Archived Story

Goodwater store closes after 135 years

Published 11:50am Saturday, December 22, 2012

After more than 135 years, Louis Crew & Co. is closing its doors.

The Goodwater clothing store that was established in 1877 will go out of business at the end of December.

“Most Mom and Pop stores have closed,” said Johnny C. Watson, the fourth generation owner of the store. “I’ve been blessed in a way to survive and stay here as long as I have.”

Watson moved to Goodwater in 1972 to operate the family clothing store after his mother’s brother got ready to retire.

He remembers stories about the clothing store and town from decades past.

“The store was here before cars,” Watson said. “When people were using wagons and came to buy supplies – it may be six months before you saw them again.”

Watson said he remembered the story of his grandfather trading overalls and shoes from the store to have his house painted during the Great Depression.

“My grandfather needed his house painted,” Watson said.  “Money was so scarce so he paid in clothes – that’s the way during merchants survived during hard times.”

Watson said growing up he heard stories of the town as it grew with the addition of the railroad line. Watson said the line traveled from Savannah, Ga. to Columbus, Ga. and then ended in Goodwater, causing the town to boom with traffic.

“(Goodwater) was a charming little town,” Watson said. “Even back in the 40s, on Saturday there could be so many people walking down the sidewalk that you’d have to walk in the road to get around.”

Watson things have slowed down since then, but he always enjoyed being in business.

“It’s been an interesting career,” Watson said. “You had to take chances. You couldn’t just buy what you liked. You had to really know your customers.”

Watson said one of the ways he has been able to operate the store for the past 40 years is by offering different merchandise.

“In order to stay in business you have to try to find a niche,” Watson said. “You have to try to offer something everybody else doesn’t have.”

Watson said one of the niches he found was offering ladies a chance to have an exclusive outfit in church.

“We decided we’d keep records and only sell one style per church – that way they could feel comfortable knowing no one else in church would have same outfit on,” Watson said. “It doesn’t really matter for men. Men can all go to church in the same navy suit, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings. But ladies like to look special. They don’t want everyone else to be wearing their outfit.”

Watson said his store has made many special orders, and the selections of his customers have often surprised him.

“You never know who’s going to buy one and who’s not,” Watson said. “It was always exciting in a way.”

Watson said although the store will be closing, he will keep the building and use it as an office.

“I’m not going to retire and sit around and doing nothing,” Watson said. “I’m still going to be active.”

Watson said Louis Clothing & Co. will offer buy one get one free merchandise until the end of December.

He said his hours may vary, but customers may call the store at 256-839-5321 before they come.