Founder Frank Colonna first strarted renting cars through a Holiday Rent A Car franchise in Raleigh, N.C., before going independent as Triangle Rent A Car in 1981. Photo courtesy of Triangle Rent A Car.
Enterprise Holdings announced on Feb. 13 it had acquired Triangle Rent A Car, based in Raleigh, N.C. The purchase includes the Triangle brand, locations, websites and a majority of its fleet, including its van and truck rental business. Triangle had 29 branch offices located across Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“Triangle Rent A Car’s reputation for taking excellent care of its customers closely aligns with Enterprise’s commitment to superior customer service,” said Brice Adamson, senior vice president at Enterprise Holdings. “This acquisition is an opportunity to provide even better service to our customers in the Southeast, where the demand for reliable, cost-effective transportation solutions continues to grow.”
Enterprise Holdings’ goal is to retain the approximately 300 full- and part-time Triangle Rent A Car employees, according to the company. The acquisition supports the expansion of Enterprise Holdings’ branch network in the Southeast.
“As family-owned companies, Enterprise Holdings and Triangle Rent A Car share many of the same values, including our customer service philosophies,” said Frank Colonna, president of Triangle Rent A Car and founder of the company. “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.”
According to an interview for the Auto Rental News article “Fire, Ready, Aim: How Car Rental Grew in America” (Nov./Dec. 2013), Colonna said he always wanted his own business — though he was certain he wanted one in a growing part of the country, not in the area he grew up in, upstate New York. Colonna said he looked into different types of businesses and became intrigued by a newspaper advertisement soliciting Holiday Rent A Car franchisees.
Meanwhile, the area in North Carolina known as The Research Triangle — anchored by North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina — was blossoming with high-tech industries. Colonna moved his family to Raleigh, and in 1979 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, according to Colonna. Putting a family on hold, 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.”
Colonna said a few core beliefs helped him through: First, he simply believed in what he was doing. Second, he figured local corporations would give a local company a shot. Third, he believed in his abilities to deliver customer service as well as or better than the competition, because he knew he wouldn’t compete with the giants on rates.
“I would tell the managers to make sure that when the customer walks out the door, they were happier than when they walked in,” he said.
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.”
Colonna eventually grew his business to 29 locations across four states. “Anyone that has had success in any business realizes how fortunate they are,” he said. “The entrepreneur realizes that it can all crumble as fast as it came.”