Archie Winningham Celebrates 25 Years at CES
“I’ve been here so long, I dream about my branch at night,” laughed Archie Winningham, branch manager for the last 25 years of CES Summerville in South Carolina.
“It’s pretty much my life,” he added. “I don’t take a lot of vacation because I always want to be here to watch the branch grow. I always want my guys or my customers to count on me if they need anything.”
And for the last 25 years, just about everyone in the Charleston district has counted on Archie.
He’s stayed up all night to help replace blown fuses at nearby plants. He’s stayed open through ice storms, tornados, and even hurricanes.
No matter how much has changed over the last quarter-century, Archie Winningham hasn’t. He’s always there for his customers, and he always will be.
“I’ve always worked,” he said. “I’ve always stayed open for my customers because they need me to. When storms come in, I make sure they have generator cords and twist-lock plugs because part of my job is making sure my customers are safe.”
More importantly, Archie has also been there as a mentor for his two sons, Archie Jr. and Josh, who are both branch managers today.
“Archie Jr. started helping around CES Summerville when he was just 16. Now he’s branch manager of CES Charleston Downtown, and he’s been with us for 21 years,” he said. “Josh has been with us for 14 years and recently celebrated his first year as branch manager of CES West Ashley.”
When Archie talks about his sons, it’s easy to hear how proud he is of them and what they’ve accomplished.
“Bringing my sons into the business means a lot to me,” he said. “They were given the opportunity to build their own career and make something of themselves, and they are doing great. Couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
However, the best compliment of all doesn’t even come from Archie. It comes from customers who’ve worked closely with this family of branch managers over the years.
“A lot of customers tell me, ‘You did great with your kids. You did well. They really know their stuff.’ All those times I was talking, I guess they actually did take my advice,” he laughed.
The Early Years
“When I started in 1996, my district manager told me I had three years to turn a profit,” Archie remembered. “I told him, ‘If I don’t make a profit this year, fire me.’”
Fortunately for us, Archie didn’t get fired. He turned a profit that first year, and that was only the beginning of his 25-year career.
“Those first years were tough,” he admitted. “Vendors didn’t know who we were. We only had a few stores in Florida, and we were just getting started in the Carolinas. We had a lot of work to do.”
And that hard work paid off big time. CES kept growing, and growing, and growing.
In 1996, we added 32 branches in North Carolina and South Carolina. Today, there’s well over 100. Thankfully, Archie Winningham has no problems getting callbacks from the biggest vendors in the industry anymore.
“I never thought CES would grow as fast as it did,” he said, “but it took off. In the first few years, we could only work with smaller vendors. Now we work with everybody — Eaton Cutler-Hammer, Siemens, everyone.”
Part of the Family
The reason why Archie Winningham has stayed at CES for 25 years has to do with feeling like he was part of a family. He traces that all the way back to the late founder of the company, Tom Mackie.
“He had stories,” Archie laughed. “He’d visit the branches, and he always knew you when he came in, even if he met you just one time before. I loved listening to his stories about how he started the business, how he never gave up, and the direction where he wanted to take the company in the future. He just always made you feel like family.”
And it wasn’t just Mackie who welcomed Archie into the business.
VP of Operations Jim Lawson worked with Archie closely over the years as his district manager. His own son, Scott Lawson, worked with Archie at CES Summerville before running his own branch.
“Even today, if I have a problem, I’ll talk to Jim,” Archie said. “He still listens, and he still gives me advice. He’s a great guy, and I consider him a good friend.”
The Business Today
Over the last 25 years, Archie has tried to do the same for his own employees that Jim Lawson did for him: listen, offer advice, and hope they take it.
“Every time I hired someone, I wanted to see them take pride in what they’re doing,” Archie said. “You always want to see them succeed and advance. Right now, I have five branch managers who came out of Summerville who still work with us today because they took the plunge and made it their career.”
It’s been a rewarding —and sometimes frustrating — experience to say the least.
“I hate to see people fail, so if I see them make mistakes, I’ll holler at them,” he laughed. “But it’s always because I want to see them succeed.”
It comes from a good place because the success of his employees is one of his proudest achievements in his 25-year career.
“I’m most proud of the guys that came in and out of my branch,” he said. “To see them doing what I’m doing now, putting in the work, doing good for themselves — it makes me happy.”
And even when it comes to Archie’s real family, the work doesn’t stop there.
“When me and my sons get together, we talk about work all the time,” he laughed. “It makes me proud to see them proud of their work. I’ve watched them grow up in the CES family. I’d say that’s the favorite part of my career.”
Thank you, Archie, for everything you’ve given back to your family and City Electric Supply these last 25 years!