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Roland Bacci

1927 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Roland Bacci Obituary
Roland A. Bacci

January 7, 1927 - September 25, 2017

Pioneering Bay Area Car
Dealer, at 90

Roland Bacci, an innovative man who brought Mercedes Benz to the Bay Area, died on September 25, 2017, in his Napa home, surrounded by his family. During his career, he revolutionized the auto retailing industry by personalizing the process of buying and maintaining a car. He was 90. His family said the cause was leukemia.

Mr. Bacci was born in San Francisco on January 7, 1927 to Bruna and Tullio Bacci, who had emigrated from Italy. As a young child, he spoke only Italian, learning English only when he began kindergarten. He graduated from Galileo High School in San Francisco in 1944. Soon after, he was drafted into the United States Army and was sent to Okinawa until the end of the war. He finished his military service as a Master Sargent in Korea, returned home and then briefly attended the University of San Francisco.

As a young man, Roland started his career as a real estate broker, where he saved enough money to open Roland's Cocktail Lounge on Fillmore Street in San Francisco in 1952. A change from the then usual bar scene, it was the first drinking establishment in the City to cater to couples, with an interior design that included a fireplace hearth, comfortable wing-backed chairs, and employees who wore tuxedo slacks and white shirts with black bowties. His offerings of mini cheeseburgers and grilled cheese introduced the idea of bars expanding into broader food service. Roland's became a gathering place for many people in the City, including literary luminaries, such as Herb Gold, Barnaby Conrad and Herb Caen. Mr. Bacci only half joked that he always gave Caen credit, as he never had any money on him. Roland also raised money for organizations like the Mother's March of Dimes by donating an evening's worth of proceeds to the charity.

In 1950, Roland was introduced to Beverly Rossi by her brother, John. Shortly after marrying Beverly in December, 1951, Roland began working for his father-in-law. Mr. Rossi owned Rossi's Garage, the local franchise for International Harvester Trucks. At that time, they were largely a tow operation that sold trucks and used cars. Once again, Roland took a business to a new level. In a short time, they were selling new cars such as Studebakers, Avantis, and Chrysler. Bacci was such a good businessman, that many other auto manufacturers approached him to sell their lines as well. Throughout his career he represented Isuzu, Ferrari, DeLorean, Mazda, Lexus, Land Rover, Jaguar, Lincoln Mercury, Rolls Royce/Bentley and Mercedes Benz.

In 1958, Roland sold his bar and started R.A.B. Motors, selling DeSotos and Studebakers in San Rafael. When DeSoto ceased production in 1960, he approached Mercedes Benz, becoming the first Mercedes Benz showroom in the Bay Area. In 1961, Bacci sold his first new Mercedes for $5,500. In the first year of business, they sold ten new Mercedes Benz.

Twenty-five years later, in 1986, R.A.B. Motors relocated to a new strikingly contemporary showroom on W. Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael. Designed by Esherick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis Architects, the American Institute of Architect's Choice for "foremost architectural firm of 1986", the new showroom was unlike any other dealership in the country. Situated overlooking US101, it quickly became an architectural landmark, attracting customers to both its design and cars. On the walls of the showroom, Roland shared part of his extensive art collection with his customers. He so admired the work of the architects that he later used them on new homes in Marin and Napa.

In addition to the time and energy Roland spent at R.A.B. Motors, he also found time to support Breast Cancer Research, the Ross Valley Women's League, Adopt-a-Family, Summer Search, and Integrated Community Services among other organizations.

Of great importance to Roland was time with his family, which continued to his death. Though he worked long hours during the week, Sundays were a family day devoted to his children. They often picnicked together, went boating, spent weekends at Clear Lake, or visited their grandparents. He loved boating and spent many summers at Tinsley Island in the San Joaquin Delta, water skiing, swimming and polishing his boat.

From an early age, rather than searching for work elsewhere, the three Bacci children spent their summers working in various departments at R.A.B.
In 1984, Roland appointed his daughter, Robin, General Manager, the first woman to serve in that position at any Mercedes Benz dealership in the country. Following in her father's creative side, Robin helped her father to create a concierge service at R.A.B., which offered customers rides elsewhere, as well as making reservations for a meal while their car was being serviced. His son, David, became Sales Manager. And while Pamela helped out in the business when needed, her life revolved around raising her family.

Mr. Bacci is survived by his wife of 66 years, Beverly, his brother Donald, his children Pamela Scott, Robin (Partner, Steven Ascher), David, and grandchildren Andrew Scott, Jordan Scott, Gianluca Bacci, Natasha Bacci and David Bacci. He was truly a man of substance and style who cared deeply for his family and friends, as they did for him.

The family would like to thank Dr. Daniel Mirda and his staff for his attention and guidance during this time.

Services will be private. Donations in Roland's memory can be made to The Grace Fund c/o Collabria Care 414 South Jefferson Street, Napa, CA 94559.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 1, 2017
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