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discover Tip ton County, Tennessee

S p r i n g

2 0 1 4

A supplement to the leader

Taste of

Tipton From sweet treats to Southern staples, we’ve got it all


World-famous fried chicken, barbecue cooking contests and the hidden weekend hotspot

2 Discover tipton county 2014


t e m o Welc

• Quality Education K-12 • Outstanding Medical Services • Major Transportation Routes • Full Range of Retail Business • Reliable Work Force • More than 100 Churches

Jeff Huffman, County Executive

"If you are a newcomer to our county - welcome. If you are a resident of Tipton County already, thank you for making Tipton County such a great place to live, work, and raise a family." - Jeff Huffman

Discover tipton county 2014 3

Working together to equip tomorrow's workforce!

Town of Mason Mayor, David Smith City Recorder-Angela Adams Fire Chief-Wendle Trimble Police Chief–James Paris Utility Superintendent–Chris Trimble Alderman–Frank Boyland Alderman–Linnie Waddell Adlerman–Michael Harris Alderman–Elcanius Hughey

“A Great Place To Live”


Taste of Tipton : down-home cooking

S p r i n g

p. 20

★ bbq festival

The bold world of Dr. Josh Brink

Dancing queen

Dressing for success

Just a regular guy

The weekend hotspot

Not slowing down

Hot, spicy & world-famous

Being proactive

p. 8

Meet the mother-daughter team behind the 2013 minority/woman-owned business of the year p. 13

Off the beaten path, Erwin's restaurant is one of Tipton County's hidden gems p. 26

What began as one man's quest for great chicken has turned into more than he could ever imagine p. 30

p. 26

2 0 1 4

★ the mayor's favorite

p. 48

Deborah Walker easily integrates dance and drama into other lessons p. 37

For the love of the game A juvenile's breaking-and-entering stint leads to a legendary basketball coaching career p. 41

Munford Public Works Director Mark Walker shares his history with the city and his love for dirt bikes p. 47

Richard Vandergrift dishes about his past working as a sports editor and his present involvement with local sports events p. 53


Atoka Police Chief Jessie Poole prefers to be proactive and shares the secret to successful organizations p. 57

Discover Tipton County 2014 5

letter from the editor

on the cover Saluting local businesses and industries and one of our favorite things to do. Each of these products is exclusively made in Tipton County: copper tubing from Mueller Brass, ice cream from Unilever and Blow Pops from Charms. Publisher Brian Blackley Contributing writers Echo Day, Jeff Ireland, France Gasquet, Graphic design Renee Baxter, Echo Day, A dv e rt i s i n g Andy Posey, Teri Jennings, Brandy Guinn, Commercial Printing Richard White, Print Assistant LE g a l s , b o o k k e e p i n g Kathy Griffin, Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided. The Leader reserves the right to determine the content provided within this publication. All advertising information is the responsibility of the individual advertiser. Appearance in Discover does not necessarily reflect the endorsement of the product and service by The Leader. Discover is copyright 2014 Tipton County Newspapers LLC. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited. If you have any questions or comments about this publication please call The Leader office at 901-476-7116 or send an email to

A b o u t d i s c ov e r fac e s & P l ac e s

This special annual publication of The Leader is made possible by many advertisers and contributors who want you to experience and discover one of Tennessee’s finest counties. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided. The Leader reserves the right to determine the content included within this publication. All advertising information is the responsibility of the individual advertiser. Appearance in Discover does not reflect the endorsement of the product and service by The Leader. This publication is copyright 2014 Tipton County Newspapers LLC. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited. The Leader is published 52 times a year; annual in-county subscriptions are $38. Visit us at 2001 Hwy. 51 South, Covington, TN 38019 or online at The Leader

2001 Highway 51 South Covington, Tennessee 38019 w w w. c o v i n g t o n l e a d e r. c o m

6 Discover Faces&Places 2013


Let’s talk about food Barbecue and chicken and cheeseburgers, oh my! how do you feel about good ol' southern

cooking? The greasy, crispy, peppery skin on a fried chicken leg, the flavor and smell of pork smoked overnight at a campsite, creamed potatoes with brown gravy, fried green beans, cole slaw, skillet cornbread, thick and juicy bacon cheeseburgers, carrot cake, lemon meringue pie …

If your mouth's not watering yet, it will be once you start read-

ing. In this issue of Discover Tipton County we have a focus on the delicious Southern food you've grown up with, either through meals at a quaint little café or from Mama's kitchen. Don't miss our stories on some longtime reader favorites, a world-famous restaurant and a new tradition in the making in Atoka. We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it

together. It sure made us hungry and we know it'll do the same for you!

Echo Day News editor, The Leader

Hideaway The first thing patients see when they enter is a huge, floor-to-ceiling club house. Inside is a video game console and several other toys.

8 Discover Tipton County 2014

Health & Wellness ★ brink pediatric dental associates In practice for a decade, Dr. Josh Brink opened an office on Tipton Road in Munford last spring.

tin awning and to its left, a large tank filled with tropical fish. The tranquil atmosphere created by the art and furnishings doesn't end with the waiting room. The theme continues into patient rooms, examination areas and even the parent consultation areas. It's all part of Brink's plan to bring better pediatric dental health to Tipton County. "We wanted to create an atmosphere of peacefulness, so when you're sitting in the waiting room, you hear the sounds of the water and see the shadows of the trees come

The peaceful world of Dr. Josh Brink Bold new pediatric dental office helps ease fears of young patients by ECHO DAY


It's a rainy friday morning

other dental offices you've seen.

and inside Munford's pediatric dental of-

For starters, there's a large tree house

fice, a little boy stands in the waiting room,

hideaway where children can go to play

holding a book and staring at the movie

video games or read books.

through, you think, 'Man, this is relaxing … it's quiet, peaceful and the kids can play.' It's a much more comfortable atmosphere than a stark, bare office." Brink opened the Tipton Road location in Munford last May, offering a convenient alternative for patients who were traveling from as far away as Dyersburg to be seen in his Bartlett office. "We moved up here to be closer to them. There was no pediatric dentist in the community, so we just thought it made sense." A dentist whose focus is on children, he says, are a special breed and he stresses the importance of preventative care beginning

Finding Nemo playing on a television high

The next element you notice is the

above his head. He seems lost in his own

woodland-themed mural – lifelike depic-

world, content, not worried about a fear

tions of raccoons, turkeys, possums, bears,

Brink promotes the American Academy

that's probably plagued children since the

birds and more are perched in or hanging

of Pediatric Dentistry recommendation that

myth of George Washington's wooden

from tree branches. Much of the forest is

infants begin dental visits at age one.

teeth was first told: the dentist.

done in silhouette, a color a few shades

"That's the hope," Dr. Josh Brink says.

darker than the soothing blue all over.

in infancy.

"We see babies under two all the time with cavities. This usually comes from

"We want to make the kid enjoy coming to

The furniture is rustic and looks al-

bathing the teeth with a continuous sup-

the dentist, not dread coming to the den-

most as if it was built from fallen limbs and

ply of sugar, such as through giving them



The waiting room is nothing like most

Over the reception area is a corrugated

Continued on page 10 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 9

â–¸ Continued from page 9

sweet tea and sugary drinks in bottles, for instance.

on having a great smile. "It's very inexpensive to take care of baby

Though there is more awareness for the important of good oral hygiene than ever before, Brink says

There was no pediatric dentist in the community, so we just thought it made sense.

he and his team are overwhelmed sometimes.


teeth. You have to be pro-

Brink Pediatric Dental Associates is

active, but when you have

located at 843 Tipton Road in Munford,

other, more pressing mat-

as well as in Bartlett and Eads. To make

ters, some things fall on the

an appointment, call 901-840-4810. You

priority list. I'm worried

can also visit the office's website, wherey-

about it."

"Cavities aren't in decline. We're not

Prevention, he says, is still the best den-

meeting some needs somewhere when it

tal medicine, but he is committed to taking

comes to infant oral health care."

care of a child's teeth.

There is also a correlation between so-

"Every week we hear, 'They're just baby

cioeconomic factors and the priority placed

teeth,' but these are the only teeth they'll

10 Discover Tipton County 2014

have until their adult teeth come in. They're ★

Above, each of the patient areas has a television above it, a perk patients love. At right, Dr. Brink credits his staff with helping reduce anxiety in patients.

Discover Tipton County 2014 11

Miller’s Pharmacy 110 Star Shopping Ctr. St. • Covington, TN 38019 • 901.475.0535

Front: Christy Bray, Denise Pruett and Abbie Lindsey Back: Ken Williams, Pharmacist and Frank Miller, Pharmacist

• Full Service Pharmacy • Local Delivery Available Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. • Sat. 8:30a.m.-2:30p.m.

Small business ★ Freckled frog children's boutique

Dressing for Success

A mother-daughter boutique is honored by the business community by ECHO DAY

Discover Tipton County 2014 13


small business ★ freckled frog children's boutique If the quaint little bookstore

the store didn't start out as an upscale endeavor. "She bought a business, but she didn't," Kendra Apfel Parr says of her mother, Debbie Apfel's, 2005 purchase of a consignment store. "Taylor's Attic customers weren't necessarily Freckled Frog customers, so it was like starting from scratch with a new name and new everything." The business began by selling secondhand clothing items, then they added new items to their inventory – clothes, shoes, cradles, cribs – which eventually meant the end of consignment.

from You've Got Mail were a children's boutique, it would be Covington's Freckled Frog.

It has everything The Shop Around the

Corner has: small town charm and a friendly atmosphere, personalized customer service and people who care enough to work hard to cultivate a caring environment. If you've never been, the Freckled Frog is

a Southern mother's dream come true. The baby and children's boutique carries oldfashioned smocked and pillowcase dresses, john johns, huge bows in a full spectrum of colors, leather shoes and more. And, yes, they do monogram (like you needed to

ask). There is also a wide variety of toys, puzzles and trinkets, the Noodle & Boo skincare line and plenty of baby gifts, like their signature monogrammed quilts. It's the place to go for baby gifts, but

"We had to phase it out," says Kendra. "It's more laborious because you have to sort, hang and steam everything and keep up with consignors, it's a big difference from selling only new clothes." From that change came many others, leading the mother-daughter team on a Continued on page 55 ▸

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Present this card at checkout. $5 offer excludes tobacco and alcohol purchases. Limit 1 per customer per store visit. No adjustment for prior sales. This offer is not transferable. Not valid with any other offer. Must be from original newspaper print. No copies or print outs accepted.

Present this card at checkout. $5 offer excludes tobacco and alcohol purchases. Limit 1 per customer per store visit. No adjustment for prior sales. This offer is not transferable. Not valid with any other offer. Must be from original newspaper print. No copies or print outs accepted.

Present this card at checkout. $5 offer excludes tobacco and alcohol purchases. Limit 1 per customer per store visit. No adjustment for prior sales. This offer is not transferable. Not valid with any other offer. Must be from original newspaper print. No copies or print outs accepted.

Present this card at checkout. $5 offer excludes tobacco and alcohol purchases. Limit 1 per customer per store visit. No adjustment for prior sales. This offer is not transferable. Not valid with any other offer. Must be from original newspaper print. No copies or print outs accepted.

Present this card at checkout. $5 offer excludes tobacco and alcohol purchases. Limit 1 per customer per store visit. No adjustment for prior sales. This offer is not transferable. Not valid with any other offer. Must be from original newspaper print. No copies or print outs accepted.

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Bbq festival

p. 18

★ down-home cooking

p. 20

★ weekend hotspot

p. 26

Taste of Tipton

Back for seconds

After a successful first event, the Town of Atoka is planning its second BBQ festival. by ECHO DAY

★ p l u s : v i s i t g u s ' s w o r l d f a m o u s f r i e d c h i c k e n a n d l e a r n w h a t m a k e s t h e r e s t a u r a n t s u c h a s u c c e s s p . 31 Discover Tipton County 2014 17

competition A chef from one of the cooking teams carefully cuts ribs that will be delivered to the Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned judges. 18 Discover Tipton County 2014

taste of Tipton ★ atoka bbq festival


For a first-year event, the 2013 Atoka BBQ Festival was quite a success, with dozens of teams up for the Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned contest. And despite muddy conditions, many locals ventured out to participate as well, visiting vendors and enjoying concerts on the main stage.

Back for a second round, this year's

event will take place on April 4-5 in Nancy Lane Park. We recently sat down with parks and recreation director Brian Peel to catch up with some of the details of this year's contest.

ED: How'd it go last year? BP: We were very happy with the results of last year’s contest. We faced some pretty significant challenges with the weather and I think our staff was able to handle it very well. We had an overwhelming

amount of positive feedback last year from contestants, judges, sponsors and guests. ED: What helped make the event a success? BP: We had great participation. Last year we had a goal of 30 teams and ended up having to turn some teams down after 55 registrations. I think the other aspect that made this event so successful was our staff team. We really made a point to provide over the top customer service to all of the teams and I think that showed in the feedback we received. ED: What can we look forward to this year? Will there be any changes? BP: We are very excited about this year’s contest. Planning has been much easier this year with having last year's experience under our belt. We’ve made some adjustments based on feedback from contestants and staff. We’ll be accepting more teams this year, moving up from 55

Nancy Lane Park ★ April 4-5

to 65. We’ve added three new ancillary contests on Friday night this year; BBQ side, seafood and bologna. We’ve made two changes to the prizes in the Challenger division. We’ll be giving awards and prize money for 1st – 5th place this year (last year was 1st – 3rd) and have also increased the prize money for the top three spots in Challenger. We’ve added some carnival-style attractions and rides for kids this year and also increased the number of live band acts. Last year we had three bands over two days, this year we will have 10 bands over three days. ED: Why was this such a popular event? BP: The atmosphere is just fantastic at this event. All of the people are super friendly and everyone is having a great time. There is something to do for everyone, no matter how old you are. My personal favorite is the smell; when you come in to the park and smell all the pits and BBQ cooking, there’s really nothing better. ★ Discover Tipton County 2014 19

20 Discover Tipton County 2014

taste of tipton ★ wells kitchen

Chicken fried

What do you get when you cross down-home cooking with family tradition? The heartbeat of a small Southern town. story by FRANCE GASQUET photographs by ECHO DAY

meat & Three

Wells Kitchen's Meat & Three – where diners can order their choice from meats like fried chicken and country fried steak, three sides and a roll or skillet cornbread – goes for $7.19 during 2014 lunch.21 Discover Tipton County


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1775 U.S. 51 Covington, TN 38019 (901) 476-6566 • (901) 476-6566 • (731) 635-1230

h• 1804 Atoka-Idaville Rd. | Atoka, TN 38004

901-837-4700 | Mobile 573-2428 Austin Waits Owner


taste of Tipton ★ Wells kitchen

“How long have we been open?” Vannice Crocker and her daughter, Sarah, laugh when they talk about Wells Kitchen. “Well, that’s a loaded question,” said

Sarah. “Overall, Wells Kitchen first opened more than 30 years ago. However, then we closed, rented it out for a while, then reopened 15 years ago this coming May. We’ve always had the same menu.” The restaurant was originally run by Vannice’s mother, Louise Wells Vandergrift, and has been passed down several generations. “You see, Mama had reopened originally, then she went back to the grocery store, which was across the street, and Daddy sent me over to run it. I wasn’t really happy about it,” she laughed. “so, Mama passed the torch along and then, later, when the girls were in school, they would help at night and on weekends.” In October 2013, Vannice was sick and in a coma for more than three weeks. She said when she woke up, she kept hearing from friends how well her daughters had done with the restaurant. “So, I gave it to them, as my mother had passed it on to me.” The restaurant, a family heirloom, is reminiscent of something you would see in a movie about the South, perhaps ‘Steel Magnolias’ or ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’ It sits near Town Hall in Brighton, painted slate blue, with a chalkboard out front, which notes the day’s specials. Shortly past the entrance is a refrigerated display case of pies, both slices and whole, baked by Doris Hicks, lovingly nicknamed “Mim.” She took care of the Crocker daughters, Sarah, Emily and Jennie, when they were young and, soon after Ms. Hicks retired from child care, Vannice asked her about making pies. “I’d heard she made good pies,” said Vannice. “She agreed to make them and she’s never stopped.” As cheerful and down-home-cute as the restaurant is, it’s the food that has people coming back. “Our standouts are fried chicken and our fried cornbread. I say we serve good food for good folks,” said Vannice. The restaurant’s home-cooking has made

Top, matriach Vannice Crocker fries chicken the way it's been done at the restaurant for decades. Above, Vannice and daughters Sarah, left, and Emily, right, work at the restaurant full-time; a third daughter, Jennie, works part-time.

it a fixture in downtown Brighton. “We serve turnip greens, fried okra, catfish and we also have skillet cobblers, where we serve individual-sized skillets with cobbler, also chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie skillets,” she said. Besides the small town feeling that makes people loyal, the family goes out of their way to accommodate their customers. During the recent winter weather, Sarah and Vannice received a phone call late at night from hungry linemen, who’d been working

to restore the county’s power. “Southwest calls us every time they have to come out to this area,” said Vannice. “We cooked for them all week. Even after a full day, they called and asked if we could cook for 17 more, so we did, they would hug us.” Mother and daughter are humble about the restaurant’s success. “You know, God just takes care of us and we are blessed with all of our good customers,” said Vannice. “Every day I ask God, ‘What can I do today?’ After the coma for Continued on page 25 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 23

24 24 Discover Discover Tipton Tipton County County 2014 2014

Sarah Crocker has taken over her grandmother's tradition of frying the cornbread

taste of Tipton ★ Wells kitchen

4136 N. Main St., Brighton ★ 901.476.5750

▸ Continued from page 23

three weeks, I knew it was time to turn it over and it has been a privilege to work with my girls in the restaurant.” Daughter Emily is the morning person. She gets everything ready, then after about two hours, Vannice arrives. Sarah does the bookkeeping, the front counter and cooking. The third daughter, Jennie, is a school nurse at Atoka and waits tables three nights a week. From about 10 a.m. until noon, farmers deliver fresh produce, then lunches are delivered to the schools they feed. At noon, the dining room fills up. Each makes sure to take at last one night a week off. According to Vannice, the family arrives at work about 7 in the morning and finishes the day about 9:30 or 10 at night. “Last Saturday, we made breakfast for the Board of Education and we were here at 4:30 in the morning,” said Sarah. “We also make sure we don’t work all day long every day.” Vannice’s parents, Louise and Arnold Vandergrift, were some of the most wellknown people in Brighton. Wells Grocery preceded the restaurant and was opened in 1903 by Louise’s family. Vannice’s brother, Jimmy Vandergrift, owns the FasTimes

stores. There are several generations of entrepreneurship in the Wells family line. At this moment, though, none of that matters: what matters is the sweet coolness of the tea and the southern fried chicken, a

fond reminder of childhood dinners. What matters is the general sense of happiness and contentment from the family atmosphere. What matters is that this restaurant carries a history of Tipton County. ★

South Tipton County CHAMBER of COMMERCE “The Log”

“Where “Where the the Mid-South Mid-South is is moving” moving” 837-4600 | Email: | “Log” on to our website:

26 Discover Tipton County 2014

taste of Tipton ★ erwin's

A weekend hotspot


Fast-paced and full of diners, Erwin's is a hidden gem in Covington story by FRANCE GASQUET photographs by ECHO DAY

One does not just happen upon Erwin’s, it is a destination after all. For those uninitiated to Erwin’s, the saying, “it’s worth the drive,” is definitely true. It takes merely 10 minutes from the square in Covington, but the first time you make the trip, especially if it’s in the cold darkness of winter, it seems a little longer. The meandering road turns a corner and right before your eyes is Erwin’s, a literal bright light in the darkness. The building became a restaurant about 15 years ago, but it’s been a place of business for as long as anyone can remember. The interior design is a mix of owner Jeff Erwin’s travels, Tipton County history and whimsy. On display is exotic artwork and the like from Tahiti, China, Peru, the Amazon rainforests, Columbia and Morocco, just to name a few. A mirror in the dining hall is a keepsake from the old Cris’s store in Covington. Different types of chandeliers are scattered throughout the restaurant, serving not only as function, but also conversation pieces. Erwin sits in a booth and talks about the history and what a day is like working in this beautiful restaurant. “My great-grandfather, this was his store. This was his farm,” he said. “This has always been here; we never planned it.” As much as they love the restaurant, Erwin’s is not the business in which they depend for a living. “We farm, we have the restaurant and then we also have the cleaners in town.” The restaurant is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Erwin begins on Thursdays by making all desserts and then spends the rest of the day making vegetables for the next three nights. He said it made sense to him to open the doors on Thursday, as he was here getting ready for the Friday rush. “We set up on Thursday, because the mob comes at 7 p.m. on Friday night,” Erwin explained. “We serve around 400 people on the three nights a week that we are open. I think people think of Erwin’s like they went to their relatives’ house. They eat and then they stay and visit.” He said there are usually people waiting when the restaurant opens. “They come earlier in the winter and later in the summer and they come from everywhere, Dyersburg, Memphis, Brownsville, Halls, Somerville. We serve until 9:30 p.m., but most of the time, we’ve finished by 9 o’clock; you can tell

Continued on page 28 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 27

taste of Tipton ★ Erwin's

4464 Bride Rd., Covington ★ 901.476.7888

▸ Continued from page 27

when it’s slowing down.” The waitresses are family and, in fact, most of the staff is related. Instead of having sections, the waitresses rotate tables and there are a couple of busboys who help. “We have three waitresses for the restaurant. We can seat 160 people at once,” said Erwin. “It’s service you don’t get anywhere else. It’s what little cafés used to do.” The menu has stayed the same since opening 15 years ago, he said, and it consists primarily of steaks, fish and seafood. The restaurant cooks to order and doesn’t fry anything because Erwin prefers to keep things the way they’ve always been done, which includes grilling over a fire pit with wood from the farm. The vegetables are mostly from the farm and fresh: green beans, yellow squash, mashed potatoes with caramelized onions, tomato slaw, fresh sliced tomatoes, black 28 Discover Tipton County 2014

eyed peas, broccoli casserole, among others. The pies, which Erwin makes himself, include lemon ice box, caramel and peanut butter and chocolate pie. Rolls are served with honey butter. Life is supposed to be about the journey, not the destination. But make sure this restaurant is a destination in the journey, for this restaurant is definitely worth the lovely drive. ★

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taste of Tipton ★ Gus's world-famous fried chicken

Hot, spicy and world-famous

What started as one man’s quest for good chicken has turned into a world-famous, four-generation franchise by ECHO DAY

Chicken is battered and ready for frying. Now that the restaurant is franchising, batter is premade and 30 Discover Tipton County 2014 distributed to each location.

505 U.S. Hwy. 70, Mason ★ 901.294.2028

Brothers Joe Claybon, left, and Larry Claybon enjoy a meal, beer and laughs at Gus's Fried Chicken.

Though there's a location right around the corner from his hotel in Memphis, when Joe Claybon comes home, he drives all the way to Mason to eat at the original Gus's Fried Chicken. "The food's good," he says. "It's their own recipe and nobody can imitate it. Nobody can cook chicken like they can." Now living in Nashville, Claybon was born and raised in Mason. It's a cold, but sunny, afternoon in February and he and his brother Larry are sitting in a booth, watching television as they socialize with other men in the restaurant while they eat some of the world-famous fried chicken and drink beer. "Every time I come home, I come to Gus's," he says in between bites. "It's original and down-home, really reminds me of the days when it was like Mama's home cooking … and you know there's nothing like Mama's home cooking, right?"

What has become a world-famous eatery and promoted through shows on Food Network had humble beginnings in a blue house across the highway from the restaurant. "It was in the '50s somewhere, when he started cooking chicken," says Ann Bonner. Bonner runs the Mason location and is married to Terry, one of the restaurant's co-owners. The restaurant, originally called Maggie's Short Orders, was started by Napoleon "Na" Vanderbilt, grandfather to Terry Bonner and his siblings, Taurse, Renee and

Tonya. All four now own the business. "Na was in the kitchen making some spicy chicken, just for him to eat, and that's how he came up with it." The history of the restaurant, hanging near the counter, suggests that the recipe was so well-liked that, even in the Jim Crow South, whites lined up at his back door for a sack of chicken and encouraged him to open a restaurant. A carpenter, he is said to have built the restaurant himself and opened it in 1973. Ten years later, both Na and his wife died, leaving the business to his son. Gus's officially opened in 1984. Fast-forward three decades and you'll find that Gus's has become synonymous with delicious chicken. The restaurant was named for a nickname Vernon was given by members of the community. "They used to call him 'Gus Bully' in the Continued on page 32 ▸ Discover Tipton County 2014 31

taste of Tipton ★ Gus's world-famous fried chicken ▸ Continued from page 31

town, back when they used to ride horses around, so when he opened the restaurant, he just started calling it Gus's." Vernon "Gus" Bonner and his wife Gertrude ran the business before passing it down to their children. Franchising since 2001, Gus's Fried Chicken has gone from the kitchen in a little blue house at the corner of Hwy. 70 and Finde Naifeh to eight locations from Memphis to Nashville and Austin, Texas. There's talk of a New Orleans location, too. "The first franchise location was on Front Street (in Memphis), once the first one opened, it just started blowing up and now there are several." For nearly 70 years, the little hole-inthe-wall restaurant has been serving fried chicken, baked beans, cole slaw and a slice of white bread. Despite it's success, little has changed in the way of the restaurant's atmosphere, and the menu hasn't changed one bit. "With this location and the franchises, we gotta keep it looking ragly, nothing fancy," Bonner says. "Keeping it this way draws business." And it really is nothing fancy. When you walk in, the restaurant looks run-down, with paneled walls, mismatched tables and chairs and handwritten signs on the walls. That's just the way Gus's customers like it, though. In one booth sits Joe Claybon, his brother Larry and two other men drinking sweet tea; in another are two older women who've driven to Mason from Somerville for a late lunch. Bonner, wearing a navy blue Gus's Fried Chicken t-shirt, printed leggings and boots, is an unapologetically no-nonsense character. She smiles as she politely answers questions about the business and sets the family 32 Discover Tipton County 2014

Top, the menu at Gus's Fried Chicken is simple and hasn't changed since the restaurant opened almost 70 years ago. Above, Ann Bonner runs the original location in Mason.

lineage straight, but makes no false promises for friendly customer service. "I treat you the way you treat me," she says, noting that in the past she has been accused of favoring white people. That's not true, she said. It's clear that Bonner favors helping op-

erate the family business, speaking fondly for her mother-in-law, Gertrude, whom she credits with motivating the family to make the business successful. Gertrude's four children now work in Dyersburg at the batter house, where the secret batter recipe is mixed and then driven Continued on page 41 â–¸

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teaching Tipton ★ deborah walker

dancing queen

Integrating dance, drama into everyday learning story by FRANCE GASQUET photographs by ECHO DAY


A line of children is formed in the hall outside Deborah Walker’s room, students waiting patiently as older dancers straggle behind from the previous class. Twenty-nine youngsters fill into the dance studio and at once the open space turns into a crowded room. The fourth graders take second position and begin warming up with isolations. Led by four dance captains, today’s lesson will cover lyrical choreography and connecting poetry and dance, especially when poetry is used in conjunction with rhythm. Deborah Walker, drama and dance teacher, moves around the floor, monitoring the students. She stops for a moment, and shows proper alignment and then continues counting out the beats.

“Everything in dance goes back to ballet, whether jazz, hip hop or whatever,” proclaims Walker, continuing to talk through the new dance routine. “In, out, kick, step, turn, down on gluteus, out, out cross legs, get ready to push up….good,” she encourages. The suspended floor has a slight

give to it, so that young dancers’ bodies are cushioned during movement. Ballet barres grace the floor to ceiling mirrored wall, as the students face front and learn the dance they’ve just been given. The dance captains, who are seventh and eighth graders, teach the dance phrases to the younger children, having Continued on page 39 ▸ Discover Tipton County 2014 37

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teaching Tipton ★ deborah walker

▸ Continued from page 37

learned from Walker in their master class. They lead the class with confidence, which in itself is a testament to their teacher. These are the children who are a part of Walker’s select dance and drama team, and who have daily class with her. The younger children, the class, only come to Walker’s classroom one hour each week and therefore must make the best use of their time. Walker, a teacher at Covington Integrated Arts Academy, where fine art influences and is incorporated into each core subject, uses a broad understanding of connectivity to add language arts into her classes. She is mindful that, even in dance, once can work towards studying for the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP. She had been on the dance squad in high school, but it wasn’t until college that she became seriously interested. Walker credits the moment, the turning point, to a performance her sister took her to at the Orpheum starring Alexander Godunov and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her criminal justice undergraduate degree is from the University of Memphis doesn’t speak to her future, but her minor in dance, does. After college, she worked in her sister’s shop, while raising her family. As she credits her love of dance to her sister, she credits her teaching drama and dance to her daughter. “My daughter was a cheerleader, and when she was in the fourth grade, she told her coach that her mother could dance and would teach them a routine. I started teaching the cheerleaders and continued with the routines even after my daughter had graduated. The principal, Charlesetta Brown, asked me to start subbing, so I did, full time, and I worked with the kids. She said I had a gift, that I was good with kids, and that I

need to go back and get a masters in education. She and my daughter were my motivations for pursing a career in teaching. Walker has a masters of education and psychology from Cambridge College, an educational specialist degree, and is a certified dance teacher. She also is on the Tennessee Arts Commission artist roster, as a grant funded dance instructor who shows other schools how to integrate dance and drama into their core curriculum. Today’s dance class involves writing poetry to use with rhythm and movement. The children excitedly break into three groups of 10 each, noisily developing poems, to perform with dance and musicians. After several minutes, one group is chosen to go first, while the other two groups form an audience and view. Each group has assigned a rapper, who speaks the poem, articulately and with volume; dancers, to help create fluidity with the piece; and musicians, providing music through consistent beats. “Cheetahs run fast, they have a lot of mass, they cost a lot of cash,” recites the young girl in the first group. “Good, but slow it down,” says Walker. The young poet says it again, while the

assigned dancers sway back and forth to the pounding feet of the musicians. A quick discussion of the difference between poetry and rap ensues. Walker watches with a developed eye, silently grading through movement, understanding and participation in the performance. She’s developed a rubric and grades 10-1, with 10 being an A+. At the end, Ms. Walker critiques the three distinct styles of performances. “That was very good, but do we think anyone made a 10 today?” she asks, appraisingly. The children agree: not today. The energy in the room is palpable and the focus is steady and unwavering. The only side conversations are those of dance and the room’s activities and even those are scarce. Too soon, is time for this class to leave, as the bell has just rung and there are only five minutes between classes. The students say goodbye and scoot out of the studio. Walker waves them goodbye, until next week, breathes deeply and smiles as she turns to face a new line of 20 students that has already formed in the hallway, waiting. Waiting to enter this magical room of dance and dreams, where imagination will ensue. Discover Tipton County 2014 39


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sports & Recreation ★ butch hopkins

For the love of the game story by Jeff ireland

photographs by ECHO DAY

To understand why 67-year-old Butch Hopkins returned to coaching two seasons ago at Munford High School after retiring in 2004, it's helpful to glimpse into his past. After his retirement from Dyer County High School 10 years ago, his wife knew he would have to do something to replace his 16-hour work days. She suggested he take up golf, a sport he had never played before. Instead of taking lessons or watching an instructional video, he hauled a five-gallon bucket of balls to a driving range nearly every day for eight months. He estimates he hit 300 to 400 balls a day.

“I was trying to figure out how to play,” Hopkins says. “If you hold your hands this way, the ball does that. Another way, it does this.” When he thought he was ready for a course, he played only by himself for about a year, playing three balls on every hole. Finally, nearly 20 months after the golf endeavor began, he started playing with others. “I would shoot 74 or 75,” Hopkins says, rather matter-of-factly. He even made holes-in-one on consecutive days on the same hole, though, because he was by himself, there was no one to witness it. Continued on page 45 ▸ Discover Tipton County 2014 41


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taste of Tipton ★ Gus's fried chicken A book that sits on the counter at Gus's records visitors and their comments.

▸ Continued from page 32

to the franchise locations. "That way we keep our recipe and everything still tastes like the original," she said. Bonner said her nieces, though they are all employed elsewhere, run the restaurant on the weekends, the third generation of Gus's and the fourth since the original restaurant. Bonner said she isn't sure her nieces will keep it or eventually sell it. "They may not want to cook chicken all their lives," she says with a laugh, "but there are not that many people in our culture who can say they owned their own business handed down from their father's father." There's no doubt, their father's father, who died on July 24, 2007, and grandfather are surely proud of the legacy they've left and of the way Gus's has grown. And, to think, it all started in that little blue house on the highway. ★

★ Fun fact

Late last year, a couple visited and was married in the Mason location. "I never expected that," Ann Bonner said, "but I took pictures."

Sports & Recreation ★ butch hopkins ▸ Continued from page 39

When he took the job at Munford two years ago, he quit playing golf cold turkey. “If you do that, you're not doing your job,” Hopkins says. “If I've got time to get on a golf course and play golf, I've got time to be working with my players.” When he was a basketball player for Byars-Hall High School in the early 1960s, he spent four to five hours a day, six days a week, in the gym by himself playing basketball. At the beginning of his sophomore season, he was riding the bench. Coach Don Chandler put him in during the fourth

Brothers Bill and Butch Hopkins coached the Cougars to a district win on Feb. 18.

quarter of one game. He scored 14 points, started for the rest of his career and ended up scoring 1,534 points, the all-time record at Byars-Hall. When Hopkins was in the fourth grade, his older brother and some friends hatched a plan to sneak into the Holmes School gym to play some hoops. Since it was locked, the group enlisted Hopkins to crawl through a small window in the gym and open the door so everybody could get in. “I said, 'Y'all are going to let me play if I'm going to open the door',” Hopkins says. “They let me run up and down the floor with them and they'd throw me the ball every once in a while. That's how I got started.” These days, Hopkins and his brother Bill, who is 74 and Butch's assistant coach, still spend much of their time in a gym. Butch lives in Trenton and Bill resides in Humboldt. But during the week they live in a hotel in Atoka, just across the highway from Munford High School. On a typical day, Butch gets up at 6:30 a.m. and drives his brother to school where he teaches two classes. Butch, who does not teach, goes back to the hotel, plans out that day's practice and watches game footage, which is recorded on VHS tapes.

the University of Arkansas. With a fastball in the mid-90s, Hopkins led the nation in strikeouts as a sophomore, played all across the country during the summer and drew the attention of several professional scouts. He says he threw 232 pitches during one game and regularly logged 200 innings per year. All that pitching eventually took a toll on his shoulder, which led to the end of his baseball career and the beginning of a coaching career that has spanned more than 40 years. He took Dyer County to several state tournaments during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Whether or not he makes it back remains to be seen. Either way, Hopkins is clearly a man who is doing what he loves. “Really and truly, my love was always basketball,” Hopkins says. “I think what I've always liked about coaching basketball is that a coach has the most influence on what is going on … I love working with kids individually. I'm not as wild about the games as I used to be. I really like the offseason. I much prefer coming to the gym, getting a group of guys and teaching them how to play. That's what motivates me right now.”

ing his career, making him one of the state's most successful coaches of all time. While basketball ended up defining his career and life, baseball appeared to be his calling card at one point. His father built a backstop in the family's Covington yard located just two streets away from what is now Covington High School. Butch and Bill spent countless hours out there with their father and Butch ended up earning a baseball scholarship to

“I don't do the digital thing like other coaches,” Hopkins says. He comes to school at 11 a.m., washes uniforms and gets everything ready for practice at 1 p.m. After a three-hour practice, he loads several of his players into Bill's Lincoln and makes a 30-mile trip to take several of his players home. He gets back to school around 6 p.m. and does more laundry before he and his brother eat and retire to their hotel room. The Hopkins brothers' latest coaching stint has been successful. Last year the Cougars, after a dismal previous season, went 20-10, won the district title and finished two wins away from a state tournament berth. This year, with a team that was hit hard by graduation, has gone well too. The Cougars, district champions, expect to be a threat come tournament time. Hopkins coached at seven different schools, including Munford in the 1970s, before his latest stint as the Cougars' head coach. He has won more than 700 games dur-

Discover Tipton County 2014 45

Tipton Christian Academy For over thirty years Tipton Christian Academy has been a lighthouse in the Covington community. We are a ministry of First Baptist Church and seek to provide a quality Christian education and environment in which students can learn. Our curriculum is Christ centered and we employ a staff of dedicated Christian teachers who want the absolute best for you and your children. We are enrolling students in Pre-K through 5th grade for the 2014-2014 school year. We would be honored if you would give us the opportunity to assist you in providing your child an excellent education. Please contact us at 475-4990 or for more information. Lisa Blalack, Director of School

faces ★ municipal manpower

Just a regular guy


mark walker : public works director, munford story by jeff ireland // photos by echo day

On a recent Friday afternoon, Munford Public Works Director Mark Walker was sitting in his office chatting with Greg Scott, one of his employees. The subject of racing dirt bikes came up. Walker, who is 55, races motorcycles during the spring and summer. There's a photo of him on a motorcycle hanging on one of his office walls. “I call him grandpa,” Scott, who is quite a bit younger than Walker, said with a laugh. “We used to ride together until some of us got smart and quit.” “All the time,” Walker said when asked if some people give him a hard time about racing motorcycles at his advanced age. “They used to call it the super senior class. Now they call it the masters class. That sounds better.” The friendly exchange between Walker and Scott backs up both men's assertions that Walker is the kind of boss employees like. “Being an everyday boss, he's good,” Scott said. “He doesn't have a big head or anything.” “I feel like I'm a really easy going person,” Walker said. “I ask them to do stuff more than I tell them. Most of the time they know they have a job to do and they do it.” Walker took over the position in March of last year when Lynn Hughey retired. “Lynn had been here about 20 years like me and we both started doing the same thing,” Walker said. “It was a pretty easy transition.” Almost 22 years ago, Walker took a parttime job with the city cutting grass during the summer. Continued on page 52 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 47

faces ★ gilt edge mayor

48 Discover Tipton County 2014


A slower-paced life steve fletcher : mayor, gilt edge, tennessee

story by jeff ireland // photos by echo day

It's a pleasant eight-mile drive on Highway 59 West from the Covington city limits to Gilt Edge. Along the hilly highway one will see large, well-kept houses perched next to scenic lakes, dilapidated double-wides that have seen better days and everything in between. After crossing a small creek and entering Gilt Edge, the first sign one sees reads, “Miss. River 8 miles, no ferry.” On the left are Gilt Edge Volunteer Fire Department and Gilt Edge City Hall, which are located in metal buildings that are located right next to each other on the same lot. Caddy corner from that is Gilt Edge Café, the most wellknown landmark in town. Rose of Sharon Thrift Store is located at the same intersection and a recovery center is down the road about half a mile. Other than houses, that's pretty much it in this three-square mile town with a population of 479 people. For the residents of Gilt Edge, that's the way they like it. “There are a lot of people who move out here just simply because they like life away from the big city,” says Steve Fletcher, who was Gilt Edge's fire chief for 23 years. He resigned that post two years ago to become the mayor, a position he still holds. “They like the openness of the country, the laid-back atmosphere we have out here.” Fletcher, 56, is a lifelong resident of Gilt Edge. He played a big role in bringing the fire department to Gilt

Continued on page 54 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 49

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Faces ★ parks & recreation

m Never slowing down

richard vandergrift : parks & recreation director, Covington story by jeff ireland // photos by echo day

Most people don't find a way to make a living doing something they love. Richard Vandergrift, the Covington Parks and Recreation Deapartment's athletic director, clearly has. “I'm 61 years old now,” Vandergrift said on a Thursday afternoon from his office in the back of the Covington Sportsplex gym. “It's going to be hard to imagine not being involved in sports.” These days, Vandergrift spends his time overseeing the various activities and leagues the department organizes, with one eye toward the future. “We're constantly looking for new things to do,” Vandergrift said. “You've got to change with society or you're not going to be very active out there.” His career in sports got started in 1973 when he took a part-time job at The Leader while attending what was then Memphis State. He started out developing film in the darkroom. One day he asked to tag

Continued on page 54 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 53

faces ★ parks & recreation ▸ Continued from page 53

along with the late George Whitley to a Covington-Dyersburg high school football game and take pictures. “I had my own 35-millimeter camera,” Vandergrift said. “I actually paid my own way into the game. They ended up using using mostly the pictures I took in the paper … I covered everything from there on out.” Vandergrift started working full-time at The Leader later that year and stayed at the paper for 30 years, serving as sports editor and news editor along the way. During that time, he also became involved in officiating basketball games in various

I have lived in Tipton County since I was a child, and would be honored to serve the county in which I was raised. Bo Burk

Paid for by: Friends to elect Bo Burk

54 Discover Tipton County 2014

church leagues. He ended up spending the better part of 30 years officiating football, basketball and soccer games for the TSSAA, the state's governing body for high school and middle school athletics. He still officiates adult basketball games at the Sportsplex from time to time. Vandergrift's love for sports began while growing up in Maryland. In the 1970s, soccer was big in that part of the country, but not so much in Tennessee and much of the South. Along with some other men in the community, Vandergrift started the Covington Area Soccer Association. Vandergrift was the vice president (the late Dieter Krachen was president) and the organization teamed up the Covington Parks and Recreation Department in 1978, giving Covington the first youth soccer program in the county. He also helped start (and also served as the coach) the first Covington High School soccer team, which got going that same year. Years later, after high school soccer became a sanctioned sport in Tennessee, he was the first coach at Munford and Brighton high schools. Vandergrift took the job with Covington Parks and Recreation in 2003 and tries to help keep the department moving forward. One of the newest programs the department has is an NFL-sponsored flag football league, which starts later this spring.

You've got to change with society or you're not going to be very active out there.

Those taking part in the co-ed league for ages 5-16 will receive reversible replica NFL jerseys and play in games every Saturday from April 4 to May 23. The Covington Sportsplex has a workout room and gym and offers a wide variety of classes and activities including yoga, cross training, tumbling, kickboxing, dancing, cheerleading, racquetball, basketball and soccer. Triathlons, duathlons, fun runs and 5K races are held throughout the year as well. The city pool is used for swim lessons, water aerobics and lifeguard training and also serves as the home for the Manta Rays, a competitive swim team. In August, construction is expected to begin on an enclosure that will make the pool available year round. Last fall, Vandergrift was a driving force behind the formation of the Tipton County Sports Hall of Fame. Late last year the Covington Parks and Recreation 2014 activity guide was mailed out to everyone in Tipton County for the first time. Vandergrift and Amy Payne, the department's director, attended a national parks and recreation meeting in Houston last year and came back with several ideas. “We want to enhance everyone's life,” Vandergrift said. “We're here to provide a service.” ★

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Discover Tipton County 2014 55

faces ★ gilt edge mayor ▸ Continued from page 47

Edge. One day in 1985, Fletcher and Wayne Sloan, who was a county commissioner at the time and later became a Gilt Edge councilman, were enjoying themselves on nearby Leaf Lake. “He and I were fishing, dropping crickets, drinking cold drinks, having a good time,” Fletcher says. “He said, 'Boy, you need to start a fire department.' I said, 'Yeah, right Wayne, I'll get right on that.'” In the following weeks, residents kept coming up to Fletcher, who was a councilman, at Gilt Edge Café and around town and bringing up the idea of a fire department. Residents were tired of losing their homeowner's insurance or seeing rate increases because there was no fire department in the area. In December of that year, about 50 people showed up for a community meeting held to discuss the idea.

By March of 1986, the town had passed an ordinance to establish a city-funded volunteer fire department. The city appropriated $10,000 for a truck and fundraisers supplied the rest of the money. A 1959 GMC pumper was bought for $12,000, training was done, paperwork was filed and the fire department was in business. Homeowners saw their insurance rates drop by 30 percent. “It's amazing when you look back and think about what we did,” Fletcher says. “In six months' time we went from nothing to a fire department.” Fletcher became chief and the department is thriving today with 16 volunteers, including Brandon Fletcher, Steve's son, who is 32. “I thought I would stay with it for a year or two and then step back,” says Fletcher, who is still a volunteer firefighter who conducts training sessions for new volunteers. “It kind of grew on me.” As the mayor of Gilt Edge, Fletcher doesn't have to deal with too many

life and death matters. People call him when their street light is out, a tree has fallen in the road or to fix a pot hole. He also rents out the community center, which can accommodate 70 people and goes for $50 to $100 a night. “With the mayor's position, there are a lot less responsibilities (than as fire chief ). There is a lot less time involved,” Fletcher says. “I've enjoyed it. I enjoyed my time as fire chief, but I have enjoyed not having the responsibilities and stress that go along with being fire chief. I enjoy my role now.” Fletcher is a grain farmer by trade. When he's not tending to that, he can usually be found around town. He built a lake on his property last year and plans to spend more time fishing. There's also a decent chance one could find him at Gilt Edge Cafe. “Fantastic bacon cheeseburgers,” Fletcher says. “Just the best.” ★

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faces ★ poor

Being Proactive jessie poole : chief of police, atoka

M story and photos by echo day

"Most of this was fields and woods," Jessie Poole, Atoka's police chief, says as he drives though one of the town's newer upscale subdivisions. "It's a lot different now, and a lot harder to patrol too." And he would know. As the town's first police chief, Poole began his career with the town in the mid-90s. Until that point, Munford's police officers and Tipton County deputies enforced Atoka's laws. Back then, the town was a lot smaller, it's population boom would take place a few years later, but he still had his work cut out for him as he established the new department. "I didn't even have a badge at first," he says with a laugh. "Inspector (Charles) Yoakum let me borrow his for four or five weeks until mine came in." In his early days as chief, there was an estimated 800 people living in Atoka, now there is an estimated 9,000. There was no school, no Kroger, no movie theater, very few fast food restaurants.

The town's recent growth certainly has its benefits – more residents means more tax revenue which increases funding for city services – but it also comes with its challenges. "(The increase in population) was difficult in terms of staffing and providing service to a population that grew at an alarming rate. We have a lot more people now and the size of our area is bigger and more difficult to patrol." He doesn't let it get to him, though. Instead, he faces difficulties head-on by being proactive. "I don't like to be reactive," he says. And he encourages Atoka residents to be proactive as well, as it can reduce crime in the community. "Neighborhoods are what people let them be. We can't put a police officer on every corner, so we rely on community policing and neighbors watching out for each other. We need them to be eyes and ears for us." He believes in community involvement and says when something like a playground

is installed in a community, its members take pride in and they get involved. He also encourages residents to be proactive when it comes to potential criminal behavior. Identity theft and computer crimes are happening more frequently, for instance, and Poole wants residents to take all of the steps they can to prevent them. "Protect your information the best you can," he says. Protection can come in many forms, whether it's putting a password on your wireless network, pay attention to who's handing your debit or credit cards when you pay for something, check your card usage very often. Other tips, he says, are common sense items, like securing your purse and being aware in your settings. The best thing? "If you see something that doesn't look right, say something. Let someone know." He also sees a lot of domestic disputes and arguments over child custody, but says he does Continued on page 54 ▸

Discover Tipton County 2014 57

faces ★ municipal manpower ▸ Continued from page 45

John Chorley, who was the mayor at the time, approached Walker about cutting grass. “I said okay and never left,” Walker said. “One day they said, 'Hey, do you want to know how to do the water plant and the sewer plant?'.” Walker agreed and gradually moved up the ranks, serving as Hughey's de facto assistant for four or five years leading up to Hughey's retirement. He served as the gas operator and the water and sewer plant operators along the way to becoming the boss of the 14 public works employees. His department oversees the water, gas and sewer systems, as well as street maintenance and garbage collection, which was added in January. Every day at work, Walker said, is different. “There's not a typical day really,” Walker said.

That's probably the biggest misconception. People think they're not doing anything. What they don't understand is that the guy in the hole can't get out to get something. One day he might dispatch a crew to repair a gas or water leak. Sometimes gas or water services have to be installed. The city's automated meter reading system always has to be monitored. The department stays busy, despite what some people may think about public works employees in general. Walker said that when somebody drives by some men working on the side of the road and there are one or two people who appear to be just standing around doing nothing, that couldn't be further from the truth. “They might see one guy on a back hoe,

one guy in a hole and one guy standing by the hole,” Walker said. “What they don't understand is that the guy in the hole can't get out to get something. That's what the guy is there for. And to protect him in that hole in case there's a cave-in or something. That's probably the biggest misconception. People think they're not doing anything.” Walker, like many of the public works employees, is good at fixing things. He worked as a mechanic before joining the public works department and also engraved and installed tombstones for several years while working at Covington Granite Works. “I've always worked on cars and motorcycles,” Walker said. “I've always done my own mechanic work. I guess you could call me a handy man.” His employees seem to agree. Said Scott: “He's just a regular guy.” ★

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small business ★ freckled frog children's boutique ▸ Continued from page 14

retail sales journey that's lasted more than eight years so far. In November, they won the 2013 Minority/Woman-Owned Business of the Year at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center's Rising Star Awards Gala. "We were so excited," Kendra says. "We knew we were getting it, but we had to keep it a secret. It was hard!" The pair says they believe being women – and especially women who have children and grandchildren – helps add to the success of Freckled Frog. "It makes you more sensitive to your customers' needs, you just want to help each other out, which is part of being a nurturer. I don't think men necessarily get fulfillment from that, but it makes women-owned businesses successful in a small market." It's difficult to imagine the state of Freckled Frog if it was operated by men, but trying to do so is entertaining. "If men ran this store, there'd be no gift wrapping, no special events, like the Chocolate Tour," says Kendra. "I'd love to see Daddy and (my husband) Donald up here one day!" There'd be no girl talk, that much is true, but Debbie wonders if perhaps her husband and son-in-law would do an acceptable job. "We've all been in shoe stores where men are fitting shoes for children and they do it well … I don't know about clothes, though." In addition to changing their target market and product line, Kendra and Debbie credit branding their business and making a bold move as keys to the Freckled Frog's success. "Gift wrap is how we branded ourselves early on," Kendra says. "People would go to showers and see the cute wrapping and something cute inside the package, then ask, 'Where did you get that?!' It's been

Robin Thibbado, Kendra Parr, Debbie Apfel and Katherine Coulston celebrate winning the 2013 Minority/ Woman-Owned Business of the Year award in November.

huge for us." Also part of the Freckled Frog brand? Polka dots. They had to receive special permission to put red polka dots on the green awnings that cover their door and windows at their location on the square, Freckled Frog's third home, something they didn't have to do in their second location on the highway. The move from their first location to their second is quite a story: during the recession, Debbie reluctantly moved the business to a building on the highway. "She went kicking and screaming," Kendra says. "Moving to the highway was our Hail Mary pass." As the economy began to decline, the business's sales began to decrease, so the Freckled Frog – and lots of large, multicolored polka dots – moved in to a vacant building across from Naifeh's, just north of its original location on Covington's historic court square.

Going bigger and bolder paid off though, as business didn't decline during that time period. "It didn't grow, but it didn't drop," says Kendra. "We had to do something and, honestly, it helped. I don't regret doing that because it was necessary; you have to do what's right for your business." And, what was right for the business soon meant a move back to the square, back to the we're-all-in-this-together environment they left behind. "We're kinda like a family, and that's what I missed when we were on the highway," Debbie said. Now that they're back, they plan to stay and continue to grow the business where it all started, back where the pace is a little slower, less isolating and better for their customers. Kendra says they have no plans to go anywhere else. "We've realized this is where we really want to be." ★ Discover Tipton County 2014 59

faces ★ chief of police ▸ Continued from page 57

his best not to let these things make him bitter. "Positivity breeds positivity. Negativity breeds negativity. This job will show you the best of humans and the worst of humans. It's not easy." For Chief Poole, the positive outweighs the negative. Among the positives, he says, is the overwhelming support of the community. He credits the town's residents and leaders for supporting the police department through thick and thin and his wife, Becky, for supporting him in his career. "I wouldn't be where I am without her," he says. "She puts up with a lot, from my phone

ringing all the time to people coming to my house, plus she has to hear the police department being bashed when she's out in the community." Chief Poole is humble and likes to give credit to his officers. As a manager, he says he's learned that teamwork and communication are the keys to every successful organization. This is exactly what he says he has with Atoka's current administration. "The town leaders are great and they're progressive, which we need. Along with the community, they've allowed us to be where we're at and words can't express my thanks. " ★

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Atoka's police chief, Jessie Poole, takes a proactive approach to running his department.

Tula Starr Well, my husband, Marshall, has been having trouble with his hearing aids. He was cutting grass and ran under one of the apple trees in our backyard. He is going Wednesday morning to check on getting some new ones. It sure is hard to communicate without hollering.......

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industry ★ ice cream, candy, copper & More

Sweet and brassy

rior t o pr oducing Do you remember? P on plant ice cream, t he C ovingt pr oducts. pr oduced Slim-Fast

62 Discover Tipton County 2014

Home to more than 60,000 residents, Tipton County is also home to industrial giants like Unilever and Charms as well as manufacturing facilities like Mueller Brass, Delfield an Hydratrek. In September, Unilever announced its plans to make the Covington facility the world's most productive ice cream factory. The remodel, construction of a cold storage facility and the additional work load will create at least 430 jobs by 2016. Local Unilever employees produce Breyer's, Popsicle, Klondike

and Good Humor brands. Covington is also home to the Charms plant where every Blow Pop in the world is made. Other industrial facilities located in Tipton County include: ▪ Mueller Brass - copper tubing ▪ Delfield - refrigeration products ▪ Hydratrek - amphibious vehicles ▪ Flex-A-Chart - dry erase and bulletin board products ▪ Tops – Business forms ▪ World Wide Art – promotional products manufacturing

Discover Tipton County, Tenn. | Spring 2014