70-year-old Beaufort woodworker says it's a blessing to work with his children every day

charley@beaufortgazette.comJune 17, 2012 

  • Dick Woiwode's philosophy on working:

  • Be true to yourself and follow your passions.

  • Do whatever you want to do, do it well and make sure it is something you want to do -- that way you won't have to "work" a day in your life.

  • There is no sense in worrying about something you can't do anything about.

  • Work hard and the rewards will come to you.

  • If they can't look you in the eye, you should not do business with them.

  • A fair wage for a fair job.

  • The cheapest bid is not always the best bid. If you spend a little money up front it will save you money in the long run.

  • Don't borrow money, a cash business while sometimes harder but do it to succeed and grow.

  • Don't spend any money until you are making money.

Dick Woiwode's current job is a labor of love.

But it hasn't always been that way.

When his two children were growing up, he spent 14-hour days working as a plasterer and modern home builder.

Since starting Coastal Woodcraft and taking over the building of Seabrook Classics furniture, the 70-year-old looks forward to his days at his Sheldon business with his son, Tom Woiwode; daughter, Tracey Bayyoud; and grandson, Dennis Erickson.

Now that his family works for him, he gets to see them every day.

"My advice to fathers is to enjoy your time with your kids," Woiwode said. "I get to spend a lot more time with my kids than I ever did when they were younger."

"Most fathers are not lucky enough to have their kids around basically every day," he said.

Woiwode fondly recalls summers spent working on his grandfather's ranch in North Dakota. "It was probably the best relationship anyone ever had with their grandfather," he said.

He said his relationship with his own 27-year-old grandson is very similar. Erickson has worked for Woiwode as shop foreman for almost 10 years.

"I think Dennis and I are as close if not equal to that relationship," Woiwode said.

Trust is the single best thing about a family business for Woiwode. "Working with the family there is a certain level of trust there you don't have with people you are not related to, but I'm lucky I have very good employees as well," he said.

One of those employees since 2002 is Woiwode's oldest child, Tracey, who took over her father's housing business of Sheldon Services on Brays Island.

"I love to work with my Dad," said Bayyoud, whose son is Erickson. "My dad has lots of stories about so many things and he makes me laugh a lot. And to say that he has taught me all I know would be the absolute truth. I have watched him since I was little and taken notes."

Woodworking is in their blood, and they all enjoy a different aspect of carpentry. Their expert work has landed them spreads in the June issue of Country Living magazine, Southern Living Magazine's Southern-Style Desks and the upcoming Orvis catalog.

Woiwode favors contemporary furniture pieces, much like the modern houses he used to design and build.

Erickson, a father to three girls, served in the U.S. Army security forces in Afghanistan for a year and said he enjoys the machine aspect of carpentry when he runs the high-speed moulder, which touches almost every piece of the wood in the shop. They work with all types of wood, including poplar and antique heart pine, cherry, walnut and oak.

"It is highly productive," Erickson said. "I get big, rough, ugly stack of wood, and turn it into a reformed usable finished piece of flooring."

Tom Woiwode moved to Beaufort in 1988, not long after his mother's death. "I didn't want to miss out on knowing my dad," he said.

Tom Woiwode, a father of four, spends half of his time working as a registered nurse in Savannah, but his love is working with wood. He concentrates on CAD work and furniture design -- and also the computer system.

"Who wouldn't want to work with their family?" he asked. "It is very rewarding to work with my dad and to be able to build something that is a legacy, something that survives us. It is a lot of fun and an opportunity I never thought I'd have."

While all families have their differences, Dick Woiwode's family mostly ribs each other about politics. Tom Woiwode's earned an ally on the conservative side with his nephew, while Bayyoud still sides with her dad on the liberal side.

It is a matter of who gets to work first as to which radio station plays all day. If Dick and Tom Woiwode are there first, they will rock out to Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City" or the Grateful Dead. If Erickson gets his way, country music will rule the airwaves of the gymnasium-sized workshop.

"Tom is very much my same makeup, and we very rarely get excited about anything," Dick Woiwode said. "People say 'How can you be so laidback?' Here there is no yelling, screaming or cussing.

"Instead of losing my temper I get in my truck and ride around the block, listen to the radio and chill out. Then I tell them how to do something."

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