The long-time owners of Godwin’s Carpet and Floor Covering will say good-bye to the floor repair business after almost 50 years of serving Kershaw County and surrounding areas. The family’s business history begins after Cleatus Godwin married his wife, Bonnie, in 1950; the two met while attending Camden High School.
Godwin worked at several different places as a young man, he said. In 1965, he and a friend did a number of odd jobs for people they knew in the Kershaw County community. In June of that year, Godwin decided to open Godwin’s Cabinet Shop, a business that repaired “anything people needed” from locks to furniture repair, he said. The shop was a 22- by 24-foot building on Academy Drive behind the Godwin’s home.
The business began to grow, but Godwin noticed several flooring stores going out of business in the area leaving Camden without a locally-owned flooring company. Godwin said he bought a 32-by-48 metal building on Jefferson Davis Highway in the late 1960s and Godwin’s Cabinet Shop became Godwin Cabinet and Floor Covering.
Godwin Carpet and Floor Covering and Godwin Cabinet Shop are now two separate businesses housed in a 10,000-square-foot building.
After opening at its present location, Godwin went to Lancaster, Pa., to Armstrong Floor Covering/Installation School to learn floor covering and several seminars and classes in Columbia. He had previously taken three and a half years’ worth of cabinetry and carpet classes in high school, he said. He also learned a lot from friends that were craftsmen, he said. From there he took on carpet and installation, he said.
Throughout the years, the Godwins have used high school-aged interns and trained them in floor covering and installation.
Business peaked in the late 1960s, ’70s and ’80s; Godwin said they had “choice business” then. They did commercial work, remodeling and home additions, sticking to their roots by completing whatever projects people needed completed. Since then, the Godwins have remodeled the Little Theater on East DeKalb Street and Smart Shop, one of the Godwin’s first large jobs in Camden.
“I’ve developed a lot of friendships with people. Today, people I worked for back then still come to the shop to by carpet, floor covering and cabinets; the only difference is that now they work with Glenda (Frost), my daughter, and Keith, my son,” Godwin said.
Those friendships led to continuous business over the years, said Frost, the current owner and manager of Godwin’s Carpet and Floor Covering.
“We are doing work for the grandchildren of people he has worked with,” Frost said, before mentioning that word of mouth is how they get their business; she has worked for the company for 40 years, 22 of them before her father retired.
There have been several instances over the years in which the Godwins said they would begin working on someone’s house and a few days or weeks later, the neighbors would call asking for estimates.
Godwin said the cabinet shop business has performed cabinetry work for a wide range of people from Belmead, N.J., to Florida. Through that business, the family helped repair homes after Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s, Godwin said. Godwin Cabinet Shop will stay open and managed by Keith Godwin, even though his family will no longer own the building. Keith took over the cabinet shop about 25 years ago.
Throughout the years, Bonnie Godwin has “been the boss of the whole thing,” her husband said.
“I’m the one that tells them what to do,” she said.
Cleatus Godwin said he told his family that at age 62 “he was going to walk out the door and that was it.” In August 1995, he did just that; life circumstances brought him back last year, however. When he retired, Frost and her late-husband, Lee, took over the flooring business.
Godwin returned to work when Lee Frost passed away and met Camden Flooring Center’s George Johnson, who had been helping the Frosts with installation. Johnson will be the new owner of the building and will move his business from Broad Street to the Jefferson Davis Highway location. Godwin said Johnson is “honest, a great installer” and has 22 years of experience.
There isn’t a street in Camden that Godwin hasn’t worked on, he said. The flooring business has come a long way, he said. Godwin said he used to hand draw each of the designs; now they are done by computer. His grandchildren, Rebecca Graham and Jessica Clyburn, have also worked for the family business.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with people and forming relationships with people that we have worked for, but it’s just time to retire,” Glenda Frost said.
Frost will retire March 28 and Godwin will “re-retire.” They plan on spending lots of quality time with the Godwin’s five grandchildren and six grandchildren, Godwin said.
“We’ve created great relationships with people,” he said. “We’ve been honest, treated people fairly and satisfied customers through the years to stand behind the quality of our work and make sure it was done right, and it has worked each time.”