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Stirring up memories


At home in Bainbridge
October 24, 2006

Suppose you are a boy growing up in St. Petersburg, Fla., right beside the Gulf of Mexico.

Birthdays would be hard. How could you possibly want anything when all the sand, surf and ocean fun lies outside your door? Ask 16-year-old Ben Richard about this the next time you see him.

He'll tell you how every year as the calendar flipped toward his October birthday, he always asked his dad, also Ben, and mom, Kim, for just one thing.

"Let's go hunting. Please, let's go hunting!" And just about every year, the family hopped in the car and headed north for Ben's birthday treat.

They didn't hit the road going just any place. No, they aimed at the one place they thought best for hunting and fishing, the place they thought might be maybe the very best place in the world—Decatur County!

As a very young man, Ben Sr. signed on as a Marine. He traveled all over the world serving in hostage rescue. He'd thought it might be his career. After a little over five years, when young Ben joined the family, the Marine decided he was better off with a job where he could be home. He joined UPS and enrolled at Eckerd College and life rolled along in St. Petersburg where he and Kim both grew up. (Ben also has Michigan roots.)

A couple of years ago, the family decided to reassess their life. The family was growing. Not only that young Ben and his older sister, Elizabeth, were growing up, but also baby Owen joined them. Time to make some changes. They had longed for a simpler life, one with more family time. Kim's family's corporate insurance business was at a place where she could leave the firm. Ben was ready to go out on his own.

What to do? That was easy for Kim. She ached to be a stay-at-home mom. Ben wanted to be in business for himself.

"Anything I did, I wanted to stay within my knowledge base," he told me. Put it together—the shipping industry and a small business.

Ben left UPS in October 2005.

"Best thing I ever did." The family did lots of research. Where to move? What to do?

The where to go was straightforward—they wanted a small town with good hunting and fishing, not to mention good schools and good people. They already knew Bainbridge and deeper conversations with local acquaintances locked in their choice.

The family settled into their new Bainbridge home during the weekend of July 28 this year, just in time for young Ben and Elizabeth to start at Bainbridge High School, and for Owen (he is almost 2 now) to help Kim unpack all those boxes. And Ben? Time for Ben to open up shop.

Aug. 4 was Ben's grand opening and now that's where you'll find Ben six days a week—at his new Goin' Postal shop in the stores between Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

After a great deal of research and weighing of opportunities Ben and Kim found the perfect opportunity. It's the industry Ben understands in the town where they wanted to live. All the ingredients for a happy ending.

How is it working out? Great. The kids love Bainbridge High. Elizabeth is taking a couple of Advanced Placement classes and young Ben is more than thrilled to be here now that hunting season has rolled around.

"They wouldn't even come to the grand opening," Ben confided to me. "They didn't want to miss school."

Owen and Kim have made themselves part of the community as well. They're at the library a couple of mornings a week for the Storytime sessions. They haven't only heard great stories; they have also made some wonderful new friends.

Ben is quickly becoming part of the business community. Already he's active in the Chamber of Commerce and the Football Boosters.

It's great to have a family like the Richards here in the town we all love.

Here's something else that's great. Kim shared her mother's more-than-special blueberry charlotte. I've got family coming for the holidays. I can't think of a better way to welcome them!

Blueberry charlotte
1 cup sifted flour, plus 2 tablespoons
pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons white vinegar
dash cinnamon
3 cups blueberries
confectioner's sugar

For the crust, combine 1 cup flour, salt and 2 tablespoons sugar. Work in the butter with a pastry blender. Mix in vinegar. Spread the crust a quarter-inch thick across the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a nine-inch spring form cake pan.

Prepare the filling by combining 1 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, the cinnamon and two cups of the blueberries. Pour into the crust and bake at 400 degrees for an hour.

Remove from the oven and spread the remaining cup of blueberries across the top. Let cool and remove from the pan. Sprinkle sifted confectioner's sugar over the top.

When I said that this sounds like the perfect way to top off Thanksgiving dinner, except for all the trouble, Ben and Kim assured me that it can be prepared ahead. In fact, it may be better if it is. How could it be any better?

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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network