Never Giving In

- by

Eddie Culver

Photography by KATIE MCGEE

IN 1943, EARLE CULVER felt an entrepreneurial pull to start his own business as his efforts in World War II were drawing to a close.

At that time, Earle’s mother Willene had a problem: she needed her rugs cleaned, and there was no one in Savannah to do it.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Earle, his father, Walter, and another man, Raymond C. Gilreath, established Culver Rug Co. at 408 Bonaventure Road.

Today, 79 years later, Earle’s son Eddie Culver continues to run the business with his own son, Brian.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Why do you still work?’” says Culver. “Well, because I love to work, and I love people. But most of all, I love being with my son. I’ve been the son, and now I’m the father. So, it’s been a wonderful ride.”

Eddie Culver, president of Culver Rug Co., at his family’s first store on Bonaventure Road.

Young Culver attended Savannah Country Day School. He had his first date with the love of his life, Robbie, in the eighth grade. He went on to Stetson University, where he received his bachelor’s degree and MBA and made lifelong friends among his Pi Kappa Phi brothers. 

In 1968, Culver returned to Savannah and joined the family business. It wasn’t always idyllic: in April 1994, he received his biggest life lesson when a serial arsonist set fire to the original Culver Rug Co. 

“I got a call around 8:30 p.m. that the business was on fire, and I really didn’t believe it. Then when I got to Bonaventure Road, I couldn’t get within blocks,” Culver recalls, his deep Southern accent emphatic. “Then I saw it, and the flames were reaching to the sky, 30 or 40 feet in the air.” 

By some grace, the cleaning department did not burn. “I came at my regular time the next morning,” he says. “We got folding chairs and the phones transferred, and we never missed a beat. For 13 months, we worked out of trailers and sold out of the Mall Boulevard location (Culver Rug’s showroom, founded in 1980). I knew I was never gonna give in. My father was still alive, and I couldn’t let him see everything he worked for burned up.”

“…I love to work, and I love people. But most of all, I love being with my son. I’ve been the son, and now I’m the father. So, it’s been a wonderful ride.” — Eddie Culver

It was overwhelming, especially given the 283 customers’ rugs that burned. Still, from putting the building back together to dealing with the insurance for each customer, Culver set manageable goals for himself each day and made it through.

Culver’s life has centered around family and service, both in and out of his business. He and Robbie recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and their children, Brian and Kristin, each have a daughter and son of their own.   

His love of animals led Culver to the board of his favorite charity, the Humane Society. He has also served on Savannah’s Park and Tree Commission and held numerous roles, including president for both Rotary Club of Savannah and the local German Heritage Society. His alma mater, Savannah Country Day, bestowed their Alumni Service Award upon him in 2012 for his continued exceptional contributions. In addition, Culver was elected Outstanding Jaycee of Georgia and named one of five Outstanding Jaycees in America. 

Culver’s proudest accomplishment, though, has been to serve as junior and senior warden at St. John’s Episcopal, the church he has attended since childhood. He was recently given the honorary title of Vestryman Emeritus.

“Savannah has been so good to me and my family,” he says. “I don’t have any hobbies. I find the greatest pleasure in being able to give back to the community.”