Lake Norman & Mooresville

He's Mr. Ambassador, at your service

Try connecting with Joe Carbon through email, on Facebook or by sending him a tweet and you'll be out of luck.

But show up at any of the monthly Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce events and you're virtually guaranteed a face-to-face meeting with Carbon, owner of Good Old Fashioned Auto Care & Repair.

"Notice we're called, Good Old-Fashioned Auto Care. If I work on your car everything is hand-written. I don't own a computer. I don't blog, tweet or Google," said Carbon, who lives in the Carolwoods subdivision in Mooresville.

When challenged about possible lost business opportunities in today's 24-hour digital world, Carbon, 50, is adamant.

"No real man would admit to tweeting. And a clog is something you wear on your feet. I am about building face-to-face relationships. And I return phone calls," said Carbon.

Dubbed the Lake Norman Chamber's "most photographed man" because of his propensity for showing up at nearly every chamber event, and thereby in nearly every photo of the chamber newsletter, the group that Carbon calls his "second family" aren't surprised by his resistance to technology.

"He has always said he would never do email, that kind of thing; Joe's all about mentoring and involvement," said Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell. "He's like the guy who teaches you how to fish. He takes that new person who wants to get involved and shows them how it's done. Joe sets the example."

Since joining the chamber in 2004, Carbon has crafted a rock-steady attendance record (chamber breakfast and lunch meetings, ribbon cuttings, after-hours events, committees and philanthropy) and turned building close, personal relationships, and thereby his own business, into an art form.

"With the economy the way it is we lost a lot of chamber members. They said 'We can't afford to do it anymore. ... We don't feel like we're getting enough out of it.' Well, I always ask, 'How many events were you coming to?'

"The chamber is a business forum, a networking opportunity. It's a chance for you and I to get together. You get out of it what you put into it," said Carbon.

The Lake Norman Chamber's response to a struggling economy was to add more events for chamber members to attend, said Carbon. And for most, the payoff has been that nearly every client they now have can be traced in one way or another to someone at the chamber, said Russell.

Won't slow down

Two years ago, when Carbon's doctors discovered he had a tumor, later diagnosed as pancreatic cancer, Carbon entered the hospital for surgery on a Monday.

The following morning Carbon was up and about and exasperating hospital nursing staff, he said.

Carbon insisted his wife, Terri, drive him to a chamber breakfast meeting. Two days later he also went to a chamber ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"If I do something, I do it all the way or I don't do it at all," said Carbon.

Carbon's influence has been so far-reaching that at the chamber's annual recognition banquet in January 2010, the Ambassador of the Year Award was permanently renamed The Joe Carbon Ambassador of the Year Award. Carbon received the honor in back-to-back years, in 2009 and 2010.

"Joe has really raised the bar, really challenged our commitment to the chamber's ambassador program," said chamber vice president of finance and operations, Janet Rollins. "He's brought a lot of restructuring and organization, and served as chair when we had never had a chair for that program before. Joe really stepped up and said, 'I'll call them, I'll organize everything, I'll keep up with everyone' And that was more structure than we've ever had in that program before."

Cancer-free since February, Carbon brings the same passionate intensity to his personal life and hobbies.

An amateur motocross rider - 2006 Outlaw Series Champion (age 40-and-up) and a JMS Series Divisional Champion (age 40-and-up) - Carbon has also been a part-time amateur guitarist with lengthy stints in various 1980s-era amateur heavy metal bands.

Carbon credits his success to his wife of 12 years.

"It's really my wife that's made everything I do possible," said Carbon. "She's loved and supported me through everything I've done, regardless. And not everybody has that. She's my best friend."

The couple met in 1999 through a dating website. Less than three months later, they were married at Mooresville Town Hall.

Making memories

An admitted workaholic in earlier years, Carbon said life today has taught him to give equal weight to both personal as well as professional goals.

"I've tried to learn to live life in balance and I believe I've reached my goal. Life is where I want it to be. I'm an unbelievably lucky man," said Carbon.

"I should be dead right now. I'm very fortunate," said Carbon.

Carbon said he and his wife have come up with a catch-all phrase they've coined recently while they continue to celebrate life together.

"Right now we're on what we call our 'Making Memories Tour.' We try to go out and have as much fun as possible, ride (motor) bikes, hang out and have fun with our friends. And all I want now is a few more years of enjoying what I have."