City News

4-year journey brings family to Charlotte

Opportunity, beautiful weather, great schools and a family-friendly atmosphere brought the Gregersen family to America and ultimately to south Charlotte.

Unhappy with the violence in Johannesburg, South Africa, Brad and Carolle Gregersen, both 41, embarked on a journey in 2007. They wanted their children, Daniella, 12, and Josh, 9, to have the opportunities of a western country.

“My sister, Leanne Henwood, moved to the states on a student visa in the 1990s, and she gained her citizenship when it was easier, prior to 9/11,” Carolle Gregersen said.

Immigration law allowed their parents, Barry and Jenny Hopking, to move here in 2009, under Henwood’s sponsorship.

“At that point, in 2009, Brad and I were still trying to figure out the best way to get here,” Gregersen said.

They hired an immigration attorney, who recommended that they move to England under Carolle Gregersen’s British citizenship. Her father, Barry, is a British citizen. After three years in England, Brad and the children could gain a British citizenship.

“We did want the children to have a citizenship other than South Africa, because we weren’t sure how everything would turn out,” Carolle Gregersen said.

When they became British citizens, the attorney helped get them an E-2 visa, which allows you to buy entry to the United States if you purchase a franchise or small business here.

Carolle Gregersen’s father researched small businesses and came upon AAMCO Pineville, at 316 N. Polk St.

“We picked AAMCO Pineville because of my background in automobiles,” Brad Gregersen said. “I owned an auto parts wholesaling company in South Africa.” AAMCO Pineville does full service, car care and transmissions.

“As soon as our visa came through in London, December 2010, we left three months later for Charlotte,” Carolle Gregersen said. They stayed with her parents for a few months and then rented a house in Landen Meadows, the same neighborhood as her parents and sister’s family.

According to, “E2 Visas are unlimited in the number available. The E2 Visa can be renewed indefinitely as long as the investor is running the business and it generates ‘more than enough revenue’ to support the investor’s family. … It lasts as long as the holder maintains the investment.”

Just this past summer, the family flew back to London to have their visa reviewed by the immigration office.

“We were so nervous, but the American employee in the office said to us, ‘We love what you are doing for the community and for the country as a whole,’ ” Carolle Gregersen said. “ ‘Thank you for your input into small business ownership and for providing employment in the United States.’ We were so thrilled and happy.”

Recently, they purchased their own home.

“We love living in Charlotte. It’s not as easy as people think it’s going to be, to own your own business,” Brad Gregersen said. “But it’s been worth all the trouble and transition. This is the nicest place we’ve ever lived, and we couldn’t have picked a better home.”