South Charlotte

Local entrepreneur is master of reinvention

It takes courage to try something new. Charles Wood, chairman of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, knows all about that.

He was born in Boston, and when he was 7, his family moved to Long Island, N.Y. At 13, Wood and his family moved to Bethlehem, Pa.

He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and started a career in sales. "I met my wife, Norma, in Richmond. Our 50th wedding anniversary is this February," he said.

Sales and management became a way of life for Wood as he and Norma raised a son and daughter.

He worked a sales territory of North and South Carolina for a cable company and moved his family to River Hills on Lake Wylie.

Then, things changed, and Wood reinvented himself.

In 1982, he and a partner formed a company that sold picture frames to retail stores. A few successful years later, Wood bought out his partner. He and Norma purchased a 20,000-square-foot facility and set up a new framing company, Charles Wood Industry. He had 19 employees. Business was good until the Gulf War in 1992.

"Sales dropped. We had to close our doors and put the building up for sale. It took 35 months to sell. I had to come up with something new," Wood said.

"My job at that time was finding a job. I worked at it at least eight hours a day, reading, networking, doing whatever it took," he said.

He read about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Among other things, tactile - or raised - signs with Braille were going to be needed by companies to post at the entrance to elevators, restrooms, etc.

Wood got six manufacturers who would supply orders, then set out to secure those orders.

"This worked well for about another 11 years, then out-of-pocket expenses, like having to pay for my own workman's comp, began to eat up too much of my profit. Time again for something new," Wood said.

In 2000, he began managing a climate-controlled mini-storage near his home in River Hills. The company quadrupled in 10 years under his management.

Eventually he found he was working longer hours for less pay. In January 2011, Wood became sales and marketing director for Kodiak Mini Storage of Lake Wylie and Concord.

When he's not reinventing himself, Wood, 71, is a boat enthusiast. He has a 23-foot sailboat he uses all year and a 17-foot Sea Kayak. He participates in competitive racing as a member of the Catawba Yacht Club on Lake Wylie.