High school sweethearts Bit and Lisa Goodman have been married 41 years and business partners for 23.
“I don’t remember life before him,” said Lisa, who has lived in Florence since she was five. Her husband, Charles “Bit” Goodman is a full-fledged native.
In 1998, both were working at Tee Jays Manufacturing Co. when Florence’s worldwide apparel plant began moving jobs out of the United States. At its height, the company founded in 1976 was the third largest employer in the Shoals area. The Florence plant closed completely by 2005.
Lisa left Tee Jays first. “She left her job and needed something to do,” said Bit. An avid seamstress, Lisa began making children’s clothing and having home parties to sell what she’d made.
She initially named her business “About You.” “I got a little home embroidery machine and started personalizing,” said Lisa. Bit kept working at Tee Jays but moonlighted at his wife’s new venture.
“We figured everyone needs something sports related for their kids,” Bit said. “We bought heat presses and related equipment and started doing uniforms out of the garage.
“One day, we just decided to open a storefront,” said Bit, who continued to work his day job and work at the store at night. Six months later, “It got big enough. I just turned my notice in and quit too.”
For a while, the business operated as Goodmans Sports, but eventually dropped the word sports from the name. “We figured out that wasn’t what we wanted to do,” said Lisa.
Throughout, the business has been about personalization, said Lisa.
Goodmans serves the embroidery, screen printing, appliqueing and engraving needs in Florence and the entire Shoals area. “We sell anything engraved or monogrammed,” said Lisa, listing specifically jewelry, wallets, Bible covers, purses and totes.
It is a true family business with four of the eight employees being related. Lisa is chief creative director; Bit heads up screen printing; their daughter, Brittany Thompson, helps Lisa with design work and even Lisa’s Mom, Linda Jenkins, who came on board when Tee Jays shut down, works there. Originally, “she helped us with uniforms,” said Lisa. Before the pandemic, Linda was working at the store one or two days a week. In the past year, she’s continued to work from home, Lisa said.
Goodmans’ workload is split between embroidery and screen printing. Screen printing can involve more volume, but the embroidery work is wide-ranging, from logos for other businesses to personalization for gifts, so the work evens out, said Lisa.
With their current location, 1116 N. Pine St., less than a mile from the University of North Alabama, “UNA keeps us hopping,” she said.
“Back-to-school time and through football season,” is especially busy, said Bit. “From July through the end of the year, we usually aren’t able to come up for air,” Lisa added. In late summer and early fall, they also sell backpacks and lunch boxes, but Alabama’s back-to-school sales tax holiday isn’t much of a draw, because the business isn’t open on Saturdays or Sundays. On the Friday of the tax holiday, which will be July 16 this year, Goodmans clothing that is less than $100 plus book bags and lunch boxes that cost $50 or less are tax free. “We may get a mother whose kid is going to UNA for the first time or a student who doesn’t have a T-shirt,” said Lisa.
Even before the pandemic, the Goodmans served their customers both in store and online. “A lot of our online is local,” Lisa said in a 2019 interview, “because we have $3.50 flat-rate shipping, they’d just as soon as order online and have it shipped. We also have an option of ordering online and picking it up.”
That foresight paid off during the past year. “We really added a lot to the website and were able to ship our retail items,” said Lisa.
Business slowed considerably in 2020 as it did for most small businesses. “You can’t print shirts for events that aren’t happening,” Lisa said recently. A Paycheck Protection Program loan helped the business keep its entire staff onboard.
“Our employees have been amazing through it all,” she said. “Things are picking up, so we are hopeful for a much better year in 2021.”
Customers also have been loyal. “We have a customer base that’s just second to none,” said Lisa, adding many are customers for life. “They come in when they are in high school, then college, then I help them with their wedding and their babies,” she adds.
MEMBER SINCE 2013: Goodmans is a personalization business at 1116 N. Pine St. in Florence. Visit 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday or at shopgoodmans.com
Story and photos by Nancy King Dennis