Carving his niche: Sumter woodworker says remote location perfect fit for business

BY BRICE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 12/26/17

MAYESVILLE - Tucked in a little crossroads area on Myrtle Beach Highway near Interstate 95 in eastern Sumter County is a small woodworking shop that can be easily missed by the naked eye. But the woodworker and his business inside is hard to forget, …

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Carving his niche: Sumter woodworker says remote location perfect fit for business

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MAYESVILLE - Tucked in a little crossroads area on Myrtle Beach Highway near Interstate 95 in eastern Sumter County is a small woodworking shop that can be easily missed by the naked eye. But the woodworker and his business inside is hard to forget, even after just a brief conversation.

Dick Dabbs is owner, operator and one-man shop at Crossroads Workshop, 6015 Myrtle Beach Highway, in the "greater Mayesville area."

Born and raised right here, Dabbs is quick to note that, to many, the little area is better known as Dabbs' Crossroads - named after his great grandfather. The crossroads is where U.S. 378 and S.C. 527 intersect.

He says his family was a big farming family in the area, dating back 150 years or so. He graduated from the former Mayewood High School in Sumter County.

Growing up in an old house on the family farm, Dabbs said he learned about construction from an early age and has always been familiar with wood.

He took over the shop, formerly known as C and T Woodworking, in the early 2000s when the owner at the time had to retire because of his ailing wife.

He renamed the business Crossroads Workshop and started out using existing patterns to make rocking chairs and advanced from there.

Today, he constructs and sells mostly swings, rockers and Adirondack chairs - both regular and tall sizes -- in addition to doing repairs and restoration to rockers, broken antiques and "other odds and ends."

He says he stays busy and sells roughly 100 swings a year. He makes swings and rockers in batches. He builds swings four at a time over two days. One day for cutting lumber, planing, sanding, among other tasks, and one day for assembly.

He says he almost exclusively uses Cyprus wood, which is a big selling point since the softwood has a longstanding reputation for being both insect- and rot-resistant. According to Dabbs, Cyprus isn't popular in woodworking because it's often too expensive for many, but he still likes it since it's considered a top-of-the-line wood, along with Cedar and Redwood.

Regarding his location, Dabbs said he actually likes being on Myrtle Beach Highway near I-95, and it's good for business. He says the highway is still a major thoroughfare for beach traffic from Columbia and the Upstate to the coast. It's also the shortest route from Sumter to Kingstree in Williamsburg County. He says most of his customers are within a 15-mile radius of the shop's location, but he does get customers from the state's beaches as well. His only advertising these days is word of mouth, he says.

He tells the story of a couple years ago when an island beach owner came to the shop and ordered 16 rocking chairs from him. He figured the man was going to buy them and then resell, but he said he was going to put them on his porch.

"I told him, 'That's an awful lot of rockers for a porch,'" Dabbs said. "He said, 'Well, I got 6,000 square feet of porch.'

"I said, 'Well, if you got 6,000 square feet of porch, 16 rockers will fit just fine.'"

During the busy season from April through September, Dabbs said he's generally backed up four to six weeks with orders.

He said he also has several different churches in the area as customers.

Dabbs hasn't always been a woodworker and farmer, however.

A self-described "man of varied interests," Dabbs earned a Master's degree in Sociology from Emory University in Atlanta and served in the Army for three years before coming back to take over the family farm in 1975. With his Master's, he also taught Sociology for about 25 years as an adjunct professor at Central Carolina Technical College.

He says he loved running the farm, but the work was "brutal," and since 1990 he has rented it out. He then earned an Associate's Degree in Civil Engineering from Central Carolina and worked for about a decade in the construction and manufacturing industries.

After a Timmonsville filtration plant that he worked for shut down in the early 2000s, he needed work and took up the woodworking business.

At 72, Dabbs says he doesn't have to work now, but he still tries to put in a 40-hour work week. He says he just can't sit at home and watch TV.

"Initially, when I started it, I did it because I needed the money," Dabbs said. "But since then, I have gone beyond retirement age; so, I am not desperate for money, but it still helps a whole lot."

He still teaches a Sunday School class at Concord Presbyterian Church in Sumter County on Sunday mornings.

The shop is open Tuesdays through Saturdays with normal business hours, 8 a.m. to Noon, and then 1 to 5 p.m. He indicated since he's a one-man operation he may have to run out and isn't always at the shop. He says if he's not there, just leave a message on the work phone number and he'll get back in touch.

Dabbs still lives on the family farm, which is just a half-mile away on the "Gable side of the road." He could walk to work, but he doesn't.

"I've found, if my truck is not parked under the shed, people don't stop," Dabbs said. "They look for the truck. If the truck is not there, they're not going to stop."

PULLOUT BOX:

CROSSROADS WORKSHOP

Dick Dabbs

6015 Myrtle Beach Highway

Mayesville, SC 29104

Business hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and 1 to 5 p.m.

Closed Sunday and Monday.

TEL: (803) 495-2772

WEB: www.crossroadsworkshop.com