Goodman Millwork Co. Celebrates a Century of Building Rowan’s Future
By Mark Wineka
Walk the offices, buildings and grounds of this sprawling, family-run operation off Lumber Street, and you can’t help but inhale the scents of poplar and pine, mahogany and maple or cypress and cedar.
You want to run your fingers over the fresh cut of a band saw. Your eyes soak in the details contained in the hundreds — no, thousands — of moulding patterns stored neatly in compartments along the walls.
On this day, two identical custom-made doors stand in the loading area. Frames for the doors also are ready for delivery to the owner of a log home.
“We designed it, detailed it and built it — finished it for him, too,” Franco Goodman, owner and president of Goodman Millwork, says.
Goodman Lumber, which began as a sawmill in the backyard of Enoch and Frances Goodman’s home in 1907, grew and evolved with Salisbury. A slogan used for the company’s first 70 years said, “Everything for the builder, from the foundation to the roof.”
Early on, the sawmill provided lumber and framing for new houses, institutions and businesses.
Other building supplies and millwork became natural extensions of Goodman Lumber, and as customer demands for more specialized items increased, so did Goodman Lumber’s architectural millwork.
Today, it’s what Goodman Millwork (the name changed in 1992) is all about, designing and making things such as cabinets, moldings, doors, sashes, entrance frames, staircases and mantles so they match the dreams of their customers.
Over the past decade, Franco Goodman also has established F.E. Goodman Construction to build and remodel homes and help with the finishing and installation of Goodman Millwork products.
Franco, who is now joined in the business by his sons, Ben and Nick, likes to think there’s something genetic in the company’s ability to survive and thrive for 100 years.
He says four generations of Goodmans have relied chiefly on hard work, perseverance and maybe a little luck. The family always did well in determining what the market needed and where its business fit in.
The Goodmans and their loyal employees also have demonstrated an ability to change directions, while keeping quality and service at the forefront, Franco says.
“We have tried not to waiver on that.”
Ask Goodman, and he’ll tell you his business comes down to dedicated, talented employees — and, of course, wood.
His company depends on many varieties of wood, chiefly hardwoods — resources that continually have to be available on site or, through shipping, within a couple days of arrival.
“If we don’t have wood, we don’t have the ability to do anything,” Goodman says.
Goodman Millwork employs about 35 people, and its location takes up 20 acres off Lumber Street. The family plans a 100-year celebration for invited guests at Salisbury Station in October.
The Goodman Lumber story begins with brothers Enoch A. and Linus G. Goodman and came to include sons, sons-in-law, nephews, grandsons and great-grandsons.
Enoch Goodman grew up on a Morgan Township farm in eastern Rowan County as the oldest of eight children.
When the family farm could no longer provide enough work for all the boys, the 21-year-old Goodman took a job at a sawmill. He and a brother, B.F., soon pieced together a sawmill of their own, moving it to wherever they could buy and harvest timber in Rowan County.
Enoch Goodman remained the constant as other brothers and friends came and went as partners in his portable sawmills. He usually lost his associates when their wives soured on the rugged country life and living in the shacks connected to the mills.
Enoch said he learned quickly that his bride, Frances, didn’t like it, either.
“The second or third Sunday (after they were married), I decided we’d go to church,” Enoch recalled in a 1970 interview with the Post. “I had a buggy and a horse, and we started over to the Presbyterian church south of Woodleaf, and I looked over and saw tears running down her cheek.”
Not long after that buggy ride to church, Enoch and Frances bought a house in the Chestnut Hill area of Salisbury for $2,000. The property had a deep lot, extending back some 300 feet — big enough for a sawmill and small lumber yard.
Linus, a much younger brother, joined Enoch in this more permanent sawmill venture. For the rest of their lives, the brothers and their families grew the company on this same spot.
Enoch Goodman would claim later that he didn’t make much money in the lumber business, but it naturally led him into real estate. Building houses became a way of working their lumber into the ceilings and weatherboarding, and the Goodmans’ first homes in Fairview Heights sold as quickly as they were built.
A second, 35-acre housing development followed, as did apartment houses on South Ellis Street. Many of Salisbury’s earliest subdivisions depended on wood from Goodman Lumber, just as they depend today on the custom millwork.
Enoch Goodman once owned the 52-acre farm that became Eaman Park. He helped to build Haven Lutheran Church and, in 1954, donated a 6.5-acre tract of land behind then Boyden High School that became the location for today’s Salisbury High gymnasium and other athletic facilities.
Both Enoch and Linus Goodman were leaders in their churches and the business community. Linus died in 1971 at age 74; Enoch, in 1974 at age 93. Linus Goodman Jr. also made Goodman Lumber Co. his career.
Enoch had six children: Harold, Ree V., Lloyd C., Myron A., Enoch A. Jr. and Sarah.
Harold, Lloyd and Myron worked their adult lives as employees, officers and shareholders in Goodman Lumber Co. Ree V. Goodman disposed of his holdings in 1947 and went on to own and operate Salisbury Lumber Co. for more than 50 years.
Enoch Jr. joined the company of his wife’s family and eventually headed B.V. Hedrick Industries. He became one of Catawba College’s biggest benefactors, and the school’s Goodman Gymnasium is named for the family.
Sons-in-law of the two founders — Donald Nussman, Don Bowden and Roy David Beaver — also built careers at the lumber company.
A major change came to Goodman Lumber in 1982 when Franco Goodman, a grandson of Enoch and son of Myron, reorganized the company’s corporate structure and purchased all the outstanding shares, making him owner.
A few months earlier in 1982, Myron Sr. had died. He had served as Goodman Lumber’s shop superintendent until his retirement.
Franco, who had begun working in the company’s shop at 14, learned a lot about the business from both his father and his uncle Lloyd, who stayed with Goodman Lumber as vice president and was a fixture at the plant into his 80s.
After earning his business degree at East Carolina University, Franco Goodman worked for a bank and textile company before returning to Salisbury and Goodman Lumber. He was only 33 when he took over the family business, and the company immediately built on what had become its niche: architectural millwork.
While its core strength has focused on residences, Goodman Millwork’s creative, detailed craftsmanship also has found its way into many professional offices, churches, institutions and businesses in North Carolina and beyond.
The company relies on a strong relationship with builders, designers, contractors and architects and depends on their repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.
In recent years, the company has become much more involved in the finishing and installation of the millwork it produces. It helps control the quality to the end user, Franco says.
The company also handles specialized contracts, such as constructing and installing all the front entrances for Rangoni Shoes, from Charlotte to San Francisco.
Increasingly, Goodman Millwork has become a place for modern machinery where craftsmen still rely on traditional techniques.
One thing hasn’t changed. People still walk in with a shutter to be repaired or a special door to be made. They may have a drawing in hand or an idea in mind, and they ask Goodman Millwork to translate it into wood.
That often means one craftsman working with the customer from concept to construction.
The whole process of choosing the wood and seeing it shaped, cut, pieced together, finished and installed lends itself to accountability and flexibility. And just walking through the plant and past its history reminds a visitor that these things take time.
Maybe it’s just as easy to see Goodman Millwork as a living museum.
Some of the machines on the main millworking floor have been used through every generation of Goodman and their employees.
The mammoth 1920s steam engine that once powered all the equipment and the line shafts under the floor leading to the machines are still in place. The Goodman steam engine is identical to one in the Smithsonian, Franco Goodman says.
Through the 1960s, Goodman Lumber ran the steam engine 10 hours a day until the need for higher speeds on the cutting equipment required a complete conversion to electric.
“That is such a unique piece of equipment that you just won’t find in many places,” Goodman says of the steam engine.
Later, he stops at an old band resaw from the 1930s or ’40s that’s still used about once a week for sawmill tasks. Nearby, there’s a homemade mop sticking out of a bucket of kerosene and oil that’s used to keep the band cool.
As he makes a quick run through the property, Goodman explains where old buildings once stood and where new buildings or significant renovations have taken place.
Teams of mules delivered trees to the sawmill in 1907. Railcars brought in the wood later. Now trucks make the lumber deliveries.
The cabinet shop/finishing department has become an important element of the business, as are the shop drawings generated in-house for all the projects.
The plant is still heated by steam in the winter, relying on a hand-fired boiler that burns waste products from the plant. The boiler represents another unique piece of equipment that went hand in hand with the steam engine, Franco says.
Amid all the history, Goodman Millwork keeps looking toward the future.
The computer age has ushered in a new era of equipment that Franco Goodman thinks will continue to increase his company’s efficiency. He also expects the business to build on its people and what he believes will always be a need for custom millwork.
The next 100 years will be told in wood, too.