History of E.C. Griffith Co.
The Depression and a change in business philosophy
|Like many other businesses the young development firm was successful but highly leveraged. The E.C. Griffith Company was nearly brought to its knees by the great economic depression that gripped the nation in the 1930s. At one point, the depression nearly cost Griff every property he had managed to acquire, but the bank (thought to be Wachovia) showed a rare bit of compassion.
As the bank was contemplating repossession of the Griffith properties a Bank Officer is quoted as asking the Board, “If Griff can’t make it with these properties, what are we going to do with them?” The bankers gave Griff more time to pay off his loans and the company survived.
The hardships of the depression and the threat of nearly losing all he had worked to build, had a profound effect on E.C. Griffith, Sr. Another instance from the Great Depression tells how E.C. Griffith, Sr. built his dream house at the corner of Eastover Road and Cherokee Road for $60,000(now the Kemp House at 301Eastover Road). Because of the terrible economic conditions, he was forced to sell it for $30,000 — $15,000 in cash and $15,000 on a note. In 1934 Griff went on to buy a much smaller and less expensive house on Hempstead Place which was having difficulty selling due to the lack of available buyers. Stories and memories from that time are best described in the book “Eastover: Hempstead Revisited” written by family friend and former U.S. Congressman Alex McMillan.
During this era of caution E.C. Griffith, Sr., remained creative, financing his many projects by borrowing money from any source he could find, including his friend and civic leader Mr. Thaddeus “Thad Tate, a well known local barber. (a replica of Thad Tate Barbershop is at The Museum of the New South). According to which version of the story you choose to believe, E.C. Griffith needed cash to finance a real estate purchase on Briar Creek and Thad Tate loaned Griff $2,000 on a four percent note or $4,000 on a two percent note. Regardless, it was a large sum of money around the time of the Depression. Thad had more cash on hand than the developers who borrowed and leveraged their real estate holdings. The economy’s hardships were business lessons Griffith carried with him and later immortalized into minutes of the E.C. Griffith Board of Directors Meeting by stating “stock pile cash”in lieu of relying on Banks for conventional lending.
Bob Pharr of R.B. Pharr & Associates described real estate transactions that kept Eastover from going under. At the corner of Laurel Avenue and Colville Road and Randolph Road (formerly Crescent Road Extension) there were several single family residential lots that Mr. Vernon Goode Senior wanted to assemble/purchase to construct an upscale apartment complex, known today as Alson Court. This was much to the dislike of the Eastover Community, it was at the time against the Restrictive Covenants, however the assemblage and ultimately the sale preserved the Eastover Neighborhood, keeping it from being sold piecemeal and realizing its longstanding quality and character it boast today.