Mike Johnson smiles and greets warmly every customer who walks in the door at Trophies Unlimited - just like his father did.
Johnson's father, Barry, preferred to treat customers like family. The late owner of Trophies Unlimited remembered faces and names. He provided courteous service. He was a talker. He was a familiar face about town, and a man who sincerely cared about people and the Aiken community.
Mike, who now owns the trophy shop, is stepping into that role.
"I've got shoes I'll probably never be able to fill," he said. "I've got to give him all the credit. It wasn't just him doing trophies; a lot of it was just him being Barry Johnson."
Barry began making trophies in a shed behind his parents' house during the summer months so he could go back to Clemson University and get his master's degree in parks and recreation.
What began as a summer job turned into a full-fledged business, and, in 1977, Barry opened Trophies Unlimited.
In his spare time, he refereed high school football. In 2003, Barry passed away, leaving his family, loved ones and the local sports community with fond memories.
Though Mike knew the business, he never thought he would one day own it.
"I pretty much grew up around it. We lived in the house attached to the back of the business. In the mornings, you get up, get your coffee and walk to work," Mike said.
Soon after graduating from Aiken High School in 1992, he moved to Myrtle Beach. He did not foresee himself returning to his hometown.
Fate intervened, however, and Mike moved back to Aiken in 2008.
"If I'm in Aiken, this is the only thing I'll do. I can see this being a good fit. I am a face in town again. I am excited about refreshing the name of Trophies Unlimited. We offer friendly, courteous service with a smile. Service is first and foremost," he said.
Trophies Unlimited offers trophies, awards, desk nameplates, name badges and a variety of other pieces that call attention to a person's or group's achievements. Prices begin at $4.50. There is virtually no limit to how tall the trophy can be. All of the work that goes into making a trophy, award or plaque is done on site.
"People like to be recognized. Giving them something for their achievements is a step above just saying, 'Good job.' It makes them feel good to get it and makes a person feel good to give it," Mike said.
He does admit to turning over every trophy he sees to look for the distinctive Trophies Unlimited stamp on the bottom.
Trophies Unlimited will soon have new, modern equipment and is building on its new sublimation line, which is the process of transferring an image, like one from a computer, onto a mouse pad, picture frame or other surface.
"I am trying to respark an interest," Mike said. "And I am thankful for customers who have stayed with us."
Trophies Unlimited is located at 4020 Trolley Line Road and can be reached at 648-8444
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