Popular used car business up for sale
Businessman to downsize operation
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.
Owner Mike Carpenter of Gold Star Cars sits at the desk he’s occupied for the past 22 years.