Spirit: Goodman Millwork knows one way to do things

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2017

By Susan Shinn Turner

For The Salisbury Post

Benjamin and Nicholas Goodman remember growing up at Goodman Millwork, tearing across the shop floor on Big Wheels, tossing the football around outside — and throwing rocks at each other. Nicholas Goodman bears a scar over his left eye as proof.

That was a while back, of course. Now, the brothers are preparing to lead their family business into its fourth generation — a rarity these days.

After the housing market collapse in 2008, the company — which still builds homes from time to time — changed direction, finding its niche in custom millwork for high-end homes. Franco Goodman, their father, says that being flexible is nothing new to the 107-year-old company.

“We were the big box store before there were big box stores,” he explains.

The focus is now solely on architectural millwork — any type of wooden finishes for interiors or exteriors. They had also been heavily involved in the furniture industry, building a large number of showrooms. Other projects now fill that gap.

The brothers don’t think about the history of their company on a daily basis. Nicholas Goodman admits, “I don’t know anything else.”

“The microscope is always gonna be on you,” says Benjamin Goodman, who joined the company in 2001 and for the past decade has served as plant manager. “Being the boss’ son comes with its own set of challenges. Everybody already has an opinion on who you are and why you are here. Expectations are higher for family, and the employee-employer relationship is different.”

Benjamin Goodman acknowledges that family members do treat one another differently throughout the 15-member operation. “It doesn’t help that we Goodmans are notoriously stubborn, so you do have to have a thick skin. But the satisfaction is mostly worth the sacrifice.”

The two wear a lot of hats, he continues. “Some days, I push paper with computer work. But other days, I’m out there with my hands on the wood, doing what needs to be done, just like everybody else.”

Nicholas Goodman oversees the company’s construction division. He heads the myriad small projects for homeowners. One recent day had him finishing a portico for a Salisbury family, and scheduling an estimate for a master-bedroom closet.

Out in the shop, the expansive room was filled with a single job — cabinetry, a large island, and other kitchen and household storage pieces for a 4,000-square-foot home in Columbia, S.C., recently damaged by flooding. Yet there was also a single floating shelf for another client, made from beautiful reclaimed wood.

“I see the stuff we’ve made, and there is a ‘wow factor’ to it,” Goodman says.

Most of the company’s business is by word of mouth. Leads also come through the company’s impressive Web site, goodmanmillwork.com. Its specialty is residential work, and commercial leads tend to stem from that.

Local commercial jobs have included St. John’s Lutheran, First Methodist and First Presbyterian churches, the John Steele House, Henderson Law Office, Rowan Public Library’s old well and First Citizens Banks throughout North Carolina and Virginia. The company has worked with the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill for some 25 years, through its long-term, multiphase expansion.

They’ve done quite a bit of work at mountain resorts, in the second or third homes of existing customers. In town, the company has made doors and windows for Catawba College’s renovation of its residence halls and Goodman Gym. Yet more than 90 percent of its work takes place out of town, and indeed, all over the country.

Even with a company founded more than a century ago, you can’t just hang your hat on that, Benjamin Goodman says. “You still have to prove yourself every time,” his father adds.

As their dad has experienced with wife Brenda, the younger Goodmans, too, have the full support of their wives. Nicholas and Jessica have two daughters; Benjamin and Kelly have a son and daughter.

“We’re both in it together,” Nicholas says. “She supports me and I support her. We both work. My job is not more important than hers.”

Benjamin Goodman adds, “Kelly’s father ran a business, too, so she knew a little bit about what was involved. We try to balance work with school plays, sports, and so forth, but this is true for all families whose parents work.”

At the core of the company’s operations are its employees, “good people who have made us what we are,” Goodman says. “We’re not lowering our standards to meet volume. We don’t know but one way to do things, and that’s the best way.”

The men say that customers bring in ideas, then affordability and design dictate the outcome. And it’s a one-stop shop — Goodman Millwork offers everything from designing to manufacturing to installation and finishing.

“You figure out what works and how it can work,” Nicholas Goodman says.

Brothers Enoch and Linus Goodman founded Goodman Millwork. Goodman came on board in 1982 after careers in banking and textiles. His father encouraged him to get experience elsewhere.

“The beautiful part of what we do is to create something unique and custom,” Goodman continues. “We always say that our products can last a lifetime if they’re taken care of properly. We’ve been very blessed to be here as long as we have and do the quality of work that we do. I take pride in that. It’s a big deal.”