wright ’s employee,
Gideon Honeycutt, meets with Karen.
14 years. The same year they opened their retail location, their eldest son, Josh, returned from his first year at college and decided to join the company business full-time. He’d always been his father’s helper—hanging from ropes in chimneys since the age of 12—and Tom soon began shifting his mindset from business owner to a new role as Josh and Levi’s employee. It was important to Tom not to belittle his sons as they took over the family business. He wanted them to take charge and begin to make it their own, so he is happy in a more subordinate role these days. “That’s never, in any scenario, been my style. Even with a new crew manager, I let them take the lead. I always feel like I can do more from an assistant’s position,” Tom explains. During the 2008 recession, Tom and Karen stopped taking salaries so that their employees wouldn’t have to go without.
“They didn’t miss one,” Karen says proudly. Part of the reason they survived the economic downturn was another “ah-ha” moment from Tom. “The advice back then was to cut personnel immediately, since it’s your biggest expense, and then wait it out. It can be good advice, especially for big businesses… But the strength of our little business is that we don’t make decisions based on profit line. We can make decisions based on a human line, and that’s just a great position to be in,” he explains. That “human line” decision was to expand into a second location at the old Biltmore Square Mall, now home to the Asheville Outlets. “I got another one of those Tom phone calls—I love these calls. They’re expensive, but I love them!” Karen jokes, “And he said he was sitting at the mall eating lunch and counting people. ‘There’s activity here. I think we should put a store December2015 | capitalatplay.com 19
Vol 5 | Ed 12 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Clyde Hollifield