B-Metro Magazine April 2011

 The Magazine of Metro Birmingham Living     April 2011

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Accidental Business

Michael Gamotis and Edward Bailey

Dental student Michael Gamotis finds a new business and business partner in a most 
unlikely place.

by Naomi Jo’el Glover , Photo by Beau Gustafson

Three years ago, Michael Gamotis saw an old factory cart in the back  of the former Parkside Antiques. One year later, he had a thriving business selling these renovated carts as pieces of elegant furniture. Now, he’s giving the entire business away.

Michael Gamotis will soon graduate from the UAB School of Dentistry and head back to Mobile with his wife to operate his own dental practice. The past three years have brought many experiences for Gamotis, including the unexpected meeting of a business partner and close friend.

Edward Bailey began working with Gamotis one year ago. What began as a form of repayment to Gamotis soon became a full-time position for Bailey, as he exhibited a talent and passion for woodworking and refinishing and displayed excellent salesmanship. In a few short months, he will be the sole owner of Mike’s Antique Carts.

As a team, Gamotis and Bailey have navigated the new frontier of a budding business. “It was a new experience trying to learn the odds and ends involved in shipping and managing the website,” Gamotis says. The men try to keep their business old-fashioned by dealing with their customers personally or by telephone. “We have found that it’s easier to do business when you are directly speaking with the customer over the phone,” Gamotis says. “Otherwise there is room for miscommunication.”

In the same vein of  nostalgia, these carts each receive a personal touch before they are sold and shipped to the customer. Each cart is treated without the use of chemicals and is refurbished by hand. This includes the stabilization of the cart, a fine touch that Gamotis’ new competitors cannot match. “I have had multiple people try to figure out how we stabilize the carts, but we are the only sellers as of now that have it exactly right and we can’t share the secret,” Gamotis says. “It’s what makes our carts unique.”

The decision to give the business to Bailey was an easy one in Gamotis’ eyes. Gamotis has seen over the last year how much potential Bailey exhibits as a salesman and business person. “We had a tent at Pepper Place over the summer where we advertised our carts, and about 70 percent of the sales were because of Edward’s enthusiasm and communication with the customer,” Gamotis says. “People love Edward and he’s great with all kinds of people, not just one target customer.”

However, there is one audience Bailey and Gamotis cannot reach: old factory workers. These men can tell Gamotis story upon story about the old days of steering factory carts, but do they want to buy an antique-cart coffee table? Most of them say they do not ever want to see another one again, according to Gamotis. The record still stands that Gamotis and Bailey have never sold a cart to a previous cart laborer.

Although he must leave the business to pursue his career, Gamotis remains passionate about antiques. He plans to use a factory cart as a coffee table in his new dental office. And he plans on remaining close friends with Bailey. As far as the business goes, however, Gamotis won’t miss it. “I will always love woodworking and creating things, but I am looking forward to my own practice, and that’s the next project I can tune into,” he says.

Bailey is excited and confident about taking over Mike’s Antique Cart but is not excited about losing a close friend in the move. “When you meet someone as unique as Michael is and who has such a giving spirit, you don’t want to part, but I still like seeing him move forward in his life,” Bailey says. “It is hard to lose people that you are close with, but I know he is moving on to newer things, and we will maintain our friendship.”

Bailey has tried to convince Gamotis to remain a part of the business as a partner even from Mobile, but Gamotis says that, due to the distance, it just isn’t possible for him to contribute his part. “I know Edward will succeed on his own and he is well worth giving the business too,” Gamotis says. “He’ll do whatever it takes. This business is what it is because of him.”

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