In Memoriam: Steven Gross, Thrifty Car Rental Owner

Steven Gross
Steven Gross

Steven E. Gross, a Thrifty franchise owner, died on Jan. 14 in Oceanside, Calif.

Born on Aug. 1, 1958 in Newburgh, N.Y., Gross started working in the transportation industry at a young age. He held the position of vice president at his family’s business, Gross Limousine Service.

In 1982, Gross moved to Redondo Beach, Calif., where he served as owner of Travel Car, Ltd. Following ownership of this Payless Car Rental franchise, he purchased a Thrifty Car Rental location at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). He served as CEO until his retirement in 2004.

Jennie Thomas, who worked with Gross at Thrifty LAX for 10 years, refers to him “as one of a kind.”

“Steve was the best owner you could ask for,” says Thomas. “He empowered his people to run the operation as it was their own. We emphasized customer service while maximizing sales and treated employees as the greatest assets. We had a great incentive program to keep the front line motivated and rewarded managers for hard work and dedication. Steve will be deeply missed.”

Lori Tennant of TSD considered him a longtime friend of over 30 years.

“I first met Steve in 1985 when my father Jim Tennant and I owned the Payless franchise in San Francisco,” says Lori. “We became fast friends and enjoyed many wonderful adventures, both for business (we both went on to buy Thrifty operations) and pleasure. Steve was a great influence in my life. He was a brilliant mind — one of the best car rental minds I have ever known — and he taught me so much. I still can’t believe he is gone. Way too young and way too special to be taken so soon.”

“We ran our separate Payless businesses but cooperated very well,” says Jim Tennant of The Tennant Group. “Although we had a head start, Steve quickly caught up and passed us in fleet size, revenue and profitability. He was one of the smartest and most focused car rental people that I have ever known. Steve was a close friend and a wonderful, generous and talented person, and I am lucky to have known him.”

Gross was one of Ziad Khoury’s first clients at Frontline Performance Group. Gross wasn’t just a client; Khoury refers to him as a “lifetime friend and cheerleader.”

“His energy, enthusiasm, optimism and positive outlook were absolutely infectious,” says Khoury. “He was a charismatic, charming and an incredibly smart operator. May you rest in peace; you will be sorely missed my friend.”

Gross was active in his community and supported nonprofits like the Golden West Chapter of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). He enjoyed skiing, sailing, tennis, traveling, golf and racing cars.

“Steve was the Brad Pitt of the car rental industry,” says Ty Bobit, president and CEO of Bobit Business Media. “No one looked better than he did in his sparkling white tennis shoes and million dollar smile. I sponsored Steve into the Young Presidents’ Organization. There were many characters in YPO but none the size of Steve. He knew how to laugh and enjoy life, and he also had a great sense of business acumen, including the ability to call BS on people. Most importantly, though, Steve was one of the most giving people I’ve ever met.”

Gross is survived by his children (Missy and Justin), mother Jeanne, brother and sister-in-law (Brian and Frances), sister and brother-in-law (Sue and Dan) and niece and nephew (Laura and Zach).

A celebration of life service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday March 12 at the Redondo Beach Elks Lodge. Another memorial service will be held in Steve’s hometown of Marlboro, N.Y., in April.

A GoFundMe page has been started to support his children, including their health and education.

Comments

  1. Kevin Hall [ February 3, 2016 @ 02:07PM ]

    So sorry to read this very sad news, Steve was an ambassador in the car rental industry. I loved working with Steve and whilst we had spoken in a few years he remained a good friend. RIP Steve a good guy gone far to young

  2. Julia [ February 4, 2016 @ 05:50AM ]

    So sorry to hear this. Steve was wonderful.

  3. Stacy Gross Eldredge [ February 4, 2016 @ 01:37PM ]

    Thank you to all of Steve's friends and employees in the car rental industry who loved him... Your calls, emails, and support mean the world to us. Steve was adored by many and most definitely LOVED the work that he did. Every one of you touched his heart and I know he touched yours. One thing he hated doing was having to let someone go... that's when he hired someone else to do the job of hiring and firing:-) We hope to see you at the memorial to celebrate Steve's life. Much love & Peace to you

  4. Sandra Larkin [ February 5, 2016 @ 04:19PM ]

    Steve was a very personable, smart and charming person. He surely knew how to enjoy life. I hold very fond memories of our interactions. My husband and I enjoyed his company and admired his business acumen. It was very sad to hear of his passing. He was one of a kind!

  5. Beata kepinski [ February 5, 2016 @ 06:08PM ]

    Steve ! The person who gave me a job at Payless Car Rental and later at Thrifty is one of very few people that I admire and respect . Thanks to him I built mine and my daughter life in United States ! Besides that , charming and talented also funny, full of interest in different things , full of life and beautifull smile . More and more ......thank you Steve !!!see you one day in Heaven Car rental! My deepest sympathy to family .

  6. Beata kepinski [ February 5, 2016 @ 06:25PM ]

    Steve , I know you for 26 years , you gave me a job at Payless car rental and later Thrifty and thanks to you I made very god life for me and my child in United States . I admire and respect you , talent at work and fun , interest in so many things , beautifull smile , always helpful from simple how do u say in English or investing money or put dog to sleep or rescue and endless answers to my question throu our working together , thank you for friendship and caring . See u in Heaven Car Rental one day ?! Deepest sympathy to family , beata

  7. Joy Punaro [ February 9, 2016 @ 09:33AM ]

    I just learned of Steve's passing, funny, I was thinking about him recently as we had lost touch. I had the pleasure of meeting and training Steve in the late 70's when he started his car rental career at National LAX. He became an instant friend and mentor. He was responsible for many of my car rental successes in the years to come. We shared many fun times, in work and play. Such a charismatic man with a winning smile, as well as a genius. My thoughts and prayers to Steve's family. Joy

  8. Jim Nelson [ February 12, 2016 @ 03:28PM ]

    Steve was Thrifty's favorite licensee. Everyone loved him and loved to be around him. He and Brett ran one or the best franchises in the country. They set the Proformance bar high for the rest of us. He must have a mansion in Hevan with race cars in the garage. He was a great driver. I remember him racing jeeps on Rubicon Trail with president of Thrifty badgering him to stop it.

  9. Gilmar & Patricia Romero [ February 16, 2016 @ 10:20AM ]

    One of the most rewarding person we, both every meet.
    We are very sorry to hear his passing wish sympathy to his family.

  10. Steve Maneotis [ March 8, 2016 @ 04:07PM ]

    I just received the news of my old roommate's passing. We first met when I was a district manager for Pontiac Motor division. Our meeting went from seling him Pontiac's for his fleet to a great friendship. As time passed, distance and life sent us in different directions, but he never left my heart as a true friend. M deepest sympathies to the family of Steve. You are all with me in though and prayer.

  11. Steve Maneotis [ March 8, 2016 @ 04:08PM ]

    I just received the news of my old roommate's passing. We first met when I was a district manager for Pontiac Motor division. Our meeting went from seling him Pontiac's for his fleet to a great friendship. As time passed, distance and life sent us in different directions, but he never left my heart as a true friend. M deepest sympathies to the family of Steve. You are all with me in thought and prayer.

  12. Steve Maneotis [ March 8, 2016 @ 04:08PM ]

    I just received the news of my old roommate's passing. We first met when I was a district manager for Pontiac Motor division. Our meeting went from seling him Pontiac's for his fleet to a great friendship. As time passed, distance and life sent us in different directions, but he never left my heart as a true friend. M deepest sympathies to the family of Steve. You are all with me in thought and prayer.

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