By the Fall of 1969 they opened. Franks Automotive at 48th and Folsom Boulevard. The location was perfect, in the heart of Italian East Sacramento, a great neighborhood with young families.

The building was less than perfect. The floors were rutted, and no relief was given from the heat during the summer or cold in the winter. Nonetheless, they took great pride in calling it their own. Their first hires were my uncles, Enzo Castellana, Elio Lettini and Angelo Sardo. My aunt Carmela Sardo became the office manager. They too came to the States with the same hard work ethic and values as my parents.

Together they kept the German cars of East Sacramento in fine-tune. Soon they outgrew their location. During the fall of 1972 they purchased land at 52nd and Folsom Blvd. There they built what is now their current location. By July 4th in 1973 everything was moved over from the old location and they opened their doors.

During those early years, mom would bring dad his lunch and dinner. During the evenings, while my father was working, she would bathe us in the washbasin, put us in our pajamas and lay us down in the back of her station wagon. Watching my parents working together for the common good of the family was very inspiring and influential in who we would become.

By 1976, Ray and I {Nick} began to take more active roles. During our summer breaks, dad would take us to work. As 7 and 8-year-olds we proved to be more comic relief than actual help. Our uncles, and aunt became our teachers. From them we would learn the skills we carry to this day. Dad fueled our passion and at an early age he introduced us to the shop’s motto, “If you like our work, tell others. If not, tell us.”

Through the years many more would join our work family. My sweet aunt Mary Castellana replaced aunt Carmela. My role at the shop evolved, from apprentice to technician, to manager, and now owner. At the same time my father was idling back and allowing me to grow into my new role. He had 40 years invested in growing his business but realized the time had come to let go.

Time had taken its toll on my father, but he would come around and reminisce. Mom spends her time taking care of the home, garden and dad. They are always eager to spend time with their grandchildren and my children Lilliana and Luca. Passing along their stories and wisdom. Together we look back at what they have created and take pride in all they have accomplished.

Sadly, Frank Lettini passed away in May 2022. His son Nick remains at the helm of the auto shop Frank and Angela Lettini created. The shop is located in the heart of the Little Italy Historic District of East Sacramento at 52nd and Folsom Blvd.

SOURCE: Italian Cultural Society, Sacramento

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