By Jackie Booth, Bryan Gillikin, and Deborah Booth
June 19, 2019
The year was 1919. World War I had just ended. Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States. There were no radio stations or television. It was still ten years before the Great Depression. The year 1919 was a long time ago.
Coinciding with these events in 1919, John Owen Barbour Sr. and his brother Edwin Barbour left the sawmill business in Swansboro, NC behind. They moved to Beaufort, NC and together opened Barbour Brothers Machine Shop.
The original machine shop was located at 218 Front Street, on the Beaufort waterfront, to offer access by boats for repairs. Most travel from neighboring communities in those years was done by boat. The original machine shop burned completely three years later in 1922. The same year, the brothers bought the adjoining lot at 216 Front Street, staying on the waterfront. They built a new metal building fifty-feet by fifty-feet and reopened for business six months later. They continued in the machine shop business throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s.
John Owen Barbour Jr. “J.O.” joined his father in the family business and became a partner in the mid 1940’s after returning home from World War II. With J.O, they began retail sales of hardware while still operating the machine shop service. During the 1940’s they expanded their existing building on Front Street. With a growing business in the mid 1950’s, they built a warehouse across town at 410 Hedrick Street to help with inventory storage, extra machinery, and packing.
In 1957, Nelson Gillikin joined the company, becoming a partner in the early 1960’s. The business was incorporated in 1963 and the company name was changed to Barbour’s Marine Supply Co. Inc. With Nelson, the company began wholesale sales while retaining the retail store and machine shop service. The company traveled and delivered hardware through the southeast coast of North Carolina. They primarily sold to commercial fishing, boat-building, and sportfishing customers, but also sold to farmers and other industrially concerned customers.
In 1969 Jackie Booth joined the company, becoming a partner in the early 1970’s. With Jackie, the wholesale business greatly expanded to sell hardware and offer service to the entire North Carolina coast. The company eventually expanded their sales territories to cover from Virginia to Florida. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s came tremendous growth with customer base, product lines carried, and territory covered. Through all these years, the retail store and machine shop service also remained a viable part of the company.
In 1979, Nelson Gillikin’s son Bryan Gillikin joined the company, becoming a partner in the late 1980’s after the retirement of J.O. Barbour Jr. This created a third managing partner which the company had maintained after moving into wholesale sales and expanding the sales area across several states.
With a government backed urban renewal project initiated to redesign the Beaufort waterfront in the mid 1970’s, we could see the change coming for the relocation of commercial and industrial businesses along the waterfront. The company enlarged the existing warehouse location at 410 Hedrick Street, consolidating the retail store and machine shop with the warehouse. Our business no longer needed water access and eventually we closed the Front Street location and sold the property to tourist and retail concerns. This was a better situation for the waterfront of Beaufort and provided one location for us to operate the entire business with more space. It was a much more efficient operation for us and good for the growth of the company.
For the last fifty years of operation, the company has essentially continued to offer the same services to the marine industry. We still operate a retail store, offer machine shop services, and continue wholesale sales. We are open for business six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. We offer weekly deliveries to all of coastal North Carolina daily UPS and commercial freight deliveries everywhere, and still cover the coast from Virginia to Florida.
We cater to commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, boat builders, boat yards, and even DIY (do it yourself) individuals. We offer a complete line of marine hardware from manufacturing companies across the US from California to Maine, even Canada and Mexico. We sell everything from oarlocks for a rowboat to equipment for US Navy aircraft carriers. We always stress that if we do not have it, we can get it for you.
Jackie Booth, Bryan Gillikin, and Deborah Booth are the present owners of Barbour’s Marine Supply. Jackie has been with the company fifty years and Bryan has been with the company forty years. But do not be fooled, Deborah is the “real boss”, even more so having worked in the office through high school and college years, completing a thirty-year teaching career and returning to the business fifteen years ago. Deborah has been around the marine hardware business all her life. She knows the business and stays involved.
The marine hardware business surely has changed in the last one-hundred years, especially the last fifty years that the present owners have been involved. With all of the advances in operations and technology, it is certainly a different world we live in today.
Barbour’s Marine Supply has been in continuous operation for one-hundred years. Through the depression years, war years, though economic ups and downs, and incoming competition from many larger corporations, we have triumphed. This was done with dedication, hard work, and good service to our customers. We began as a small family business one-hundred years ago. Four generations later, we remain a successful small family business. We consider that a milestone.
Bryan, Jackie, and Deborah want to thank all past and present customers, suppliers, and employees for their loyal support over the last one-hundred years. We would not be here as a small business without that support. We look forward to the future of continued success in contributing to our community and meeting the needs of the entire marine industry.
We close with two thoughts. Our motto is “We may not be the largest, but believe we offer the best”. Our logo still reads “Barbour’s Marine Supply – Everything for Boats – Since 1919”.
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