At his Winnabow warehouse, Medhat Bary keeps the dream alive for Saab owners.
As a child, Medhat Bary imagined that one day he would own a Saab 9000. The car of his dreams looked like an aircraft with its cockpit layout and front dash filled with switches and gauges. Even as a young boy, Bary knew he would somehow get the chance to sit behind the wheel of such a beautiful and powerful car. What he didn’t know, however, was that decades later, his childhood passion would lead him to become affectionately known as the Saabman around Brunswick County and beyond.
Originally from New York, Bary worked in Manhattan for 28 years, most of which were spent on Wall Street as a successful day trader. After the events of 9/11, he decided to make a change, moving first to Pennsylvania and then to California before ultimately retiring to the Myrtle Beach area. It was there one morning in 2011 that Bary first heard the news on the radio that Saab Automotive had filed for bankruptcy. That small nugget of information sparked an idea, which quickly turned into the start of a new business.
“I realized the people who owned Saabs would no longer have access to parts or service,” Bary says. “Logically, I thought I could make a lot of money off that, so I started buying Saab cars for parts, dismantling them and then selling the parts on eBay. What started out as a hobby turned into the biggest business I’ve ever had.”
Bary searched online insurance auctions for Saabs that had been in accidents that he could salvage for parts. Renting a small warehouse in Conway, he then had the wrecked cars transported back to him. He hired a few people to help him take the cars apart, then researched the different part types before listing them on eBay.
Business grew rapidly, and in his first year Bary made more than $120,000 selling Saab parts online. Deciding to also begin selling used Saab cars, his business quickly outgrew its space. Bary moved it to Leland in 2013 and then to a larger warehouse in Winnabow in 2016. He also officially became the owner of his first Saab and finally fulfilled his childhood dream.
“Saabs are just beautiful cars,” he says. “They’re very simple, very strong, very powerful, and very fast.”
Despite being tucked in the woods and not visible from the main road, Bary’s Saab business continues to expand and flourish. He credits his consistent growth and rising recognition to the value he puts on his reputation and the way he cares for each customer. Bary is proud to say he offers warranties on every car, refuses to charge any interest or finance charges and promises to take good care of each car for as long as the buyer owns it.
“This year I sold more cars than I ever have, just because people are talking about me,” Bary says. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the service. We serve everybody with honesty and good prices, and we keep their car running.”
The name Bary the Saabman has garnered the attention of many Saab enthusiasts from all over the country. With very few options left when it comes to purchasing and maintaining these beloved cars, Bary’s inventory remains remarkable, and his prices are even more so. One customer recently shipped his Saab to Bary for service all the way from California and then proceeded to fly across the country to pick it up and drive it back home. The decision made sense, as the total expense was still significantly less than if he had chosen to service his car on the West Coast.
Through word of mouth and constant referrals from happy customers, Bary has never needed to pay to advertise his business or bring people to his lot, a claim very few other used car dealerships can make.
“A lot of family and friends back in New York laughed when they first heard what I was doing, and now they can’t believe what I’ve made out of all this,” Bary says. “It’s been hard work, but I knew it would be a guaranteed success if I just put in the time and the effort.”
One customer who has sent Bary a great deal of business over the years is Wilmington real estate broker Jeff Chase. Shortly after purchasing his first Saab from Bary, Chase returned to the Saabman when his car needed a new engine about a year later. Although Bary’s 30-day warranty had since expired, he still felt compelled to replace Chase’s engine and repair the vehicle free of charge. In turn, Chase purchased two more Saabs from Bary for his son and daughter soon after and over the years has turned numerous other friends and colleagues into additional customers and Saab enthusiasts.
“Bary is definitely a good guy, and he takes care of his people,” Chase says. “He’s always been so kind and concerned about his cars and making sure they work well. I’ve told him he can’t move or close because we need him. He knows those Saabs inside and out.”
Another big fan of the Saabman is Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David. Having owned a number of Saabs over the years, David was disappointed when the company went bankrupt in 2011. As his car aged, David worried he would not be able to find a capable mechanic and that parts would soon be in short supply. When he heard about Bary’s business and visited his warehouse, David knew he would be driving a Saab for many more years to come.
“The fact that the Saabman opened right here in Brunswick County is nothing short of a miracle,” David says. “Bary is a wonderful mechanic with an endless supply of used parts who delivers exceptional customer service. For a Saab enthusiast, looking at Bary’s inventory of rebuilt cars is like our field of dreams.”
With business growing faster and stronger by the day, Bary knows he could make a lot more money if he wanted. However, since moving to Brunswick County he has made a conscious effort to change his mindset when it comes to wealth and profit. Bary admits that during the decades he spent on Wall Street, his focus was on making as much money as possible, regardless of how it might affect others. He hopes that with his Saab business, his success will be a result of the hard work and service he can now provide to others.
“As a day trader, I didn’t care who was losing money as long as I was making more, and that’s the truth,” Bary says. “I never stole money, and I always followed the law, but I was making more money than I should. Unfortunately, I can’t erase my past, but hopefully I’ll see God soon and he’ll forgive me. So today it’s not about the money, it’s about the rest of my life. I’m not trying to change the country, I’m just changing myself.”