On a cool, drizzly Saturday morning in an open garage at Venice’s Edgewood Nursery, Sal D’Angelo examines the clutch of a broken-down golf cart with the eye of a surgeon. Something isn’t working right, but he’s struggling to pop open the clutch to see what’s causing the problem. He squeezes the round hunk of metal into a vice and leans over to get a closer look.
Although he spends four hours at Edgewood every Saturday morning, D’Angelo isn’t an employee. His light gray T-shirt displays the name of the business he launched late last year, D’Angelo’s Mobile Golf Cart Express, with the help of Dan and Melissa Burns, the husband and wife who own Edgewood.
Edgewood uses a dozen or so golf carts to take customers around the sprawling property and to transport trees and plants back and forth, and they often break down. “They’re not built for what we do to them,” says Dan Burns. Years ago, while D’Angelo was working at a Sarasota company that builds and repairs golf carts, a colleague connected him to the Burnses, and D’Angelo showed up one Saturday morning, ready to work. He’s been coming ever since.
D’Angelo was born in Far Rockaway, New York, and was addicted to drugs at the age 13. He spent 16 months in a Florida prison after being convicted of two strong-arm robberies committed in Tampa in late 1999. After his release in 2002, he was arrested again multiple times, until 2010, when he enrolled in the Sarasota County jail recovery program, which helped him finally get sober. He started working on golf carts the following year.
D’Angelo’s story was told in depth in a 2017 Sarasota Magazine feature on life after incarceration. After the article came out, D’Angelo’s girlfriend, Erin Babich, gave birth to Aryanna, the couple’s first daughter. When the Burnses read the story and saw how D’Angelo was struggling to make ends meet with a new baby, they felt motivated to help. They decided to back D’Angelo’s idea for a new business: a mobile operation that would have D’Angelo traveling to various businesses and neighborhoods where he could fix busted golf carts. “We could invest our money with a guy in a suit or in a person,” says Dan. D’Angelo’s Mobile Golf Cart Express was born.
D’Angelo designed the company’s logo, a blend of Italian and Irish imagery and colors, and came up with its slogan: “Salvatore the Italian Golf Cart Technician, with a Pinch of Irish.” While still employed part time with a golf cart company, he uses his free time to market his new company, handing out business cards, posting on Facebook and calling on businesses that might need his services. He’s currently working out of the trunk of his car, but has plans to purchase a truck and deck it out with the company logo. “We’re taking baby steps,” D’Angelo says. “When anyone starts a new business, it’s scary.”
Using a long metal bar and a hammer, D’Angelo bangs on the clutch until it begins to budge. It finally pops open, releasing a puff of rusty dust. After replacing the guts of the clutch, D’Angelo works it back onto the cart. “I love what I do,” he says. He sits in the cart’s driver seat, turns the key and gooses the gas pedal. The engine whirrs loudly and emits black fumes. D’Angelo is happy. “It’s working,” he says loudly.
For more info about D'Angelo's Mobile Golf Cart Express, follow the company on Facebook or call (941) 587-6799.