The world’s best bricklayer can be found most days in backyards throughout the Midlands – building decorative walkways and outdoor fireplaces.
“World’s best” is not just a marketing ploy for Jerry Goodman. He earned it.
Goodman flew to Las Vegas in January to compete in the “World Series of Bricklaying.” Sixty minutes and 644 bricks later, he took the title – and also took home a 2014 Ford F250 and $20,000 in cash and other prizes.
“I don’t practice specifically for the competition,” Goodman said. “But I’ve laid brick for over 40 years. We could call that practice.”
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Goodman, 56, won the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 with his daughter Heidi Albea, 35, as his mason tender, an assistant who helps pour mortar and keep the work area clean. The 12-year old event – sponsored by the mortar company – requires masonry teams to build a 26-foot-by-8-inch wall, laying as many bricks as possible in 60 minutes with few mistakes.
But Goodman went beyond winning. He did something no other mason in the history of the competition has done by doubling down on the awards. Goodman won both first place for laying the most bricks and the craftsmanship award for laying more than 500 bricks with no points off for errors.
“I’d rather win the craftsman award,” Goodman said. “That award lets people know you do a nice job. Anyone can just throw a brick in a wall.”
Goodman bringing home the award didn’t surprise Mark Schimmoeller, owner of Southern Vistas Landscape and Garden Center in Columbia.
“I already knew he was the world’s best before he won this,” said Schimmoeller, who has used Goodman for his masonry work for nearly 20 years. “All of my customers are extremely happy with the workmanship, and he makes our jobs look fantastic.”
While he wasn’t surprised, Schimmoeller said: “I was impressed that he beat those young whippersnappers,” in the competition. “He hasn’t lost a bit of it. He’s still obviously got what it takes.”
Goodman started learning the trade four decades ago. For most of his early career, he worked out of state with a large company doing big commercial projects.
After 20 years, “I got fed up doing the big jobs,” Goodman said. “I felt like I was babysitting 30 men. I missed being hands on and laying the brick myself. That’s why I started my own business, to get back into doing what I love.”
Jerry Goodman and Sons Masonry has been based out of Blythewood since 1999. It’s run by Goodman, his wife, Bobbi, his son Donnie, 33, and his daughter Heidi. Its focus is on smaller, more specialized projects like outdoor fireplaces and brick veneer.
Albea knew her father was good at his craft so she looked for masonry competitions for him to enter. She found that the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 was the most popular one, drawing thousands of spectators each year to watch the top 20 bricklayers from regional competitions throughout North America.
“I knew he could do well in a competition, and I knew there had to be one out there,” Albea said. “So once I found one, we entered the regional contest.”
The regional competition took place in Charleston their first year and Charlotte their second. Masons from South Carolina and North Carolina compete to move on to the national competition in Las Vegas.
“The first year we went, we didn’t place at nationals. There is so much noise and so many cameras I think we were just nervous,” Albea said. “So I talked dad into going a second year. I knew he could place.”
Twenty competitors from all over North America must complete their wall with as few mistakes as possible.
“There are deductions for everything,” Goodman said. “The wall has to be level, can’t be out of plumb and zero crooked bricks. The rules are so strict.”
The competition provides flights and hotels for the competitors. Both years, Goodman’s family has flown out to Las Vegas to watch.
“One year there was 14 of us who went,” Goodman said. “So it’s not really free for us. But it is turning into a yearly vacation.”
Goodman praises the work that the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 is doing for the industry of masonry.
“Spec Mix is promoting good masonry work,” Goodman said. “There are a lot of masons out there who shouldn’t be masons. Those people don’t make it past regionals.”
He hopes that competitions like this will put more focus on workmanship and ethics in the trade.
“If you do good work, you’ll always have work,” Goodman said. “More people used to think that way. Hopefully competitions like this will help all industries get back to that way of thinking.”