As I hop on a call to interview Michael Garber, I’m greeted with a long yawn and an apology. “Sorry, I went to the Atlanta United game
last night and I’m feeling it still.” It’s about 11:30 AM, and as 45% of America is filling up on java, Garber informs me that he no longer drinks the liquid energy, as pint glasses of iced coffee was causing him to have migraines, so instead he fills up on iced tea.
Garber might be tired, but the bounce in his voice says otherwise. He’s energetic and excited to speak about Gimbal Group, a modern real estate business focused on bringing new life to Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
“I moved back to Atlanta in 2014 and found myself hanging out on Edgewood Avenue at places like Joystick, Noni’s, and Church. I was struck by the sense of entrepreneurship and individuality that permeated through all the businesses and realized there was something special about the O4W and Edgewood specifically. When a small 13-unit apartment complex came to market, I sold everything I owned and took the plunge into real estate. After that first project, I realized how rewarding building communities and spaces from the historic
fabric of Atlanta was and I became hooked.”
Before taking the aforementioned “plunge,” Garber studied engineering and law in New York City, while also managing a cupcake truck company. How do cupcakes, engineering and law equate to real estate? Well, “whether it’s understanding construction methods or being able to review legal documents associated with a transaction, both skill sets are extremely useful.” As for the cupcakes, it was just a fun idea brought on by a friend at the beginning of the “food truck craze.”
“Did you have any interest in cupcakes or baking?” I ask with a sudden sweet tooth for the treat.
“Literally none. It was an interesting new take on an old market. The truth of the matter is that anything can be interesting, at least for me. I get excited at the prospect of building something new from something old and doing it better than what had become status quo.”
The Atlanta native keeps things interesting, the most important being his business. As the
founder and managing partner of Gimbal Group, the lack of consistency in the day-to-day is what makes his job so fun. “One day I could be on my stomach, crawling around beneath a potential new acquisition and the next I could be interviewing muralists to design our newest walls. It really just depends on whether we’re trying to acquire a new building or build out an existing one.”
Garber spends a lot of time in his car driving around with a laptop on the passenger seat and a large flashlight in the glove compartment as he seeks out new properties to acquire. He searches for buildings that have been neglected or forgotten, but finds that they have strong underlying bones and an even stronger community to support them. When he comes across a hidden gem, him and his team are often the first people to see the interior in decades. “We’ve found some very interesting jars from the 60’s, and vintage newspapers.”
As our interview comes to a close, I ask Garber two very important questions: 1) what
sparked your interest in the O4W community, and 2) what is your favorite breakfast?
Both questions ignite very passionate responses. First, the people and history of the neighborhood is what he believes makes it so unique. “We have some of the most imaginative, industrious, and interesting people running owner-operated businesses in this neighborhood spanning more backgrounds than I can imagine.” And saving the best for last, a piece of sourdough toast, with muenster cheese and everything bagel seasoning sprinkled on top gets him through the day. “You gotta put it through the panini press.”