Peach Buzz Summer 2024

Vol. 15 | Summer 2024  

Local Window on the Economy

An Appetizing Growth Trend

Surge in Restaurants Attracting Diners From All Over

Ron Quinn
President & CEO
Peach State Bank

More people are moving to Hall County and visiting here every day, which is great for building up our workforce and economy. It’s also serving up a tasty side of more restaurant options to the delight of fancy gastronomes and simpler palates like mine.

According to the latest Census report, our population of over 217,000 residents now ranks us among the top ten largest counties in Georgia. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, but it’s not just us locals packing the tables at dining establishments from Antebellum in Flowery Branch to the newly reopened Scott’s Downtown restaurant in Gainesville.

Have you noticed lately the number of people you don’t know when eating out around here? Recently, I talked to two young couples from Alpharetta at Gainesville’s popular Recess Southern Gastro Pub. “The word’s out about Gainesville’s great restaurants,” they told me. “And we’re telling all our neighbors.”

Even my two grown sons, who now live in Atlanta, love coming home to experience our “cool” restaurants and comparatively lower menu prices. For a longtime resident like me, it’s a complete reversal of traffic patterns from the days when we escaped to Atlanta for fine dining.

Ten years ago, Gainesville was home to fewer than 100 restaurants, mainly national chains. Today, there are over 180 and many more locally owned choices, according to Robyn Lynch, the city’s tourism director. In addition to the downtown area, she says most new dining options are popping up along the new Midland Greenway, while the Green Street/Park Hill Drive corridor is next in line for new restaurants coming soon.

With the addition of King’s Hawaiian’s Hello Hilo, Taco Mac, and other franchise restaurants, Limestone Parkway in East Hall is another developing magnet for multiple dining options.

Trendy Braselton Dining

Similar patterns are taking place in South Hall. Since the 2015 opening of Cotton Calf Kitchen, a super-sophisticated steakhouse, Braselton has seen a surge of fine dining establishments and trendy nightspots like Blake’s speakeasy bar. The city even has a Cocktail Trail that you can follow by trolley car.

Like Gainesville, Flowery Branch’s downtown has been undergoing redevelopment that already has attracted at least four new dining options in a single block.

While even more growth in our local restaurant-scape is predicted, it does my heart good to see our traditional hometown spots still thriving. From Longstreet Cafe in the north to Papa Jack’s in South Hall, the Southern-fried spirit is alive more than ever –– as beneficiaries of a population boom that still hasn’t lost its hunger for community.

As our dining revolution expands, Stacey Dickson of the Lake Lanier CVB envisions a further refinement of taste options. She says to look out for more diversity in under-represented cuisines such as French or African. The 2 Dog Café under new owners is expected to reopen soon in Gainesville with a menu featuring Indian dishes. Other recent examples are the Vietnamese Pure Pho restaurant in the Dawsonville Highway area, the Peruvian Soco’s on Brown’s Bridge Road, 4 Elephants Laotian cuisine in Flowery Branch, and Cotto Modern Italian in downtown Gainesville.

In 2016, Left Nut (now known as Liquid Nation) was our first brewery to open in Gainesville. A few years later came The Braselton Brewing Company, then most recently No Fo Brew Company and Jekyll Brewing in Midland. Along with Cork-It in Gainesville and Braselton, expect to see even more tap rooms and wine bars in our future, according to Dickson.

All this activity appears to be feeding a wave of local culinary arts programs at Lanier Technical College (with 100 percent job placement) as well as at Hall County’s Bistro at The Oaks, a student-run restaurant with a 4.5 rating on Open Table. Instructors there, trained at the Culinary Institute and Le Cordon Bleu, are mentoring our next great chefs and restaurant owners.

Our Symbolic Farm-to-Table Evolution

Through the years, we tend to see a lot of turnover in restaurants as people’s tastes change or the economy sours. Such ups and downs likely will continue, but for the overall dining sector here, I don’t foresee any downturn in the near future – even in the face of inflationary food prices. Although it’s only been a few years since the dark days of the pandemic, activity in new restaurant loans and renovations is now stronger than ever.

Across Hall County, the restaurant scene is certainly a byproduct of our growing demographics and urbanism. But it also represents an interesting outgrowth of our historical economic roots in poultry and food production. From that perspective, you might say we’ve truly come full circle in our farm-to-table evolution.

Board Spotlight | Abit Massey

The life and career of Abit Massey, known far and wide for his career promoting Georgia’s poultry industry, might have been different if not for two coincidental encounters.

The first was a chance meeting that took place in the late 1950s. An Athens native, Abit was the director of the Georgia Department of Commerce when he was invited to speak at the Gainesville Rotary Club. Walking through the downtown square afterward, he ran into attorney and friend W.L. Norton, Jr.

“W.L. was representing the Georgia Poultry Federation, and they were looking for a staff person,” Abit said. “I gave him the names of four or five people in nonprofit work that I thought would be good. We said goodbye and as I was walking away, I turned around and said, ‘W.L., put me on that list, too.’”

A few weeks later, he was offered the job that would become his lifetime passion.

So it was that the Georgia Poultry Federation brought newlyweds Abit and Kayanne Massey to Gainesville in 1960. “Kayanne said she was fine with me taking the job,” Abit recalled, “but she also reminded me that we didn’t know a chicken from a duck.”

He was a quick learner. Abit remained GPF president until 2009 – and still serves the organization today as president emeritus.

The story of how Abit and Kayanne met involved another fortuitous meeting that forever shaped their lives together. It happened in 1959 when Abit’s service with the Jaycees civic organization crossed paths with Kayanne’s participation in a beauty pageant.

While serving as Jaycees state president, Abit had a goal to establish new clubs throughout Georgia to get more young men involved in their communities. One of the nearly 50 new clubs happened to be in Calhoun – you guessed it, in the hometown of Kayanne Schoffner.

At that time, the Calhoun Jaycees were sponsoring the first Miss Georgia/Gordon County Pageant. One of the contestants was Kayanne, who was a freshman at Agnes Scott College. She won the county pageant, then took the state title a few months later at the 1959 Miss Georgia pageant in Columbus.

Kayanne later turned Abit’s head at the Georgia Capitol, where he spotted her with Gov. Ernest Vandiver signing a proclamation for Miss Georgia Day. By chance, he saw her again weeks later in Buffalo, New York. This time, Abit was attending a conference to promote Georgia tourism. So, too, was the reigning Miss Georgia.

Not wanting to waste a second chance, Abit immediately asked her for a date – though it came with a few hitches. First, he had no car and had to borrow one from a friend. He also learned that Kayanne, as Miss Georgia, traveled with a chaperone – which happened to be her mother.

“So, on our first date, we drove from Buffalo to Niagara Falls with Kayanne’s mother in the backseat,” said Abit, who happily was able to win over both ladies.

“Thinking back, if I had not been involved in starting

Abit Massey serves as Peach State Bank Community Development Board Chairman.

that Jaycees club in Calhoun, I might have never met Kayanne or had the chance to ask out my future wife,” he said.

When her reign as Miss Georgia ended, Abit and Kayanne soon married and moved to Gainesville to begin his career with the Georgia Poultry Federation. Kayanne finished college at Brenau as they started their family with son, Lewis, and daughter, Camille.

Both children are Gainesville High graduates. Like his father, Lewis is a University of Georgia graduate who later earned his MBA from Georgia State University. Lewis served as Georgia’s Secretary of State (1996-99) and is now a partner with Impact Public Affairs, an Atlanta government relations firm. Camille graduated from Syracuse University and earned her law degree from the City College of New York. Camille recently became president of Synergos, a global nonprofit based in New York.

Abit is equally proud of his four grandchildren. Lewis has three children. Chandler is a three-time Emmy award-winning actor on the Days of Our Lives TV series and is currently acting in Hallmark Channel movies. Camryn is a public defender in New Jersey and Christian works for Comcast in Atlanta. Camille’s daughter, Lucia, is a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Abit grew up in Athens, attending Athens High before graduating from UGA. His parents, Ed and Lydia, emphasized the importance of education to their six children.

“They were determined that we got all the education we wanted,” Abit said. “Most of us got two degrees.”

Ed and Lydia Massey operated a downtown Athens restaurant, Co-ed, to fund their children’s college education. Co-ed featured good Southern cooking, and Abit worked there during high school and college, waiting tables and working the old-fashioned soda fountain.

Abit’s contributions to Georgia’s poultry industry are too many to list. But he is most proud of the programs initiated to provide support for poultry farmers and companies. Abit helped lead the push to build research facilities at UGA and Georgia Tech as well as the creation of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network.

That same drive has benefited Peach State Bank. His tireless work as our Community Development Board chairman has greatly influenced our growth and success. We are forever thankful that Abit and Kayanne found each other -- and that Gainesville found them for a lifetime together.

Memorial Markers Project Honors Gainesville’s Veterans
Rotary Club of Hall County building 200 memorial markers for Memorial Day.

We’d like to salute our senior mortgage loan officer, Mickey Hyder, for his work with the Rotary Club of Hall County to honor veterans through a signature service project, Salute Our Veterans.

The project entails building and displaying memorial markers in honor of veterans. Working in collaboration with the local Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans organization, Mickey and his club will be recognizing brave men and women who have served in the United States military by placing personalized markers along Gainesville’s city streets on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

“For our club, it’s a big project,” Hyder said. “We look at ourselves as the little club with a big heart. It’s really been a labor of love between us and the Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans, who have been instrumental in raising money for the project.”

A visit to nearby Dahlonega in 2022 by the club’s Service Projects Chair Dianne Cammarata spurred the idea.

After Dianne and her husband drove through the small town’s streets during Veterans Day, they were moved by the beauty and breathtaking display of markers honoring local military veterans. Dianne said she knew in her heart that Hall County veterans deserved the same recognition.

Hall County’s Salute Our Veterans kicked off last year for Veterans Day with 104 markers placed around the Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans Park in downtown Gainesville. For Memorial Day this year, an additional 200 markers will be placed at the park and along Green Street.

"We want them to have a prominent place where people can see them and read each veteran’s name," said Hyder, who served in the Army.

Mickey Hyder

While Veterans Day serves as a tribute to all veterans, Memorial Day holds a special significance as it honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

As Memorial Day approaches, the Rotary Club is diligently working on building the additional markers. This year, the club received invaluable assistance from Leadership Hall County, whose members made the marker production their class service project. Gainesville High School donated its construction workshop for the production of the markers.

The memorial markers can be purchased for a one-time fee of $100 or $104 when paid by credit card. If you have a loved one who served in the military and you work or reside in Hall County, you can have a memorial marker made in their honor. The white marker features the veteran’s name and branch of service.

or visit the Rotary Club of Hall County’s website.
customer spotlight | Rand and Macy Carswell

Raising the Bar on Food and Beverage in Gainesville

Rand and Macy Carswell are working to open Decoy, an “eatertainment” style restaurant in downtown Gainesville.

For Rand and Macy Carswell, good simply isn’t good enough.

Since returning to their hometown two years ago, the restaurateurs have set their sights on elevating Gainesville’s food and beverage industry.

First on their list was reimagining The Chattahoochee Grill, located next to the Chattahoochee Golf Course off Tommy Aaron Drive, into a local mainstay.

“It was just a really good opportunity,” said Rand. “There's a lot of potential on this side of the bridge because there's not as many restaurants or hangout spots over here.”

“It gave us a chance to elevate what was already there,” added Macy.

The Carswells bring a rich, varied experience to the Gainesville food scene. Rand is a classically trained chef who graduated from Johnson & Wales culinary school in Miami. He cut his teeth in the booming food truck scene of south Florida. Macy worked in bars and restaurants all throughout college. Both have a huge heart for touching people’s lives through food.

At The Grill, Rand runs the food and back-of-house operations while Macy focuses on the cocktail program and front-of-house. The pair make a perfect team.

Their goals were to create a homey, “Cheers-like environment” and improve the food and beverage offerings at the Chattahoochee Golf Course. On both fronts, they’ve been successful. The Grill offers excellent bar food for lunch and dinner, plus seasonal specials and craft cocktails.

Popping and Decoying

Once the Carswells got The Grill firing on all cylinders, they started exploring new ventures. Their next idea was Pop Catering & Events. They partnered with Kathleen Brown, a local artist and designer, to offer a full food, drink, and decor experience for birthdays, tailgate parties, baby showers, and more.

“That's kind of what we think about,” said Rand. “How can we bring something that nobody's doing, change it up, and make it better? All we want to do is to help elevate Gainesville as a whole. Especially for us in the food business, we want to try to keep raising the bar for everybody. Even though we're a small town, there's no reason why we can't have the quality or hospitality of a big city.”

For Rand, entrepreneurship runs in the family. His grandfather, the late John W. Jacobs Jr., founded Jacobs Media and WDUN, the area’s largest radio station. Rand’s mom, Elizabeth Jacobs Higgins, is a member of Peach State Bank’s Community Development Board.

But Rand and Macy’s “true baby” is their most ambitious project yet: Decoy, an “eatertainment” style restaurant in downtown Gainesville featuring duckpin bowling, golf simulators, classic arcade games, high-tech mini golf, and—of course—phenomenal food and drinks. The restaurant is set to open in June.

Through it all, the Carswells said, Peach State Bank has been in their corner.

“It is an absolute community of a banking institute,” said Rand. “They know us. They know our names. We feel very welcomed and comfortable there. We use them for everything, and it's just been an absolute pleasure dealing with them.”

The restaurateurs have even gone so far as to pitch the bank to other entrepreneurs and business owners. “We wouldn’t think of using anyone else. I’m not someone who normally pitches banks, but I pitch Peach State Bank to people all the time.”

In all their ventures, Rand and Macy are animated by a spirit of generosity, hospitality, and community.

“We absolutely love this town, and we’re so happy to be back here,” Rand said. “All we want to do is good for it. Everything that we do centers on, how is this going to be better for Gainesville as a whole? What can we do to help make it a better place?”

digital security tips | Criminals Like to Go Phishing – Don’t Get Caught!

In today's digital age, phishing attacks have become a prevalent threat to individuals and organizations alike. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics, making it more challenging to identify and protect against their malicious activities. It is essential to be aware of the risks and take proactive measures to safeguard personal and financial information.

Phishing attacks often rely on deceptive “social engineering” techniques to manipulate unsuspecting victims. Fraudulent email or text messages may appear to come from reputable sources such as banks, government agencies, and well-known companies with online accounts. After gaining your trust with a fake identity, they create a sense of urgency or fear, compelling you to act quickly without thinking critically.

Tips to Stop the Phish:

  • Pay close attention to any variations in the domain name or misspellings in the email sender's name. Cybercriminals often create email addresses that closely resemble legitimate ones, hoping to deceive recipients into believing the message is from a trusted source.
  • Hover over links to preview the actual URL before clicking on them. This allows you to verify if the link matches the expected destination. Cybercriminals often disguise malicious links by using similar-looking URLs or redirecting users to fake websites to steal vital information like usernames and passwords.
  • Be wary of messages asking you to disclose sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or financial details. Reputable financial institutions will not ask for information that way.
  • Add an extra layer of protection by using two-factor authentication on your accounts when available.
  • If there is any doubt, do not respond to the message. Contact the bank or credit card company to see if it is a legitimate request.

Savor the Flavor: The Jack McKibbon BLT Luncheon Returns on Aug. 7

Our popular BLT Luncheon in honor of Gainesville business legend Jack McKibbon is set to return this summer on Wednesday, Aug. 7, at our Gainesville headquarters.

This free noontime event, which attracted over 1,000 attendees last year, promises to be a delicious celebration of the iconic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

Now in its 28th year, the Jack McKibbon BLT Luncheon has become a summertime tradition in Gainesville. Originally conceived as a casual gathering among friends, the event was initiated by McKibbon and his friends Howard Whelchel, Lee Martin, Brent Danneman, Howard Page, Joe Wyant, and George Seelke. Over the years, it has grown into a must-attend occasion for locals.

Since 2017, Peach State Bank has proudly hosted this cherished event, and

Last year’s BLT luncheon drew over 1,000 attendees.

we invite everyone to mark their calendars and join in the festivities.

Whether you're a seasoned attendee or a newcomer eager to experience a tasty tradition, the Jack McKibbon BLT Luncheon is a delicious celebration of community, BLTs, and the enduring legacy of a Gainesville business legend.

EMPLOYEE spotlight | Candice Nanney
Candice, center, is surrounded by her family, Katie, Scott, Bennett and Cameron.

Known as ‘Mom’ at Home and ‘Red’ in the Banking Industry

For Candice Nanney and her husband, Scott, banking is more than just a career—it's a family affair. Candice is Peach State Bank’s Senior Vice President Controller and Scott is River City Bank’s Market President in Blairsville.

“We talked about the allowance for loan loss on our first date,” Candice joked. “Banking is a sexy language. We eat, sleep, and breathe banking, though I don’t think we’ve brainwashed any of our children to be interested in banking. They think we sit in front of a computer and that Daddy talks on the phone all day.”

Candice, who joined Peach State Bank in November 2020, first connected with the bank as an auditor. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2006, she started her career at an accounting firm (Porter Keadle Moore) that specializes in auditing banks. With Peach State as one of her customers, she got to know President & CEO Ron Quinn and Executive Vice President & CFO Charles Blair.

Seeking a change of pace and wanting to work closer to her home in Clermont, Candice transitioned from public accounting to banking. “I called Charles (Blair), and the rest is history,” she said. “It’s been a great fit. I love being on the banking side, and I love being closer to home.”

Growing up in Monticello, a small town near Macon, Candice wore many hats—valedictorian, prom queen, teller at the local bank, and even Miss Hurricane. Her red hair earned her the nickname “Red,” a moniker that has stuck through her banking career and used by colleagues and friends alike.

Candice and Scott have three children: Katie, 16, Bennett, 9, and Cameron, 5. The family is very involved with their church, Concord Baptist in Clermont, where Candice serves as treasurer and teaches the toddler class. Her children have busy schedules that keep Candice happy and on the go.

“When I leave the bank each day, I’m headed for the second shift,” she laughed. “It’s the carting of the children for all their activities.”

Much like the small-town atmosphere of Clermont, Candice says Peach State has a family feel. When she and her children were in a serious car accident a few years ago, Candice was stunned by the outpouring of support from both her community and her colleagues.

“My daughter and I sustained injuries that we will feel and deal with for the rest of our lives, but we are thankful because it could have been much worse,” she said. “We are still so thankful for how our village of friends, our families, and my Peach State family rallied around us during that difficult time.”

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121 E E Butler Pkwy | Gainesville, GA 30501 | Phone: (770) 536-1100 | Fax: (770) 536-2525