Nat Danas, founder of Auto Trim & Restyling News, died Monday at the age of 89. Danas worked more than six decades in the trim industry, not only founding ATRN (originally launched as Auto Trim News) and several other magazines for trimmers, but also running his own successful auto trim shop, and playing an essential part in the founding and growth of many industry groups and associations.
“I don’t think I’ve known anyone more dedicated to increasing the standards of professionalism of their market than Nat,” said Travis Weeks, publisher of ATRN and Hotrod & Restoration. “He truly cared about helping others succeed, which created an enormous amount of trust. Simply put, a great deal of people in the automotive trim industry needed Nat’s help to grow and thrive. I was fortunate to have experienced Nat’s passion and commitment being the publisher of ATRN. Nat was truly one of my biggest inspirations and a great mentor. Nat’s contributions have certainly made a lasting impact on our industry.”
Danas was born in New York City in 1922. He operated a shop that served the retail public and auto dealers in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1952, he founded the National Association of Auto Trim Shops (later renamed the National Association of Auto Trim & Restyling Shops) as a forum to educate and inform the industry, and elevate the level of professionalism in the industry. ATRN (originally called Auto Trim News) was started as a newsletter for the association.
“To say that Nat was a good friend is an understatement,” said Ellen McKoy, head of EMK Marketing and editor of Trucking Times magazine. “He was not only my friend and former employer when I later served as editor of Auto Trim & Restyling News, but an inspiration and guiding light throughout my career. From his pioneering efforts to create and establish a trade magazine for the trim industry—the first of its kind in the auto aftermarket—and his vision to expand the magazine to embrace the restyling industry, to his lifelong dedication to mentoring young people, to the instrumental role he played in bringing the Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) under the SEMA umbrella, Nat dedicated his life to an industry and the people in it whom he loved. He was a true icon and will be sorely missed by all.”
When ATRN was purchased by Shore-Varrone in the early 1990s, Danas stayed on as publisher. The magazine was purchased by Bobit Business Media in 2000 and Danas maintained an active role as contributor and publisher emeritus.
“Nat was an amazing and unique man; a fabulous combination of intelligence, ambition and fellowship,” said Angelo Varrone, former co-owner of Shore-Varrone. “I met him in 1991 when my company bought a true love in his life, Auto Trim & Restyling News. We worked together on the magazine for a few years. During that time I learned a great deal about him and from him. Words can’t describe how kind, gentle, humble and giving he was. He will be missed by the many, many people that loved this dear and profoundly generous man.”
In addition to founding ATRN, Danas organized and produced trade shows and conferences; founded Restyling Trends & Directions (later Restyling & Accessories Marketing), a biannual publication aimed at educating the industry and car dealers about restyling; was instrumental in the creation of organizations including the National Education Alliance of Trim Suppliers (originally founded as Northeast Auto Trim Suppliers); helped link the Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) with SEMA; provided seed money to help get the SEMA scholarship fund started; published training manuals; established a voluntary code of ethics for the industry; and established the Craftsman of the Year Award.
“The restoration and trim industries have lost a true icon with the passing of Nat Danas,” said Chuck Blum, former president of SEMA. “No one has worked harder or longer to grow the industries, raise the profession to a higher level, or educated more individuals who sought a career in this sector of the automotive aftermarket. On a personal level, I had the honor and privilege to work with Nat through the organization he created, the Professional Restylers Organization. I will miss his guidance and friendship.”
Throughout his life, Danas was recognized with many industry honors, including the PRO Lifetime Achievement Award, AIAA Trim Segment Committee Lifetime Achievement Award and the Mobile Tech Expo Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, PRO named its Person of the Year Award in Danas’ honor. The award recognizes an outstanding individual in the restyling industry whose creativity, dignity, integrity, industriousness and accomplishments have enhanced the stature and growth of the industry within the candidate’s community and nationwide.
“Nat will be missed deeply he was always available to discuss any and all questions or concerns relating to our industry,” said Rick Jones with Auto Sun Roof. “My relationship goes back some 35 years with Nat; he was one of the pioneers in our industry.”
Danas’ greatest role was as a mentor to trim shop owners.
“In our more than 30 years of close association and hundreds of hours talking or on trips together, our discussion was always about the industry and never on individual businesses or competitors, said Neil Rosenberg at ITTCO Sales, who worked with Danas at the National Educational Alliance of Trim Suppliers. “He had that kind of integrity.”
Danas is survived by his wife, Ann Dinofsky; son, Adam Dinofsky; stepchildren Connie Couey and her husband, Steve; Jay, Mike, Patrick and Scott and his wife Tracy Krumbholz; Theresa Everhardt and her husband, Cory Everhardt; Kerry Estevez and her husband Joseph Estevez; grandchildren Reece Dinofsky; Matthew and David Campbell; Patrick, Brett and Katheryn Krumbholtz; Jennifer Krumbholz-Cain; Brenna Gale; Marcus Maunder; Victoria Estevez; and three great-grandchildren.
A service will be held Wednesday morning at the David C. Gross Funeral Home in Clearwater, Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in Danas’ name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.