Pop­u­lar used car busi­ness up for sale

Busi­ness­man to down­size op­er­a­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Char­lieIndyNews

Gold Star Cars has pro­vided af­ford­able ve­hi­cles to Charles County res­i­dents for over two decades, but owner Mike Car­pen­ter is sell­ing the fam­ily-run busi­ness.

Car­pen­ter’s de­ci­sion to give up the com­pany stems from health con­cerns as well as sev­eral fam­ily tragedies. The 72-year-old has had a mild stroke and a mild heart at­tack. He’s dealt with four deaths over the past five years, in­clud­ing los­ing a son to stage four melanoma and a girl­friend to brain cancer.

“It’s just be­come over­whelm­ing for me,” Car­pen­ter said. “I just want to go ahead and give my­self a chance to live for a lit­tle bit.”

Car­pen­ter’s op­er­a­tion, nes­tled be­tween sev­eral other car com­pa­nies on Old Wash­ing­ton Road in Wal­dorf, has thrived for the past 22 years. The 8,000-square-foot build­ing comes com­plete with five apart­ments, a four­bay garage and a ma­chine shop. More than 7,000 cus­tomers have passed through the dou­ble-doors be­neath the bright yel­low fa­cade, and the busi­ness re­ceived an A-plus rat­ing from the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bu­reau.

“It’s a place for peo­ple to go that might have a prob­lem buy­ing from a ma­jor fran­chise,” said Bil­lie Stachura of BES & As­so­ciates Inc. In­sur­ance Agency. “It’s a small, fam­ily-owned busi­ness which gives it that down-home feel.”

Stachura has worked with Gold Star since they opened. She was chair of the Charles County Cham­ber of Com­merce last year when the com­pany re­joined af­ter a brief ab­sence.

Gold Star does not re­quire a credit check or a job check for po­ten­tial buy­ers and Car­pen­ter per­forms any nec­es­sary re­pairs in his garage, free of charge. Cus­tomers who are un­em­ployed or lack de­cent credit are of­ten stonewalled by used­car places, but Car­pen­ter wel­comes ever yone.

“Some peo­ple need a job be­fore they get a car, but some peo­ple need a car be­fore they get a job,” Car­pen­ter said. “I’ll al­low that to hap­pen. You don’t have to have a job for me at all, you can just jump in and drive it.”

Some­times Car­pen­ter’s gen­eros­ity back­fires, and he must re­pos­sess ve­hi­cles or scrap them for parts when they come back busted be­yond re­pair. Once he even had to re­trieve a car from South Dakota, with the help of a track­ing de­vice he places in most of the cars. A buyer had skipped town with­out mak­ing any pay­ments, but Car­pen­ter lo­cated the 2006 Ford Ex­plorer across the coun­try and had a lo­cal re­pos­ses­sion com­pany re­turn it to Mary­land. The next day, Car­pen­ter sold it again for $3,000.

More of­ten than not, Car­pen­ter’s trust in his cus­tomers is re­warded. Fam­i­lies have come back through the years to buy cars for their chil­dren, with some mak­ing 10 to 20 pur­chases at Gold Star. Car­pen­ter said he de­vel­ops long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with his clients, in­clud­ing one that spawned a new slo­gan for the com­pany.

A young cus­tomer who had re­cently been re­leased from prison came to Gold Star for a car, and Car­pen­ter obliged. That night, the kid’s mother woke him up and be­gan beat­ing him with a broom. The boy had stolen cars in the past, so nat­u­rally his mother as­sumed he had un­law­fully ac­quired the ve­hi­cle. The son pleaded with her, of­fer­ing “Gold Star! Gold Star! Gold Star!” as his de­fense. From then on, Gold Star’s busi­ness cards and store­front were em­bla­zoned with “We will fi­nance you even when your momma won’t.” Car­pen­ter is still in touch with the fam­ily, and even sold a car to the mother.

Al­ways in pur­suit of the next su­per deal, Car­pen­ter has no plans to re­tire. In­stead, he’ll at­tend auc­tions with de­signs to buy and sell cars on a smaller scale.

“I’m try­ing to sim­plify my life, and still stay in the game,” Car­pen­ter said.

Any­one in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing Gold Star Cars can reach Car­pen­ter at 1-888-959-9093 or by email­ing hm­c­co­bra711@ aol.com.

STAFF PHOTO BY CHAR­LIE WRIGHT

Owner Mike Car­pen­ter of Gold Star Cars sits at the desk he’s oc­cu­pied for the past 22 years.

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