Mercedes Man | Michael Contillo
“Fifty-six cars! I finally know how many it is,” Contillo says, smiling.
Contillo, founder and CEO of Liberty Mechanical Contractors, one of the nation’s leading sources of plumbing for mechanical installation, consultation, maintenance and fabrication services, was born in the Fordham section of the South Bronx. After he graduated from Mount St. Michael High School, he planned on studying law at Iona College, but those plans changed.
“I took a job as a plumber’s helper. I was making 90 cents an hour, and I never looked back. I realized I could make money as a union plumber,” he says.
In 1968, Contillo and his business partner, Joseph Deglomini, founded De-Con Mechanical Contracting which grew into Liberty Mechanical, now employing over 500 Local One plumbers.
“Now, Liberty is my smaller business,” he explains. “Whatever money I made in the plumbing business I invested in commercial real estate, and together with the Simone family, we now own about 6,000,000 square feet of commercial space.”
The Best or Nothing
Contillo’s car of choice was a Cadillac diesel, but the gas shortage in the 70s resulted in such long lines that it finally took a toll on his good nature and made him explore other vehicle options.
Contillo was living in Dix Hills at the time and went to Mercedes-Benz of Smithtown because the dealership was close to his home.
“I bought my first Mercedes there in 1980 and I’ve been buying there ever since,” he says. “All of our business is done over the phone.”
For almost 40 years, Contillo has driven the top-of-the-line S Class AMG and GLS.
A true Mercedes-Benz aficionado, Contillo does not compromise when it comes to his family and what they drive.
“I make it mandatory that my daughters have to drive a Benz. Why? Safety. There’s nothing better than a German car,” he says.
Contillo even had Rich Coviello, general sales manager at Mercedes-Benz of Smithtown, purchase a Mercedes from a California dealer for his daughter who lives on the west coast.
Luxury Knows Its Place
“I drive a lot. I like to drive. All of my cars are used every single day,” he says.
Right now, there are six Mercedes-Benz, two Porsches and a Rolls Royce parked on the driveway of Contillo’s palatial home.
“I like new cars. There are no old cars here. I lease for two or three years, then I get the same car every time. An S-Class, black with blacked out wheels,” he says.
“I’ve been doing business with Mercedes-Benz of Smithtown for 38 years, and for me, it’s all about Rich Coviello and Bob Vella in the service department,” Contillo says.
His loyalty to Mercedes-Benz of Smithtown runs deep. Contillo says he has a good friend who owns a Mercedes-Benz dealership, but he will only do business with Smithtown.
“There’s another dealer five minutes from here, but I don’t buy from them either,” he says. “The price of the car is basically the same, but I stayed with Mercedes-Benz of Smithtown all of these years because of their customer service. They are just wonderful. There is no reason for me to go somewhere else.”
“It all comes down to sales and service. I don’t want to go to the dealership, so to have somebody like Rich, who puts up with me and my ideas, and of course, Bob Vella—it’s a wonderful system,” he says.
When a new car is delivered, Coviello brings Matt McMahon, Mercedes-Benz Product Specialist, to explain the car’s features.
“Matt is wonderful,” Contillo says. “He goes through all of the car’s features with my wife and daughters.”
Unlike Any Other
Contillo is a bit of a Renaissance man, too. His beautiful home is influenced by Palazzo architecture inspired by the Italian Renaissance.
His tough exterior belies the fact that he has a penchant for cats. He’s been studying martial arts for 35 years, earned 4th degree Black Belt and is also a golfer.
As for modern technology, Contillo prefers to do business the old-fashioned way.
“I talk to people. I don’t send emails or texts. I have no need to,” he says.
Contillo says he is a voracious reader who never misses an issue of the Wall Street Journal, and enjoys periodicals and historical books.
“I don’t watch a lot of television, except for Fox News,” he says.
When he’s not reading, he likes to garden. The potted plants and flowers dotting the landscape at his home were all planted by Contillo.
He is well-versed in cuisine, too.
“I eat out every night of the year, except for Thanksgiving.” he says.
Contillo has his Mercedes GL 450 at the ready in anticipation of inclement weather.
“I have the GL winterized in case of a snowstorm so I can drive to dinner,” he says.
He has a few favorite restaurants, especially Limani in Roslyn, and for the best Italian food, his top picks are Franina Ristorante in Syosset and 388 in Roslyn.
Kiss My “S”
As far as operating his companies, Contillo has no plans to slow down.
“I like business, and I like what I do. I drive into the Bronx every day. We own properties in the city, plus I stop in to my plumbing business.”
Contillo has his succession plan laid out and says his daughter, a Wharton graduate who is an attorney with an MBA in real estate finance development, will take care of the family business in the future.
In the meantime, retirement is out of the question.
“Retirement doesn’t exist in this life. We own a home in Palm Beach and go there from time to time, but I like making money and being in the game. I don’t collect art, I collect money. I know plumbing and real estate.”
Contillo also knows Mercedes-Benz cars numbers 57 and 58 will be arriving on his driveway very soon and that they are only a phone call away.