By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
Byron Morris had a good job as a manager of a chemical manufacturing plant in nearby Palmetto. Now a year later, as showroom manager of a classic and exotic car consignment dealership, he has more than a job. Morris is following a lifelong love affair with nifty vehicles, fulfilling a lifelong passion, which was sparked many years ago when as a 4-year-old he would sit in his dad’s lap and steer the family’s 1965 Pontiac GTO in Allentown, Pa., where he grew up.
“I thank my dad for introducing me to the classic car culture,” said Morris recently from the spacious front showroom of the Gateway Classic Car lot in a warehouse location at 361 30th St. N.E. in Ruskin. “If it were not for my dad, I would not have achieved the level of success that I have at Gateway.
“I’d also like to thank my fiancée for encouraging me to follow my passion, and, of course, I thank Gateway Classic Cars for providing me with an opportunity to work with the world’s largest dealership of this kind,” added Morris, who is in hog heaven every day of work amidst several tons of shiny chrome and sparkling colors of gleaming steel. He is more like a curator of a museum, not exactly your typical used-car salesman. And his “previously owned” products are more like valuable objects of art than some late model, or even antique, clunker you’d find on the corner car lot.
Gateway Classic Cars of Tampa has been in business for five years in Hillsborough County. Gateway has two additional locations, in Seminole and Broward counties. Gateway Classic Cars has a total of 18 locations nationwide and just celebrated its 20th Anniversary.
Asked about the biggest challenge in his job, Morris replied, “Time is the biggest challenge. Gateway Classic Cars is a global business. We receive inquiries at all times throughout the day. Being able to service our clients nationally and internationally is what we pride ourselves on. If I need to stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. to speak with a customer in Australia — then that is what I will do.”
This is no ordinary car lot. The wide variety, in models and vintage, are all owned by individuals who place them under Morris’ stewardship for sale on consignment. And it is not exactly the place to pick up a cheap, run-around-town bargain as a high school graduation present either. Anyone is welcome to come visit the showroom and enclosed warehouse in the rear to indulge in some eye candy or conduct some entertaining window shopping. But if you are looking to make a serious offer, you better bring your checkbook. These fine vehicles are not cheap! The prices are prominently displayed, but this is one of those places where if you have to ask the price, then it is probably not for you.
“I love helping buyers and consigners,” said Morris. “When someone consigns their vehicle, they expect it to sell. It’s a great feeling to tell them that we just sold their vehicle and will have a check for them. It’s equally exciting to help a buyer fulfill a lifelong dream or relive the good old days. It’s so awesome when a father purchases a car to surprise his son, and we get to play a part in it.”
Gateway Classic Cars is located in a burgeoning area between Ruskin and Sun City Center, just north of the Hillsborough County branch offices and just south of the new, sprawling Amazon warehouse facility. For Morris, it is an ideal location.
“There’s a lot of growth happening in the South Shore area. Several big businesses are looking at this area as a landing spot for their companies. Gateway Classic Cars became part of the community at a great time along with our neighbor, Amazon and a few other companies,” exclaimed Morris. “It’s an excellent area and the long-term outlook appears very promising. The South Shore area is centrally located, and you can enjoy your time here, or reach Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton or Sarasota all within a short ride.”
In fact, Morris invites anyone from South Shore or nearby or visiting this area to come by anytime just for tire-kicking or ogling or wishful thinking, or to make a purchase.
Additionally, Morris appreciates all his customers for allowing Gateway to be a part of their experience. The classic and exotic dealership is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. “Join us the last Saturday morning of each month for our Caffeine and Chrome event, 9 a.m. to noon. Visit us on the web at www.gatewayclassiccars.com,” concludes Morris, listing his valuable co-workers John Lane, Jeff George, Jake Levin, Matt Forde and Veronica Macias. “I appreciate them for the spectacular job they do to make Gateway Classic Cars one of the best showrooms.”