Herbert Lee Eddins: Entrepreneur, community icon, family man

By Jeanne E. Fredriksen
May 2015

Herbert Lee Eddins, Easter 2015

Herb Eddins enjoys Easter Sunday watching the family play wiffle ball a mere 10 days before he passed. ~ Photo by Jennifer Fagin

Where Young and Main streets cross in Rolesville, the recognizable buildings of Rolesville Furniture stand guard over the intersection. Next to the main building along East Young Street is Rick Eddins’ “outdoor office,” a row of unfinished garden chairs where he kicks back and enjoys the rhythm of the community. Lately, however, it’s also a place for reminiscence about the man who for decades was the town’s heart – his father, Herbert Eddins.

Herb, as he was known, passed away on April 15 at the age of 87, and though his passing took with it a part of Rolesville’s history, his son knows that the community isn’t likely to forget him anytime soon.

“I’ve sat out here some, every day since he died,” Rick said with a reflective smile. “It’s amazing the number of people who drive by and wave. Some turn around and come back. I’ve been amazed at how many peoples’ lives he touched. They’ve stopped by, told me stories, and reminisced with tears in their eyes. My father just enjoyed people. He valued friendship, fellowship.”

For as long as Rick could remember, people would stop by or call Herb just to talk about weather, business, or issues of the day.

“It’s like people just needed to hear his voice,” Rick said. “He was a hub of activity. Like a hub on a wagon wheel. He was that hub, and you’ve got all these spokes coming in, people coming in, talking, going back out. It was a constant flow of friends.”

Rick said people liked to have Herb as a sounding board because he examined all sides of an issue.

“He tried to get all the options on the table, so you’d have all of the choices that you could make,” Rick said. “I’ve had people tell me since he died, ‘Rick, I’ve picked up the phone numerous times to talk with him about something.”

Rolesville Flea Market

Items at the Rolesville Flea Market reflect a simpler time. The windmill was one of Mrs. Eddins’s favorite pieces. It ties the two of them together. ~ Photo by Jeanne E. Fredriksen

For 40 years, Herb was employed by Burlington Industries. He was also a licensed auctioneer and a businessman who owned restaurants, a carpet cleaning company, a cleaning service, and eventually, the Rolesville Flea Market, a town fixture that even the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors’ Bureau includes on its website. He was a charter member of the Rolesville Chamber of Commerce, proud to have joined when it was founded early in 1992.

“He was quite the entrepreneur, and I learned a lot from him,” his son said. “He taught me how to make a nickel. He also taught me how to save a nickel. But I found out that it’s harder to save a nickel than it is to make a nickel.

“If he’d have been in charge of the country, we wouldn’t have this federal deficit,” Rick chuckled. “Now, I can’t say what else would be going on, but we wouldn’t have a deficit, that’s for sure!

“He also taught me about business,” Rick added. “He taught me about working with people, how to treat people. He was a good role model because he was one of those folks that practiced what they preached, day in and day out.”

There was a comfortable routine that highlighted the Eddins’ days, and that comfort was strengthened by the generational bonding that held the family so tightly together.

“I’d unlock the furniture store, and about 9:15 I’d go next door (to the flea market), and he’d be unlocking. We’d sit there and talk every day,” Rick said. “How many people have the opportunity to sit there and talk with their father or parent every day? We’d been doing that for 35 years.”

Rick’s son, Kevin, is the third generation of Eddins who spent their days together, and they, too, had a daily ritual. Because of that, Kevin was the last person to sit with Herb in his office.

“It was nice to work with my grandfather,” Kevin said. “The thing about most people’s relationships with their grandparents is they don’t see them very often. A lot of times, their parents move away, and they certainly don’t see them daily, like I saw him.

“One of my favorite things was after I’d close the store for the day. A lot of times, we’d be busy, so I wouldn’t see him much during the day, but I always made sure I’d go over there and sit with him just for a couple of minutes before we went home. He’d always say, ‘Well, I’m gonna head on home for dinner,’ and I’d say, ‘That’s a good idea. I’m gonna head on home, too.’

Kevin is aware of how unique his relationship with his grandfather was, having been close to Herb all of his life and into adulthood.

Four generations of Eddins men

Four generations of Eddins men: Rick, Herb (holding great-grandson Jackson), and Kevin. ~ Photo by Jennifer Fagin

“Even when I was in college, I’d sit over there with him, so our ritual happened on and off almost my whole life. One of the things I’ll never forget is when I’d cut the grass for him at his house or around the store. I was a broke college kid trying to make some money, so he’d slip me a little extra and say, ‘Don’t tell your dad. Nobody needs to know about this.’ It made the difference between being able to go out or not have a social life.”

These days, there are still three generations of Eddins men minding the store. Kevin’s 3-year-old son, Jackson, often helps him close up. When he sees his grandfather, Rick, he says, “I help Daddy close up his store!”

The circle of family continues. No doubt Herb would approve.