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Effingham Magazine

Lawrence Martin: Local Business is a Family Affair

Lawrence Martin: Local Business is a Family Affair

Story by Claire Sandow  |  Photography by Leidi Lester


Lawrence Martin’s path to entrepreneurship has been nothing short of phenomenal. Lawrence, the owner of SunHaven Outdoors, is a retired law enforcement officer, serving his community for nearly 25 years, retiring only after experiencing circumstances that changed the trajectory of his life.

A Life of Service and Perseverance

While apprehending an offender years ago, Lawrence’s neck and lower back were severely injured. He endured a couple of neck surgeries, including a partial neck fusion, along with nerve damage repair.

Upon completing therapy, the officer was anxious to go back to work. About a year later, a second field-related injury made conditions worse. Surgeons then wanted to perform a full neck fusion. Lawrence was informed of the possibility of neck paralysis if the second surgery was performed; physicians were unsure if he would be able to walk again following the procedure.

However, if the corrective surgery was an overall success, they still doubted that he would live a life free of the pain. He refused to take those risks. Lawrence underwent extensive rehab and defied all the odds. Though he has endured the pain associated with the injury, Lawrence feels blessed to have the ability to walk around each day.

“I still wanted the opportunity to walk and move. The benefits of not doing the surgery outweighed the benefits of doing it,” he says.

Understanding the physical risks of going back to his regular job as a law enforcement officer, doctors refused to release Lawrence to work in the field again. Though he was not prepared to leave the career he loved, he was compelled to retire early.

Lawrence has endured the pain of his injuries for a long time, but he is still thankful for every blessing in his life.

“It has changed me for the better. I thank the Lord that I can get up and walk every morning. I didn’t look at life as brittle. It opened my eyes to how much we take for granted. We should be thankful for what the Lord has given us each day. I have a new perspective on life—I’m grateful for the big things, like my family, but also the little things. I’m blessed to be able to walk or even eat and brush my teeth on my own,” he says.

Prior to his service as an officer of the law, Lawrence served as a youth minister at his church; he enjoyed being involved in ministry.

“I loved it. I’m involved in the church to this day. I just felt that law enforcement was my calling. It was something I was always interested in. It gave me an additional opportunity to help people. I think I inherited that caring and giving nature from my mom and dad. I’d like to think that I’ve passed it on to my two sons as well,” Lawrence says.

Lawrence’s two sons—Matthew and Jamison—followed in his footsteps. His youngest, Jamison, is involved in ministry while Matthew is a police officer.

“Both my boys have big hearts, and they love helping people,” Lawrence says.

It is a Family Affair

Lawrence opened the doors to his family business SunHaven Outdoors this past October. SunHaven is an all-in-one outdoor store.

Lawrence and his family are proud to be an asset to their community. His wife Raina has championed his efforts from day one.

“My wife has embraced it. She has supported me 100% through it all,” he says.

Matthew and Jamison were two of his biggest supporters. Lawrence takes pride in working alongside them both. He also appreciates having the assistance of his two daughters-in-law: Madison (Matthew’s wife) and Rebekah (Jamison’s wife). He is grateful for all the tireless efforts of his brother and his sister-in-law: Bernie and Kimberly Sheets.

Moreover, Lawrence is privileged that his nephew Ashley Sheets, a marketing professional, is part of the SunHaven team; Ashley leads all marketing initiatives and designed the company’s logo.

In addition, Lawrence is a proud granddad whose only grandchild, his little granddaughter Moriah, is the real heart of the company. The two-year-old bundle of joy keeps everyone on their toes.

“She’s our #1 saleslady,” he jokes.

Lawrence and the whole SunHaven family loves her to pieces—it is certainly a family affair.

“My family is my number one inspiration. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and there’s no way we would be here without everybody working together,” he adds.

SunHaven Outdoors

Lawrence recalls having to travel to nearby cities to buy certain camping, boating, fishing or camper-related parts and accessories. His daughter-in-law Madison encouraged him to do something about that inconvenience; after all, she knew that he was one of the most competent industry aficionados around.

After prayer, discussions with his family and a thorough market analysis, Lawrence decided to take a leap of faith; over time, SunHaven was born.

“We did a market analysis. We wanted to know how we could help the community, which was one of our biggest missions. So, we were able to make a business and make a living by serving our community,” he says.

The family-owned and operated outdoor store provides products and services for nearly all camping, boating or fishing needs, and it is conveniently right within the Effingham community. No more spending time traveling to other areas just to buy a $20 part or waiting a week for online dealers to ship an order.

“We’re a one-stop shop for your camping, boating and fishing needs. We’re your all-in-one store. You can come right here and get everything you need. Everybody’s time is valuable. Not only are you saving the fuel it takes to travel, but you’re saving your time as well,” Lawrence says.

Indeed, much of the benefit is the convenience of having it all right within your own backyard.

The SunHaven team is driven to provide their customers with exceptional service. Even in the rare times that the store does not have an item, they are able to obtain it in a timely manner.

“We’re here to help. We’re working hard every day to provide customers with the best service to make them feel that they’re part of the family when they walk into the store. You need that good service. If you lose that trust from the community, it’s hard to get it back,” he says.

The team knows that quality always counts, so SunHaven only offers top-of-the-line merchandise. It does not sell used or refurbished items.

“We want to supply new, top-quality products at affordable prices—those that everybody knows and trusts. We have every top brand in the boating, fishing and camping industries in stock. It’s hard to sell products that are unproven,” Lawrence states.

SunHaven offers an array of outdoor goods—reels, boating parts or tents, to name a few, along with a variety of accessories (chairs, backpacks, outdoor apparel, etc.).

The line of products includes brands such as: Camco, Coleman and Abu Garcia. The retailer also provides ENO hammocks and accessories, Nine Line Apparel, along with Black Rifle Coffee items.

“We know that when a product leaves these doors that we have sold the best there is on the market,” Lawrence says.

As another added convenience for customers, SunHaven offers mobile service and repair.

Dreams Fulfilled

Lawrence remembers two of his biggest role models: his mom Bernice and his dad C.M. He is confident that he inherited his strength and determination from them. They were also a lot of the inspiration behind his business.

“I always wanted to open up a business once I retired, and my mom and dad also dreamed of opening a business of their own when they were alive. In some ways, I feel that I’m fulfilling it for them as well,” Lawrence says.

Looking ahead, Lawrence hopes to open additional stores in nearby areas in the coming years.

In the meantime, he is truly grateful for the opportunity to grow his business, alongside his family, in the community where he feels privileged to live.

“We love Effingham, and we are happy to call it home,” he says