He should know. Evidence of flexibility in the face of market change can be seen throughout Goodman Millwork’s multi-acre site in Salisbury, North Carolina, where there’s more than enough vacant land to contain a vast lumber yard – no longer there -- and where a steam engine that once powered their plant sits waiting for a future assignment.
The company was founded in 1907 when brothers Enoch and Linus Goodman got tired of working in other people’s businesses and started one of their own: a portable sawmill. Their competitive advantage was hauling the mill to the trees instead of asking the woodlot owner to haul his trees to the mill.
Ingenuity like that – along with the brothers’ insistence on handshake country quality – earned them a reputation as the kind of folks you could count on, which they put to work building Goodman Lumber Company. In time, they located the business on a site in town after their wives insisted on a more permanent setup not so far out in the country. The slogan (tagline) that served them for the next 70 years or so was Everything for the Builder, From the Foundation to the Roof.
Goodman Lumber Company thrived in serving builders’ needs, especially as other area businesses prospered around them and created demand for housing, among them the Food Lion chain of grocery stores, which began life in Salisbury and remains headquartered there. The Goodmans began building homes themselves in the ‘20s, a natural step for an ambitious family that needed more customers for its lumber as the world changed around them.
A change that arose in the 1970s was the advent of big box stores that sold framing and lumber, which began to eat away at Goodman Lumber Company's business. They responded by looking to other lumber- and building-related markets for opportunity, including custom made woodworking for high-end residences, churches, banks, clubs and restaurants. For a while, they even built room settings for furniture manufacturers to display their products at trade shows like the High Point Market. In 1982, the company's name was changed to Goodman Millwork, Inc. to more precisely reflect the value-added nature of their business.
“Now we’ve come to another turning point,” says Franco Goodman. “We’ll continue to look to our present customer base for business, including architects and interior designers, whose clients want only the finest quality millwork, doors and windows used in their renovations and new construction. And we're also looking to the Internet as we reach for yet another new market. That’s where at least part of our future lies,” he declares, pointing with pride to pictures of his two sons, now working their way into the family business.
"We can’t see the end from the beginning,” he acknowledges, “but at least we can make a start."
Nooks And A Necessary Cabinet.
“We made one of these for a customer, and it turned out so good we decided to add it to the line of architecturally inspired phone nooks we were developing. We didn’t quite know what to name it – other than a bathroom storage cabinet (it’s placed above the toilet tank), but then someone suggested we call it a necessary cabinet.
Back in the old days, that’s what people used to call the bathroom.
TakeAway: Build on today’s change to create tomorrow’s business success.
Tags: Goodman Millwork, Food Lion
Content © Brian E. Faulkner.
About Brian Faulkner:
Brian also is a three-time Emmy award winning Public Television writer and narrator of UNC-TV’s popular Our State magazine series, on the air since 2003. His distinctive voice has been heard on many hundreds of radio spots and client projects since the 1970s. People say he sounds a bit like Charles Kuralt, which Brian considers a welcome but happy illusion.