By GEOFF FOX
RUSKIN – Rain fell in angry bands outside Gateway Classic Cars, a massive, museum-like showroom and warehouse full of vintage and new high-end vehicles.
Unlike a regular car lot, the weather does not affect Gateway’s consignment business, which is located at 351 30th St., near the Amazon Fulfillment Center.
Showroom manager Johnny Lane said most customers find the company online and about 35 percent of them are international buyers.
“Over here, it’s cool to roll up in a Bentley or a Rolls Royce,” Lane said. “In Europe, it’s cool to pull up in a Corvette or a Mustang. I was just talking to a guy in Melbourne, Australia, who wants a Corvette, and we just shipped a ’68 Mustang to France.”
Entering Gateway’s showroom is like walking into a wonderland of gleaming chrome.
There is a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder selling for $108,000. The Lamborghini is surrounded by a 1969 Pontiac GTO, 1957 Chevrolet Sedan, 1946 Jeep Willy, 1946 Chevrolet Stepside pickup, 1941 Willys Coupe and a 2007 Ford Minotti Coupe.
For a young car guy like Lane, 26, it’s a pretty cool place to work. A Chicago native, Lane has been at Gateway for two years. He worked at General Motors in Illinois for several years before heading south.
“I always wanted to get into the classic car business,” he said. “It’s more exciting. We sell to all kinds of celebrities, sports stars, country singers, there was a guy from ‘The Walking Dead.’
“I’ve been in the car business since I was 19. I didn’t plan it that way, but I had a really good first month (of sales), and here I am.”
At Gateway, car sellers can show their cars for three months at no charge. Gateway handles all transactions, including advertising the cars, and selling and shipping them.
When potential customers come in, Lane said, they aren’t hassled by pushy salespeople and are encouraged to take as many photos as they please.
Owner Sal Akbani opened Gateway’s first location in St. Louis in 1999. There are now 18 around the U.S., including those in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Nashville and Philadelphia.
New inventory at the Ruskin location includes a 1973 Jaguar E-Type, 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, 1984 Buick Riviera, 2012 Chevrolet Camaro, 1985 Cobra Roadster, 1985 Cadillac DeVille, 1926 Ford Model T, 1954 Mercury Monterey, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair, 1963 Chevrolet Impala, 1954 Ford F-100 pickup, 1951 Chevrolet Styleline, 1961 Ford Thunderbird, 1967 Mercedes-Benz 250 S and a 1999 Porsche 911.
Recently sold cars at the location include a 1968 Buick GS, 1968 Ford Mustang, 2013 Ford Mustang, 1968 Pontiac LeMans, 1967 Mercury Cougar and a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
On the last Saturday of each month, Gateway hosts a Coffee and Chrome event, during which people drink coffee and snack on pastries, while showing off and talking about their cars.
For information, visit www.gatewayclassiccars.com or call (813) 645-6200.