For 19 years, Chris Davies helped people move into a modular Jim Walter Home.
On Tuesday, the manager of the company's Goose Creek branch learned that she won't have that opportunity anymore.
Tampa, Fla.-based Walter Industries announced it is shutting the doors on its Jim Walter Homes subsidiary, a victim of the downturn in the housing industry after several years of losses.
All 43 sales centers, all in the Southern United States, ceased sales immediately, putting 230 people out of work. Two of those, including Davies, are local. Two other closed sales centers in South Carolina are in the Midlands and Pee Dee region.
"The story of Jim Walter Homes began as World War II ended and soldiers came home to pursue the American dream," Walter Industries chairman Michael Tokarz said in a statement. "Regrettably, it ends at a time when the fundamentals of the home-building industry have deteriorated in ways never seen before."
Started in 1946 by Tampa entrepreneur Jim Walter when he built his first "shell" home, Jim Walter Homes constructed more than 350,000 homes during its history.
As a result of the success of Jim Walter Homes, Walter was able to build a Fortune 500 conglomerate with businesses as diverse as mortgage financing, coal mining and ductile iron pipe. Until 2003 his company owned J.W. Aluminum, one of Berkeley County's largest manufacturers.
Walter Industries has since spun off its pipe and water products businesses and is set to establish its financing arm separately this year.
Despite a major restructuring of Jim Walter Homes in 2008 that closed nearly half of its sales centers, the business struggled. Walter Industries tried to sell the residential division but could not find a buyer, with the housing market in shambles and credit markets nearly frozen.
The number of displaced employees includes 45 at Jim Walter Homebuilding Group's headquarters in Tampa. In South Carolina, the company's closing also means five people in the Cayce office and three in Florence will be out of work.
"It hurts everybody, not just the sales center," Davies said. "It goes down to subcontractors, building materials, the landscaper, the cleaning person and our surveyor. You don't think about all the vendors that are associated with that when something closes."
All sales efforts ceased immediately, but the company will honor its obligations to customers with homes under construction. As of Dec. 31, Jim Walter Homes had about 150 houses in progress. Four of those are in the Charleston area, Davies said.