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Carol Tew says she's done nothing special to merit the Chiefland Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year Award, but to folks around town Tew and her business, Badcock & More, are pretty special members of the community.
The Chamber presented Tew with its top award at its annual Industry Appreciation Luncheon Tuesday at the Usher Center.
Badcock & More, located on Highway 19 on the north end of town is a homey place. You just want to sit and sip coffee and chat all day with Tew.
But there's no idle time.
Badcock & More participates and donates to Haven Hospice fund-raising efforts. It sponsors Little League teams. It donates to Another Way shelters for abused women and children. Levy Association for Retarded Citizens, Tri-County Outreach and the Say No To Drugs program count Tew and the store among its friends.
The Marine Corps counts on the store to be a collection point for its annual Toys for Tots program. Last year folks got a free photo of their child with Santa Claus in return for donating to the Marines' program.
"That is nothing special," Tew, says when the list is recited. "That's what you are supposed to do.
"When they first told me about this I asked why," she said. "I'm honored, but we don't do anything special. We're acting the way we're supposed to act."
Scott Guthrie of Trenton helped Chamber President Paige Brookins present the award and recalled Tew's early days in business when her employees included Guthrie and her son.
"Badcock says you can buy with confidence from people who care," Guthrie said. "And I know they (Tew and the staff) care."
In accepting the award, Tew noted that "the times are bad, but we should be a team."
Tew said: "Better together is what we should all be."
In addition to her community activities, Tew teaches Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. "I just love those children," she says.
Sitting on the green microsuede sofa with "Pirates of the Caribbean" playing on a nearby television, it's hard to imagine the life Tew has had.
The Tews bought Badcock & More in 1991 after Tew met with the chain's owner, Henry Badcock. She was already familiar with the company as her sister and brother-in-law owned two Badcock stores.
Prior to that, Tew worked at Air Force bases in Guam and Fort Walton Beach, the Veterans Administration in Lake City, was a stay-at-home mom and later a clerk in the Levy County mental health agency.
"Working there (the agency) opened my eyes to so much," Tew said.
In 2002, the Tews moved from their original location, now occupied by Bell's Restaurant, to their newly constructed store.
In 2006, her second husband Lamar was diagnosed with cancer. He died about a year ago. It's the second time she has been widowed.
But with the hard times have come the blessings, she said.
Shortly after Lamar was diagnosed with cancer, her nephew Micah Noda moved in and became her right hand at the store. You are likely to find he's the first person to greet you when you enter the store.
Her son John Ross is married and a stay-at-home father of two grandsons. He sleeps in the tent at night during Badcock's trademark tent sales.
"God's blessed us," she said. "And even though you have adversity, God's blessed us."
While Badcock's has 320 stores, with many in urban areas, Tew still thinks of the Chiefland store as a mom 'n' pop operation.
"People bring in vegetables and watermelon," she says. "I'm a big card writer."
And she is a big believer in prayer. Mention a problem and she will put your name on a card to be remembered at prayer time.
The secret to the store's success is no real secret.
"We have good employees," she said. "Everybody in our store really likes people.
"Badcock says we will treat you right," Tew said. "And we say we will take care of it."
Her personal slogan: "I don't think anybody should take advantage of anybody."
"They matter a lot to our community," said Levy County Commissioner Nancy Bell. "Their storefront has been in the community for many years.
"They have always helped in any time we've needed a fundraiser," Bell said. "They are always willing to give back to the community. Wherever they felt a need, they would help."
Jackie Price, administrator of Have Hospice for the tri-county area, said Badcock & More is a big supporter of Haven Hospice.
"They have donated a large plasma TV to be raffled off as a fund raiser for hospice. Carol Tew is just wonderful. She and Micah are always looking out for us."
That TV has raised about $5,000 in raffle tickets for hospice.
Janet Minor, executive director of the Chamber, said, "What drives any company is its owner/management. Carol is such a big-hearted person some have said her store is like the neighborhood listening post."
Paige Brookins, president of the Chamber, said, "Carol Tew cares deeply about the community and customers."
Brookins also shops at the store.
"The staff and Tew work closely as a family. They are professional, relaxed and friendly, and they take great pride in their store and accomplishments....
"They genuinely help you will take lots of time, talking, going over that you really want that, that it will fit your needs, delivery times, never been a question of can you do this to fit their schedule, it's always on the customer's schedule."