“I love the mountains, trees, water and people.”

December 2020: Greer, SC

Corporate Escape Artist

John Lewelling/Garfield Signs

I came from corporate America. I lived in Wichita, Kansas, and put in years with a spin off from Boeing. I was tired of the quarterly reporting and the politics of big business, and ready for a non-corporate lifestyle. I wanted to run a business that could be developed and grown into something that I really enjoyed and was part of the community. I found that in Garfield Signs. Garfield has been in Greer for more than 40 years and I was happy to continue its history.

My wife and I wound up in Greer through a combination of things. Work had brought me to the Southeast for years, and it was just beautiful. When I decided to look for a business to buy, this was one of the places we made sure to look. A friend I had worked with bought a home on Lake Keowee and when I visited, I just go ‘Wow! I see why you’re here.’ I love the mountains, trees, water and people.

I started working with a local business broker and looked online at businesses for sale in Greenville. We also looked at businesses in Tulsa and Kansas City. But then we found Garfield Signs and Graphics in Greer. I wanted to sell things, designs things, manufacture things and then install them. It had all of that.

Initially, I didn’t think signs was my dream job. I was thinking of highway signs. Then I discovered 90% of our projects are really unique, custom jobs for people and in 3D. We do many of the signs for Prisma, Furman University and U.S.C. At Clemson, we have done many of the athletic signs, including the Tiger Paw in the endzone. The man I bought Garfield from was ready to retire. I thought I would run the business for 3-5 years and then retire myself, but I’m having too much fun. It’s been seven years now. My wife is a nurse and found a job working part-time at Clemson University’s Health Center and she enjoys seeing the students.

We bought 30 acres on Eastatoe Creek in Pickens County, right as you start up the mountains. The property is just beautiful. We really enjoy the outdoors. I drive 47 miles to get to work on Ford Street off Poinsett, right down the street from The Clock. It’s a beautiful, simple drive. It doesn’t feel like I’m commuting. When we first moved here, I didn’t understand the benefit of the logistics, but we just love Greer. We’re between two big cities, and have easy access to Asheville and Clemson. In under an hour, I can get to anywhere.

I didn’t know what to expect when we came from Wichita, but the area has exceeded our expectations. Business-wise, everyone has been absolutely fabulous connecting us with the right people. Anytime I call and ask questions, city leaders are really helpful. Away from work, Greer has all kinds of local restaurants that we love. Downtown is fun and growing. My wife and I really like visiting local businesses, we try to be good neighbors that way. I needed a suit for a wedding and wondered if I could find a suit in Greer. There’s a great little men’s shop right down the street. I got a suit, tailored to fit, in 48 hours. You can’t beat that!

Right now, we’re here to stay. We have a great group of friends. The region for me is beautiful. We love to hike and love to camp, and there are a million waterfalls. If you’re an outdoor person, this place is fabulous. I guess I don’t need to tell you how the winters are so much better here than in Kansas. I can see us being here indefinitely. This has been a business and life upgrade.