By Barrett Baker
Goodman & Sons began in 1947 when Stanley Goodman retired from the Navy and started a watch and jewelry repair concession at Fort Eustis. He and his wife, Lena, continued to run the business until 1975 when Stanley suffered from a heart attack and had to have bypass surgery. Even though his sons had not anticipated going into the business, the three brothers, Stuart, Ned and Eric, all came together to pitch in while dad was recuperating.
“I didn’t have any inkling initially of going into the family business prior to that,” says Stuart Goodman. “I was happy to help here and there, at Christmas and over the summer breaks from school. So I had an understanding of the business, but I had planned on going into the insurance business, to be perfectly honest.” But when his father got back on his feet and wanted to open another watch and jewelry repair shop at Langley Air Force Base in 1977, Stuart and the brothers started to change their career paths.
“I was working at Steak & Ale across the street from where our Hampton store is now and going to school at ODU,” Stuart says. “My fiancée at the time, now my wife of 37 years, thought it would be good idea for me to get into the family business. We were struggling students then, and it looked like a pretty good opportunity.”
In 1978, Stanley Goodman decided that if they were really going to grow the business, they would have to move away from government bases and get out into the community. They set up their first small store in the Riverdale Plaza, right behind where the Hampton store is now. Over the years, they expanded the business in Hampton and eventually opened a new location in Williamsburg at Monticello Marketplace in 1998. In 2005, they moved their Hampton store to its current location on Coliseum Drive.
“It really helped us out when they tore the flyover down that used to go to Coliseum Mall before Peninsula Town Center was built,” Stuart laughs. “That really opened up our real estate and gave us a much broader view.”
Stuart admits that the earlier years were tough but that they have been very fortunate in building their family business to where it is today. He recalls at one point, when he was disheartened by the long hours, his father sat him down and said, “Do you have any idea what kind of business this is? You’re welcome to go out and look at other businesses, but one of the beautiful things about this business is that you’re always celebrating people’s most memorable moments in life. You need to really look at this business from a people standpoint.”
Today, the future looks bright indeed for the Goodmans’ family-owned and -operated business. A third generation of Goodmans is already in place and ready to take the company to the next level. Stuart’s son, Tony, is now the director of operations, and Eric’s son, Jonathan, is acting as a service consultant, working in the shop to help customers with their jewelry repair and maintenance, custom work and purchasing estate jewelry and gold.
Obviously, there are pros and cons to working with family, but Stuart is quick to point out that the good parts far outweigh any negatives. “The positive thing about working with family is that you’re dealing with people you know and trust,” he says. “These are people that you feel very confident in knowing that they are looking out for your best interest, the best interest of the business, and the best interest of our employees. We can rely on each other for different things, and we meet regularly to discuss challenges, problems or opportunities that may occur. On the other hand, we are all brothers, and we have our own personalities and thoughts, so trying to make decisions can be challenging sometimes. We used to spend a lot of time going round and round, trying to figure out how to do something, but now we just vote. Since there are three of us, the majority rules.”
In the end, it’s the love for each other and their connection to the communities they serve that keeps Goodman & Sons in Coastal Virginia. “All three of the Goodman siblings graduated from Hampton High School,” says Stuart. “We have become a part of the community and have long-term relationships with our customers. We’ve developed a trust with them, which takes years to develop. So if you boil it down, we are branded in the communities we serve. That’s why we didn’t open up a whole bunch of chain stores. Because we wanted to have that relationship with our customers and be a brand in the communities we serve.”
Learn more about Goodman & Sons on their website.