Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
The Boardwalk may have moved locations, but its quality of work and business principles have not faltered since owner Ron Corbett went into business in 1979.
Corbett’s business has evolved from Ron’s T-Shirt Shop, to Ron’s Shirt World, to Ron’s Campus Casual, to Ron’s Factory Outlet — where he sold women’s clothing and made T-shirts out of the store’s back room — and then finally the Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk was born out of partnership between Corbett and Bobby McCall.
“A buddy of mine and I went into a partnership,” said Corbett. “He already owned the name.”
After a few years, McCall decided to get out of the T-shirt business and Corbett bought him out becoming the sole owner.
The Boardwalk may have taken many names, with many faces, different partnerships and several different locations — from downtown on North Ashley Street, to Five Points, Castle Park, Baytree Road (where he was for 15 to 20 years) and now Jerry Jones Drive next to The Mix — but millions of T-shirts and thousands of satisfied customers would argue that even if Corbett ran his business out of a cardboard box, he would still be considered the best.
“We custom design all types of T-shirts, hats, umbrellas, sweatshirts and any type of flat panel design,” said Corbett. “If a customer wants it, we try to find it for them.”
The Boardwalk has been on Jerry Jones Drive for about a month now, and the move has proved to be a step up for Corbett’s forever growing business.
“Our facility here is two and a half times larger,” said Corbett. “We’re carrying a lot more designs and a lot more merchandise.”
Now with a fuller line of embroidery, the space has allowed Corbett to carry several more lines of caps and hats, more golf-type shirts and bigger and better name brands.
“We just try to serve the needs of the community,” said Corbett.
While Corbett has certainly built a T-shirt empire that has stood the test of time, he quickly points out that he didn’t do it alone.
Back when Corbett first began business and was ironing on each and every T-shirt design by hand, a man named Alan Enfinger walked into his store and changed Corbett’s business mechanism forever.
“He just walked in the store one day and said, hey, would you like to know how to screen print?” Corbett recalled. “I believe he was God sent.”
A man named Tracey Turner helped Corbett get his business off the ground and sustain it.
“He was the one who really helped me,” said Corbett. “He taught my sons, Scott and Jake, the ins and outs of the business.”
Scott and Jake Corbett have been the driving force behind Corbett’s empire.
“My intent was to build the company for my sons,” said Corbett.
Scott and Jake have been working with their dad since they were juniors in high school and, according to Scott (who’s been in the business for about 17 years and acts as the shop manager), it wasn’t so much that T-shirts were his calling, he would have just done anything for his dad.
“If daddy was a farmer, I’d be driving a tractor,” said Scott.
Scott always knew that, one day, he would take over what has become the family business and he’s thrilled to do so because it’s been a blast.
“We’ve had some great employees along the way,” said Scott. “It’s been fun.”
One of those pivotal employees is art specialist of more than eight years Shanon Baker.
“I probably have the best artist on staff,” said Corbett. “I think he’s the most creative person I’ve ever seen.”
Baker has gained a reputation for being able to transform anything into a T-shirt design. While Baker studied art at Valdosta State University, he waited tables at the Wooden Nickel prior to his employment with the Boardwalk.
“The Wooden Nickel shut down and I needed a job,” said Baker.
Scott remembered a picture that Baker drew of Willie Nelson that hung on the Wooden Nickel’s walls. Scott called him up one day and asked him if he knew how to do art on computers.
“I didn’t study computers ... I had a computer at the house that played music and that’s about it,” said Baker with a laugh.
Scott told Baker that he could learn. In just a few short days, he was thrown to the wolves and became the Boardwalk’s newest graphic designer.
“He went from waiter to an artist overnight,” said Scott. “But he took right to it.”
Baker learned under the direction of Davey Staton, former graphic designer for the Boardwalk.
“I shadowed him for four months and then he moved to Athens,” said Baker. “I pretty much learned off him.”
Prior to Staton, design was headed by Craig Henderson who was another former employee that Corbett made sure to mention.
While Baker is the artist that brings every customer’s vision into reality, it is director of screening operations Freddy Sanders who makes the vision into a functional product with machines that are capable of printing 400 shirts in just one hour. Sanders has worked for Corbett for 12 years and keeps the Boardwalk printing press located in Remerton in constant motion.
Corbett is quick to give credit to his employees for his successful business. However, Corbett also recognizes that he wouldn’t have got anywhere without his wonderfully devoted customers.
“Pat O’Neal has really been good to me and my company,” said Corbett.
O’Neal is the owner of the Smok’n Pig, Ole Times Country Buffet, Mama June’s and O’Neals Country Buffet.
“He’s letting my company grow right along with him,” said Corbett.
It was T-shirts that the Boardwalk made for the Smok’n Pig that helped take them from Valdosta to Hollywood.
“Some Smok’n Pig shirts appeared in the new version of ‘Footloose,’” said Corbett.
One of the production company members was driving through and saw the store and took an interest.
“They were looking for old barbecue places,” said Corbett.
The Boardwalk has also been doing the Flatlanders T-shirts for 35 years and, according to Scott, Helen Strickland, also known as the “head honcho of Flatlanders,” has been with Corbett from the get go. Corbett even has a quilt hanging up in his store made of some of the old Flatlanders shirts.
Corbett even gives credit to his insurance agent of more than 30 years Fleming Hunt.
“He’s great,” said Hunt with Star Insurance. “He’s always been able to get you the products you want.”
For decades, Corbett’s principal business methods have been simple: Surround yourself with good people, who turn out good products and attract good customers.
“Our customers have been extremely warm to us and I take pride in serving them,” said Corbett.
For more information on the Boardwalk and its services and products, call (229) 241-8337; or stop at the new location, 1801 Jerry Jones Drive.
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