Garner Cleveland Record

Backstory: Son steps in to run ailing father’s Fences Unlimited

Emmett and Jennifer Goodwin own and operate Fences Unlimited, which Emmett's father started in Garner in 1986.
Emmett and Jennifer Goodwin own and operate Fences Unlimited, which Emmett's father started in Garner in 1986. TERI SAYLOR

Emmett Goodwin’s parents died more than a decade ago, but he still gets emotional when he discusses Fences Unlimited, the Garner business his father, Garland Goodwin, started nearly 30 years ago.

Goodwin, 56, took over the business in 1990 when his father’s health began to fail. He died in 2001. Goodwin’s mother died three years later.

“I didn’t get along with my dad growing up and it was because both me and him are just alike,” Goodwin said. “When my dad started getting sick, I saw myself in him, and that’s where it changed, and we became good friends.”

Fences Unlimited, a company that installs fencing, handrails and dumpster enclosures, has been a Garner staple since Goodwin’s father started the company in a trailer in 1986.

The elder Goodwin asked his son to join him in business. Goodwin had worked as an installer for Tryon Fencing; however, he was living in Florida and working for the now defunct Northern Telecom. He was also no longer interested in fencing.

So the senior Goodwin recruited two of his son’s former Tryon Fencing co-workers and started his business.

After four years in Florida, Goodwin realized the future was bleak for the telecommunications industry and moved back home to Garner.

His dad suffered from chronic osteomyelitis, a bone infection, which kept him from doing manual labor.

When his father’s two partners left the business, Goodwin stepped in to help.

“Dad told me that if I would come to work for him, he would eventually give me the company,” Goodwin said.

In 1992, Goodwin moved Fences Unlimited out of the trailer and into a building on Old Garner Road, where he had a storefront and a presence.

A couple of years later, Fences Unlimited moved to U.S. Highway 70 near Fidelity Bank, where it stayed and continued to grow until 1998.

Goodwin then moved the company to its current spot, an 80-year-old former petroleum depot on Vandora Springs Road, sandwiched between railroad tracks and Highway 70.

In 2001, Goodwin teamed up with David Britton, his former boss at Northern Telecom, and opened a second Fences Unlimited, this one a 6,600-square-foot facility in Morehead City. Goodwin bought out his partner in December, and hired a manager to run the new location.

“I started the Morehead City location because that’s where my parents had retired, and we still have a home there,” he said. “I also saw a market there that had plenty of potential.”

Goodwin spreads his time over the two places, working in Garner four days a week and Morehead City for one.

Fences Unlimited has 28 employees: nine in Morehead City and 19 in Garner, including Goodwin and his wife, Jennifer, who manages both offices.

Emmett Goodwin said the business has grown 25 percent over the past 10 years, even though the recession reduced his contractor clients from 60 to 15. He has maintained good relationships with building contractors, he said, and business is starting to come back.

Fences Unlimited’s client base is made up of about 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial, and he uses the Yellow Pages, digital advertising and word of mouth to market.

He buys materials in bulk and stores them on his Garner property. He then hauls what he needs to Morehead City.

When Goodwin joined his dad in the company, they worked in a trailer and drove two old pick-up trucks. Now he has two facilities and a fleet of 18 trucks.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Emmett Goodwin said. “Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by it because when we started it wasn’t my intention to have two businesses. It wasn’t my intention to have 18 trucks. I just wanted to make a living and to do a good job for everybody.”

Reach Teri Saylor at Tweet her @terisaylor.

Advice from Emmett Goodwin

▪ Enjoy what you do. You've got to have passion for it.

▪ Do what you say you are going to do and do it right

▪ Tell people the truth, not what you think they want to hear.