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
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
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
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


Rolonda Watts: 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.
Famous Winston-Salemite, Rolonda Watts, has many hats to fill as a novelist, motivational speaker, voice over artist, and radio and television talk show host. She grew up in Winston, where both of her parents worked in academics at Wake Forest (her mom) and Winston-Salem State (her dad).
Rolonda’s mom, Dr. Velma Gibson Watts, was an associate dean, and her dad was chairman of WSSU’s Fine Arts Department. She went to undergrad at Spelman in Atlanta and then to Columbia for a master’s degree in Journalism. She also holds an honorary doctorate from WSSU. After spending time as a reporter at WFMY in the Triad and WNBC in New York, she began her acting and correspondent career.
After working for Inside Edition, she had her own talk show, Rolonda, from 1994-1997. She then moved to California and began her acting career. She has done voice over for shows like The Penguins of Madagascar and Curious George. She spent time as the on-camera announcer for Judge Joe Brown and Divorce Court. She has also starred in several movies, including, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Tough Love, and several television shows like The West Wing, 7th Heaven, JAG, and Day’s of Our Lives.
This past March, Rolonda released her first novel, Destiny Lingers. Dr. Maya Angelou said, “I fell for this story and the characters novelist Rolonda Watts introduced.” Rolonda currently lives in Los Angeles. Read her answers to questions about her favorite things about Winston-Salem below:
Winston-Salem Questions:
When all have you lived in Winston-Salem? When did your family come here?
My parents came to Winston-Salem as a young couple back in the 1950’s, each seeking teaching careers. in 1959, I was born in Katie B hospital, which was then, during segregation, the Black hospital. My parents bought our first house after I came along. It was a starter house in a new community on Caledonia Drive. Then we bought a larger home on East 5th Street, before moving to Woodberry Forest when I was 11. I left for Spelman College at 17 (1977) and have spent many years coming back for holidays at my Auntie Maya Angelou’s home.
Do you still have family in the area?
My mother, Dr. Velma Gibson Watts, is still in W-S.
How long was your dad at WSSU and your mom at Wake Forest?
My Father, Roland Smith Watts, a well-acclaimed wood cutter and graphic artist, served as Chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Winston Salem State University for about 34 years. He donated his artwork to the university’s archives, which today can be enjoyed on campus in the Diggs Library. My mother was at Wake Forest University for about as much time as an Associate Dean of the medical school. She has an endowment there in her name.
What different schools did you go to in Winston-Salem?
I attended Centenary Kindergarten, the first Black child there, thus helping integrate the W-S school system back in the early 60’s. From there, I attended Brunson Elementary, then Wiley Junior High, before moving to private school, Salem Academy, a college-preparatory school for girls, founded in 1772.
Who were some of your favorite teachers at each school?
My favorite teacher at Brunson was Miss Suite, my fifth grade teacher, who never spoke down to us and encouraged our curiosity and sometimes our very over the wall questions about the birds and the bees! At Salem Academy, Mrs. Jean Burroughs, who is still to this day like a mom to me. She inspired the performing artist in me and applauded my daring spirit. She recognized my drive and her belief in me was like gas to my engine. I feel so blessed to still have her in my life, still supporting me and cheering me on to this day.
Where all did you have jobs in Winston-Salem?
I worked in a pre-school toy supply factory. I was a camp counselor at Sherwood Forest Day Camp. I was a store clerk at The Limited at Hanes Mall. I was also a baby sitter. I had internships with the W-S Police Department and the W-S Journal.
What are your top three favorite local Winston-Salem restaurants of all-time?
I love The Village Tavern and have to go there every time I’m back in town, before or after my traditional shopping trip to Monkee’s! Sweet Potatoes and Bone Fish are two other favorites. (Does Krispy Kreme count as a restaurant? LOL)
Are you married?
No husband — No kids. I have a dog and a cat and have been waiting around for Mr. Right for so long — I have become the man I wanted to marry! LOL I’m currently performing a whole stand up comedy routine about it, performing my act at some of the most famous comedy clubs in Los Angeles – The World Famous Comedy Store, Flappers, and The Comedy Union. (I have a “Sexy Singles” show coming up on Valentine’s Day)
If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
HA! I love this question! Now, this is a really hard one for me! Hmmm. I’ll have to go with the Moravian sugar cake – it’s like nothing else and all that gooey goodness gloriously celebrates our Old Salem heritage. Reminds me of Easter Sundays and riding my bike up Reynolda Road to get a bag sugar cake from Dewey’s Bakery!
Do you have any siblings?
I have one younger brother, Brett, who lives in Florida.
What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Hands down – Topsail Beach — where my grandparents helped found Ocean City, the first Black beachfront resort area in NC. I grew up on Topsail, where I spent my summers, still vacation today, and where my new novel, Destiny Lingers, takes place.
Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
My favorite place in the mountains is Boone, where I learned to ski on Beech Mountain and hike. I also have some wonderful pieces of pottery from the area. I love the Native American spirit there and the arts and crafts. Apple-pickin’ in the Fall is fun too!
When did Destiny Lingers come out?
My first book, a contemporary romance novel called Destiny Lingers, came out in March and can be found at Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon and Kindle. Endorsed by Dr. Maya Angelou, it is an interracial love story about an investigative news reporter in NYC who uncovers her husband’s affair and flees to Topsail Island to get her head together and while there meets the handsome police chief who she soon discovers was the boy she loved in childhood, but couldn’t be with because of segregation. Time moves on – but destiny lingers and the two star-crossed lovers have a second chance at first love. The laws that kept them apart could never separate their love.

Jill Wagner: 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.

Jill Wagner was born in Winston-Salem in 1979 at Forsyth Hospital and lived here her entire childhood. After she graduated Cum Laude from North Carolina State (business major and marketing minor) in 2001, she made the decision to move to Los Angeles to pursue modeling, and instead a very successful acting career followed. She is known for her “All-American charm and magnetic sense of humor.”


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“Acting found me, I wasn’t looking for it,” said Wagner. “I had no previous training in college or high school and it wasn’t something I was familiar with. I went out to L.A. more to experience a different ‘world,’ so to speak.”

Wagner caught a break soon after she arrived in California and was hired on the MTV hit series, Punk’d with Ashton Kutcher. She has also been a regular on MTV’s Teen Wolf and Spike’s Blade: The Series. Wagner earned the nickname, “The Mercury Girl,” for her television ads for Ford Motor Company’s Mercury. She also starred in Junebug, which was filmed here in Winston, in Splinter, and appeared in episodes of Bones and Monk.


Wagner had a long stint as the host of ABC’s hit show, Wipeout. Currently, she is the host of Handcrafted America, which comes on Friday nights at 9:00. Wagner will star with Jason Momoa in the upcoming movie, Braven, and an upcoming Christmas Hallmark film, Christmas Cookies. 

Her modeling work includes graduating from the Barbizon Modeling school, where she was awarded as “Miss Barbizon.” She has been featured in magazines like FHM and Stuff, and she has been named as one of the 100 most attractive women several times by Maxim.

She grew up with her dad, David Wagner, her brother Brandon, and her grandmother. Her dad is a former Marine and owned Wagner Tire Company off of Waughtown Street. She went to Wallburg Elementary School and Ledford High School in Davidson County.

Along with her acting, Wagner also does a lot of charitable work for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She loves to regularly visit home and was very recently engaged.

Learn about her favorite things about her hometown, Winston-Salem, below:

Winston-Salem Questions:

When you are away from NC, what do you miss the most?
I miss my family … I miss just being able to get in the car and see my Grandma in ten minutes. I miss walking around in my dad’s backyard, throwing the ball to his Newfoundland, Elvis. I miss all of the simple things.


What are your favorite local Winston-Salem restaurants?
Village Tavern, Olive Garden, and Cagney’s

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which Winston-Salem treat would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Krispy Kreme forever!!!

Jill Wagner mug

If you were to move back to the area, where do you think you would want to live?
Funny you should ask, as I am currently looking to do just that. Not sure of the area yet, but I am into old historical houses. I’m on the hunt!

What is your favorite place to go in Winston?
My Grandma’s house.


What is your favorite North Carolina Beach? Place in the mountains?
Hilton Head and Boone.

Did you ever go to Ziggy’s?
I can’t remember who I saw there, but I got stuck in the middle of the mosh-pit and decided to never go back after that! Haha!

Where all did you have jobs in the area growing up?
My first job was as a sales associate at Abercrombie and Fitch.

Do you have any highlights so far this season on Handcrafted America?
My highlights so far for season two have been making a kayak and getting to take it out on the water, and meeting an Artisan that made her own yarn from sheep’s wool. Obviously, I love playing with the animals, throughout the day… Lots of great things happening this season…. I am trying not to break anything in my guest’s workshops this season!!!!



Caleb Caudle Performs “NPR Top 100” Song at a/perture

NPR released their “Favorite 100 Songs of 2016 (So Far)” this week and Winston-Salemite, Caleb Caudle, made the list with his hit song, “Uphill Battle.” (click here for link to NPR’s list) Caudle stopped by a/perture cinema to perform an acoustic version of the song in s/tudio 1 at a/perture and to talk about the song.

“It is an honor to be on a list as diverse as NPR’s,” said Caudle. “The coolest part is to see all of these various artists with different areas of success featured on the list.”

Caudle grew up just outside of Winston-Salem (read my blog interview with him about Winston here). “Uphill Battle” is the fifth track on Caudle’s third studio release, Carolina Ghost, which was released on February 26th. The record was recorded by Jon Ashley at Fidelitorium in Kernersville, and released by This is American Music.

Photo by John Thatcher

“It’s cool to be included in a list with Radiohead and Kanye West,” said Caudle about the NPR list. “It is always great to be on any list that praises your work, but it is better for it to be this diverse.”

Jewly Hight from NPR said, “There are times when Caleb Caudle gives his songs the scruffy, alt-country treatment, but he’s most affecting when he takes the softer, finessed approach on display in “Uphill Battle.” The North Carolinian delivers the wilting melody with beguiling subtlety, gently submerging himself in melancholy rumination on how his lover’s been burdened by his unsteadiness.”

Photo by John Thatcher

Caudle will perform again in Winston on August 6th at Summer on Liberty. Admission is free to the event on Liberty St. in Downtown Winston.

Thanks to a/perture cinema for the unique recording spot. If you need something to do this weekend check out these films now playing – Swiss Army Man, Genius, Weiner, A Touch of Zen and Deephan. Visit for more info.

If you enjoyed this blog or other blogs, please vote for me ( for best blog of Winston here: Click for Smitty’s Notes “Best of Winston”. Voting lasts until July 10th, and the blog vote is #9 on the first page.



Burgess Jenkins: 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.

Burgess Jenkins was born in 1973 and raised in Winston-Salem, and has gone on to star in movies like Remember the Titans (2000) with Denzel Washington, The Reaping (2007) as Hillary Swank’s husband, and as John Wesley in Wesley (2009). He has also starred in television shows like One Tree Hill (2008-09), Nashville (2012), and a long stint on The Young and the Restless (2014-16). Click here for full filmography


 From the time he was twelve, Jenkins knew that he loved movies and storytelling. He went to Summit and then Reynolds High School in Winston, and then studied psychology at Lenoir-Rhyne. “At the time I had no idea how much it would influence my work as an actor,” said Jenkins. “Now I rely on my psychology major heavily to break down characters and find what motivates them.”

Jenkins always thought he had an interest in acting, but he didn’t really start studying it until his mid-twenties. Jenkins studied at the famed Playhouse West in Los Angeles for four years. “My very first acting job was for a regional Belk commercial,” said Jenkins. “I was sporting some pretty fancy Dockers and bowling with some fake friends. At the time I didn’t think it could get much better than that.”

Since 2000, Jenkins has starred in over thirty television shows and movies. Almost ten years ago, Burgess founded and opened the Actors Group on Burke Street, which is a serious training studio designed to prepare students for the rigors of the film industry. “I can’t believe it’s been that long. It has been a blast and we are so proud of all the hard work and talented students who’ve gone on to book hundreds of roles on some fantastic projects. James Freetly, who was a former student and is now an instructor, plays an integral part. He’s an outstanding teacher.” The Actors Group is currently on Reynolda Road.  Click here for Actors Group website

Jenkins is married to Ashlee Payne Jenkins, who he describes as “an immensely talented actress.” They have a little girl named Harper, who is nine years old.


Questions about Winston-Salem:

When you are away from Winston-Salem, what are some of the things you miss the most?
Where to begin! I’ve been fortunate to live in a lot of places across the country, whether it was for years in some cases like Los Angeles or for months in others as it is with filming, but no place compares to Winston. I love to pack up my dog and take a slow walk around Old Salem on a random afternoon or get a cup of coffee from the Krankies airstream with my wife and spend the morning at Reynolda Gardens or Graylyn. Also, We’ve become huge fans of all things downtown, notably Camino Bakery, Local 27101, and the Spring House. But I think what stands out to me most is the intangible charm that Winston-Salem has. People who live here appreciate the history and the community feel of it. Though a lot has changed since I was a kid, those things have remained the same and hopefully always will.


Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
After college, I lived in an apartment in the Peace Haven area with a buddy from high school. That was cool, but living on a 4th floor walk-up taught me that an elevator is invaluable. When I saved up enough money, I bought my first house near the Wake Forest neighborhoods. Awesome little bungalow… I have fond memories of that place. But the Buena Vista area has always been my favorite. All the streets and houses are different and they have so much character. Feels like stepping back in time a bit.

What Winston-Salem schools did you go to? Who were some of your favorite teachers at each school?
I went to St. Paul’s preschool where I remember singing every morning, “everyday at St. Paul’s is better than the day before.” I guess it must’ve been true because we sent our daughter there. Afterword, I attended Summit school and then Reynolds High School. I have a lot of favorites so it’s hard to say, but second grade Mrs. May, fourth-grade Tom Shaver, sixth-grade Mr. Wood and 10th grade Mrs. Turner. I give a lot of credit to Mr. Wood, who somehow made me appreciate science, and to Mrs. Turner, who helped instill a love of literature.

What is one retail store you wish that came to Winston that we don’t currently have? What about a restaurant that we don’t have?
I’m not a huge shopper but I suppose instead of any one shop it would be nice if we had an open air shopping area; I became pretty fond of the Grove in Los Angeles (however, speaking on behalf of my wife I should say Nordstrom).
Winston has so many fantastic restaurants I don’t feel that we are  lacking in that department. I would put our best restaurants on par with just about anywhere.

What are your top three favorite Winston-Salem restaurants?
It’s not a fair question because I could probably name thirty, so here are a few:
“Ryan’s” because it is a Winston-Salem icon that never gets old.
“Mary’s of Course,” because I love eating great breakfast any time of day and you have to love Mary (the owner).
And even though I’ve mentioned “Local 27101” already, I’ll include them here because my wife and I have probably eaten there a dozen times in the last three weeks.


Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Thruway. Spent many a day there as a kid…though I’ve got some fond memories of my daughter riding the carousel at the mall.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Can I do Moravian sugar cake and a half dozen hot glazed? I’m not sure I’d be a healthy islander, but I guarantee I’d be happy.


What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Holden hands-down. It has a little bit of everything.

Where is your favorite place in the mountains of North Carolina?
Blowing Rock. Started riding my motorcycle there when I was a sophomore in college, and since those days in the 1990’s, not a year has gone by that I haven’t been. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth.

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Winston’s Own Batman-Wings Over Winston

Did you know that we have our very own Batman in Winston-Salem? A man whose aerial photography flies over Winston landmarks capturing exquisite images from unseen heights of everything great about our city. Our caped crusader flies through the air snapping his photos to put on the #WingsOverWinston Instagram page.


Just like Bruce Wayne, our version does not want to be known by the people of Winston-Salem more than just by his first name Brad, so we will refer to him as Bradman for this post. Just like Gothamites, Winston-Salemites never can expect when he could be hovering overhead ready to snap a shot. Bradman has a job in Downtown Winston and a family and kids, but at the drop of a dime he could turn into our Dark Knight and lift-off to capture a new image. “My wife is excited about this concept and has been very supportive and the kids love seeing interesting angles of Winston’s wonders. They will grow up with an appreciation of the industries and individuals who built this city.”

“The whole point of #WingsOverWinston (#WOW) is to reflect on Winston’s extensive history, while sharing images from new viewpoints,” said the Bradman during our secret meeting at a local Winston watering hole. “My goal is to make people happy about Winston and where the city is today! Most people are familiar with Downtown Winston’s exciting transformation, but the city as a whole is really progressive and I hope to share neighborhoods of Winston-Salem with my audience.”

One day he was flying around his neighborhood, when he realized that aerial views of trees and roofs were just boring. That was the point that he decided to take his act to the next level.  He started an Instagram account, got a license from the FAA, and within two months, #WingsOverWinston ( has over 2,400 followers and daily request for aerial photography work. The Bradman said, “it really surprised me how the community has embraced this concept. I can’t even respond to all of the requests I get for fly-overs.”

He likes to help promote Winston-Salem events, too. For instance, if you were at the past “Second Sundays on Fourth,” you might have seen him hovering above in the sunny sky. Prior to the next “Second Sunday” event he plans to put up a promotional post on #WingsOverWinston. “Promoting local events and local businesses is just a small thing I can do to support the sense of community that’s already ultra-present in Winston. Of course, it helps to have a large following, so spread the word! Local businesses have been great about re-posting some of my photographs and giving credit.”

“I am intrigued by the history around town,” said the Bradman. “This is a good forum to spread that knowledge, too. I hope to keep #WingsOverWinston hyper-local and meaningful to the Winston-Salem community.” Bradman not only posts his pictures and videos on Instagram, but he also gives a brief description of the history of each photograph’s subject. He spends an hour every day researching the history of each feature. You never know if you will see the Bradman flying through the bridge of Old Salem (hint hint) or near you one day; keep your eye on the sky over Winston!

If you enjoyed this blog or other blogs, please vote for me for best blog of Winston here: Voting lasts until July 10th, and the blog vote is #9 on the first page.

Wanda Starke: 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. 

Wanda Starke is currently the evening anchor (number 1 rated 6 pm show) and a producer of a series of specials for the Piedmont Triad’s NBC WXII news station.


Starke said, “one of the many things I love about Winston-Salem is the warmth of the people—that sense of community.  It’s felt like home since day one.”

Starke lived in eight different cities before arriving in Winston-Salem:  Newport News, Richmond, Washington, Augusta, Norfolk, Greensboro, Los Angeles and Buffalo.  “I liked all of them, except Buffalo,” said Starke. “I got used to the snow, but the lack of sunshine was intolerable.”

“Working as a reporter in Los Angeles was a dream come true.  It was a thrill covering big-city news.   I also liked the cultural offerings—theatre and jazz in particular. However, I found the traffic and smog somewhat annoying and many of the people a bit self-absorbed.”




She grew up in Eastern Virginia and graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.A. in journalism and speech communication. She also went to Howard University Graduate School.

Starke joined the WXII staff in 1994. She also produces a weekly segment called, “A Place to Call Home,” which profiles children waiting to be adopted. The issue is personal to Starke, since she was adopted as a child.

Wanda-Cameron Food Drive.Still001

Starke received two Emmy nominations. One nomination came for a documentary, “To Kenya with Love,”  where she followed the work of the Amani Children’s Foundation, helping abandoned babies in East Africa. She has received awards that include The President’s Award for Volunteer Service from President Barack Obama, The Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Excellence Award Honoring Women in Media from UNCF and the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism on Behalf of Children and Families from the Child Welfare League of America.

Winston-Salem Questions:

What charity/volunteer organizations are you still active with?
I am on the boards of the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina and the North Carolina Black Repertory Company.  I volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters- Forsyth County and I’m a member of the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem.


How has the Children’s Home  Society grown during your time working on the board? Why is it so special to you?
The Children’s Home Society of North Carolina has grown to include a number of new services: post adoption, parenting education, teen pregnancy prevention and family finding. The one thing that is virtually unchanged is the number of children in foster care.  There are about 10,000 children in the system — 3,000 of them legally cleared for adoption. CHS is near and dear to my heart because I was adopted as a young child.

Do you have two or three interviews you have done with WXII that hold a special place in your heart?
That’s a tough question…I’ve done so many. Every interview I did with Dr. Maya Angelou holds a special place in my heart. She was a mentor and I learned something new with each visit. She had such immense wisdom. I felt privileged every time I was in her presence.

JPG Wanda and Dr Angelou.jpg

I would say two children I interviewed for “A Place to Call Home” are among my most memorable. One was a young man named Shamor. We followed him through middle school, high school and college where he was finally adopted. He graduated from UNCG and then went to London to get a masters degree. Before he left the US, he tracked down his birth mother. She had lost custody of her children because of drug use, but was now clean and sober. Shamor was the only child who forgave her and wanted to reconnect.  It was an emotional reunion. Shamor estimated he had about a hundred foster care placements before he was finally adopted. Despite his experiences, he is one of the most positive and talented people I have ever met—truly inspiring. Another memorable kid we profiled was so polite and sweet. He was 8 years old and had this almost angelic presence.  At one point I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up.  He told me he wanted to be a child psychologist so he could “help children like me who have been sexually abused.” I had interviewed hundreds of children in foster care and heard many horror stories, but this was the first time a child had actually shared that information. I was immediately overwhelmed with sadness and had to leave the room.

Are there any events (natural disasters, celebrities, crimes, etc.) that you have covered over your two decades at WXII that stand out? 
I would say my most memorable natural disaster was Hurricane Irene in 2011.  My husband and I were actually on vacation at Atlantic Beach when we were forced to evacuate.  We drove to New Bern where we stayed with his sister and rode out the storm.  There was a lot of wind, but the rain was relentless.  I filed reports during the storm, not knowing the worst was still to come.  The next day we were stunned when we went to check on my mother-in-law’s house.  Her street looked like a river.  Her home was flooded.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of celebrities –many of them through appearances with the National Black Theatre Festival and the Piedmont Wind Symphony.  My favorites include Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Phylicia Rashad,  Dr. Phil,  Itzhak Perlman, Rhiannon Giddens, Ben Folds, Nathan East, Hattie Winston,  Rain Pryor, S. Epatha Merkerson, Richard Roundtree, Art Linkletter, Jerry Mathers,  America, Three Dog Night, Al Jarreau, Andre Braugher and Yaphet Kotto.  I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing Barack Obama when he was running for President and later Vice President Joe Biden.
Traveling to Kenya to cover the work of the Amani Children’s Foundation and its efforts to help abandoned babies ranks as one of my most rewarding experiences as a reporter.


Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
When I first moved to Winston-Salem, I lived downtown.  I now live in the Northwest part of town.

What is one retail store you wish that came to Winston that we don’t currently have? What about a restaurant that we don’t have?
Lord & Taylor might be nice.  I definitely wish we had a Cheesecake Factory.

What are your top three favorite Winston-Salem restaurants? 
That’s another tough question.  I LOVE to eat out and my list of favorites is long: Sweet Potatoes, Milner’s, River Birch, Mozelle’s, Fratellis, Bonefish and Forsyth Seafood.


If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
I love them all, but I’m really sensitive to sugar, so I guess I would pick a Bojangles biscuit.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Atlantic Beach

Where is your favorite place in the mountains of North Carolina?

Remembering Dr. Michael E. King and Exploring CTE

Dr. Michael E. King was a distinguished Winston-Salem, North Carolina sports-medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon for over three decades, loving husband, devoted father of four children and one step-daughter, and caring brother for four siblings. To many people, everything seemed perfect, but Dr. King was suffering both physically and mentally.

Dr. King in 2008

On October 7, 2011, Dr. King tragically took his own life at his home in Midway, NC at the age of sixty-five. After years of playing youth, high school and college football, Dr. King had suffered through a lifetime of both physical and mental pain and in 2012, his family learned that he had suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.

King family in 1996

Over a short series of blogs, I will delve into Dr. King’s life, the current research underway on CTE, and his family’s thoughts about the disease and how they are moving forward and honoring his memory.

Dr. King in the mid-1950s

Why doing this blog was so important to me:

I grew up playing sports with and against Dr. King’s oldest son, Mike, from middle school through high school. We stayed connected through social media, and I always found the articles intriguing that he posted about CTE, but I never really understood his connection to the disease. His father would have turned seventy on April 27th of this year, and Mike posted several pictures of his dad. I did some research and found out the story of his father’s death and diagnosis and I knew it was a story I wanted to share.

As a women’s college soccer coach, one of my primary concerns is injury prevention, and primarily preventing concussions. I am in talks with local medical departments about developing concussion testing for my program. Over the last several years, my team has suffered numerous concussions on the soccer field. It is my goal to find a path to help reduce these concussions, so that my student-athletes can enjoy their experience during their four years playing for me, and also to not suffer any of the negative effects that one can suffer later in life after concussions.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE):

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found only in people who have suffered a history of repetitive brain trauma. This brain trauma causes an abnormal build-up of a protein called tau, which kills brain cells. Some of the symptoms include: confusion, memory loss, paranoia, impulsivity, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia. One of the most troubling facts is that there is no timetable for when the symptoms will begin; sometimes they don’t develop until decades after the trauma. Another bothersome fact is that currently there is no diagnosing CTE until after death through brain tissue analysis.

When most people think of CTE, they only think of former NFL players like Mike Webster, Junior Seau, and Ken Stabler. One of the most influential advocates for CTE research and awareness is Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed in the 2015 controversial, hit movie, Concussion, by Hollywood star, Will Smith. Dr. Omalu went head-to-head with one of the country’s most powerful organizations, the NFL, in his battle to protect football players from suffering from CTE.

Dr. King playing quarterback for Hampden-Sydney in the late-1960s

What most people don’t know is that CTE can also be developed in athletes from other contact or collision sports besides football (and even in extreme athletes like the late BMX biker Dave Mirra), in military veterans, and also in successful surgeons who never played in the NFL. Dr. King was a very good football player, and captained and quarterbacked the teams at Greensboro Page High School in North Carolina and Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia in the late-1960s. His family knew of him as the “bionic man” due to all of his surgeries resulting from football injuries, including shoulder replacements, knee replacements, a hip replacement, a fused ankle, and severe rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. King’s Life:

Dr. King was born in Michigan in 1946, and grew up in Greensboro. After his four years at Hampden-Sydney, he went to medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill, before doing his residency at Wake Forest. During his time in medical school, he was nicknamed Hubbell, after a movie character portrayed by Robert Redford, due to his good looks.

Dr. King in the mid-1960s

He spent several decades as an orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic Specialists of the Carolinas. Dr. King also enjoyed coaching his children’s sports teams, gardening, traveling, and reading about history and politics, and he was an artist and craftsman.

Dr. King and Susan at their wedding in 1973

For most of his adult life he suffered from depression, though it worsened rapidly during his last few years. Dr. King’s first wife, Susan, and the four King children (Katie, Mike, Marylynn and Alex) all dealt with Dr. King’s varying bouts with depression in their own ways and helped however they could.

After he and Susan divorced in 2001, Dr. King married Donna Dillon, in 2007 and welcomed a step-daughter, Meagan, into his life. Even though he was remarried, he still remained very close with Susan.

In the last year or so of his life, Dr. King would occasionally mention that he thought he might have CTE given his injury history and worsening symptoms. His family knew he had suffered numerous concussions, and when they received the horrible news about his death, they didn’t give up on Dr. King. They donated his brain to the Veterans Affairs-Boston University-Concussion Legacy Foundation brain bank, whose researchers later diagnosed him with CTE.

Remembering Dr. King and his legacy:

Throughout Dr. King’s life, despite his own suffering, he was there for others who were in need. He continued to enjoy the Friday night lights of high school football during much of his medical career, as he donated his time to treat young Winston-Salem athletes. He treated all of his patients with the utmost respect and cared for them like they were a part of his family. After Dr. King passed away, the condolences poured in from both friends and patients. I will leave this blog post with some of those comments:

“If there was a surgeon that did a perfect job-it was Dr. King.”

“His ability to put you at ease while facing surgery was remarkable.”

“He was more than our doctor, he was our friend.”

“He was a football hero, tall and larger than life to us and he always had a kind word for us.”

“When my son was in surgery, he had woken up and told Dr. King he wanted to be a doctor someday, which was a surprise to us (and I think to our son, too). Now he is in medical school. I hope that he will be as good of a physician as Dr. King was!”

kingextended family
King extended family at Wrightsville Beach in 1990

Coming soon, I will speak to the family about their thoughts on Dr. King and CTE and about how they are moving forward, and I will dig further into how medical research and awareness are helping to protect athletes from this disease.

Brunch with Mary and Jump, Little Children

Last week, I met up with Matthew Bivins, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of Jump, Little Children, for breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner. We were joined by the diner’s owner, Mary Haglund, for much of the meal, and I was able to sit back and enjoy as Matt and Mary talked about Winston over my delicious meal of Eggs Benedict. I had already done blogs on Jump, Little Children (blog link) and Mary (blog link) previously, so it was great to reconnect with them for brunch.

Mary and Matt had a lot in common, which included their love of the Lighthouse Restaurant and a former Winston mainstay restaurant, The Rainbow Cafe. They both spent time working at The Rainbow along with other Jump band members, Jay Clifford and Ward Williams, and Mary remembers hearing Jump perform on the back porch when the band was just starting out. Matt grew up right up the street from the restaurant on Second Street, and his cousin was married to the former owner of the restaurant.

Matt and Mary also spoke a lot about The Lighthouse and its founder Nick Doumas, who passed away in October in an ATV accident. I grew up going weekly to The Lighthouse, since it was just a rock’s throw away from my West End house, so I was really interested in this portion. Mary worked at the Lighthouse for a long time, and she remembers waiting on my parents when my mom was pregnant with me. Matt’s dad, John Bivins, was good friends with Nick and they would go on hunting trips together. John also designed the sign that still hangs up outside the restaurant.

The two spent most of the brunch talking about their love of Winston-Salem. Mary is a transport here from Gary, Indiana, while Matt grew up here and now lives in Chicago. They agreed how special of a place it is here in Winston, especially how the city focuses on the arts. Matt spoke about his desire to potentially move back to the area and Mary tried her hardest to encourage him.


Jump, Little Children is going back on tour in April, and Mary plans to go see them in Chapel Hill at Cat’s Cradle (click here for tickets). I was lucky enough to be surprised by my wife with tickets to the Highwater Festival in Charleston in April. So I will get to see Jump play with some of my favorite bands like The Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, The Shins, and Shovels & Rope.

In 2017, I will be Uberring throughout Winston and writing about it. Each month, I will collect donations for different Winston organizations. For the month of January, all of the donations will go to The Forsyth County Humane Society. Lookout for me on the road, and on your Uber app!


Tucker Tharpe: 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. 

“Winston-Salem means everything to me,” said Tucker Tharpe. “Winston is a big part of me as a person. It is beautiful here and I love it.”

Tharpe with Winston Under 40 Award

Tharpe most likely will be the only person I ever blog about that I almost got in a fight with and a fight against (both on the soccer field). He is a very passionate person and his passion (just like mine) always came out on the soccer field. It also bodes well in his line of work as the owner, producer, and talent buyer at The Garage on 7th Street in Winston-Salem (Garage website).

Tharpe purchased the Garage with one of his best friends, Brian Cole, in 2012, and became the sole owner in November of 2015. Along with bringing bands to the popular venue, he also has produced videos for up and coming bands like Must be the Holy Ghost and All Them Witches with the help of Justin Reich.

Tharpe and Cayce

Besides his four years majoring in business administration with a minor in marketing and as a member and captain of the Greensboro College soccer team, Tharpe has always called Winston home. He grew up in Pfafftown, and moved downtown after moving back from Greensboro. Between 2003 and 2012, Tharpe worked two stints with his father’s company, Spevco, and one stint with the Winston-Salem Downtown Partnership as their director of events.

With the help and advice of his dad, Marty, Brian Cole, and the founder of The Garage, Richard Emmett, Tharpe took a risk the second time he left Spevco when he took over The Garage. “I am an overly passionate person in everything I do,” said Tharpe. “Watching a crowd at The Garage enjoy a concert, gives me the same thrill that scoring a  goal in soccer does.”

Tharpe married his long time girlfriend, Cayce, almost three years ago. They currently live downtown, but plan to take their dog (Duke) and cat (Messi) to their first house and yard in Ardmore this July. Cayce is an artist and bartender downtown.

Along with his work at The Garage, Tharpe is also the Co-Chair for 88.5 WFDD. He is very involved in the community and charity events through Twin City Santa, Movember, and Family Services of Forsyth County. “If you give to Winston, it will give right back,”said Tharpe.

Tharpe with family

He is also still very close to his family. Marty is still the CEO of Spevco, while his older brother, Tii, is currently the COO. Tharpe was joined by Tii as recipients of the 2015 Winston Under 40 Winners. His mom, Dare Smith Tharpe (co-founder of Spevco), is one of his biggest fans and the two are extremely close. He is also close with Tii’s wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Kyle and Marty.

Below Tharpe answers questions about his favorite things about Winston:

Winston-Salem Questions:


Which Winston-Salem streets have you lived on?
I grew up in Pfafftown on Vienna-Dozier Road. When I was fourteen, we moved to Stone Oaks in Winston. After going to Greensboro College, I moved in with my mom for a year and then I bought a condo at Tar Branch on Marshall in Downtown Winston.

Tharpe with Duke

Why are dachsunds so important to you?
I grew up with dogs and my family has always loved dachsunds. Duke is a lot like me. He is small, doesn’t know how to back down, and he is very loyal. I have never met a dachsund that I didn’t like.

What different Winston-Salem schools did you go to?
I went to Old Richmond through fourth grade, and then to Vienna for fifth grade. I went to Northwest for middle school, and then to Mount Tabor for two years and North Forsyth for two years of high school.

Tharpe at The Garage entrance


What are your top three local Winston-Salem restaurants?
There are so many great places to eat here. I definitely would say Finnegan’s. I love it for its proximity to The Garage, and Opie is just a great guy. I used to love going to the old Staley’s Steakhouse on Reynolda with my dad. I have unbelievably fond memories of going to business meetings with my dad there. A favorite of the bands that come to The Garage is Mooney’s. You can get whatever you want there and it is all very authentic. I think some bands come back into town just to eat there!



If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, Bojangles biscuit, or Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Without a doubt, sugar cake!

Tharpe and I with our trophy of a cooler full of beer after winning an adult soccer tournament together

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
The Outer Banks are beautiful. I have the best memories as a child at Sunset Beach with the Flavin family, though. That is the epitome of a family vacation place. It was so quaint. I do love Outer Banks though, every place there is beautiful.

Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
Banner Elk. We have a family home there on Sugar Mountain. Tii and I are avid snowboarders. We have gone there my whole life, and I go every chance I can get there.



If you lived in (Old) Salem in the late 18th century, what do you think your occupation would have been?
I am not very handy so not a carpenter or blacksmith. I feel like I would have had to do something physical though. Some sort of civil service. I would say something with music, but I am not a musician. I don’t think I could have put on rock shows back then.

If there was one restaurant you wish we had in Winston, what would it be?
A twenty-four hour diner in downtown. When I get off at 4:00 in the morning, I just want a crappy cup of coffee and a hearty meal.

Tharpe’s face can be seen on stickers that are shared around the world

What about a retail store?
I would like a camera store with dark-room availability. I call myself a hobby photographer, and I want to be able to go to a place if a camera breaks to get it fixed, without having to wait for something to be shipped to me or buying an all new one.

If there was a musical show you could see from a deceased artist and one from a current artist that have not been to Winston, who would you most want to see?
I can’t help but go straight to David Bowie and Prince. They were both alive during my time, and I will regret not seeing them. They are obviously fresh on my mind, but I can’t think other musicians that have influenced my life more.
For current bands, I would say Cage the Elephant and Queens of the Stone Age. I feel that we could get both of them here, and I wish we did.