Cleve Edmunds doesn't mince words, "Columbia County has been good to me."
The owner of Edmunds Bar-B-Que and Catering in Martinez celebrated 25 years in business Thursday, making it the oldest restaurant under the same ownership in Columbia County.
Edmunds said he is glad he took his father's advice about opening the restaurant, although his father, Barrett, died before the two could go into business together.
Barrett Edmunds began his original barbecue restaurant in Belvedere, S.C. in 1949, Edmunds said.
The father had wanted his son to join him in the business, and just about the time Edmunds decided to join his father, Barrett Edmunds died in 1968, Edmunds said.
So, Edmunds took over his father's business, although on a part-time basis at first. On his first day at work, he bought $68.50 worth of meat, which is only a small fraction of what he pays today, he said.
And, Edmunds often stayed up all night cooking the meat.
"I saw how hard my daddy worked, and it was hard when I started working," he said. "I just wish I had done it when my daddy was living."
The restaurant on Washington Road was not opened until several years later. In 1976, local politician and businessman Bill Jackson suggested they open a barbecue restaurant on Washington Road, just a few doors from where Edmunds is today.
The restaurant was opened in 1977, and in 1978, Edmunds bought out Jackson to become the sole owner.
Everything went well until 1994 when the owners of the building wanted to increase the rent, Edmunds said.
Edmunds refused and bought property at 3935 Washington Road.
"It had a real estate office in it at the time," Edmunds said.
He served as the general contractor and had a new restaurant opened in 90 days. Edmunds credits the construction workers with the swift completion.
"They really helped me on it," Edmunds said. "I'd ask them, 'Do you mind working over tonight? If you will, I'll buy you a steak dinner or whatever you eat."'
Edmunds Bar-B-Que and Catering has been in the same location since.
Edmunds said his success story is built on "good food, good service, good prices and a family atmosphere."
Edmunds' staff knows many of the customers by name and know what they want to eat when the enter the eatery. That kind of service cannot be matched in chain restaurants, Edmunds said.
"In five minutes (customers) are seated and eating," he said.
Edmunds said catering is a big part of his business, and he will be especially busy during Masters Week, he said.
Despite the recession, his business is up 15 percent over last year, he said.
But his reward for operating the business is not merely monetary, he said.
"It makes me feel good to know we've survived all these new restaurants that have opened up here," he said. "You're on duty 24 hours a day, but I enjoy it."
Edmunds said he could not have achieved his success without his employees and his loyal customers.
He recently gave his former employees a little extra thank you by way of a 25th birthday party honoring their efforts.
He said he has also tried to return something to the community through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Edmunds now serves on the board of the organization.
"I want to thank the people of the CSRA for their support for the last 25 years and for their support in the next 25 years," Edmunds said.
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