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    T-Mart Sells Seven Stores

    Owner T.C. Godwin decides to "slow down" after 30-plus years.

    DUNN, N.C. -- After three decades of expanding his business, T.C. Godwin has decided to slow down. "I've been doing this since 1970. It's been long enough and it's time for me to sort of back off a little bit," Godwin told The Daily (N.C.) Record.

    Godwin has sold seven of his 13 stores to various individuals over the past six months. Most of Godwin's stores carry the name T-Mart, which has become one of the market's most successful stores. Customers can purchase gasoline, grocery items and hot meals at most T-Marts. Fried chicken is T-Mart's specialty, and customers flock to the stores for every meal to get their favorite fried bird.

    Some of the stores, such as a Mobil gas station in Benson, N.C., do not carry the name T-Mart although they are owned by Godwin. The 62-year-old Goodwin credits the success of T-Mart to two things -- customer loyalty and employee retention. He said T-Mart has an established customer base that can get their gas and lunch at the same place and good employees that remain with the company a long time.

    "I think that's the key to any business. I've always said if I could go into any business, I could change the business by changing the people," Godwin said.

    Some of the stores that were sold still operate under the T-Mart name, but will soon change names with the new owners. Godwin said he would still oversee the operations of six remaining stores. "We are going to continue to operate some stores and I have other business interests in the area that I intend to maintain," he said.

    Godwin described himself as a "slow starter" in business. After serving in the U.S. Air Force for over three years, he enrolled at Campbell University where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration. At age 28, Godwin made his foray into owning a convenience store in 1970. He said he had the optimism and enthusiasm of youth on his side, which helped him succeed.

    Over the years, new products and services have been tested in the store. Some ideas, like selling videos, have failed, while others, like fried chicken, have been tremendously successful. "It's interesting because I was told by at least one person around town that I was a fool and would never be able to sell chicken through our stores," Godwin said. "But I think we have certainly proved that wrong."

    Godwin said he is happy at the success he enjoyed as a business owner, with few regrets. "You always think maybe you could have done a little bit better," he said. "Anyway, it's been fun."

    Including employees in the business' plans and ventures has been an important part of T-Mart's success, Godwin said. "I've learned that the people that you hire and the people that you keep and the way you treat people is the most important aspect of any business," he said. "You have got to give people responsibility and the opportunity to succeed."

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