Log in Newsletter

Embracing A Lifestyle, Building A Business

According to the US Small Business Administration, 56% of small businesses close within the first four years. That percentage rises with each passing year. So, how did Bobby and Barbara Hawley triumph over that statistic?

“By taking care of the customers, always. I say we’re No. 2, because our customers are No.1,” says Bobby Hawley.

In 1963, Bobby Hawley was working as a route carrier for the Fayetteville Observer. He won a newspaper-sponsored contest in which the prize consisted of a tent, stove, and lantern. He and Barbara began camping with their sons, and thought, “This is fun!” They purchased property on Raeford Road and secured a loan to build. At noon on October 31st, 1964 (the same year their son David was born) they opened the doors of Hawley’s Bicycle and Camping Center on Raeford Road. The combination of markets worked out well, with bicycle sales booming at Christmas and camping equipment during the summer.

In addition to making excellent customer service a priority, the Hawleys have built their business on good old-fashioned hard work and sweat equity. In the early years, it was not unusual for Bobby Hawley to be working three jobs in any given day. He often started his morning as a substitute mail carrier at 5:00 am. He finished his mail route by 12:30 pm and ran his paper route, in which he had 2200 customers, from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. From there, he’d go to his store until 9:00 pm, relieving Barbara Hawley after her long day.

It wasn’t long before the Hawley’s Raeford Road location, filled with bicycles and campers, was just too small for the amount of inventory the Hawley’s customers were demanding. As a result they moved the campers and RVs to a building on Brighton Road allowing both sides of the business to expand and become their own entities; Hawley’s Bicycle World and Hawley’s Camping Centers.

By 1993, however, Hawley’s Camping Center had again outgrown its space. That is when they moved to their current location – 5117 US Highway 301 S. in Hope Mills. But as word of Hawley’s Camping Center continued to spread and their customer base grew, they realized they needed to add new locations. In 1997 they added the Raleigh location; in 2004, one in Wilmington; and just this past April, the Greensboro location. Over the years, they’ve added three acres to the Raleigh location and more than 4,000 square feet to the Hope Mills headquarters.

The Hawleys’ commitment to business excellence is matched by their commitment to support the community. Over the years they have sponsored numerous baseball, basketball and softball teams, offered student internships for high school juniors and seniors and worked with the Salvation Army. The business is a member of the Military Affairs Committee of the Cumberland County Business Council. During the aftermath of hurricanes Floyd and Katrina they also supplied FEMA with trailers and campers and filled three full-size trailers with toys for the children who had lost so much.

Today, it is David and Kelli Hawley, the son and daughter-in-law of Bobby and Barbara Hawley who run the day-to-day operations of the business. But the entire extended family still camps together every year at Myrtle Beach.

“Camping is a lifestyle,” says Bobby Hawley, “It provides an opportunity for families and friends to be together in the outdoors, enjoying each other and enjoying nature.”