When Raymond Swann first came to Thomson back in the early '70s, he pondered whether he would become successful as a businessman.
"I really didn't know if I would make it or fall flat on my face," he recalled during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror on Jan. 26.
He no longer has to wonder about his success.
Members of the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce made sure of that when they tabbed him the Small Business Person of The Year. The honor was bestowed during the chamber's 39th annual banquet at Belle Meade Country Club on Jan. 25.
"I'm very flattered, humbled and honored," Mr. Swann said. "I had no idea that I was going to be recognized in such a special way by this community. I appreciate the people of this community and the chamber of commerce thinking of me in such a special way. It's truly an honor."
The former North Augusta resident moved to Thomson in 1972 to go into business for himself. He opened Thomson Decorating Center in the Thomson Plaza, selling paint, wallpaper and floor covering. Years later, he opened the Rug and Remnant Shop and purchased the Camellia Plaza Shopping Center -- both in Thomson.
He employs 35 people, most of whom live in the Thomson-Lincolnton area.
Though his office still is in the Thomson Decorating Center building on West Hill Street, Mr. Swann no longer owns that business. The new owner is Ronnie Bohler.
Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry, one of Mr. Swann's longtime friends, announced to the banquet crowd that Mr. Swann was this year's recipient of the honor.
"I have known Raymond since my early days with the Bank of Thomson," he said. "His dedication and fair business practices paid off for him and his family."
Mr. Swann said his success got a big boost when Two-State Construction Co. began landing major contracts in surrounding counties. It led to a variety of contract jobs for Mr. Swann.
"I got my feet wet, so to speak, when I started doing a lot of work on the commercial side," he explained. "We sort of rode (Two-State's) coattails."
Mr. Swann's businesses continue to grow in Thomson. He has several major contracts in the works at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta and does subcontracting work at other area hospitals and businesses.
Two of Mr. Swann's three sons, Mark and Stephen, work with him in the family business. Another son, Scott, teaches at Warren County High School in Warrenton.
"I'm very proud of my family," Mr. Swann said. "God has richly blessed me."
He also praised his wife of 45 years, Linda, a retired bookkeeper.
"She stood behind me and encouraged me through the lean years," said Mr. Swann, noting that he had to depend on her from a financial standpoint for several years.
Mr. Swann believes the simple philosophy he has carried with him all of these years is one of the reasons he has been a successful businessman.
"I have always tried to provide a good product at a fair price," he said. "I try to make my money on the buy by being as sharp as I can be on the purchasing side, as opposed to the sale side. I want to buy right and pass the savings on to my customers."