Classic cars (cautiously) cruise back into Salisbury

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017

By Jessica Coates

SALISBURY — Mike Gerchak was part of the classic car community for years before he came to North Carolina.

“I’m an implant from Jersey. For years, I was in a car club there, and I did not go to all, but most, of the (car) shows,” Gerchak said. “So when I came down here, I got involved again.”

That was back in December 2013. Since then, Gerchak has joined with friends driving an unofficial convoy of classic cars. He said the group varies from two to eight cars, depending on the destination and the day.

“I just think car people are very nice people,” Gerchak said. “We speak the same language.”

When Gerchak came to Salisbury last Thursday for the first Salisbury Classic Car Cruise-In, he was expecting to find lots of people who shared his interest, much like he had at similar cruise-ins in Kannapolis and China Grove.

But he said he was disappointed by the low turnout — approximately six cars.

That’s something organizer Mikey Wetzel had feared when he began advertising for the event.

“There’s an uphill battle to fight,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel said he was expecting publicity to be difficult because, according to people he had talked with at other classic car gatherings, Salisbury has a reputation for being unfriendly to car cruisers.

Back in the late 1980s, the city passed a law that penalized cars that were cruising through town purely for the enjoyment of riding down the streets and to be seen.

In the years preceding that law, cruising through Salisbury was a favorite pastime of people from surrounding counties.

Wetzel said that he first became curious about classic cars when he noticed that nearly every nearby town — except Salisbury — had classic car shows.

“They’re in Gold Hill, they’re in Rockwell, they’re in Granite Quarry, they’re in Statesville. … So I long had this idea of, ‘Why do I always see classic cars all over the place, but I don’t see them in Salisbury?’” Wetzel said.

Wetzel — who owns Go Burrito at 115 W. Fisher St. — has since taken it upon himself to bring the classic car community to Salisbury.

“In my case, I do own Go Burrito, but I’m not even asking the car people to come and be in front of Go Burrito. I don’t even know that for the older people who have classic cars that they even really care about burritos. They might want to eat at the Smoke Pit or City Tavern. I don’t care; what’s good for downtown is good for me,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel said that by hosting the classic car cruise-in on Thursday nights, he is hoping to bring life to downtown Salisbury on a night other than Friday or Saturday.

“I think the cars will be good for downtown. I think downtown would be good for the cars. I think Thursday would be good for everybody,” he said. “And maybe, if there’s enough stuff happening, then maybe, just maybe, the shops will decide to be open later.”

Gerchak, for one, is not giving up hope yet. He said that even though he was disappointed by the turnout last week, he still thinks Salisbury could be a great place for the classic car community to expand into.

“(Cruisers) look for good restaurants, places to eat, places to shop. It’s a great town for a car show, and I’m sure that it will be a good show eventually,” Gerchak said.

The Classic Car Cruise-In will be held every Thursday, weather permitting, starting at 5 p.m. in the 100 block of South Main Street.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.