A man with a plan: Tom Barenboim

Courtesy photoTom Barenboim

Long before chain stores, boutique hair salons and upscale restaurants came to town, residents experienced a far different Andover.

Shops and stores owned and run by families lined our downtown streets. There were two food markets – Barcelo’s and The Co-Op. Take your pick of pharmacies from Crowley’s, Dalton’s, Simone’s and Hughes. And there were no less than three hardware stores to choose from. Main Street even had a full-service department store – Sutherland’s — for many years. Our downtown had something for nearly everyone — even folks looking for a new car. At that time, Park Street was Andover’s auto row.

The development of modern roads and highways made motoring more convenient for those travelling in and out of Andover. Highways helped stimulate economic development attracting companies like Raytheon, Gillette, the Internal Revenue Service and Hewlett-Packard. The burgeoning highway and road system, along with an abundance of jobs and pent-up post-World War II consumer demand, helped to fuel the Golden Age of the Automobile.

In 1950, Andover locals Robert Barenboim and his brother-in-law, Irving Leoff, bought the Clark Motor Company on Park Street. Since the existing company name was shorter than Barenboim, keeping that name made sense. With funds being tight, it saved the expense of printing a new sign. They retained the company’s highly-respected service department and reloaded sales and marketing.

The business prospered. Over the following decade the dealership won Chrysler Corporation’s prestigious Medal of Merit for excellence. In 1961, they opened a second store on South Union Street in Lawrence. Two years later, they sold the Park Street location and consolidated operations.

In 1978, the family business introduced a new generation. Robert’s son, Tom, a freshly-minted Northeastern finance grad, took over day-to-day management. Facing increased competition, the rising cost of gasoline and tight money, he introduced a lucrative new car leasing program. Four years later, he became the youngest new dealer in New England when he founded a dealership in Fitchburg at the age of 26.

In 1984, Tom bought out his father and uncle, taking outright ownership of Clark Motors. With an eye toward expanding the Clark footprint, in 1995 he opened a Ford/Mercury store in Athol and moved the Chrysler franchise to Methuen, adding a Jeep franchise. In 2007, he bought out Tom Manzi Dodge and moved Dodge in with Chrysler and Jeep.

Away from the showroom, Tom served as chairman of the Chrysler Corporation Dealer Group and as New England Chrysler Jeep Advertising Association chairman for 25 years. He played an important strategic role in advising both the dealer network and the Chrysler senior management on key market issues. Tom also lent his organizational and industry expertise to dealers as far from home as Japan, counseling them on how to set up effective dealer groups of their own.

The year 2018 marked Tom’s 40th year in the automobile business. The wear-and-tear of competing in the trenches, the tug of enjoying more time with his family and of long-dreamed travel destinations yet unseen brought him to a decision. After finding a business partner who reflected his core values, Tom closed the books and sold the family business to Kelly Automotive in May of that year.

Always and forever a "townie,'' Tom is a passionate volunteer, helping organizations that truly uplift our community. Over the last three decades, he has served on the boards of the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and the LANAM Club, among many others. Beyond fulfilling his dreams of travel, relaxing and just enjoying life, Tom plans to continue giving back to the community.

Tom Barenboim will always remain a man with a plan.

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