Frank Colonna, founder and president of independent car rental company Triangle Rent A Car, died on March 30.
“It’s a very sad day for all of his former team,” said Shelton Watts, vice president and chief operating officer. “He was a good man with a kind heart.”
Colonna first got started in the car rental business when he moved his family to Raleigh, N.C., in 1979. As a Holiday Rent A Car franchisee, he hung a shingle out of an old gas station with seven cars to rent. In a couple of years, Colonna shed the franchise mantle, renaming the company Triangle Rent A Car.
In those first few years, 14-hour days were the norm, Colonna said during an interview for the Auto Rental News article “Fire, Ready, Aim: How Car Rental Grew in America” (Nov./Dec. 2013). Colonna said he doggedly pursued local contracts and business in his neighborhood. “I finally wore them out until they let me have a few bones. With all the people relocating to the Raleigh area, I felt that I could call on and get at least some [corporate] business, even if they had a contract with the majors.”
In 1981, Colonna opened a second location in Wilmington, which took advantage of North Carolina’s nascent movie production business. In subsequent years, he started managing multiple locations and seeing the fruits of his labor. “I could see it happen and started feeling a little more confident in what I was doing,” he said.
Colonna eventually grew his Triangle Rent A Car business to 29 locations across four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia). In February 2015, the Triangle brand, locations, websites and most of its fleet were all acquired by Enterprise Holdings.
“As family-owned companies, Enterprise Holdings and Triangle Rent A Car share many of the same values, including our customer service philosophies,” said Colonna, at the time of the sale. “Given Enterprise’s vast resources and strong focus on putting the customer first, I’m confident that our loyal customers, employees and business partners are in good hands with Enterprise.”
Michael Towers of Hawthorne Estimating remembers Colonna as one of his first clients. “When I got in the business, Frank was one of the first people I met. He was tough, knew every aspect of the business and was one of the most complimentary kind-hearted men I knew and above all respected. I can honestly say, a great deal of my company’s success and levels of customer service was a result of wanting to meet the standards Frank expected.”
Colonna served on the American Car Rental Association’s (ACRA) board for many years.
“It was with great sadness we learned of the passing of my dear friend Frank Colonna,” said Bob Barton, former president of ACRA. “Frank fought tirelessly on behalf of the car rental industry on issues of taxation and rallying the industry together through ACRA. He was awarded the Russell J. Bruno Award in 2010 for his outstanding service to the industry.”
“My first impression of Frank Colonna was based on an observation of how passionate he was about legislative issues regarding the car rental industry,” said Sharon Faulkner, executive director of ACRA. “Frank always held his moral ground and expressed his views with intensity and integrity. As one of ACRA’s board of directors, he was a great champion for the industry and he worked very hard to glue the old ACTIF into the new ACRA.”
Randy Harris of Alternative Claims Management recalls his 12-year business relationship with Colonna. “When we started working together, he was always very tough but also very fair and loyal. It led to a 12-year business and personal relationship that was as fine as any I have ever experienced. I am deeply saddened by his passing and our thoughts are with his loving family.”
Jeff Iverson of GE Capital considered Frank a great friend as well as a great customer. “He always, always asked how ‘you’ were doing before he ever talked about himself. He adored his family above all else, and he truly cared about all of his ‘family’ at Triangle.”
“Frank was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. I will miss him and will always remember him,” said Bob Klyce, an Avis franchisee in Birmingham, Ala.
Colonna is survived by his wife Rebecca and his two children (Catherine and Matthew). A visitation is scheduled for this Friday April 3rd from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Brown Wynne Funeral Home in Raleigh, N.C.