Why I am Uberring in 2017

2016 was a great first year for my blog, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing Famous Winston-Salemites and Local Difference Makers, plus my blogs about family and friends. I love Winston-Salem and its people, and I wanted to add another dimension to my blog that incorporated more about our city.


Just in the two short weeks I have been Uberring, I have received a lot of questions, specifically: why I am doing this? A lot of these questions are less like: “Why? That sounds great,” but more like “Why in the world would you do that?” Or another one I have been getting is “what does your mom or your sister or Katie think about you doing this?”

My short answer to this “why?” question is: “Because it is great!”

My long answer is much more detailed. I love meeting with people that are doing great things in our city or have moved onto do great things outside of Winston, but I was missing something with these blogs and I felt I needed to search for the missing piece. Katie and I were at dinner one night with some couple friends, and somehow Uber came up. In all honestly, at that point I hadn’t even been in a car as an Uber rider and knew very little about it.


I got home that night, and it came to me that there would be no greater way to travel around Winston and to meet more of a diverse crowd besides uberring around the city as a driver. It would give me a path to meet people from all backgrounds and drive down more roads in the Dash than any other option I could imagine. Politicians travel around and meet lots of people, but I am not sure that they always listen. As an Uber driver, I have nothing else to do but listen.

The biggest obstacle to Uberring this year was making sure that it didn’t cut into any family time. The good thing is that Katie has to be at work at 5:30 in the morning so she typically goes to sleep with the kids. I don’t really sleep that much, and I have never been a great sleeper. So I usually am twiddling my thumbs after 8:00, watching television or playing games on my computer. Heck, three years ago, I wrote a book late at night (shameless plug; buy it at the top of this page). I was able to mentally clear that obstacle that I could definitely do this without missing out on my family.


After getting the whole Uber thing down, I realized that I could flip it on after I dropped the kids off for a bit in the morning or on my way home from work in the evening, and give some new friends a ride. I have met a man from Detroit in barber school here; a man from New York City living here to get cancer treatment; a woman who was on her way to Forsyth Hospital to pick up her baby in the NICU; found out there is another Jigar in Winston besides my brother-in-law; a couple from South America that spoke no English; a drunk guy; a movie star; a kindergartner who likes Paw Patrol; another drunk guy; a high school girlfriend of two weeks; lots of Wake students; a group that talked twenty more minutes about the Kardashians than I ever want to hear again; and many other Winston-Salemites. And the great thing is that I have only been doing it for two weeks!

I have people ride in my man van of all ages, races, backgrounds, orientations and most of them have great stories to tell. If they don’t want to talk that is fine too, they can just listen along to my music as we ride. Winston-Salem is a diverse place with a lot of history and I get to explore unknown territories (to me) of our city every time I turn on an app. Our family also has trips to Spain and Disney World this year, so the extra pocket change isn’t a bad thing!


Hopefully throughout the year, some of my riders will try my Uber challenges, I will be able to raise a lot of money for various Winston-Salem organizations through donations, and I will meet a lot of great people. This is just a trial a lot like my blog was just a trial last year. I have never done anything like it, and I am not sure anyone else really has either.If you do everything in life worrying about what others might think, you might not do much that you really want to try. There might be some missteps  along the way of these adventures, but I wouldn’t want people from any other city to join me for the journey.


Uberring Through Winston: Part I

In 2017, I plan to become an Uber driver to meet all kinds of people in Winston-Salem, NC and then write about them and my adventures. I will offer various challenges to my riders, and 10% of my tips will go to a different Winston-Salem organization each month.

When I got the idea to add the Uberring through Winston series to my blog, I had no idea that my first night would be so brilliant. I will never be able to forget night one of Uberring as my first ever pick-up happened to be an ex-girlfriend of mine from ninth grade, and my last pick-up of night one was a Famous Winston-Salemite and Hollywood star, Julianna Guill. It was like Zoltar from the movie Big granted me Uber adventures for night one and sent me to blog heaven. It will be hard to top and I am just getting started with these adventures.


I signed up for Uber on December 24th, and received a message that my background check and paperwork was clear and I was able to start driving on the 26th. That night, Katie and I got home from dinner and were getting ready to put the kids to bed, when I randomly decided to turn on the Uber app. Within two minutes, I had a message that a rider needed a pick-up. I gave the family a kiss and then ran out to the minivan.

The first pick-up was just a couple miles from my house, and after getting lost a couple times (the Uber maps aren’t the best), I found the right place. First a man walked over to the van that I didn’t recognize and then a pretty blonde lady walked over. The first thing she said was “shut the &*%&% up” as she looked in the passenger window. Hopefully I get that reaction a lot during these adventures, but only for good reasons. Shockingly, my first ever Uber pickup was one of my first girlfriends from the summer after ninth grade.

Courtney, Caroline, and Jenny

Jenny broke up with me after about a week. My maturity level now is still about ten years behind my age of 36, so you can only imagine what I was like at fifteen. I am sure she had plenty of good reasons. Jenny and her husband currently live in Charlotte. They jumped in the backseat, and after a quick detour to buy some wine at CVS, we stopped by to pick up another old friend, Caroline, who I ran track with for three years at Reynolds.

I took them to a house where I spent a lot of time during my high school years, where they were meeting up with several of their high school friends. I saw another old friend, Courtney, and met her husband and then I was off back to the house with four new dollars in my bank account and a great photo in my phone.

Once I got home, I went upstairs and Katie and the two kids were asleep in my bed and I was about to get ready for bed, when I got another message that a rider was waiting. I jumped in the van again and had four more pickups over the next forty-five minutes. The first two pickups were groups of four.


I picked up one foursome at The Beer Growler and took them to Burke St. Pub. They were talkative and actually spent most of the ride complaining about a guy I used to play soccer with growing up. Immediately after I dropped them off, I had another message from a block away at Mozelle’s. This foursome practically acted like I was non-existent until I got them to their house in Ardmore, where they did say thanks.

The next two rides were young women, who had jobs near the Mall area. I took each of them back to their houses. One of them recently received a DUI and is without her license for a couple months. She uses Uber to go to her managerial job, and to go home after work. She was incredibly friendly, and helpful with some Uber tips. The second young lady lived near my work at Salem College, and after I dropped her off, I started to head back home planning to call it a night.

I was driving down Robinhood Road, when I got another message since I forgot to turn the Uber app off. It was the same Buena Vista street where I dropped off Caroline and Jenny, and I thought it was them again trying to get a ride home. When I pulled up to the house, it was the house next door, where I also had been to a couple parties growing up.


As soon as Julianna got in the car, I said I had been to a couple parties at her house, and her first words were, “I am sure you have!” Julianna is a lot younger than me, but her sister, Lucy, was good friends with one of the sisters of one of my good friends. We spent some time hanging out with Lucy, and I am pretty sure she dated one of my good friends (I can’t remember which one).

Julianna has gone on to star in countless movies and television shows, and she also is a member of the band, The Girls, with Cyrina Fiallo (from the television show, Community). Julianna has starred in movies like Friday the 13th, Captain America: Civil War, and Crazy, Stupid, Love (with Steve Carell). She has been in countless television shows like How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds, and CSI. She is currently in a Hallmark movie with Vivica A. Fox called Summer in the City. 

Julianna in the minivan

Though she is a big-time Hollywood star, Julianna couldn’t have been any nicer and down to earth during our ten minute drive to Camel City Barbecue Factory. We talked about parties at her house, our dads working on the BB&T building in the eighties together, and our holiday seasons. I also hopefully convinced her to do a Famous Winston-Salemite blog, so you can learn more about her one day soon.

The building Julianna’s dad (an engineer) and my dad (an architect) worked on together in Downtown Winston.

After I dropped Julianna off, I cut the app off and went home with two hours of excitement and twenty-five dollars in my pocket (actually in my phone). I was too amped up to sleep when I got home and stayed up too late, excited for my next upcoming adventures in Uberring through Winston.

Some Uber tips I learned:

  1. Pay attention after you drop off a customer. I dropped off a customer near Ebert St. and then turned the wrong way and I think I was in Mecklenburg County before I figured it out.
  2. Carry candy at all times in case a kid gets in with their parent (thanks Richmond Hill).
  3. Don’t forget to swipe that you have picked up a customer. I was at CVS with Jenny and her husband before I figured out that I didn’t start the trip yet on the phone.
  4. You don’t get paid a ton driving around Winston (but it is worth it)! Also, I don’t think tipping is a mainstay for Uber passengers, so I might need to rethink how I can work out getting more money for charities.


Jump, Little Children: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.

After a ten year hiatus, the band Jump, Little Children continues to have a loyal following all across the country. The members of the band (Jay Clifford, Matthew Bivins, Evan Bivins, Jonathan Gray, and Ward Williams) now live throughout the United States in Charleston, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago, though they call Winston-Salem home and it is where the band was born. I had the opportunity to talk to Matthew Bivins (the older brother, vocalist and accordion, harmonica, and mandolin player) about the bands upbringing in Winston.


“Winston is such a strange place to grow up,” said Matthew. “Winston-Salem has more culture and art than most cities its size and even bigger cities. It is small enough to know all of your neighbors and know them well and there is just something about it. Every time I come back to Winston, I leave so excited. It feels so much like home, it feels good to be there!”

In the early 1990’s, Matthew moved to Downtown Winston to 2nd St. in a time when Downtown was a ghost town. The brothers went to school at Brunson Elementary, Wiley Middle School, and R.J. Reynolds High School. Matthew was a friend of Cary Clifford (current owner of Winston’s Camino Bakery) and that is how he became friendly with her older brother, Jay, who is the lead singer of Jump, Little Children.

Matt with the crowd at Ziggy’s circa 1997

The family also lived across the street from an Irish family, whose son was Christopher Pollen. The three were also friendly with Ward, and both of the brothers plus Jay and Ward all ended up at the North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). In 1991, Jay and Ward were in a band called, The Sound Painters, and Matt and Christopher were able to lure them away to form a new band.

They all lived together in the Washington Park area, and Evan wanted to join the band. He didn’t have an instrument to play, so he taught himself how to play an Irish frame drum. The musical origins of the band were more Irish folk music than rock & roll. They practiced at UNCSA and played local folk festivals. They also played several live shows on Wake Forest’s local radio station (WFDD).


Jay, Christopher, and Matthew all decided to take a break from UNCSA and they moved to Ireland to focus on their music. Matt said, “we knew we weren’t going to be soloists in a classical band, so we traveled to Ireland and stayed in monasteries, while playing in Irish pubs throughout the country.”

The three came back to Winston and decided to move to the most Irish city in America, Boston. Evan joined them, while Ward stayed behind to finish up at UNCSA. Things didn’t go as planned in Boston after Christopher left the band, so they decided to move to Charleston permanently in 1994.


Jump, Little Children as we know them today, officially started once they moved to Charleston. Jonathan, their friend from Myrtle Beach, joined the band as the bass player and Ward, the cellist and guitar player, finished up at UNCSA and moved down, and the band was formed. They kept a lot of the same instruments they used as a folk band, but they started writing rock songs. Hootie and the Blowfish and The Dave Matthews Band were starting to become popular, and this set the stage for a grassroots musical movement.


JLC made their name in the Carolina’s, but it didn’t take long for them to earn national radio play, and start to tour across the country. Between 1995 and 1999, the band released The Licorice Tea Demos, Buzz (a live recording), and perhaps their most famous record, Magazine. Songs like “Cathedrals” and “Quiet” became radio hits, and the band began playing to sold shows of 100 to 5,000 fans. They also started playing New Year’s shows at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, and the concerts were revived after their ten year hiatus in 2015.

In the early 2000’s, the band released studio albums, Vertigo and Between The Dim & The Dark, plus a live recording, Live at the Dock Street Theatre. They spent time touring with bands like Guster, Rusted Root, Butch Walker, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Howie Day.


In 2005, the band decided it was time to pursue other areas, including starting a family. Matt has been married for four years, and Evan is engaged. Jay is married with one kid and lives in Charleston. Jonathan also lives in Charleston, and is married with three children. Ward is in Brooklyn, and has one son and a baby on the way.

During their ten year hiatus, their song “Mexico,” which is perhaps my favorite song of the band, was featured in Zach Braff’s movie, Wish I Was Here, and became a hit. Other songs have made it on television, including shows like Party of FiveSo You Think You Can DanceEverwood, and Scrubs. 


In 2015, JLC decided it was time to get back together. In April of this year, the band will embark on a tour that includes shows in Asheville, Chapel Hill, Birmingham, and Atlanta. They will also be joining bands like Shovels & Rope, The Avett Brothers, and The Shins at the High Water Festival in Charleston. You can buy tickets to their upcoming tour  and merchandise at their website (here).

Below, Matt answers some questions about the band’s favorite parts of Winston-Salem:

Growing up, what were some of your favorite restaurants in Winston?

Growing up, Winston wasn’t a culinary capital like it is today. I just came back to town recently and ate at Quanto Basta and it was great. When I was young, I loved the West End Cafe. We also loved the Rose & Thistle. I think everybody in the band had a job one time or another at Rainbow News.

What were some other things about Winston you really appreciated?

My dad, John Bivins Jr., was a restorationist, and did a lot of work Downtown and at Old Salem. I loved all the people at MESDA (Museum of Early Decorative Arts). My mom, Mary Lucy, who currently works at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, was a theater professor at Wake Forest, and we loved going over there. I did a lot of performing arts growing up, and spent a lot of time in plays at The Little Theatre.

Who are some other musicians from Winston that you know?

Growing up, I remember spending time at the Shakespeare Festival with Becca Stevens and her family when she was very young. Jay’s older sister went to Reynolds with Ben Folds, and Greg Humphries from Dillon Fence was good friends with Ward. I don’t know Paul Defiglia from The Avett Brothers, but look forward to playing with him at the High Water Festival.


Where are some places you enjoyed performing in Winston?

We played at Ziggy’s a lot and at the Millenium Center once we were touring. When we were younger we did acoustic shows at UNCSA that were great!

What do you think about Winston-Salem now?

The revitalization of Downtown is amazing and inspiring. I love to see how much Downtown has changed. My dad moved us there and there weren’t many people living Downtown, and now a lot of people live there.


Thank You Salem College Soccer

Dear Salem College Soccer Team,

I said during our last game that “I love everything about this team,” and I meant every word of that statement. I love my coaching staff and wouldn’t trade them for any coaching staff in the country. I love the determination and relentlessness of all twenty-six members of the team this Fall. I love the quirkiness of each member of the team and how each member, through their differences, fit together like puzzle pieces to make a dominant team.

This team wasn’t perfect, no teams ever are perfect. All teams have their ups and downs, but one of the best parts of this team was how easily you put the imperfections of the team behind you to merge together to have a stellar season.

The first husband of Salem College, Bert Lain, told you all that through his journey to nine different institutions, including two of the best athletic departments in the nation, UNC and Stanford, this version of the Salem College Soccer team was his favorite team ever to watch. Bert is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and he knows what he is saying when he talks about the guts this team stepped on the field with every game.


There were some doubts at the beginning of the season how a team with only one senior that was joining a new sixteen-member conference would handle a season. Anchored by Morgan and the leadership of this team, everybody came together after a couple rocky pre-season games to put together the best season in school history. You can read this article to see all the great accolades this team has received so far (ARTICLE).

Players on the Salem soccer team don’t get the exposure you all deserve. Being in a city where one of the top men’s soccer programs in NCAA Division 1 doesn’t help, but you all continue to play hard for each other. We don’t have the same facilities as many programs in our conference or in the nation, but you all continue to play hard for each other. There isn’t a big crowd besides your families at the games, but you all continue to play hard for each other.


We have had great teams before in the history of Salem College Soccer that have achieved incredible accomplishments. Better than all of those accomplishments, we have great people that played soccer here and they paved the path for this season.

Salem College as an institution has the one of the brightest histories of any institution for women in this nation. What you all did this season is one of the greatest accomplishments a group of women has accomplished in the 245 year history of Salem.

This team defied all odds. You joined a new conference with sixteen members and won the regular season championship, which, to me, is harder than winning the tournament. The conference didn’t make it easy on you at all. You traveled more than twice as far throughout 2016 conference play as the team that traveled the second most in the conference, and over three times as far as most teams, but you still prevailed.

This program had never beaten Maryville College in our history, but you did it this year, and not just once but three times. Maryville was the New York Yankees of our old conference, the Great South. Nobody in the former Great South had won a game at Maryville since the early 2000’s until you all did it in one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of as a coach or player. This team came together to put on a stellar performance in your first ever USA South playoff game to defeat Maryville and move to the USA South Semifinals.


We don’t get huge crowds as I mentioned earlier at home, but you all continued to be valiant soldiers protecting your home turf. Once again, we went 10-0 at home this season. This program now is riding a twenty-five game home win streak protecting the Salem soccer field. In fact, our last home loss was in 2014 to the number one team in the country and eventual national champions of Lynchburg.

In the USA South Final Four, once again, you all had the odds against you and you defied them by having to go on the road as the number one seed for the semifinals and championship weekend. Playing on turf was a bit like kryptonite to Superman for us this season and you had to do that during the Final Four weekend. We didn’t play our best game this season in the semifinals, but you never let your guards down and once again you pulled out an exciting overtime win.

Even though, we lost the championship game, the last twenty minutes were the best twenty minutes you all put together all season. Falling behind, 2-0, with 20 minutes remaining, would cause most teams to buckle, but you all stepped it up. We got one goal back with 12 minutes left.

Life is a game of inches where mistakes can be made, and our season ended that way. You all battled to the very last second of our season, and you scored the goal that should have tied the game and sent us to overtime, where there is no doubt in my mind that you all would have prevailed. Unfortunately, the referees made the mistake of missing the clear goal, which ended our season.

You can clearly see the white goal-line, then green grass, and then the ball with the goalie deep inside the goal.

Even without the tournament trophy, you all are true champions due to your character, your effort and determination, and your hearts. I am truly privileged to be a part of what you all did this season, and I can’t wait to see what you all can do together as you continue on your path as soccer players, tremendous students, and great people.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,


Lawren Desai-Local Winston-Salem Difference Makers

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 


When I started writing about local Winston-Salem difference makers, there was one I knew I wanted to write about from the very beginning, my big sister, Lawren Callahan Desai. I needed to establish my blog without being known as her brother first, but I always had September 19, 2016 in mind to finally do one on her, since it is her fortieth birthday. First off, happy “over the hill” birthday Lawren.

It runs through our blood to want to make a difference in Winston-Salem. Our family never expected Desai to come back to Winston once she left for college in the mid-1990’s. She was always a big city person, and that plays a major role in her desire to make Downtown Winston a great place.
Desai was born in Charlotte, NC in 1976 and moved to Winston as a toddler. She grew up in the West End on West End Boulevard for a couple years and then moved to Glade Street. Along with being an excellent student throughout high school, she was also a star swimmer for Sherwood pool and Reynolds High School. Desai graduated from Reynolds in 1994 and chose the University of Pennsylvania to study International Relations. Her move to Philadelphia was just her first move in a series of moves to some of the most well-known cities in the world.

Along with the “City of Brotherly Love,” Desai spent time living in Madrid, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn, along with one year working as an assistant in the School of Film at UNC School of the Arts. She moved back to Winston to receive her MBA at Wake Forest in what appeared to be just a transition before going back to a big city.
During her time at Wake, she met her future husband, Jigar Desai, who hailed from Dalton, GA. The two got married after they both received their MBA, and they decided to try to bring a little bit of the big city to Winston.
After they had their only child, Jake, Desai began to look into options for bringing a movie theater to Downtown Winston. It was a merger of what she learned at Wake combined with her love of movies developed from her time at UNCSA and in Los Angeles pursuing a career in film production. On January 8, 2010, Desai opened a/perture cinema in the heart of Downtown on Fourth Street.

Over the past six and a half years, a/perture has added two additional theaters to its original two screens. a/perture hosts events like RiverRun each year, and they have their own events like Art House Theater Day, which is coming up on September 24th. Desai travels to the Toronto Film Festival yearly to help find movies to bring to Winston.
Through her hard work, Desai, was the recipient of the R. Philip Hanes Junior Young Leader Award. The award recognizes someone under 40 whose time, talent and energy have furthered the mission of promoting the arts and culture in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, leaving a legacy of service for future young leaders and for the future of the arts in this community.

When I was in kindergarten, my dad had my fifth grade sister go out and protect me and a couple friends from an older neighborhood bully. Ever since then, I have looked up to my big sister, and with all she has accomplished, I really have to crane my neck to see that high up!

                                          Winston-Salem Questions:

Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
West End, Ardmore, Buena Forest, and Downtown


What different schools did you go to?
The Hanes Park trifecta: Brunson, Wiley, Reynolds

Who were your favorite teachers?
Ms. Myrick-Kindergarten
Ms. Robby-Algebra
Mr. Hierl-U.S. History (Career Center)


What are your top three Winston-Salem restaurants of all time that are no longer here?Rose & Thistle
South By Southwest
Mayberry’s in the old location on Stratford

What is your favorite nickname of our minor league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?


Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Thruway, but I hope pretty soon to have a third Downtown Winston option.

Are there any stores you wish would move to Winston? How about restaurants?
Stores: Anthropologie and Apple
Restaurants: A legitimate Spanish Tapas restaurant or a Shake Shack


Where is your favorite day trip outside of Winston?
Too many good ones-Hanging Rock, Asheboro Zoo, Pilot Mountain, Durham, Asheville

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
South Nags Head-mile marker 19


Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
I like to visit Asheville, good restaurants and music scene.


Did you ever go to the original Ziggy’s? What was your favorite concert there?
Yes-a lot in high school and then through the years until I moved. My friends and I saw Dave Matthews in high school during a snowstorm. Since it was snowing so hard, we had to get a parent to drop us off.

Could you ever imagine leaving Winston and if so, where would you go?
Not at this point. Winston is such a great base and traveling for the weekend, in country or abroad, is so easy from here.






Da Bomb Squad: Winston’s Least Notorious Gang Ever

It’s hard to believe that my 20th R.J. Reynolds High School reunion is just around the corner. In honor of being out of that great place for so long, I will sporadically blog on some of my memories as a Demon during the late 90’s.

When you think of gangs, you think of mean dudes with tattoos that go around and do some seriously bad things. Circa 1996, Winston-Salem had a gang that was the antithesis of any gang that might come to your mind when you think of the term. This group of friendly guys was known as Da (not the) Bomb Squad. I personally didn’t know any of the members (wink wink), and it took a lot of hard work to find out how this bunch joined forces.

Here is the brief story of Da Bomb Squad:

One night a group of friends saw an advertisement for chicken pizza at Pizza Hut and they knew they had to try it. They paked into a 1985 navy Jeep Cherokee and headed to the Stratford Road Pizza Hut (now some sort of four-wheeler store). The Jeep was somewhat gangster because it did have a gigantic Wu-Tang Clan sticker on the back. Any believe that the Jeep was gangster was negated because it also had a Dave Matthews Band sticker on the back.

After chowing down on several exquisite chicken topped pizzas, the group headed out to do whatever shenanigans they were going to do that night. When you think of Molotov cocktails and gangs, you probably think of the gangs using them to throw at other gangs or the police or something bad. Da Bomb Squad became Da Bomb Squad when they found a Molotov cocktail burning in the middle of Westview Drive, in between Stratford and Country Club. The Jeep deftly swerved around the makeshift bomb, it had a really cool driver. Instead of doing something gangster like putting the bomb out or finding another gang to throw the bomb at, the group drove to the Country Club fire department to report the burning object in the middle of the road (this is during the beeper era and before cell phones).


They were so excited that they made this discovery, the teens actually followed the fire truck back to the scene of the bomb and watched them put it out. They then decided to call themselves Da (not the) Bomb Squad.

When you think of gangs and memberships you think of wearing colors on bandannas and tattoos. You also probably think of initiations where the new members get beat up to join the gang. Da Bomb Squad did the least gangster things possible. Instead of colors, they made a t-shirt with Da Bomb Squad on the front and their names on the back (who actually puts their name out there if they are in a real gang?). Instead of beating up new members, they just asked some of their other buddies if they wanted to join the group.

The only real gangster thing about the group was the names they gave each other: Smokie, Blazuh, Bull, Red, Bizzy. Unfortunately, the group also put these names on their shirts. Over the next year or so, this group roamed the halls of R.J. Reynolds and the streets of Buena Vista, West End, and Ardmore not scaring a single person. Only one of them could truly fight, so the group used their wits and not their muscles and befriended a lot of big guys that could protect them.

Like many high school endings, Da Bomb Squad disbanded over a girl. Two members liked the same one and that was that for the least notorious gang to roam the streets of Winston-Salem. The members went on to do non-gangster things after disbanding. Two of them did end up in the drug related field, but they didn’t become drug dealers, they became doctors. Other members are bankers and work in advertising, while the most handsome member of the lot went on to become a college soccer coach/writer/dad, but I didn’t really know that guy.

The only Winston group to ever be less threatening than Da Bomb Squad was members of the RJR class of 1999 (lame-o’s), who labeled themselves The Swat Team. At least Da Bomb Squad actually found a bomb.


Letters from Dad:McKinley’s 6th Birthday

Dear McKinley,

Don’t ever change! You will always be my favorite little princess!


Five was another great year for you and I can’t wait to see you continue to grow this upcoming year. This is going to be a huge year for you, since you start kindergarten just a week after your birthday. I look forward to seeing you continue to grow into a young lady. Right now, your favorite music is the Dixie Chicks, you really like Popeye, and playing with your dolls.


I have always heard that time goes by too fast with your kids, and this is definitely true. I can’t believe you are six already! Below I will share some things that make you such a special person and some reminders for the future:

You are a friend to everyone, keep it up!

For your pre-K superlatives, you were awarded the “easiest to make a friend.” You have always been very social with your peers. You will play with anyone that is willing to play with you, and you need to keep doing that. The only reason you should stop playing with somebody is if they are mean to you or others.

Keep being a hero to your brother:

Hudson is a wild and crazy dude, but he loves you to death. If some of your friends want to play without him, you already tell them no and try to include him as much as possible. Keep doing that. You two play awesome together and you are a great big sister. Keep looking out for Hudson and he will keep looking up to you!

Family makes you happy, and keep looking up to your mom!

Whether it is your cousins or grandparents, you love being with family. You also really look up to your mom. Keep doing that! She is a great role model.


You love our pets:

Just like your brother, you love our pets: Owen, Crosby, and Flo. The first thing you do when we get home is look for Flo so you can pick her up and hold her.


You are my little entrepreneur and chef:

At the age of five, you were already trying to make money and willing to donate it to charity. Whether it was a popcorn stand in front of our house or a vegetable stand on Fourth Street, you love to make food and sell it. You made a lot of money this year, and donated half of it to the Humane Society, where we got Crosby and Flo.

Just remember to keep being you and don’t let anybody change that. Love your family and pets, be a hero to your little brother, and do what you enjoy doing. You are already a great young lady, but you will always be my little princess.

Your daddy

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Jeffrey Smith (Smitty’s Notes): Local Winston-Salem Difference Maker

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 

“Charlotte tries to be like Atlanta. Winston tries to be like Winston.” -Jeffrey Smith

There would be no Smitty’s Notes (website link) without Jeffrey L. Smith. In 1997, when e-mail and the internet were in their early period, Smith started sending emails out to friends about what to do in Winston-Salem. It caught fire with his friends, and as a joke he called it Smitty’s Notes. A year later the Winston-Salem Journal caught wind of the event’s calendar by Smith and put a column about Smitty’s Notes in their newspaper and it took off and is closing its second decade of letting our community know what is going on each week.


Our community doesn’t have many better advocates than Smith. Though he works in Greensboro as a litigation paralegal for Syngenta, he has always been a Winston resident (except for his time at Elon College and his first three years of life in Belmont, NC). He was one of the first people to move to Downtown Winston, when he moved into Albert Hall eighteen years ago, and he has devoted his life to promoting our city. 

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of Smitty’s Notes, and Smith has several events planned to celebrate the year. “Where we started from in 1997 to today is so different,” said Smith. “There is lots of civic pride and downtown has exploded. I’m proud to say we are moving forward as a community!” Smith has also been involved in the community as a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Arts Council, Downtown Winston-Salem, the Millennium Fund boards and the Winston-Salem ECHO Foundation. 

Photo by Jay Sinclair

He has his own unique story to tell too about his time in Winston. In the late 1960’s, Smith went to Skyland Elementary for his first year of schooling in Winston, which was one of the last segregated schools in our community.

In 2009, Smith was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He wasn’t feeling well one day at a conference, and he checked himself into the hospital after calling his dad. They did a MRI and he was diagnosed with MS. Smith took a month off from Smitty’s Notes and most people probably wouldn’t have gone back to it. 

“I realized I could still do it,” said Smith. “I might not be able to do it as fast, but I still get it done.” Winston-Salem as a community is lucky that Smith kept Smitty’s going.


Smith used a walker for a year, but he worried about its safety so he switched to a wheelchair and is happy he made that switch. “Syngenta has bent over backwards to make it as handicap accessible for me at work and they have been great to me,” said Smith. 

Winston-Salem Questions: 

Where all did you go to school growing up in Winston and did you have any special teachers?
I went to Skyland for one year, to Kernersville Elementary, and then Brunson for two years during elementary school. I went to Wiley for 7th and 8th grades, Carver for 9th and 10th, and then finished my last two years at East Forsyth. It was good and bad to switch schools so often. It was good because you met a lot of new people, and bad because sometimes you would be separated from the friends you made. My first grade teacher, Ms. Sharpe, also taught my dad, and she was great. I also loved my art teacher, Mr. Idol, at East. He was my Key Club adviser, and I became a Lieutenant Governor of the North Carolina and South Carolina Key Club through him as a mentor. 


Where all have you lived in Winston?
I lived on Lynwood Avenue for six years in the West Highlands near Hanes Park. I also lived in Ardmore Terrace before then and now I live in Albert Hall near the research park.

Could you ever imagine leaving Winston? If so, where would you move?
I can’t imagine ever leaving the city. If I ever won the lottery, I would move to Seattle, WA for a year. Five years ago, I took a train to Seattle to see some old friends I met here in Winston. I had been a couple times before and I love it out there. 

What is your favorite day-trip outside of Winston?
Going down to Charlotte to enjoy their restaurants is always a good choice. They have great restaurants like Roosters. Charlotte tries to be like Atlanta, while Winston tries to be like Winston. Charlotte has plowed down its history. Winston has preserved its history with its buildings. My building, Albert Hall, is 100 years old. 


Where is your favorite place to go in the mountains?
I like to go up towards Asheville and stay in Black Mountain, which is right outside Hendersonville. It is harder to get there now, since it isn’t really handicap accessible. I do try to get there once a year. I used to be on the Advisory Board of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and we would meet four times a year, in places all around North Carolina, so I really got to see a bunch of our great state.

What is your favorite name of our minor league team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
I like the Dash. It is unique and different. Bolt the mascot is hilarious. 


Are you more of a fan of Hanes Mall or Thruway?
Thruway. I like original things. Thruway is pretty cool. I roll down there and go to places like GNC, Trader Joe’s, and Dewey’s. 

What are some of your favorite Winston restaurants that are no longer here?
Prince’s on the Park, Rainbow News & Cafe and the Rose & Thistle, which used to be near Baptist Hospital. In fact, some of the people that used to work there still work at the West End Cafe or downtown like Millicent Greason. 

What are some of your best memories of the first nineteen years of Smitty’s Notes?
We had a dinner program for ten years, “Evening with Eight – Plus Smitty.” We had 65-70 different community leaders speak during that time. One thing I learned is that Winston-Salem has a Mayberry effect. You can walk up to any leader and ask questions and they will answer. I had the dinner to give people a chance to learn more about Winston, but we don’t need that program anymore because people have so much they can do now. The dinner ended in 2011, but I hope to bring it back next year for the 20th anniversary.

Smitty’s shares an events calendar with the Downtown Partnership, Visit Winston-Salem, and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Arts Council. The event’s calendar all goes to one place, and is beneficial to all the non-profits to share. We are probably the only city in the state where four different identities share the same event’s page. Our community has one goal, to make sure customers get what they need. We all have done a great job working together.
Clark Harper was the creator of Event-O-Rama (the events calendar) and was a big help to Smitty’s Notes. We didn’t argue the whole time he helped, and he was a great partner. He stepped away in 2009 and Everwondr took his place as the community event calendar.
We also started the “Best of Winston-Salem” Awards in 2006 and just had our 10th one last month. Before then, I saw awards around the Triad, but they were never Winston centered. I felt my brand was strong enough to work and it did. My awards has always been that you can nominate anyone, and it became wildly acceptable. 


Do you know somebody that goes out of their way in Winston-Salem to be extra nice and helpful? If so read my Winston Giveback: Unsung Heroes post to see how to nominate this person by September 15, 2016. Click here for nomination information.


Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival-All Six Nights

Tim Grandinetti and Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar asked me to blog on all six nights of the 7th Annual Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival. Each night, I will have a different special guest attend the event with me.

Night One: Winston-Salem All-Star Chefs

Night one of the Luv Luv Festival was a new tradition for the event. Tim Grandinetti and Spring House invited ten local Winston-Salem chefs (complete list of chefs and restaurants below) to make small barbecue plates for night one’s guests. My special guest for the evening was my mom, Barbara Callahan, retired speech therapist extraordinaire and current beach bum.

My first guest, Barbara Callahan

“For me, this is the best way to start the Luv Luv Festival this year,” said Grandinetti. “A collaboration with some of the best chefs in Winston. I don’t think we can top this! All of the chefs are friends. If Winston-Salem is going to be a dining destination, we have to do it together.”

The six-day event is an outdoor grill-fest. “When I moved from New York, barbecue was hot dogs and grilling outside. When I got here the barbecue was an epiphany.  Tonight I have ten of my local chef friends, and the rest of the week I have chef friends coming from all over the country.”


Each night of the event features barbecue and a band. Night one’s band was the Thermatones, a soulful five member local band. As the band played, the guests were allowed to walk around from table to table to try out each local plate.

My mom and I started out the evening with some drinks. I had Brooklyn Lagers, while my mom tried out the bartender’s special signature Luv Luv cocktail, which mixed Chambord, Absolut Vanilla Rasberry, blueberries, lemonade, soda, and mint.

Luv Luv cocktail

Kim McDonald, who grew up in Kernersville and currently lives in Belew’s Creek, was at the event with her husband for their fourth straight year. “Luv Luv is wonderful! You get to try new things that you normally wouldn’t try. There is a neat spin on food that gives you a new light on different recipes,” said McDonald.

The event features a People’s Choice Award voted on by the guests, and a grand prize winner selected by a group of local celebrities. Chef Alexandria Caesar from Vin205 Wine Bar was selected as the People’s Choice Award. Chef Chris Fulk from Quanta Basta came in third and Meridian’s Chef  Mark Grohman came in second for the grand prize, while Chef Travis Myers from Willow Bistro won the overall grand prize in the friendly competition.

Grohman (Meridian) has been cooking at Luv Luv from the beginning of the festival. “I have been here since the first one. It is always fun, with a great crowd, great food, and definitely a great vibe,” said Grohman.


Local orthodontist, Sarah Shoaf from Salem Shines, and her husband have been attending the event since year one as guests. They plan to be at all six nights this year. “It is wonderful what different things chefs can do with the same ingredients,” said Shoaf.

Night two will feature a seated dinner cooked by Chef Will Pelly from St. Louis, Missouri. My guest for the evening will be President Lorraine Sterritt from Salem Academy and College.


Chefs from night one: Greg Rollins from Graylyn Conference Center, Shane Moore from Foothills Brewing, Travis Myers from Willow’s Bistro, Mark Grohman from Meridian, Chris Fulk from Quanto Basta, Jared Tipton from Spring House, John and Buddy Milner from Milner’s American Southern, Mark Little from Bib’s BBQ, Jeff Bacon from Providence Restaurant, and Alexandria Caesar from Vin205.

Night Two: Salem President Lorraine Sterritt and Chef Wil Pelly

Salem Academy & College President Lorraine Sterritt joined me on night two of Spring House’s Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival to enjoy food made by Chef Wil Pelly from St. Louis, Missouri. The heavy rains didn’t dampen the mood, even though the wait staff was soaked from delivering the food from the “Belly of the Beast” to the tent filled with guests.

Chef Pelly with Chef Tim Grandinetti

Pelly’s menu featured a Brazilian themed plate to go with the Summer Olympics, and a plate from Cuba. Night one was small plates from several different local chefs, while night two was a seated dinner.

Chef Pelly with Chef Tim Grandinetti

President Sterritt and I had a lot of time to talk in between plates, all while we enjoyed the local band of the evening, Peace Train. I found out a lot about her homeland, Northern Ireland, that I didn’t know about previous to the dinner. I taught her some of my knowledge on Winston-Salem throughout the meal.

President Lorraine Sterritt

The first plate was a surprise as it was not on the menu and featured shrimp and meatballs. The second plate was chips and dip. The chips were made from lotus, taro, and plantain, while the dip was smoked black garlic chimichurri.

Local lawyer and appliance wizard, Wake Wagner, and his wife, Katie, sat with us at the same table. The couple came to one evening last year at the Luv Luv Festival, and couldn’t wait to get back this year. “Good food, a good time, even with the rain coming down,” said Wagner.

In between the second and third plate, we had a small cup of black bean soup. The third plate was a Cuban cigar. This was a wrap with smoked pork, ham, citrus, garlic, gruyere, quick pickle, Dijon, and phyllo. By this point of the evening, I was starting to get full. My plan for the whole week is to eat as little for lunch as possible so I have enough room for everything at Luv Luv. While we were waiting for the final plate, dessert, several attendees enjoyed shots off of the custom-made knife shot-board.

The dessert was called “Flan me over the Moon,” and was a vanilla custard with caramel and was topped with the candy, Pop Rocks, all on a popsicle stick. Just like night one, the second night was a success.

I saw several familiar faces from night one, and even more new faces there for their first night of the event. Here is to tonight (night three), when I will be joined by Aubrey Linville from Linville Team Partners.


I am starting to get stuffed after three nights at Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival. Last night the rains held off, and I was accompanied by Aubrey Linville from Linville Team Partners.  He just got back from a trip around California. Linville and his wife Holli plan to take both of their kids (and eventual grandkids) on a summer trip to all fifty states in fifty years. They are six states in after California. We sat in the “Belly of the Beast,” which meant more great food including three additional plates.

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Aubrey Linville

Chef Kurtis Jantz and Chef Fabian Di Paolo from the Trump International Hotel in Miami, Florida sent out plate after plate of delicious foods. Both chefs have attended the Luv Luv Festival for the past five years.

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Chef Tim Grandinetti, Chef Fabian Di Paolo, and Chef Kurtis Jantz

In addition to the awesome food, we also got tastings of some great Mother Earth Brewing beers, including their limited Silent Night. The “Belly of the Beast” table included food bloggers, Nikki Miller Ka (from the great Winston-Salem) and Nichole Livengood (Greenville, SC). Each plate came with a Mother Earth beer sampler.


After an appetizer portion from the Spring House staff, we got our first plate from Jantz and Di Paolo, which included: bottom of the bowl popcorn, wood smoked ‘Cheetohs’ (yes those Cheetohs) ranch dip, blue and plantain chips, charred hot peppers, and black scallion and roasted corn succotash.  One of the extra plates had a fried green tomato, with Texas Pete ‘Cha sauce, and shrimp and crab balls. Another special plate featured jerky and another was a Mexican specialty.

Plate two had blackened shrimp and scallop escabeche, coconut milk marmalade, ash crushed nuts and a blazed onion petal and radish salad. Plate three was probably my favorite of the evening and included barbecued pork ‘skirt steak’ arepa with leek charcoal, broiled cauliflower and corn husk vinagrette, and farmers queso caco banyulus gastrique. Don’t ask me what the last one is, because I have no idea, except for that it was good.

Dessert was a chicory coffee custard, which had chocolate cream, marshmallow fluff, browned milk with toast crumbs, tapioca avocado and basil, and caramelized white chocolate sorbet. Brenda Morie played the music for the evening.

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Brenda Morie

Linville said, “I had a blast tonight! It is a really cool event. I plan to definitely come back next year.”

Mother Earth Brewing is located in Kinston, NC (website). My favorite of all their great choices was their Weeping Willow Wit, which is a Belgian Style beer. I definitely plan to pickup a six-pack next time I am at the grocery store.

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I have been doing jumping jacks all day to try to make room for tonight, when I will have my most amazing guest of the weekend, my wife.

DAY 4:

This is now officially the most food I have ever eaten for dinner in one week, and I am only four nights into the Luv Luv Festival. For the fourth night, Tim Grandinetti invited two of his chef friends from north of our border in Canada, Ted Reader and Olaf Mertens. My guest for the evening was a wonderful nurse and my wife, Katie Callahan.
Katie Callahan
I was back out of the “Belly of the Beast” for the fourth night and back under the tent with the majority of guests. I stuck with Mother Earth Brewery beers for the second straight night, while Katie enjoyed the wine selection. We sat at a table with local Winston-Salemites like Kendall and Tommy Priest from the Coffee Park Airstream, and Kitty White from SECCA. 
Chef Reader and Chef Mertens
I also met local foodie blogger, Marla Lawson from thatsmarla.com. She was joined by her husband, Luke, and added photos to her Instagram account throughout the evening.

Night four included Duck Do-nuts made with duck and cherry barbecue, and an Ocktoberfest strudel. The meats included a barbecue curry-wurst, a baguette stuffed with lobster, a barbecue pastrami, and a bison sirloin on top of cheddar grits. Dessert featured a doughnut on top of a sorbet. The local band for the evening was The Bo-Stevens band.

Lawson said, “the baguette stuffed with lobster was my favorite along with the Sriracha honey drizzle, which brought the perfect heat sweetness to the plate. I will try to master it at home!”

Two guests will cover the blog for me on night five, Lawren (a/perture) and Jigar Desai (IMG). I will be off to the Dixie Chicks in Raleigh to surprise my daughter, McKinley, for her birthday. I will miss the food, but it will give my stomach a night to empty up before the finale on Saturday night.


Day 5: Written by Lawren Desai and her guest Jigar Desai

Turning over a successful blog to two failed bloggers has all the makings of a disaster, but hopefully we can shake off the rust enough to do justice to the event.  Night 5 of Luv Luv 10lawrenwas headed by Tim Recher, Executive Chef at the Army Navy Country Club in Washington DC.  He’s also close to completing his Certified Master Chef designation, which came through in the dishes as you’ll see later.

Jigar started off the cocktail hour with the local feature – an extremely refreshing combination of Sutler’s Gin, cucumber, lime and thyme which slightly helped cool him off after being forced to walk over from our downtown digs.

I didn’t get a photo of my delectable Pina Colada because it was consumed too quickly.

9lawrenThe pre-first course was a deviled egg, meatball, and shrimp/veggie combo – an enjoyable mini potluck of sorts. We were lucky to sit at a very lively table with great conversation – really the perfect dinner party table. We laughed a lot, talked about podcasts and did our fair share of pretending we had degrees from Food Network.

7lawrenThe real first course was possibly my favorite – a Sweet Corn Vichyssoise – with huge chunks of lobster. It was a chilled soup so almost as refreshing as the Rose I chose to accompany it.

An impressive fish course was next and for Jigar it was followed by a singular knife shot board. Just watch the video and you’ll understand. I’m glad Jigar can cross that off his bucket list now.

I’m a pretty adventurous eater, and had my reservations about the next dish when I saw it on the menu. There are two foods I avoid  – olives and beets. Ugh…just gagged in my mouth as I typed them. I’m just going to post a before and after photo of course three. It was very pretty to look at and involved the more colorful of the two forbidden foods.

If you look close enough you will find one small difference, hint, it’s the size of a curried cashew.

Finally we were to the course I’d been eyeing all night – the Zabuton Wagyu Beef Steak – which according to Google is “so named because of the flap’s shape, similar to that of the flat Japanese sitting cushion.”


It was consumed about as quickly as my earlier pina colada. And note to Jay, you’ll see my notebook in the corner of the photo. I did take this assignment very seriously.

Lastly, dessert – soft chocolate and raspberries. Thought I’d time lapse video its consumption…don’t blink.

Luv Luv is always a lovely experience and this year was no exception. We such a fun table that no one wanted to leave and I really hope that we’ll be lucky enough to have a similar experience next year. Thanks for taking the night off Jay and letting us go in your place!



Final Night: Guest, Terrilyn Hutcheon, Chef Eric Martinez, and Chef Grady Spears

For the final night of Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival, food blogger TeriLyn Hutcheon joined me to enjoy one more evening of delicious food at Spring House. Hutcheon runs A Foodie Stays Fit, and she also has an awesome Winston-Salem Instagram page, @bestofwinston. The Chefs for the finale were Eric Martinez from Orlando, FL and Grady Spears from Fort Worth, TX.

Chef Grady Spears and Chef Eric Martinez

Hutcheon moved to Winston from Utah over eight years ago. She works at Wells Fargo and lives in Downtown Winston.We sat at a table that included Rebecca Byer from Olio, a glassblowing shop at West End Mill Works, Emily Alphin, and the Cernak’s from Out of Our Mind Animation Studios on Fourth Street.

TeriLyn Hutcheon

The food continued to be excellent, but after five nights of Luv Luv, I honestly feel that I know what it is like for a bear right before they go into hibernation. This has definitely been the most food I have ever eaten in one week.

The final night, we started out with several appetizers, including sausage corn dogs with grits. The music of the evening was a solo guitar player and singer, Josh, who played everything from Bob Marley to several Dave Matthews Band (seven) songs.

The first plate was a crab salad, which was “light and airy” and came with compressed watermelon with lavender. The second plate included heirloom potatoes, fresh corn, white beans, with cobia fish.

Hutcheon heard from a friend that the Winston-Salem showcase cocktail was terrific and ordered one. The drink included Sutler’s Gin, Jack Rudy Tonic, cucumber, thyme, and lime. I stuck with some Brooklyn Lager and I tried the house iced tea that was infused with mint.

The next plate had duck on top of crepes and finished with soy sauce and Korean chili sauce.The final plate was served family style and included beef tenderloin. For desert, we had ice cream cookies with maple-glazed ice cream, in between shortbread cookies with pineapple. The evening concluded with a birthday song for a guest.


The Luv Luv Festival is an event like no other in Winston-Salem that is here to stay. I suggest going next year if you haven’t been yet, but be prepared to eat a lot of great food!

Garner Foods: Created in Winston

There are a lot of local difference-makers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a lot of Famous Winston-Salemites that have moved out of our great city to do extraordinary things in other places. Along with great people hailing from Winston, there are also a lot of businesses developed here. In Created in Winston, I will focus on these businesses and what Winston means to them.


When Thad Wilson (T.W.) and the Garner Family started making barbecue sauce in 1929 in Winston-Salem, they probably never would have imagined their family recipes would be such a hit. Eighty-seven years later, the Garner family is hoping to make more of an imprint on Winston-Salem as they move their corporate offices from 4045 Indiana Avenue to the heart of Downtown Winston at 614 Fourth St. in the second floor of the Nash-Bolick Building.
A rendering of the Nash-Bolick building
T.W. Garner Food Company might be most known for Texas Pete Hot Sauce, but Chief Operating Officer Heyward Garner wants people to know that “the company is working to reinvigorate our name in the community of Winston-Salem.” Garner said, “it is time to step-up to 2016 and maintain a fresh image, while being a part of the phenomenal revitalization of Downtown.” Their current operations are on Indiana Avenue and were originally part of the family farmland. 
It just so happens that the Nash-Bolick Building was built the same year that the Garner family started their company in 1929.  The building originated as a car dealership for the Nash Automobile Company. That same year, Wilson started T.W. Garner and employed several of his siblings and his parents, who are the great-grandparents of Heyward. The business started out of the Dixie Pig Barbecue stand on Liberty Street, where the Smith-Reynolds airport is today.

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In the 1930’s, the company moved to the Lawrence Hospital, which is currently the Rescue Mission. During that time they bulldozed their farm and built their original factory space on Indiana Avenue, which the company moved back to in 1942 (they have added on three times in the last sixty-plus years).
Photo courtesy of texaspete.com
When the family first started with barbecue sauce, hot sauce was not part of their vocabulary. Customers were asking for a hotter sauce and the family developed a hotter style sauce, which they named Texas Pete to differentiate it from their barbecue sauce. In the early years, they also made syrups, jams, jellies, and even Garner’s Hair Tonic. “I never saw the hair tonic, but I don’t think it is a joke,” said Heyward. 
Through the last nine decades, T.W. Garner has always been a family-run business. After Wilson, Heyward’s dad, Reg Garner, took over the company in 1994. He had control of the business until he passed away in 2009, and his sister Ann Riddle took over as Chief Executive. She is currently the only third generation Garner still actively working, while her cousins Hal Garner and Frank Sherrill, still are on the board.
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Photo courtesy of texaspete.com
There are currently several fourth generation family members working in the company. Heyward’s brother-in-law (married to Dorothea), Matt McCollum, is the Chief Financial Officer,  and their cousin, Glenn Garner is also a part of the administration.
A major part of the new image of the company is the move downtown and focusing on the brand-name, Garner Foods. “If you talk about only Texas Pete then you are only talking about half of our business,” said Heyward. “We want to let the area know about Garner Foods. Today if you walk around here, nobody knows about us. I am on a personal crusade to get our name out there.” The company also purchased Green Mountain Gringo out of Vermont in 2004, which makes salsas and tortilla strips.
Three years ago, T.W. Garner started the Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival on Trade Street, and they are thrilled with its growth and the upcoming September festival. The company is also involved with the local Habitat for Humanity, Arts Council, and Second Harvest Food Bank. Heyward said, “our community involvement is understated. We have a lot of great stuff going on.”
The family hopes to be moved into the Nash-Bolick building within a month or two. The building will feature offices for the finance, accounting and executive staff; a war room, a board room, an outdoor patio, and a demo kitchen. The demo kitchen is an addition to the old building and will be used to bring in customers to sample the Garner Food products, and will also be visible to all on Fourth Street with a glass front. “It will give outsiders a peak behind the curtain, Willy Wonka style,” said Heyward. 
The move has been four years in the making. They looked at over twenty properties, and really focused on three of them before making their final decision. “We were sitting on top of each other on Indiana Avenue, but we had been doing that for years,” said Heyward. “I personally love that we get sunlight in all places since there is a cut-out in the middle of the new building.”
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Sam Garner (photo courtesy of texaspete.com)
Sixty-five employees in the operations department will remain in the Indiana Avenue facility and the company also employs fifteen sales staff that live and work in their territories. “This building is part of our effort to step up community relations. We want the community to be involved and know we have been here since 1929,” Garner reaffirmed. “This is also for our employees who all rock. We look forward to letting them walk to work and enjoy the Downtown restaurants.” 


Do you know somebody that goes out of their way in Winston-Salem to be extra nice and helpful? If so read my Winston Giveback: Unsung Heroes post to see how to nominate this person by September 15, 2016. Click here for nomination