Like so many American success stories, the story of UniFirst begins with people new to the shores of the United States. So, too, does the history and story of UniFirst’s long-time and highly valued business partner Andretti® Autosport.
UniFirst and Andretti Autosport are both leaders in their industries. Both companies value their customers, while sharing a sense of family, community, and pride in their day-to-day operations.
UniFirst was founded as National Overall Dry Cleaning Company in a converted horse barn in Boston, MA, in 1936 by Aldo Croatti, the son of Carlo and Emilia Croatti who immigrated to the U.S. from Rimini, Italy, in 1909.
Aldo was the youngest of the six children of Carlo and Emilia. Carlo’s work ethic and Emilia’s entrepreneurial spirit were essential qualities they would pass on to their son Aldo. National Overall Dry Cleaning Company focused on cleaning the overalls of factory workers and those employed in heavy-soil businesses. While growing his fledgling business, Aldo made it his mission to build and maintain a Customers for Life philosophy and penned the company’s founding Core Values—Customer Focus; Respect for Others; and Commitment to Quality. Today, these values still hold true at UniFirst throughout its 260 locations and among its 14,000-plus employee Team Partners worldwide.
Today, many of the Croatti family members are still part of the fabric of UniFirst and the company is proud that its family-like culture created by its founder has also endured. Aldo’s daughter, Cynthia Croatti, serves as executive vice president; Aldo’s grandsons, Michael Croatti, senior vice president and Matthew Croatti, vice president; Aldo’s great grandson and Michael’s son, Austin Croatti, management trainee; Aldo’s nephew David DiFillippo, senior vice president; and great nephew Brian DiFillippo, general manager. “Despite having more than 14,000 employees worldwide, UniFirst still operates like a family,” says Michael Croatti. “Some of our employee Team Partners have been here for 25, 30, and 50-plus years. Having so many long-tenured employees is a testament to our family-like culture. We truly care about one another.”
The origins of Andretti Autosport are also a story of a family leaving Italy bound for America. In 1955, husband and wife Alvise and Rina Andretti, and their 15-year-old twin sons, Mario and Aldo (another Aldo!), settled in Nazareth, PA, after leaving a refugee camp in Lucca, Italy, where they had lived for five years after fleeing their home when it was annexed by Yugoslavia.
During the family’s time living as refugees, Alvise and Rina made sure, as Mario would later recount, that he and his brother “were never cold, never hungry, and went to school.” While still in Italy, the Andretti boys became fans of auto racing. Soon after graduating high school in Nazareth, PA, Mario and Aldo started racing cars on a half-mile dirt track in their town.
The Andretti boys grew to become accomplished race car drivers, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mario Andretti became arguably the greatest in history— one of two (the other is Dan Gurney) who captured first place in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship, and NASCAR.
Auto racing stayed in the Andretti family, with Mario’s son Michael, and Michael’s son Marco, both establishing themselves as world-class drivers in the sport. In 2003 when Michael decided to retire from driving full time, he knew his days in racing were not behind him. He bought into ownership of the team he was racing for, creating Andretti Green Racing. In 2009 Michael became the sole owner of the team and the Andretti Autosport brand was born. Andretti Autosport is a unique home in racing for drivers, mechanics and support staff with its versatility operating across six racing series globally. Mario remains an inspiration to Michael and the entire Andretti family and race team, which is among the winningest racing teams on the planet.
Like UniFirst’s founder Aldo, Michael Andretti also believed in instilling a family-like culture within his business and collaborating as a team to achieve success. “In racing, you spend a lot of time with your co-workers, especially during the travel season,” says Andretti. “Racing isn’t a job, it’s a way of life and we’re proud to consider those that live that life with us family. We like to think that we’re more than a company or a team, we work to maintain a family environment – completely with family cookouts at my house!”
While the team is owned and operated by Michael, Mario remains one of the Andretti Autosport’s biggest supporters and can often be found in the team’s hospitality tent or on pit lane at the racetrack. Marco Andretti (Michael’s son) obviously holds a position with the team as the driver and investing partners on the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda, and Michael’s daughter Marissa serves as the team’s director of licensing and brand management. Jarett Andretti (the son of John Andretti – who is Michael’s cousin) also drives for the team’s GT4 America program.
In addition to sharing a family-like culture in the workplace, the two organizations also value their customers. In fact, UniFirst’s philosophy states that “the customer is the focus of everything they do.” While UniFirst has customers that purchase managed uniform and facility service programs, Andretti has a loyal fan base and many corporate sponsors that serve as their “customers.” Understanding and respecting their responsibility to their fans and sponsors is a staple of how Andretti Autosport operates—a primary goal in everything they do. Without fans to cheer them on and sponsors to provide support, there would be no racing. Therefore, they recognize this and maintain a strong focus on servicing their racing “customers.”
Official Race Shop Uniform Supplier
Almost as soon as Andretti Autosport opened its doors, UniFirst signed on as a sponsor of the race team. The commonalities they shared served as the catalyst for their successful partnership. Each valued hard work, collaboration, and creating “winning teams.” The alliance quickly strengthened and grew, as did the mutual benefits it accorded. UniFirst is the official race shop uniform and facility services provider for the team.
From outfitting mechanics and race shop crew with automotive uniforms to providing facility service products such as hand cleaners and shop towels, UniFirst has helped the Andretti team enhance their brand image with rental uniforms and facility service programs that keep them looking their very best every business day. The quality of UniFirst product and reliable services allow the Andretti team to always look their best in a care-free process.
“We’ve been partners with UniFirst for over 10 years now and have built a great relationship with their team. UniFirst outfits our employees at the shop with great-looking, high-quality uniforms each week, which is extremely important in our line of work,” says Michael Andretti. “They’re always great to work with and truly care about their customers and partners. It’s extremely beneficial to have partners like UniFirst who are eager to continue building upon the already strong relationship we’ve created.”
And the relationship continues to flourish. UniFirst recently signed a new multi-year sponsorship extension, continuing its long-running partnership with the championship-winning team. This past IndyCar racing season, UniFirst sponsored the No. 98 car, driven by Marco Andretti, at the Toronto race.
“UniFirst looks forward, with immense enthusiasm and optimism, to continuing working with Andretti Autosport to build on a championship legacy,” says Michael Croatti. “We value their business and consider them a part of the UniFirst family.”
To request a detailed quote on UniFirst uniforms and facility services, see How to request a quote.
For more information about UniFirst uniforms and facility services, visit UniFirst.com.