Biagio (Gene) De Simone
Everyone now know him as “Gene”, yet one of the first things he will tell you, right after he tells you he was born in Montella (province of Avellino), is that is birth given name is Biagio. What impressed me about that, is the fact that at the age of 56, Biagio left Italy he was only three years old, yet you can immediately notice how he beams about his heritage. He and his family moved to Argentina to try to make a living. This is the second fact that struck me about his character. From very humble beginnings, Biagio and his brothers, Carmen, Tony and Bernardo have come a long way financially, yet he remains a man with his feet firmly on the ground, not boasting about what he has, but proudly tells me that all the brothers are working together in running a successful business, a car dealership in Northeast Philadelphia (Frankford & Harbison Aves). “Who says brothers can’t get along and work together?” he asks with a happy smile. Looking at what the brothers have accomplished, the answer is crystal clear.
But back to the beginning. He moved to Argentina in 1951 in an extremely poor area, and at the age of 14 he was already working in a auto body shop. His “calling” to cars hit him very early. In his years working in body shops he worked on cars of some very famous people, one of each was Juan Manuel Fangio. If you follow Formula 1, his name his often mentioned because when you try to compare a great driver, like Schumaker of Ferrari for example, Fangio is considered the example for the very best. From 1951 to 1957 he was just about invincible, winning 4 straight world titles.
Argentina, unfortunately, was also a sad place for Biagio because his mother, at the young age of 50 passed away. She was misdiagnosed, and died of internal bleeding.
In 1962, his father, Eugenio, moved to the United States at the age of 52, where like many immigrants was forced to start from ground zero. Where in Argentina he was working on 20-story buildings, he was now working on breaking up cement for sidewalks. Work however, is something that the De Simone family members never shied away from. In 1964 Biagio and his brother joined their father in America and began to work…in the automobile business. In 1969 he was working for the famed Roger Penske.
On July 5th 1971 (one day after Independence Day!) he opened his first body shop.
In 1983 he moved to the present location in Northeast Philadelphia where he and his brothers run a great dealership.
One his goal is to have two of his famous ancestors, Giovanni Palatucci and Filippo Mazzei, honored in a proper place, such as a museum. Too many times, according to Biagio, Italians are not properly recognized for their place in history.
Biagio is married with five children that range from 35 years old to 19 months, and he loves it! He also has 8 grandchildren. He is truly a serene man that always remembers where he came from, all the way from Montella!