When Syed Ahmed was younger, he used to ride motorcycles.
“But there’s nothing fun about riding a motorcycle by yourself,” he says. “You want to go out riding with people. Cars aren’t that different — you want to have people to share it with.”
That desire for a community of people with a like-minded passion motivated Syed, a former mortgage broker at Quicken Loans, and his wife, Erica, armed with an MBA from Wayne State University, to create Out Of Office Garage, a members-only car club — plus so much more — in Birmingham’s Rail District.
Always a car enthusiast, Syed, with Erica, launched Platinum Motorcars 12 years ago, creating a new model of how supercars are marketed and sold. The high-end boutique car dealership, also in Birmingham, requires cars for sale to meet one of three criteria: “Make us giggle while driving; turn heads; or possess features commonly referred to as ‘luxury’” — Audi, BMW, Aston Martin, Land Rover, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley among them. They pride themselves on their ability to match their clients with the best vehicles the market has to offer — and they’re able to do so because, at the heart of the business, they are also car-obsessed chasers of the thrill, nostalgia and beauty that a hyper-exotic car offers. Plus, their clients become friends to play with.
Three years ago, the couple purchased the space at the end of Cole Street, with the intent of building a dealership warehouse. As they began renovations, Syed says, “we realized that this was the perfect opportunity to deliver something our community had been asking for, a place where everyone could hang out, as a social space, and take the experience we deliver to a whole other level.”
The husband-and-wife team tapped architectural designer Christopher Burcham, owner of Bldg001 in Detroit, to create a cutting edge-yet-welcoming, highly functional space. The 16,000-square-foot state-of-the-art climate-controlled warehouse houses 28 custom-built multi-tier auto lifts to hold more than 80 member vehicles, while offering on-site wash and detail services five days a week.
In addition, a 2,500-square-foot members’ lounge is equipped with professional-grade SimRacing simulators, a full-service coffee bar and kitchen and a business center with workspaces scattered throughout (plus more work spaces on the mezzanine).
Out Of Office Garage offers two memberships: car storage or social-only membership. Currently, cars stored — about $20 million worth — include gems like a 1983 Lamborghini Countach; a 2023 Lamborghini Countach; a 2004 Porsche Carrera GT; a 2017 Ford GT; an IMSA Racing Series GT4 class (“an actual race car, it’s not allowed to be driven on the road,” Syed says) and a BAC Mono (“the only one in the state of Michigan).
“We call it ‘collection management’ for people with these kinds of cars,” Syed says. “In addition to just having them there, we keep an eye on them, we keep them in such a condition that if they want to come and drive it, they don’t have to think about whether the battery is good, the tires are good. They just go into their portal, say they want to collect their vehicle and it’s ready to go.”
“There are cheaper options if you just want to store a car,” Erica says. “But we are trying to build a community. The majority of members are business-owners, entrepreneurs, some athletes, and there’s organic networking happening among them. Syed and I can see their relationships growing as a result of meeting other like-minded people.”
People come just to hang out, host birthday parties or even take a meeting. “We have people working here every day, sitting with their laptops, taking calls, meeting clients,” she says. “Our goal was to create versatility.”
Syed and Erica had often planned (and still do) client-appreciation events at the dealership. With Out Of Office Garage, they were ready to amp it up.
“We are trying to curate experiences for people who all like the same thing,” Erica says. Sunday Formula 1 viewing parties, poker nights, fall colors tours and their own version of Cars & Coffee, held instead over cocktails in the evenings, are popular gatherings. A recent event was a weekend retreat of luxury glamping at the Fields in South Haven, replete with a private chef’s dinner, a spa day and a private track day at nearby Gingerman Raceway. Next November, members will fly together to Las Vegas to watch the F1 race.
“Basically, I’m a car guy,” Syed says. “I look at it like, what do I want to do? Then we set it up so I can do it with other people.”
Ninety percent of OOOG’s members are parents (including Syed and Erica, who have three young daughters) and 89 percent are dads. “It’s become a place for dads to pass on their passion and love for cars to their kids,” Erica says. “We make sure that at least every two months we do an event that is family-friendly, whether it’s a toy drive for Ronald McDonald House, setting up a giant movie screen or renting out a theater to watch a car movie. We are actively trying to engage the kids and spread the love for cars. Our fridge is always stocked with juice boxes and the racing simulators are equipped for the smallest of humans.”
At the end of the day, says Syed, “we’ve always been of the belief that if we take care of our clients, and make sure it’s not all about the money, we would make the money and hopefully make friends.”
Adds Erica, “We’ve met some really incredible people. Sometimes this is a struggle, because there are no boundaries — clients are friends and friends are clients. But it’s testament to how cars bring people together in such a pure and authentic way. And we are so grateful.”