Michael Bay was on a boat in northern Italy when he got a call. Would he like to buy a huge, long-vacant cotton mill in Mooresville, North Carolina, featuring half a dozen buildings, some dating from the late 1800s? Bay wasn’t entirely sure where Mooresville was. He looked up the property on Google Earth. There stood the 40-acre site on Main Street, in a town near Charlotte best known for its NASCAR race shops.
Yes, he told the caller. I’ll take it.
It took months of replacing the roof, re-opening bricked-over windows, censoring the indoor graffiti and rehabbing the plumbing and electric service. But Bay (doing the construction himself, with a crew) brought the former Burlington Mill back to life as Merinos Home Furnishings, an enormous furniture retailing complex. Bay carefully preserved the picturesque architectural features of the mill, including the original wood floors.
Bay also owns a store in Georgia and continues a remarkable American success story.
When Michael Bay was born in Urfa (in Eastern Turkey) in 1961, his family lived in a mud hut. He grew up always seeking a better future. Bay worked in Turkey and Europe, operating a wholesale food business, until 1999 when he came to the U.S. and began his furniture retail career buying and selling antiques on the road from the back of a truck. Soon he expanded the business by becoming a distributor for Istanbul-based Merinos, the largest rug manufacturer in the world.
By 2006, Bay could see that the off-shore flight of American textile manufacturers had opened the possibility for a new business model in furniture retailing. Vacant textile mills, with their enormous space and distinctive architecture, would make possible very competitive pricing through low overhead costs. Bay first put the mill-to-retail model to work in Jefferson, Georgia, to tap the Metro Atlanta, Athens, and Gainesville/Lake Lanier markets.
In 2010, Bay bought the flagship property of the Merinos Home Furnishings chain—the sprawling 40-acre former Burlington Industries mill in downtown Mooresville. Merinos is a natural "furniture tourism" destination and one key market is families visiting Mooresville's NASCAR race team shops and racing museums.
Environmentally conscious, Bay has created the largest solar photovoltaic complex on a retail property in North Carolina.
Bay has also created a travel fund at the Mooresville South Iredell Chamber to support the town's International Hydrail Conference project, speeding the transition of the world's railways from diesel to low-carbon,renewable-based hydrogen hybrid fuel cell technology.