The Gwinnett County Board of Education has approved the realignment of schools that will make up the new Seckinger High School cluster that will go into effect when the new high school opens in a little more than a year and a half.
These are the top stories from the past week.
GCPS realigns schools in north Gwinnett to create new Seckinger cluster
Parents of Gwinnett County Public Schools students in part of north Gwinnett now know what cluster their kids will be in starting in 2022.
The Gwinnett County Board of Education has approved the realignment of schools that will make up the new Seckinger High School cluster that will go into effect when the new high school opens in a little more than a year and a half. It includes three elementary schools, a middle school and the cluster’s namesake high school.
“A little subcomponent of redistricting allows us to move entire schools through a process called realignment,” Gwinnett County Public Schools Associate Superintendent for School improvement and Operations Steve Flynt told the school board during a presentation last week. “(This) is not a full redistricting, but a reminder that we’re looking at actually just reassigning three elementary schools and one middle school to be the feeder schools for the Seckinger High School.”
- By Taylor Denman firstname.lastname@example.org
Information provided to the school board on Nov. 19 show the new cluster alignment will go into effect in August 2022, which is when Seckinger High School is set to open its doors.
“We do want parents, we want teachers to know (about the realignment) so, over the next year when we step this work up even more, they’re going to know where they’re assigned for those students to go as far as the cluster (is concerned),” Flynt said.
The three elementary schools that will be in the new cluster include Harmony and Ivy Creek elementary schools, from the current Mill Creek cluster, and Patrick Elementary School, from the current Mountain View cluster.
Jones Middle School, which is currently part of the Mill Creek cluster, will serve as the lone middle school for the new Seckinger cluster.
Aside from having a new high school that students at those elementary and middle schools will matriculate to, the biggest change will be felt by Patrick Elementary School families. While students at Harmony and Ivy Creek elementary school already matriculate to Jones Middle School, Patrick Elementary School students currently advance to Twin River Middle School.
- By Taylor Denman email@example.com
Flynt said Patrick Elementary School used to feed into Mill Creek High School, but currently feeds into Mountain View High School.
“(Patrick) needed to move to the Mountain View cluster because of overcrowding, and now Mountain View is overcrowded, so bringing Patrick back will balance enrollment very well across all of the three clusters,” Flynt said.
Gwinnett DA Danny Porter says he doesn't see election loss as judgment on his job performance
The longest serving district attorney in Gwinnett County history, and possibly in Georgia history, will leave office at the end of this year. But Danny Porter doesn’t see his re-election loss earlier this month as a condemnation of the job he did as the county’s prosecutor.
It’s just a sign of Gwinnett’s changing politics, he said.
Porter, who has been Gwinnett’s district attorney for 28 years, was defeated by his Democratic Party opponent, Patsy Austin-Gatson, in the Nov. 3 election. The longtime prosecutor will wrap up his time in office at the end of December.
“I don’t see it as a statement on the job that I have done as district attorney,” Porter said. “I think my record and my accomplishments stand up on their own.”
What cannot be denied is that Democrats had a strong showing in Gwinnett on Nov. 3 with a blue wave washing through the county’s elected office.
With the exception of a few legislative seats and one Gwinnett Board of Education seat, Democrats swept nearly every local office on the ballot on Nov. 3, taking control of the county commission and school board, the sheriff’s office and the District Attorney’s Office.
“When you look at all of the differences between Republican candidates and Democratic candidates (in county-wide races), it’s somewhere around 40,000 to 60,000 votes,” Porter said. “It’s clear there were a lot of people voting straight ticket.”
And that blue wave was not confined to Gwinnett.
Porter was not the only Republican district attorney in metro Atlanta who was defeated amid a surge by Democratic Party in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. In Cobb County, which is like Gwinnett in that it was a traditionally Republican county that experienced a blue wave on Nov. 3, incumbent District Attorney Joyette Holmes was defeated by her Democratic Party challenger, Flynn Broady.
Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia Executive Director Pete Skandalakis said, in all, 15 district attorneys are leaving office at the end of this year. Nine of them, like Porter and Holmes, are leaving office because they lost re-election bids while another six are leaving because they chose to retire rather than seek re-election.
That’s nearly one-third of the district attorneys in Georgia, according to Skandalakis.
“I’ve been doing this for well over three decades and I do not recall a time when we have had this many new DAs coming in (at one time),” he said.
Another metro Atlanta district attorney’s office that is switching parties in January, with a Democratic coming into office, is the Douglas County DA’s office. The difference between the situation in Douglas versus the ones in Cobb and Gwinnett, however, is that Douglas’ Republican district attorney chose to not seek reelection this year.
“Dalia Racine will be taking his place and so that’s a Democrat coming in for a Republican, and then you’ve got Gwinnett and Cobb,” Skandalakis said. “In metro Atlanta, I can’t think of another (Democrat replacing a Republican district attorney).”
As for Gwinnett, the PAC’s executive director echoed Porter’s sentiments that his loss was not a verdict on the job he’s done as a prosecutor.
“Danny Porter is the consummate professional, and well-respected not only in the state of Georgia, but perhaps throughout the country,” Skandalakis said. “I agree that the public probably just wanted a change and it wasn’t a reflection of Danny’s job because, if you look back at the job he’s done, he’s prosecuted every type of case imaginable.
“He’s prosecuted police officers who have violated the law and he’s just done a great job.”
Under Porter’s watch, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office has put a heavy emphasis on victim’s rights and, in the last decade, has gradually built up a special victim’s unit within his office over the course of multiple county budgets.
He has also hosted a candlelight vigil at Christmastime to honor the deceased victims of crime in Gwinnett — although this year’s vigil will likely be done virtually because of COVID-19.
Porter said he is proud of several things his office has done.
“Probably, No. 1 is the expansion and emphasis we placed on victim’s rights and serving the victims,” he said. “Then another thing is ... we basically treated cases without regard for who that person was or who they might be connected to. We treated it based on the evidence, based on the law.
“And finally, we were fearless. We weren’t going to (back down). If there was a possibility of a way to prosecute someone that was new or untried, we went ahead and tried it.”
As far as what he’ll do after he leaves office, Porter said he has offered his services as a prosecutor to the PAC as well as the attorney general’s office for conflict cases.
“I don’t intend to open my own practice or get involved in civil law or anything like that,” he said.
Skandalakis said he plans to take Porter up on the offer.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that when the right case comes along, Danny Porter will be one of the people we reach out to,” the PAC executive director said. “And, I’m sure the attorney general would also welcome an opportunity to have Danny prosecute some type of cases that fit in that area.
“Danny has a lot of expertise and a lot of experience, and it would be a shame to waste it.”
Gwinnett temporarily closing intersection near downtown Dacula, starting this week, for transportation improvements
Gwinnett drivers will have to take a new route to get through an area near downtown Dacula — at least for a little while — starting Monday.
The Gwinnett Department of Transportation announced portions of Harbins Road and Dacula Road will close at 10 a.m Monday and drivers will be detoured onto McMillan Road and Broad Street. The detour is designed to accommodate work on improvements that are being made to the intersection of Dacula Road and Winder Highway, also known as state route 8, as well as an upgrade to the nearby railroad bridge.
“While we are pleased to get to this phase of the a much-needed project, we do recognize the significant impact this closure has on the traveling public,” Gwinnett County Transportation Director Lewis Cooksey said. “We are working closely with the contractor to get the work done as quickly as possible and to get the roadways fully reopened. The county and the city of Dacula are working to communicate with residents to ensure they are aware of the pending closures and to request that motorists choose alternate routes when possible.”
County officials hope to have the intersection reopened, and to have two traffic lanes open on the new bridge, by the end of the year. That will depend on weather conditions during December, however. Once the bridge is completely finished, which will require additional construction, it will have five lanes of traffic.
The portion of Harbins Road that will be closed is between Winder Highway and Freemans Mill Road. County officials said only local traffic will be allowed on Harbins Road between Freemans Mill Road and McMillan Road.
At the same time, Dacula Road will be closed between Auburn Avenue and Winder Highway. The county will only allow local, school and voter traffic on Dacula Road, between Broad Street and Auburn Avenue, during the closure.
Signage is expected to be installed along the route, with a temporary signal in place at McMillan Road and Harbins Road.
Law enforcement is expected to provide work zone support in the area during peak traffic times, according to county officials.
Continued COVID-19 response funding is one of Gwinnett County Public Schools' top legislative requests for 2021
COVID-19 response-related funding is one the items Gwinnett County Public Schools will ask the county’s legislators to consider when the Georgia General Assembly convenes in Atlanta next year.
Gwinnett County Public Schools has divided its legislative priorities, which were approved by the county’s school board earlier this month, into four area: governance, funding, fiscal and school improvements, and continuing positions.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, school system Executive Director of Administration and Policy Jorge Gomez told the school board on Nov. 19 that the district would like to funding made available in the state budget to help schools address ongoing issues related to the pandemic, in 2021 and 2022.
That is in addition to asking the legislators to consider extending governance flexibility established this year in response to the pandemic.
“We are going to ask the Gwinnett delegates to consider that when they are amending the 2021 budget, and developing the ‘22 budget, that they remember that due to the pandemic, all school systems, and certainly Gwinnett, had costs associated with the pandemic and PPE, staffing, etc.,” Gomez said.
“We’re going to ask that they consider that in their funding formula to try and provide us with as much as they can to help with those areas.”
The school system, county government, Gwinnett health department, Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett Technical College will present their legislative priorities to the county’s legislative delegation during their annual pre-legislative session meeting next week.
The meeting is scheduled to take place at 8:05 a.m. on Dec. 3 in the auditorium of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.
The annual pre-session meeting is an opportunity for the colleges, school system, health officials and county government to talk to the county’s legislators about issues they feel should be addressed in the Georgia General Assembly during the upcoming legislative session, which will begin in January.
The public is invited to attend the meeting, which typically lasts the entire morning, but there is limited seating in the GJAC auditorium now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many seats blocked off to allow for social distancing.
The meeting can, however, be viewed live at gwinnettgov.webex.com/gwinnettgov/onstage/g.php?MTID=ecf8ea237f5239e20a493f59b564ab871.
Gwinnettians who would like to call in and listen to the meeting can call +1-408-418-9388 and use the access code 173 794 7775.
Gwinnett County deputies have arrested suspect in Aug. 2 fatal shooting in unincorporated Lilburn
A suspect wanted in connection with a murder that occurred near Lilburn in August was arrested by Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputies this week.
The sheriff’s office announced the arrest of Christopher Jean-Pierre on Monday. County police confirmed on Wednesday that Jean-Pierre was a suspect in the death of Snellville resident Julius Vance, 22, who died after he was shot on Aug. 2 in the area of 745 Beaver Ruin Road in unincorporated Lilburn.
There were two other shooting victims in the incident, but their identities have not been released. It is believed that the three shooting victims traveled to the scene of the shooting together.
“During their investigation Gwinnett Police Homicide Unit developed probable cause to charge Jean-Pierre with the Felony Murder of Julius Vance, along with Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime,” Cpl. Ryan Winderweedle said. “The investigation is still active and detectives are still following up on leads.”
Police and firefighter paramedics responded to the scene of the shooting after Lilburn police officers working at an off-duty job reported hearing gunshots.
In August, police said the shooting appeared to be drug-related and that suspects were seen fleeing the scene in multiple vehicles.
Anyone who has information about the shooting is asked to call detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477. They can also visit www.stopcrimeATL.com.
There is a cash reward offered by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest and indictment. Tipsters should reference case Nos. 20-057172, 20-057182 and LP20001909.
Federal labor officials say Gwinnett Dunkin' that denied paid sick leave to employee who had COVID-19 has agreed to pay back wages
A local operator of a Dunkin’ location in Suwanee agreed to pay more than $1,000 in back wages after federal investigators began asking questions about sick leave that was denied to an employee who tested positive for COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recently announced the agreement made with the restaurant, which is operated by Suwanee-based Boston Coffee Inc. The federal agency said the restaurant, which investigators accused of violating the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, paid $1,040 in back pages to the employee as part of the agreement.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is protecting the American workforce during the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring employers comply with all of the requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” Atlanta-based Wage and Hour Division District Director Steven Salazar said. “The Wage and Hour Division encourages employers to use the multiple tools we offer to gain a clear understanding of their responsibilities under this new law, and avoid violations.”
The Dunkin’ worker went into self-quarantine after testing positive for the disease, but the restaurant’s owners denied the worker emergency paid sick leave, according to the Department of Labor.
That move by Boston Coffee, the federal agency said, constituted a violation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The agency did not specify when the employee tested positive for COVID-19, or the specific address for the store.
Investigators from the Wage and Hour Division contact the employer about the issue, and the company not only agreed to pay the back wages, but also comply with the requirements laid out in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in the future.
The Department of Labor said the act was created to offer tax credits to employers with less than 500 employees who provided employees with “paid leave for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members.”
The tax credits are used to reimburse the employers for the paid leave “while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus,” federal officials said.
Corporate officials from Dunkin’ said they have no involvement in the operation of individual restaurants — but they added there is an expectation that local owners will not violate any laws.
“All Dunkin’ restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who are responsible for making their own business decisions, including but not limited to hours of operation, employee wages and the benefits they offer their employees,” the company said in a statement. “They are required to comply with all applicable local, state and federal laws.”
Aurora Theatre looking ahead to new possibilities as Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center construction continues
As he walked around the unfinished shell of the Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Aurora Theatre co-founder and producing artistic director Anthony Rodriguez’s mind drifted to the possibilities the facility could provide.
The center is effectively an expansion of the Aurora with the city of Lawrenceville having an agreement with the theater to manage it. The new facility will have a larger stage with an orchestra pit for productions, more rehearsal and backstage space and even an outdoor performance area and an art walk.
“The size of what we’ll be able to do with scenery that can be flown in and out and the capacity to have that orchestra pit and trap space, it’s just very different from what we’re capable of now,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, the musicals won’t necessarily change. It’s just the size of what we’ll be able to do will change.”
Officials from the Aurora Theatre and Carroll Daniel Construction took reporters on a tour of the still unfinished performing arts center this week, providing a glimpse at how far along construction is at the facility. Officials said the center is about 50% complete with a targeted completion date of around the end of May 2021.
The Aurora isn’t scheduling its first major event in the new facility until October, however, to allow time for possible construction overruns or issues that could arise that need to be addressed. They are planning to host some smaller events at the site before then, however, particularly after the outdoor performance plaza is completed around April.
“It’s incredibly exciting to see what is happening and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Rodriguez said. “There are probably organizations across the country that may have been able to partner with a city and create one facility. The fact that we’re working on our second one with the city of Lawrenceville (the existing Aurora space next to the center was the first) and an expansion of this size is pretty incredible.”
One of the possibilities that the Aurora’s co-founder envisions for the theater, once the new center is finished, is the chance to do multiple productions at Christmastime. The Aurora will still have its existing stage in a renovated former church next to the center, and it will continue to stage its annual Christmas Canteen there even after the center opens.
That will leave the larger stage in the center available to lease out to larger traveling or seasonal productions, such as a Nutcracker production that can’t get into other nearby performance facilities because they are already booked, Rodriguez said.
“Our production model has got to change a little bit because of COVID,” he said. “The financial hole that COVID has put us in, we won’t be able to produce our way out, so we’re going to have to partner with more people — people that are willing to lease the space, maybe events that are willing to come in, things like that — so that we can increase that revenue instead of trying to (produce a way out).
“You know, with producing a show, the margins are very small so there’s just no way for us to come back from an event like this by trying to do as many events as possible. That just wouldn’t happen.”
Aurora Co-Founder Ann-Carol Pence added that the local theater group and the city wants to the center to also feel welcoming to traveling productions.
“The region needs a place where they feel like it’s their home instead of just a rental so we really want to be a community gathering space,” she said. “That’s kind of the model by which we’ve operated.”
Eastside Medical Center becomes home to G.R.E.A.T. Little Minds book exchange
Gwinnettians have long gone to Eastside Medical Center for their health care needs.
Now, they can also go there to exchange books for young children.
The hospital installed a Gwinnett Reading Exchange and Art Transformations — or G.R.E.A.T. — Little Minds book exchange at its main camps us in Snellville last week in honor of American Education Week. Eastside will act as stewards of the book exchange for three years, making it responsible for keeping it full of books designed to cater to children up to 8. The exchange will be located outside the hospital’s south entrance.
The artwork on the exchange, totaled “Books on the Go” was painted by local artist Cathy Ensing. A virtual ribbon cutting was broadcast on Eastside’s Facebook page on Nov. 16.
“At Eastside Medical Center, we’re invested in building healthier communities where our patients live and our colleagues serve,” Eastside Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Trent Lind said. “This book exchange is just one small way that our Eastside family can support early childhood learning in our community.
“Our goal through this initiative is to play a part in fostering a pathway of educational success for the great little minds that will one day influence the future of Gwinnett County and perhaps even grow up to care for patients here at Eastside.”
G.R.E.A.T. Little Minds is a campaign designed to provide public art, as well as offer access to early learning children’s books, in communities that have scarce access to book. Local residents can stop by the book exchange and pick up books for their kids as often as they would like.
Eastside officials cited Gwinnett Coalition of Health and Human Services stats which show 52% of Gwinnett County kids don’t have the necessary skills for lifetime learning when begin kindergarten, and that 61% of low-income children do not have access to books in their homes. That’s why the G.R.E.A.T. Little Minds program was created — to increase access to books for young kids, according to the hospital.
“The vision for G.R.E.A.T. Little Minds is to have 150 free book exchanges painted, adorned and transformed into works of art providing free access to early learning books in communities that need them most,” Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services program coordinator Lecia Young said. “We currently have 45 book exchanges installed in Gwinnett County and hope to have 75 by the end of this year.”
After a year that included post-fire rebuilding and a global pandemic, Crave Pie Studio hoping for big Small Business Saturday
The last 13 months have been filled with challenges for Crave Pie Studio owner Briana Carson.
In October 2019, a fire at a neighboring business damaged her pie shop in downtown Duluth and she had to close the shop for repairs. It came right as one of her normally busiest times of the year, Thanksgiving, was approaching. With no shop, she couldn't fill any orders for the holiday season.
Then, as she neared being able to reopen her shop, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which more or less brought life to a standstill for small businesses owners everywhere. Even though Crave Pie's shop was able to reopen over the summer, another business that had to close because of damage from the same fire that temporarily closed Crave Pie ultimately never reopened due to COVID-19, Carson said.
"It took eight months to get back in (the shop) and we finally did, and here we are in the middle of COVID," Crave Pie's owner said.
It's because of the pandemic, and the hit small businesses took from having to close or at least considerably scale back the number of people who could be in the shops at one time, that this year's Small Business Saturday is more important than it's been in a longtime, according to Carson.
That annual spotlight for small businesses during the post-Thanksgiving period is coming up this weekend.
"It's vitally important," Carson said. "It has so much impact on our community and people are becoming more aware of that now, of how keeping their spending in the local community benefits the local community."
As a sign of how the pandemic is hitting big and small businesses, however, the National Retail Federation is projecting that shoppers are more likely to do their Christmas shopping online rather than going to a physical store as reports of rising case numbers emerges.
That is expected to not only affect Small Business Saturday, but the day before it, Black Friday, as well.
Sixty percent of shoppers who participated in a holiday planning survey by the federation said they planned to buy at least some holiday items, including gifts, online this year, continuing a trend where online shopping has surged during the pandemic. For shoppers who do decide to do at least some shopping in a store, those businesses will have to take steps to ensure safety because of the pandemic.
National Federation of Independent Business State Director Nathan Humphrey said even shopping online from a small businesses website is a way to support locally owned businesses if a person can't make it to the store in person.
"Georgia's economy was doing well until the pandemic reached us," Humphrey said. "Since then, shoppers have had to avoid crowds as much as possible. Retailers have installed plastic shields at the checkout, while restaurants have reduced capacity or limited themselves to take-out or delivery. Some businesses tried to cut their losses by closing temporarily, but some of them still haven't reopened, and some of them never will.
"That's why it's important for people to support local businesses on Small Businesses Saturday and throughout the holiday season. Small businesses aren't owned by some faceless corporation based someplace else. They're owned by and employ our families, friends, and neighbors."
Gwinnett Chamber Senior Director of Membership Services & Small Business Initiatives Cally D’Angelo added, “It is more important now than ever to support our local small businesses, the backbone of our economy. As a consumer, you can make conscious decisions that will help support our small business community and we encourage everyone to Shop Small this holiday season.”
Carson said there's a lot of uncertainty about what Small Business Saturday will look like this year, in turns of shopper turnout, because of the pandemic.
"I don't know what to expect this year," she said. "I don't know if anybody knows what to expect ... My hunch would be that we're going to have a good, strong Small Business Saturday in (Duluth) because people, the community, has really rallied around small businesses.
"If it weren't for the community understanding the importance of shopping local and shopping small, so many of us would have gone belly up."
Carson said she was fortunate that the fire that closed her shop in late 2019 forced her to make the kind of pivot small businesses had to make during the pandemic nearly six months before COVID-19 arrived in Georgia. It was not until June that she could reopen her physical shop in Duluth following eight months of repairs.
She switched to doing a "Pie It Forward" program for awhile, offering her customers a chance to buy pies that would in turn to delivered to, initially first responders, and later health care workers during the last year's holiday season and during the early days of the pandemic.
"We delivered almost 1,200 pies in the early months of the pandemic," Carson said. "That literally kept our doors open, kept our employees employed and people in the community told us how much they appreciated being able to do something.
"They couldn't go out and volunteer, so being able to do something to support a small business and show appreciation to first responders really, really resonated with people."
With the store open once again, Carson and her team at Crave Pie have been busy filling orders for Thanksgiving. The shop took online orders only for Thanksgiving pies this year.
But, perhaps the biggest testament to how Carson has persevered as a small business owner, and continued to serve her community and fellow small business owners, during the pandemic is that she opened a second business next door to Crave.
That business, Provisions On Main, opened in August and is designed as a place where local artisan food vendors products can be sold. Carson buys the products from the vendors and then turns around and sells them to customers.
She'd thought of the concept before COVID-19, but the pandemic spurred her to put it into action.
"On one hand, it's maybe a bad time to open a business in the middle of a pandemic, but on the other hand, it's a good time to open this kind of business and just shine a spotlight on the local makers," Carson said.
The vendors whose food is sold at Provisions on Main are people who normally make a living from selling their products at farmers markets and traveling around to festivals. Those are two avenues that are largely closed to these entrepreneurs because of the pandemic.
Everything from macaroni and cheese made by a vendor in Atlanta to whipped honey from a vendor in Savannah, traditional honey from a vendor in Suwanee and push pops from a vendor in Atlanta are sold in the store.
"What I'm trying to do here is give them a platform to sell (their products)," Carson said. "Having started Crave Pie as an independent food maker, I kind of have a heart for the makers. It all kind of ties in and relates and is a result of COVID."
Both Crave Pie and Provisions on Main will be open for business on Small Business Saturday, even if they have to scale back somewhat on how all out they go to make it special for shoppers.
BRACK: Lawrenceville’s 'Country Club' — Hometown Barbeque — has closed
For about 50 years, residents of Lawrenceville have traveled south a few miles on U.S. Highway 29 to eat at what was sometimes called “the Lawrenceville Country Club.” Of course, there was no bona fide country club, with golf and tennis, in the area.
This facility was a small restaurant in what was once a Sinclair service station. Among its operators were Hoke Houston, and later on the Crowe family. Stanley Gunter bought it from the Crowes. When the highway was four-laned, Gunter moved it slightly north and opened what has been Hometown Barbeque.
In 2004, Gunter sold Hometown Barbeque to Martha Kelly, 72, and George Richbourg, 70, good friends and partners, who both feel now is the time to retire. Hometown Barbeque’s last day of operation was Nov. 21.
What eventually became the Kelly-Rickbourg operation started in 1999 out of a concession trailer in the parking lot of The Prescription Shop in Lawrenceville. Richbourg, Martha’s late husband and another person served barbecue and other sandwiches on Fridays and Saturdays. Martha recalls: “They did that for five years, enjoyed it, and found it was fun and a good way to meet people.”
During that time, George’s daytime job was as a finance executive for Kubota Tractor while Martha was teaching fourth and fifth grade at Benefield Elementary School. Martha had met George through his involvement with the school and its PTA after George moved to the area in the early 80s.
Meanwhile, Martha’s husband, a chef, and the other partner got out of the business. Eventually Martha and George both left their regular jobs, became partners full time on Labor Day weekend in 2004, and bought the former Gunter’s operation. They have been serving at the location ever since. They began perfecting their barbecue and offerings, working nights and weekends to get their restaurant off the ground.
And now both are retiring. Martha told us: “I’m just going to take it easy, and not feel tied down. I’ll clean out my house, do some traveling perhaps, and enjoy life.” Richbourg, too, is ready to settle into full time retirement. Martha is a native of North Carolina, and a graduate of the University of Florida.
Our best to these two hard workers in their retirement.
Hometown Barbeque for years was the regular meeting site for a group of Lawrenceville “good old boys,” who gathered there for lunch each Thursday and Saturday at noon to enjoy one another’s company. Martha called them the Lunch Bunch, and it included many politicians, attorneys, bankers, a few elected officials — all men — just to chew the fat. Wayne Mason points out that at the end most of the group sat at a Republican table, and three or four Democrats usually sat at another table.
Bill Atkinson, a regular at the Thursday and Saturday lunches, recalls that there was another person who had first bought the eatery Houston operated. Bill says: “That was Charles Moore, but after two weeks, he sold to the Crowes, saying that running a restaurant was too much work.”
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