Ayden Magazine - Summer/Fall 2022

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READY FOR SUMMER Recreation opportunities await


Central location

Charger overcomes

Planting Seeds

Fresh in the Season

Other Products we sell



Eagle Buildings & Carports










08 Central location

Carraway Office Solutions picks Ayden to consolidate operations

Charger Overcomes

Graduating senior succeeds with a little encouragement from AGHS

Ready for summer

Basketball camp highlights a full season at Ayden Arts & Recreation

Spotlight on Stephen Smith

Ayden’s planner helps growth move in the right direction

Planting seeds

High school student and town booster helps start community garden

Cool pool, green fairways

What’s new at Ayden Golf and Country Club

Fresh in the season

Gwendy’s Goodies bakes local berries into tasty treats

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Bobby Burns Editor Willow Mercando Photographer Emily Bronson, Kayla Green, Beyonca Mewborn & Donna Marie Williams Staff Writers Lewis Smith Advertising Restoration Newsmedia Design AYDEN© is published biannually by The Standard newspaper. Contents are the property of this newspaper and the town of Ayden and may not be reproduced without consent of the publisher. To advertise in this publication, please contact The Standard at 252-747-3883.




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Central to service

Hayden and Burney Carraway, from left, hold a sign used by Burney’s father, Sidney, after he started Carraway Typewriter in 1962.

Carraway Office Solutions picks Ayden to consolidate business By Donna Marie Williams


or more than 60 years, Carraway Office Solutions has been meeting productivity needs for eastern North Carolina. Today, with its business consolidated and centrally located in Ayden, the company continues to grow and prides itself on providing exceptional products, support and customer service. It has its roots in Greenville starting 1962 as Carraway Typewriters. The business began with Sidney Carraway, who desired to provide his customers with better service than he was able to provide while working at a large office equipment and supply company.


“He just felt like the customers were not being treated as he would want them to be treated. He talked to my mom about it, and they decided to start Carraway Typewriter,” said Sidney’s son and current owner, Burney Carraway. With his wife Bernadine in hand, Carraway Typewriter continued to prosper through the years under Sidney’s leadership. “We started off selling typewriters and then as the office equipment industry evolved it went into fax machines, computers and then copiers. We went from Carraway Typewriter to Carraway Business Machines in the late '80s. I bought the company in 1994. That’s

when we changed the name to Carraway Office Solutions,” Burney said. “I grew up in this industry. I grew up in this business. I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and have been blessed to be able to do so.” Burney has worked for Carraway for most of his life. “I left in the late '80s and I moved to Raleigh to work for a Fortune 500 company. I learned the copy business there and worked there for a couple of years. I met my wife and then we moved back to Greenville to get married. I came back and went to work for the family business,” Burney said. The business expanded to Kinston in 2003 with the


purchase of Daughty’s Office Equipment, which operated under said name until the consolidation of both offices to its new Ayden location in 2022. “We were very close to the Daughty family. We had worked together over the years. We wanted to keep the Daughty name alive out of respect to them,” Burney said. With the business now in Ayden, Carraway is in a better position to serve their clients. “Ayden is centered right in the heart of our eastern North Carolina territory. It was the perfect fit. With the new highways and bypasses … we’re still the same distance to Washington and a little closer to New Bern. We wanted to be able to


serve our clients that Daughty’s served as well. We’re about 15 minutes from Greenville and about 18 minutes from Kinston, so strategically placed right in the middle,” Burney said, adding he had been looking for buildings in Ayden for some time before the former PNC bank building at 233 W. Third St. went up for sale. “This building became available, and it just fits us perfectly. It’s been a great move. Our clients are excited for us. They’re still getting the same if not better service.”

AT HOME IN AYDEN Since opening in Ayden, Carraway has received support from the Ayden community. “The people over here have been very friendly. Within the first week the postmaster stopped by … He came by and introduced himself. (Members) of the police department came by to introduce themselves and firemen stopped by. You don’t get that in the larger towns.” Carraway Office Solutions serves more than 14 counties located in eastern North Carolina and provides equipment, office essential needs and

services. “We sell copiers, printers and all the solutions that go with those. We sell shredders and we sell a lot of folding machines. Our primary focus is copiers and printers,” Burney said. Carraway provides service to local government agencies, law firms, churches, nonprofits, home offices and to mom and pop shops. “Whether you need a small little tabletop or 25 to 50 machines, we give everybody the same service. The people that have one copier for a small family business, we take care of them just like we do the large manufactures,” Burney said. “Our primary brand is Kyocera, but we can offer supplies and some support for other brands … Our service technicians have been doing this for so long they can work on just about anything.” Carraway prides itself on customer service and provides a promise of two-hour service response time. “Our slogan is we are a client first company. Our philosophy is a little different than some of our larger competitors. Our goal is to make a client and not a sale. We’re truly looking

at your business and how we can best utilize our products and our services to make your business better. It’s about making a long-lasting relationship with our clients and everybody in our company understands that,” Burney said. “Whether they call in for a service call or they call in for toner or they call to upgrade a piece of equipment, everybody here is going to treat them with integrity and respect.” This philosophy has carried Carraway through for more than 60 years and has allowed them to retain customers that have been with the business since it first opened.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Operating for 60 years, provides its challenges, one of which has been dealing with technological changes in the industry. Carraway understood that this is a must if the business was to be successful. They also knew that in order to provide the best service, they would have to offer the best products and know how to service them. “We had to adapt, or we wouldn’t still be in business,

but where we started out, you know, selling typewriters and then word processors and computers. Now all your copiers are networked, so whereas the first copiers were basically you laid a piece of paper on the glass, hit a button it printed it out that page, now your copiers are scanning the files scanning the emails scanning the applications people are printing from their phones,” Burney said. “We’re just very blessed with an amazing staff. All our staff have been with us for a very long time and they’re very good at what they do. As technology has changed, they’ve learned what they’ve needed to learn to be ahead of where we needed to be. Our Kyocera manufacturer has done a great job in preparing us for the new technology and offering the newest applications and software that go with our products. With our manufacturer’s help and with the great staff that we have we just always been able to keep ahead of that.” Burney has come a long way from working with Carraway Typewriter when he was 9 years old. “In the summers we would go into schools around us. This

The staff at Carraway Office Solutions includes, from left, Burney Carraway, Hayden Carraway, Kate Berry-Dixon, Vanessa Mayo, Biggi O’Neal, Christina Berry-Dixon and Curtiss Baker.




was back when they had typing classes. We would go in and clean the typewriters at the end of the school year and get them prepared for next season,” Burney said, adding he continued working at Carraway throughout high school and during the summer months of college. He remembers fondly the years he spent learning and working alongside his father and even though both his parents are now deceased, he greatly appreciates their leadership in the business. “It was like working with my best friend. I learned so much from him. We got to travel a lot together to the Outer Banks, Hyde County among other places,” Burney said. “My dad was the kind of person — he didn’t like the word retire — so he was a part of the company and would come in (under my ownership). He did that up until he was about 75 or 76, and a lot of times if I was traveling to one of his old territories, he would ride with me.” He valued his father’s passion for the company and his ability to turn a client into a friend. Like his father, he loves the daily interaction with customers. “I get to talk to new people and meet new people every day and being from eastern North Carolina I know all the back roads. I know where all the great restaurants are and very rarely and am I just in the office for a full day,” Burney said. “I saw my father interacting with people at a very young age and how what he did for a living affected them in a positive way. I saw how he took clients and they ended up being friends. I just love that because you can never have too many friends.”

GOD AT THE HELM Burney still holds his mother’s advice and guidance as valuable, as well. She served


as the bookkeeper for about four years and remained on staff also when Burney took ownership. “She made sure I had a good foundation, and I could always call her and ask her any questions. She knew more than or as much as our CPAs,” Burney said. He also continues to keep the founding philosophy of customer service alive all while putting God at the helm. “Our belief is if you treat people the way you want to be treated, it will be a blessing to you and be a blessing to them. That’s how my father and mother started Carraway Typewriter and that’s how I’ve run Caraway Office Solutions,” Burney said. “Our business — it’s really God’s business. He allows me to do this so I’m doing it to his glory. That’s how me and all our employees treat our customers from the person that answers the phone to take a supply order to the person going out to fix a service call or the way we treat our clients.” Having the business built with a firm foundation, Burney knows that he will continue to build upon it in years to come. “Our plans are to grow the services that we offer and have more people marketing for our company. We want to get our message out. Right now, we are a million-and-a-half-year dealership. We want to push up to three or four million,” Burney said. He is also excited to have his eldest son Hayden working alongside him — just as he did with his father. “Hayden started traveling with me when he was 8 weeks old. He and I and our other two children grew up helping in the summers and things like that. He has been with us for five years. Hayden has an entrepreneurial spirit and so when the opportunity arose for him to start selling with us

Burney Carraway learned the business from his father, Sidney, and now Burney’s son, Hayden, is helping the company grow.

and helping us with marketing, it was a great fit and this move has been very exciting for him,” Burney said. “There’s a big learning curve. I had to learn it by working with my dad. Hayden’s learning it now. He has a lot of the same questions I asked my father like why do we do it this way or when are we going to

do this. I’m now getting that back. It’s very rewarding to see one of your children come and be a part of something you’ve always believed in and only God knows what he’ll be able to do here. With Hayden’s ideas in his entrepreneurial spirit, I can’t even speculate where he can take this company.”

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S E M O C R E V O R E G R CHA Graduating senior succeeds with encouragement from AGHS By Beyonca Mewborn


yden’s Mercedes Warren was on the precipice of dropping out of school. COVID-19 in 2020 had sent everyone home, and she struggled with remote learning. Family changes also complicated things. By the time Pitt County Schools returned to in-person learning on an alternating weekly schedule, she had stopped attending class and was a no-show at Ayden-Grifton High School. Graduation seemed unlikely. Then came a knock on her door, and another, and another, and another. “This woman would come to my house and bang on the door like she was the police until I would walk out that door,” Warren said about Constance Miley, among the AG staff dispatched by Principal Chena Cayton to round up Warren and other students who had started to fall through the pandemic cracks. Warren and her younger brother would hide and pretend like no one was at home, but Miley was constant. “That woman did not play about me,” Warren said. “She really cares about me and I can tell she really did. Looking back at how all the teachers and administrators were trying to help me get back to school, it made me realize I was really giving up something I’ve been fighting for my entire life, and I’m letting all this go because of what my family is going through.” The journey has not been easy, but with help and support of teachers and staff, the senior says she is now believing in herself and she is on the track to graduate on June


11 with 95 Charger classmates. With her destination in sight, she couldn’t be more excited.


she tried to support her younger brother, and everything began to take a toll, she said. She was a sophomore when the pandemic hit. “Everybody got out of school, everything was online, and it was really hard for me to try to get online on the computer every day,” she said. There were times when she did try but ultimately she just gave up. With all that she was dealing with at home on top of the pandemic forcing students into online learning Warren stopped attending classes, but the teachers and staff were not going to give up. Cayton said that the entire AGHS staff came to-

Cayton, principal at Ayden-Grifton for the past seven years, said the school is great because its small, has excellent students and two communities that come together. But the pandemic made it very difficult to engage students, particularly those who didn’t do well learning with online courses, and Warren was one of those students. “Mercedes has always been a student who has had a little bit of difficulty with her academics, sometimes with her discipline and she has struggled some,” said Cayton. “However she has the potential to do really, really well.” Warren said before the pandemic she tried to focus on school, that it was her top priority over everything, but there were times when she giggled and played around in class. She also was dealing with challenges at home that were affecting her emotionally, she said. Her father missed her middle school graduation, then her parents split up just as she started high school. Ayden-Grifton High School senior Mercedes Warren, here As the family dynamic and practicing in theater class, nearly dropped out of school her living situation changed, during the pandemic but is now on track to graduate in June.





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gether to try to get their kids to come to school when they returned to partial in-person learning in 2021. “We had a group of teachers that would go out during their planning time and knock on doors, walk the neighborhoods, try to find the kids, and try to get them to come to school,” said Cayton. As a staff, they made a commitment to get their kids back in school. Cayton knew if the teachers weren’t seeing the students, then the students weren’t performing. There was no school system mandate to conduct the outreach, Cayton said, they decided to do it because their kids weren’t doing what they needed to do. They were worried about them because

they hadn’t heard from them and they didn’t know how they were emotionally. “A lot of our students were having a very difficult time emotionally with the pandemic,” said Cayton. “We didn’t know if they were still in Pitt County, we had a very hard time contacting them, they weren’t answering their phones, parents weren’t answering their phones, so we decided to go out and start knocking on doors.”

SAVING STUDENTS Miley said while making the home visits she would deliver Chromebooks and computers, deliver printouts from the teachers and pick up work from the kids, as well as delivering food to those who need-

ed it. She and the staff checked in every day on their student’s health and their education. “Dr. Cayton would always say make it happen, and I would say huh,” said Miley. “And she would say make it happen. So we made it happen so that our students were able to get the education that they needed; we provided them with anything they needed like food, a counselor to talk to, and we made sure they received the equipment they needed.” Miley worked to reach Warren on several occasions. Warren said that she and her younger brother would both hide and not answer the door, but Miley’s persistence and determination broke through to her. “Mrs. Miley is one woman

that you can’t get anything past, especially if she cares about you,” Warren said. “Mercedes is my baby and she gave me a go for my money,” said Miley. “Catching up with her and checking in on her was very difficult because I couldn’t get to her, and at one time she kind of gave up on school so we talked, we cried together, and I let her understand how valuable her education was.” Warren said the compassion from Miley and the others who visited her made the difference. “I had a lot of my loving and caring administrators come to my house, knock on my door and ask where Mercedes is, is she going to come out, is she going to come back because we really need her,” said Warren.

After struggling with remote learning her sophomore and junior years, Warren has excelled with support from the Ayden-Grifton staff and is planning to attend community college with a goal of studying cosmetology and one day having her own business.





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Warren gives a hug to Constance Miley, an Ayden-Grifton staff member who visited Warren’s house when Warren stopped attending class during the pandemic. Miley knocked until Warren finally came to the door.

“It’s crazy because I would be in the house the entire time knowing that they are really supportive of me and were always telling me how I am an amazing student. I loved how they came to my house day after day nonstop trying to get me to come back to school. “After a while it clicked in my head that I shouldn’t give up my life for nothing because what am I actually going to be doing out here other than going to school, getting an education, and doing what I love,” said Warren.

DRIVEN TO SUCCEED When school started back full force in August, Warren wanted to enroll even if she wasn’t in classes with her original graduating class because she had fallen behind. She knew she would be heading in the right direction. “I still looked at it as if it were a way to help me instead of sitting here trying to do something else without school because, you know, school is really helpful in real life,” said Warren. “It would make me cry because I wanted to graduate with the rest of my classmates,” said Warren, but she focused every day trying to do credit recovery, being on top of her work,


and trying to make good grades and checking in with guidance counsellor Robin Dail. “After a while I went to Mrs. Dail’s office and she said, ‘Mercedes you’re going to graduate,’ and I broke down in tears,” said Warren. “I was really excited for myself. I really worked this hard … It’s really amazing to me what I’ve done and I pat myself on the back every day and I never regret anything I do, and I’m really appreciative that I had those that came to help me and encouraged me to come back to school.” Cayton said that Warren came to her and the assistant principal at the beginning of the school year and told them how much she appreciated what they did for her. When Cayton asked Warren what she was talking about, Warren said “you sent people to come knock on my door,” Cayton said. Cayton told Warren they knew that she and her younger brother were there and were just hiding after Warren admitted that they were always there. “But I really appreciate y’all coming and not giving up,” Cayton remembered Warren telling the principals. “Y’all would come often and knock and try to get me to come to school.


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“For a kid to come to us and say that, I thought it was very mature and pretty good, and it was nice to know that there were positive effects from what we had done,” said Cayton. “That meant something to us because out of all those kids if we can save at least one that’s great.” Warren is currently taking biology, honors American history, honors economics and theater. She is on the right trajectory to graduate on time and will be applying for Pitt Community College and Lenoir Community College with hopes of going into the field of cosmetology. She said she’s leaning toward LCC because they have an excellent cosmetology school. Warren said she has several goals for the future. She wants to make sure her younger brother stays in school, graduates, goes to college to become a welder, and is able to make a good life for himself. Warren said she would like to build or buy a home, maybe have a kid of her own one day, and she would want her family to come stay with her. Warren wants to have her own salon or spa and while in cosmetology school become a certified nail technician, eyelash technician and esthetician. “I always tell myself fight for what you

“Yes it may be cliche, but I really do mean it, you can do whatever you want to.” Mercedes Warren, graduating senior

want to do in your life,” said Warren. “It may be hard trying to go through a world crisis, trying to push yourself every day, fighting to get up in the mornings, and doing everything for yourself, but don’t ever give yourself the thought that you can never accomplish something, because you can do anything you can ever put your

mind to,” she said. “Yes it may be a cliche, but I really do mean it, you can do whatever you want to. It just takes your focus, being ready for any obstacle that comes or anyone that tries to step on you, make sure you know what you are doing, have a plan, and fight for everything you want to do.”

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Ready for summer Alico Dunk will lead basketball camps this summer in the newly air-conditioned gym at the Ayden Arts and Recreation building, 4354 Lee St.


full lineup of athletic camps coming this summer from the Ayden Arts & Recreation Department is headlined by a hometown basketball evangelist. Alico Dunk, head women’s basketball coach of Stillman College, will be leading the basketball camp offered by the Ayden Arts and Recreation Alico Dunk Department this summer. There will be two sessions July 11-14 including a coed camp for ages 6-9 from 9 a.m. to noon and a coed camp for ages 1013 from 1-4 p.m. Both camps are designed to teach participants basketball skills including dribbling, passing and shooting. Dunk stated that he wants to provide the campers a fundamental foundation of basketball as well as a space to have fun. He enjoys coaching and being able to pour into young people’s lives through basketball. “It means everything to give back to my community,” said Dunk. An Ayden native himself, Dunk is excited to return to his roots and give back. He stated, “I like that Ayden is a family town. Everybody knows everybody.” Dunk graduated from Ayden-Grifton High School in 1994 where he played both basketball and football. He attended the University of Tennessee on an athletic scholarship for one year then he transferred to East Carolina University. Dunk played for the ECU Pirates from


Basketball camp highlights a full season at Ayden Arts & Recreation

1996-1999. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science. After graduating college, Dunk worked for Farmville Middle School, Ayden-Grifton High School and Hertford County High School. Following his time teaching and coaching at Hertford County High School, Dunk played basketball professionally overseas in Saudi Arabia for a year before returning to the states, where he began coaching at Elizabeth City State University. As a coach at ECSU, Dunk led the Lady Vikings in winning the CIAA Northern Division twice. “Basketball has truly been a blessing to me,” said Dunk. He is excited about coming home to work with the young people of Ayden. Ayden Arts and Recreation Director Tommy Duncan said that he is excited for the kids Dunk will be working with. He explained, “He can teach them to improve their skills. The kids will also be able to ask questions like what it takes to make it in basketball and in college.” Having Dunk lead the basketball camp has been discussed for a few years, but it was previously tabled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, this year, the town is able to move forward with all the camps. In addition to basketball, speciality camps being offered include art, soccer, tennis, football, volleyball, twirling and


dance. Specialty camps cost $25 for residents and $35 for non-residents. Details for the specialty camps include: Sessionone oneofofart artcamp campis is ages • •Session forfor ages 6 to to 8 years andbewill beJuly held25-28 July from 25-289 86years and will held from a.m. to noon. a.m. to9noon. Sessiontwo twoofofart artcamp campis is ages • •Session forfor ages 9 to to 12and years held 1-5 89years willand be will heldbe Aug. 1-5Aug. from 9 from a.m. to noon. a.m. to9noon. Soccercamp campisisfor forages ages9 9toto1313 • •Soccer years years will be held Junefrom 20-24 old andold willand be held June 20-24 9 a.m. 9 a.m. to noon. tofrom noon. Tenniscamp campisisfor forages ages8 8toto1212 • •Tennis years years will be held Junefrom 20-23 old andold willand be held June 20-23 6:30 from p.m. to6:30 7:30p.m. p.m.to 7:30 p.m. Footballcamp campisisfor forages ages 8 to • •Football 8 to 1212 years years will be held Julyfrom 25-29 old andold willand be held July 25-29 9 a.m. 9 a.m. to noon. tofrom noon. Volleyballcamp campisisforforages ages 8 to • •Volleyball 8 to 1212 yearsold oldand andwill willbebeheld heldJune June 27-30 years 27-30 from 9 a.m. to noon. 9from a.m. to noon. Twirlingcamp campisisfor forages ages 6 to • •Twirling 6 to 1212 years years will be held Julyfrom 18-22 old andold willand be held July 18-22 9 a.m. 9 a.m. to noon. tofrom noon. Dancecamp campisisfor forages ages6 6toto1212 years • •Dance years oldand andwill willbebeheld heldAug. Aug.8-12 8-12 from 9 old from 9 a.m. to noon. toa.m. noon. Along with the speciality camps, Arts & Rec will be offering adult coed kickball and summer basketball and a number of arts classes through the summer. Visit ayden. com/departments/arts-recreation/ or call 252-481-5837 for more information and to register for all of the activities.


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“The Pool Room” a common name heard throughout Ayden, has been in operation in downtown Ayden since the 1940s. Renamed Andy’s Grill & Recreation in 1971, the Stocks family bought the iconic business and expanded its services from a pool hall to a restaurant that also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. “We were Andy’s way before the chain and outlasted them,” said owner and manager Johnny Stocks, whose father, Andy, bought the business in the early 70s. Stocks has watched his customers grow up over the years and their families expand. “Being in business 50 years, you develop relationships. Friends and family come to Andy’s when they are in town from D.C. and New York, just like they do at Bum’s and Skylight (Inn). “I have seen generations grow up, like kids who used to come in with their grandparents and now come back with their kids. I love it.”




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In 2008, Dr. Molini moved to North Carolina where she served as a dentist at a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides medical and dental care for thousands of people in Wilson, Nash, and Edgecombe Counties. While she enjoyed serving there for seven years, she longed for the opportunity to provide more personal, dedicated care to patients. With that, she established Ayden Family Dentistry in 2015 and is committed to providing complete health dentistry to residents of Pitt County and surrounding areas. “With complete health dentistry in mind, we must educate the patient on how the mouth relates to the body. It is tailored to each patient based on their medical history, oral health, and daily habits,” shared Dr. Molini.

This approach allows the patient to understand that oral disease has just as much effect on their health as other communicable and autoimmune diseases. “Educating patients on this vital information gives them to the opportunity to work with their medical providers to improve their current quality of life and if possible, extend their longevity,” she added. “It is my hope that everyone in North Carolina and in the entire world enjoys their best life now and, in the future as well.” In order to make sure the health of her patients is cared for, her team works closely with other healthcare specialties such as ear nose throat (ENT), sleep medicine, diabetology, and primary care. Their goal is to help patients and their healthcare providers articulate the best possible options of care. With this relationship brought to the forefront, complete health dentistry has the potential to revolutionize the medical industry and dentistry.




Ayden’s Stephen Smith, checking out sites at the new Montevallo subdivision here, is a man of many talents for the town, currently serving as planning and public works director. He recently was named assistant town manager.

Spotlight on Stephen Smith

Ayden’s planner helps growth move in the right direction By Donna Marie Williams

Planning and public works director Stephen Smith has proudly served the town of Ayden for eight years. His dedication, hard work and passion for his job have shone through, earning him a new title of assistant town manager. Smith began his career with the town in 2014 starting as the community and economic development planner. When the town hired economic developer Mallory


Denham, Smith’s role shifted solely to planning director. Having earned his bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from East Carolina University, Smith accumulated years of experience prior to joining Ayden’s planning department. He had worked in the private sector as a consultant with the Wooten Company, worked with a private engineering firm overseeing floodplain management and had a background working with local government planning since June 1997.

“I was looking to get back into local government and I was still living here. My family love the area … I saw the opening and applied and been here ever since,” Smith said, adding he was originally from New Bern before moving to Greenville.

GROWING RESPONSIBILITIES As planning director, Smith oversees the town’s planning department, which directs zoning and all issues related to


land development. “I’m pretty much responsible for reviewing subdivisions, the town’s UDO (unified development ordinance), the town’s land use plan, overseeing the code enforcement activities, stormwater … really anything land development-related kind of funnels through the planning department,” Smith said. In September 2021, Smith was given more responsibility when he was asked by Ayden’s Board of Commissioners to serve as the interim public works director when


the former director left for employment elsewhere. In April, commissioners elected to merge the two positions into one with Smith taking on both roles permanently. “I like the town. I like everything about the town so I want to do anything and everything I can to help this town move forward. That’s what needed to be done, so I gladly stepped up into that role,” Smith said of taking on the extra duties. “Everybody was hopeful — at least in the beginning — that we may find somebody to fill that role full-time, but I think — over the last eight months under my management — the board thought that it would be a better idea just to have me continue in that role.” As public works director, Smith oversees the town’s electric, sewer and street sanitation departments as well as the central garage, town’s warehouse and building department. “It’s been a challenge trying to juggle planning while also being asked to lead the public works departments. As overall manager of those departments as well as the central garage, our warehousing and buildings department, there’s a lot of moving pieces. All of our operations down here are inter-

twined. When you think of planning, you think of landuse, but you also know that planning is related to electricity and water and sewer. You must have those for development, so it’s all intertwined,” Smith said. “It wasn’t a hard transition. It was just a little challenging at times with the growth, trying to manage it from both sides. The staff has made the transition easier, Smith said. “We’ve got great superintendents in our electric water and sewer and street sanitation departments. We have a great staff in place, so it really makes the job a whole lot easier when you have great people working for you.” Smith is proud of how far Ayden has come since he began working with the town. “One of the biggest challenges when I first started was … there was little to no growth in the county as a whole. Growth was kind of stagnant. I think we were still in recovery from a huge building boom in the mid-2000s and then it kind of tapered off,” Smith said. “The town and Board of Commissioners worked hard for the last 15 years to put preparations in place for growth. We have been lucky that the town board and the past managers had the

Smith and Mallory Denham, right, Ayden’s economic developer, are excited about the growth the town is experiencing.

foresight to put those things in place to be ready for what we’re seeing now. Thankfully that’s changed now, and we’ve probably got more growth than we can handle right now, which is a good thing.” The recent growth has added new challenges for Smith and the town. “We’ve been wanting it and now we’ve got it and it’s just a challenge to try and keep all these different developments,” Smith said, adding the town is in the preliminary development process for more than 1,200 subdivision lots and is establishing a sanitary sewer line down a portion of N.C. 102. “These lots are in various stages, so it’s just the organi-

zation of all that development and trying to meet the needs of those developers while also making sure that you know the best interest of the town is looked out for.”

GUIDING GROWTH Keeping the town’s best interests in mind is just one of the many reasons why planning is important, Smith said. “If we didn’t have planning or a land use plan, can you imagine what would be going on right now if people were trying to get developments in place without some type of regulation? Planning is very important. I know it’s hard for some folks. They have their

Smith said more than 1,200 residential lots currently are under development in town.




land, and they want to do what they want with it. I get that, but you know it just allows us to make sure that growth occurs in a sustainable way. You don’t want different uses that may or may not be compatible popping up right beside each other. With planning the whole intent is to have an orderly sustainable growth pattern.” Smith is proud that growth has occurred throughout Ayden including in the east along N.C. 102, downtown and throughout the town’s limits. “It’s not just one area … there’s a lot on the east, there’s a lot happening in town, but there’s pockets all throughout our jurisdiction. It’s not just concentrated in one area,” Smith said. In past years, Ayden has seen several subdivisions take root along N.C. 102 and Ayden Golf Club Road. These subdivisions will provide more than 800 homes for future and current Ayden residents. Downtown Ayden has also seen a surge with mural projects being completed as well as the town’s pocket park, located off Lee Street and behind Ayden Town Hall. Several new businesses have also sprung out of the revital-


ization including Gwendy’s Goodies, which has served as an anchor for downtown, Smith said. Marvel’s restaurant, Yellow Flower Boutique and Kingdom Building Community Learning Center are among some of the many stores to open within the past years, alongside Gun’s Unlimited of Ayden, Bum’s Restaurant, Andy’s Grill and Langley’s Computer, which have served the Ayden community for years. “There’s a lot of things happening downtown. For years, we had a ton of vacant buildings. The town board implemented a nonresidential building code and there were some things in there that kind of forced these property owners to do something. We’re finally seeing the benefits of that; I think right now there might be four vacant properties out of all downtown now, which is really encouraging,” Smith said, adding Sam Jones, owner of Sam Jones Barbecue and Skylight Inn is opening a corporate office downtown, and that downtown will soon be home to a new hardware store. “There’s a lot of things happening all over town. Ayden’s Housing Authority has purchased the old IGA grocery store and they’re turning that into a community center. That will serve South Ayden and all of Ayden. It will be a benefit to that part of town and all of town.” Smith was among town officials who worked on a project to bring the sewing and craft store Quilt Lizzy downtown, helping to secure grant funding, working with the new owner to renovate her building, and and transferring the property over to her. “She’s doing very well,” Smith

said. “She has a quilting store downstairs and upstairs is an event center. It’s a beautiful facility up there that can be rented out for weddings and receptions and parties.”

HOMETOWN FEEL During emergencies, Smith can be found at the town’s Operation Center, ready and focused on hazard mitigation and providing directions. His background and experience also come handy. “My background is in floodplain management and mitigation planning. The managers that have been here through my tenure have always looked to me during events. I do a lot of coordinating with Pitt County Emergency Management. Those guys are a lifeline when we’re dealing with emergencies,” Smith said, adding that the town has wonderful first responders for emergencies and utility crews that will sleep at the Operations Center during events in case they are needed. Floodplain management and hazard mitigation have long been point of interest for Smith. “I cut my teeth coming out of school on flooding. I was working in Carteret County in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd hit and then I moved into Craven County’s planning department. They were right in the midst of Hurricane Floyd recovery … I worked for Pitt County in August of 2000 as the floodplain manager and that was right on the heels of Floyd, so we were dealing with a massive buyout program throughout the county and that’s when I kind of got into floodplain management,” Smith said. Apart from being a town employee, Smith volunteers with the town’s annual BBQ festival. He serves as the organizer of the Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned contest that is the festival’s centerpiece. “It’s the coolest thing I do


… I like barbecue, grilling and smoking meat. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but it’s something that draws people to our downtown,” Smith said early in May. “I’m focused on the contest side but it’s a neat new thing that we’re trying. It seems to be working OK. We had the two-year COVID hiatus, so this would be the first one back after two years. We’re excited to see how well this one turns out.” The event was May 20-21. He and his wife, Amy, have two children — Emily and Jacob. He attends Emily’s travel volleyball games, likes to golf, grill and visit the beach. As assistant manager, Smith’s role will remain the same, but additional duties of assisting the town manager will be added to his list. In time, he sees the town hiring another employee solely as the planning director due to the amount of growth the town has received. “It’s an exciting time for the town. There’s always something going on with development. We’re looking at a 10-year build out. It’s going to be constant work for the next 10 years,” Smith said. Every day Smith continues to learn new things and his passion and his love for his job grows. He is thankful for all the town employees and people in the town. “Ayden just has this hometown feel. I worked for the county, and you really didn’t get that because our jurisdiction was kind of the rural parts of the county. It’s all spread out, where here everything is so close you don’t have to go far to do anything in town,” Smith said. “The people that I work with are an asset that the town has. The employees here are very dedicated to the town and to the jobs that they do. That’s another thing that I enjoy about working here. When you love what you do, it makes it easier to deal with all the challenges.”




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Nourishing a community in body and soul Sarah Coltrain and Madison Bowen, above at Veterans Memorial Park, are the drivers behind a new community garden that the town recently agreed to let them establish at the park.

Volunteers realize dream of community garden for Ayden By Emily Bronson


plot of land in the Veterans Memorial Park is soon to be the place of a new community garden started by D.H. Conley High-School junior Madison Bowen. With help of Sarah Coltrain, an Ayden homesteader and creator of the Facebook group “Ayden What’s Happening,” Bowen said her plan for the community garden is to be just that: a place of growth within the Ayden community. Bowen and her community supporters overcame their most challenging hurdle and got the break they’ve hoped for when Ayden Board of Commissioners voted during its May 9 meeting to allow use of the town land for the garden. Bowen said her inspiration for this garden came from a community garden in Greenville. “Some of my friends are a part of the Love a Sea Turtle group, and I had originally volunteered with them before,” Bowen said. “I thought it was such a cool and amazing experience for teenagers like me and I wanted to incorporate something like that in my community.” So far, the garden’s startup phases have


gone smoothly. Bowen has been thankful and overwhelmed by the amount of support her community has shown already. She said Sarah Coltrain, whom she found via the Facebook group, has generously shared her help, energy and vision for this community garden. “I am glad I found Sarah because she has really been the ‘let’s-do-this,’ ‘let’s-keep-going’ force of this garden,” Bowen said. Although vegetables and fruits will go into in the garden first, Bowen’s biggest priority is growing the future of her community, she said. The produce grown and harvested from the garden will be given back to the community, Bowen said. Breaking ground is the first step, with planting and caring for the plants soon to come, with hopes that fall will be a busy time for the community garden, she said. Coltrain said she’s excited by the capabilities of this garden. As someone who has dedicated her time, effort and her social media support to fuel community engagement, she said she can’t wait to see what this garden grows to be. “The possibilities, the connections within the community, the schools, the Boys


& Girls Club, working with the Housing Authority, just really being able to provide food to our neighbors is the inspiration for this garden,” Coltrain said. Without the help of the community, this project would not be as far along as it is, Caltrain and Bowen both said. With almost 200 supporters gained though social media efforts and marketing the start of a community garden, Coltrain said it’s remarkable to see the amount of support for bringing a little bit of community pride back to Ayden. The lockdowns due to COVID-19 have really taken a toll on the sense of community, Coltrain and Bowen added. The idea for the community garden was born in a desire to make up for lost time and the Ayden community with a mental health outlet, Bowen said. “I think it’s important for communities to start looking more at doing collective activities together,” Coltrain said. “Getting back to working with your neighbor, getting to know your neighbor, grow food with your neighbor. It would just be a service for the community because we’re all in this world together. We’ve got to make it as enjoyable as possible for one another.”


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Ayden Golf and Country Club Assistant Manager Wyatt Russell and General Manager Ryan Baker, from left, check out clubs in the pro shop.

Cool pool, green fairways New manager takes reins at Ayden Golf and Country Club By Emily Bronson


s locals welcome the returning summer months, the Ayden Golf and Country Club looks forward to the best time of year with a new general manager, Ryan Baker. A staple to Ayden residents and golfers since 1958, the country club has undergone much change over the course of half a decade. While working there in the past, Baker said just in his time as an employee, he has seen the country club and golf course grow tremendously. Baker said in May he has only held the general manager’s


post for about month, but he can tell the best part of the job is interacting with community members. He said the previous general manager left Ayden to serve another country club in Greensboro. “You get to meet everybody,” Baker said. “Everyone knows who you are, you know who everybody else is. It’s really nice.” The busiest time of year at the country club is the summer months, Baker said. The golf course is open all year, but summer is when the club’s pool opens and most golfers take to the green, he said. Ayden Golf and Country club hosts a summer swim league called the Wahoos, Baker said.

Although the swim league practices at the club’s pool, he said they operate separately from Ayden Golf and Country Club. “In the summer months, all of our golf carts are full by noon,” Baker said. “Every weekend, the pool is absolutely full of kids. Everybody seems to be here. It’s just a really really rocking good time.” A part of the Eastern North Carolina Junior League, the club hosts a golf league for kids from 5 to 18 to participate in over the summer, Baker said. As the director of this, Baker said he coaches the participants for them to eventually compete in junior tournaments all throughout the summer with


other leagues in eastern North Carolina. “A whole bunch of kids come out, even if they have never played golf before, I give them coaching instruction. Every golf course in eastern North Carolina does this,” Baker said. The Ayden Golf and Country Club is not a private club, Baker said. Individuals who aren’t members can still use the club’s amenities with higher-priced fees. Baker said the best way to place a membership with the club is via email. The club’s email address can be found on their website, he said. “We have two different types of membership,” Baker said. “One is executive. That’s our allround membership. It includes golf, it waves your green fees and it gives you access to the pool and tennis courts. You get 15 percent off in the pro-shop. The second one is like the social membership. That’s just access to the pool and tennis courts.” Ayden Golf and Country Club is more than a golf course, Baker said. Along with the facilities that offer a wide array of activities, the club also serves as a venue for weddings, retirement parties and other group events, he said. The ballroom in the country club is available to rent out for special occasions, Baker said. The venue for the month of May does not have any availability and June is starting to fill up as well, he said. “We are very family-oriented here,” Baker said. “We have


Golfers Lynwood Small and Duane Gwyn, from left, putt on the course during an outing in May. Membership at the club has grown since 2020. Baker said the facility is oriented toward families.

pool for mom and the kids. We have the golf course for dad. The whole family can come and enjoy their time here.” Wyatt Russell, the assistant manager and Ayden native, said he has worked at the club for about a year and a half and, during his time, the club has gained lots of new members “Just last year alone, I believe we picked up 65 members,” Russell said. “It was like a 32 percent increase in growth just in that one


year.” The country club usually sees steady growth, Russell said. However, since the March of 2020, it saw a spike in membership and overall use. The golfing community seemed to be the only community and business that benefited from the shutdowns that were implemented due to COVID-19 precautions, Russell said. “We actually grew exponentially,” Russell said. “Golf was really one of the only things you could do because it is outside. We did have to shut down the pro-shop, you couldn’t come inside. We had to sanitize carts and we’re still going over stuff like that now. Last year was actually one of our best years.” Russell said he hopes to see the growth of last year again this summer season. With this time of year being the best for the club, he said he really enjoys working when the club is bustling with people. The golf course superintendent since October of 2005, Jeffrey Gaylor said he has seen the club go through “ups-and-downs” but despite the low points, the golf course is thriving now. Almost closing in 2008 during the recession, Gaylor said the club and golf as a sport has made a huge comeback since then. After last year’s success in growth, Russell, even with autumn being his favorite


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Gwendy’s Goodies on Second Street in Downtown Ayden grew from owner Gwendy Yiznitsky’s baking for sporting events and other activities that her eight children have been involved in over the years.

Fresh in the season

Gwendy’s Goodies bakes local berries into tasty treats By Christina Ruotolo


or seven years Ayden has been home to a quaint sweet shop, Gwendy’s Goodies, at 514 Second St. Gwendy’s provides the community with sweet treats for every occasion from cookies, cupcakes, custom cakes and pies to bakery items like cinnamon rolls, brownies, muffins, pastries, eclairs and more. It is a homestyle, scratch-made bakery that brings you back to Grandma’s kitchen. Some have said that walking into Gwendy’s Goodies feels like walking into a Hallmark movie. The bakery also carries products from local roasters, dairies, farmers and producers. For owner Gwendy Yiznitsky, her love of baking started in her youth helping her mom make cupcakes. “As long as I can remember, Mom


encouraged me to bake from a very young age,” she said. Gwendy also home-schooled her eight children, so baking was a very big part of her family routine. She started making cookies for her kids’ football games and other sporting events. One cookie led to another and when her daughter needed help raising money for a mission trip, she started baking cookies and didn’t stop for three months. She sold $2,000 worth of cookies. Friends loved her baking so much, she wondered if she could do it for a living and if she would still enjoy it if she did it full time. After all of her kids went off to school, the idea of having her own cookie shop was fully baked. Here we are seven years later and Gwendy has never looked back. She started sharing space with a cake baker and then

transitioned to her own shop. The outside is bright red and welcoming. The bell over the front door dings with nostalgic Andy Griffith appeal. The bakery case is gleaming with elegant frosted cupcakes, glistening breakfast pastries, cream puffs bursting with filling, bread puddings and cookies in every flavor. The sight is a sugar wonderland. Gwendy’s favorite baked item to make is the classic pie. It’s quintessential for every baker to have their own pie recipe. “I love making pie. It is one of my favorite desserts and I enjoy the process of making crust from scratch and creating beautiful pies. I also really enjoy decorating cookies.” And it’s not just the baking and sharing that Gwendy has enjoyed — it’s also the feeling she gets knowing she is supporting and fostering the community she


Gwendy Yiznitsky

loves. “My favorite part about the business of baking is the many opportunities we get to care for the people we serve and the community we are a part of. It is great when we get to help reduce someone’s stress and make their celebration extra special.” So now that you have the lay of Gwendy’s sugar land, let’s indulge our sweet tooth. As many of you know, it’s strawberry season and summer is right around the corner. Many of the treats at Gwendy’s feature fresh produce and dairy from right here in eastern North Carolina. They have an abundance provided by local growers and you can now enjoy all things strawberry, from strawberry rolls, scones, shortcake cupcakes and on Fridays, strawberry pie. The strawberry rhubarb pie was fresh out of the oven. For those wondering what rhubarb


During the summer months, Yiznitsky incorporates locally grown fruits and berries into her fresh baked goodies.

is, it’s a very underrated and delectable vegetable. They are rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins (which give it its red color), which help protect you from many ailments. Rhubarb has a sour yet citrusy sweet tang like a cross between a lime and lemon. Mix that tartness with the sweet ripeness of a fresh strawberry and the result is pie magic. Gwendy makes her own pie dough, and when the pie comes out bubbling on the top with sweet red juices and a sugar crusted top, the smell is like summer on an Italian lemon tree farm. The crust is flaky and buttery. Mix those soft butter notes with the tart and bright strawberry/rhubarb inside and your taste buds come alive and sing. Try it for yourself. The strawberry shortcake cupcake is topped with strawberry frosting. Start with a vanilla cupcake, fill the


core with gooey strawberry compote and top it will a luscious strawberry frosting that literally melts in your mouth. Silly as it may sound, it tasted magical like swimming inside a rainbow, and the pot of gold at the end was the strawberry core. This is an all-time favorite cupcake flavor combination. Then there is the strawberry cinnamon rolls and the strawberry cheese danish. Anyone who has the patience to make either of these is to be commended as the prep work to make the thick cinnamon roll dough and the flaky, laminated pastry dough is laborious. Both are divine and when you taste one for yourself you will know why these are two of Gwendy’s best sellers. To round out the strawberry tour, try the cream puff filled with strawberry cream cheese filling and the strawberry



Strawberries are a staple in cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, Danishes, and strawberry rhubarb pies.



bear claw. Once again, thank you Gwendy for making the Pâte à Choux dough — a chemical wonder made with eggs, flour and butter that has to be the perfect consistency when piped so it billows up into pillows of cream puff heaven. Layer in creamy sweet strawberry cream cheese pastry cream and the puffs are decadent and rich. The bear claw is made with puff pastry that puffs up and wraps around the cream cheese and strawberry filling. It’s sugar-crusted and flaky on top and dreamy in the middle. Don’t forget to also try their classic eclair filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with a layer of chocolate ganache. After strawberry season, Gwendy’s will feature all things blueberry and keep moving into each season, bringing you the sweetness everyone deserves. Show them some love and stop by the next time you crave a special treat. No matter what you try at Gwendy’s you will find amazing flavors and a down-home community feel. Gwendy’s Goodies is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. To place an order, call 252-414-8716, visit their website, gwendysgoodies.com, or use their app.


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