Trout Fishing in Alleghany County

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photo by John Caveny

April brings warmer weather to the mountains.  More important to anglers, April brings hatchery raised trout to the numerous streams in Alleghany County.  Below is a list of upcoming trout stocking dates for the month.  The names of the stream include hyperlinks that provide maps to these waters.

Be mindful that most of the streams are on privately owned land.  Be a courteous angler.  Use gates and be sure to close them behind you.  Pick up any litter you find and leave the area cleaner than you found it.

The dates are subject to change depending on conditions at the hatchery.  Checkout NC Wildlife for updates or changes.  Click here for fishing licence information.

Location                        April Stocking

Big Glade Creek                      10

Big Pine Creek                         23

Bledsoe Creek                          17

Brush Creek                             10, 23

Little River                                5, 17

Little River                                5         (Delayed Harvest portion)

Meadow Fork                          18

Pine Swamp Creek

Piney Fork Creek                    18

Prather Creek                          18

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Charity Gambill-Gwyn – A Life of Service

IMG_5159As Sparta Town Manager Bryan Edwards recounts the story, he begins with “Charity taught me to ride a bicycle.” He goes on to describe with a laugh of being led to the top of a hill where Charity gave the directions of “pick up your feet and keep the handle bars straight.”  She then gave him a push and sent a young Bryan barreling down the hill.

“Pick up your feet and keep the handle bars straight” could be the motto of how Charity Gambill-Gwyn has lived her life.

Mrs. Gambill-Gwyn was born in the Vox community of Alleghany County in 1941.  She recalls faint memories of her great-grandfather, “Big Charlie” Edwards.  Family history recalls that Mr. Edwards was purchased at a slave auction for $13.  Mrs. Gambill-Gwyn describes this in a matter of fact tone that offers no bitterness or excuses.

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Charlie Edwards

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Charity Gambill-Gwyn (left)

She describes segregated schools in a similar manner.  “We used to wait out by the road and would catch a ride with the mailman to our school at Cherry Lane.  We then rode the bus home in the afternoon.”  Cherry Lane School had grades 1st-8th.  High school for African American students in Alleghany County required a 60 mile roundtrip bus ride down the mountain to Wilkesboro to Lincoln Heights School.  That long daily trip and family financial needs led a teenaged Charity to leave school.  Even though she was out of school, she stayed connected to the educational system by driving a bus and working in the school cafeteria for many years.

Mrs. Gambill-Gwyn married and had four children.  When circumstances changed and she found herself a single mother, she dug in.  “I grew up working.  I hoed corn, milked cows and worked in the fields.”  As a single mother she often worked a public job and when she finished her day there, would work in people’s homes.  “I did a little of everything – ironing, cleaning, housework.  It was hard with four children.  I couldn’t have done it without my mother, Mattie Simpson Carter’s, help.”

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Mattie Simpson Carter

She worked at the Troutman plant until 1974 when he took a job at Dr. Grabow – Sparta Pipes.  In 1981 she was named the environmental health and safety manager coordinator at Grabow.  When she assumed that role, there was no organized safety program at the plant.  She developed programs for inspections and began safety training.  She also oversaw the installation of safety devices on the machinery.  When she began working there the company had over 350 employees.  As a result of their emphasis on safety and training, spearheaded by Mrs. Gambill-Gwyn, the company went ten years without a lost time accident.  She retired there in 2006.

And if her days weren’t full enough, Mrs. Gambill-Gwyn still found time to be involved in the community.  She laughs when she says that she “sold a lot of candy” for the PTA.  She was a charter member of the Alleghany County Rescue Squad which formed in 1969, and was one of three female members and the only African American on the squad.  She retired from the squad in 1999 after serving as the secretary/treasurer for 27 years.  In 1976, she was asked to join the Blue Ridge Electric (Energy) Board of Directors.  She describes Blue Ridge as one of the leading energy co-ops in the country.  “They believe in training, even for their board.  I gained more knowledge serving on that board than I would have gained in college.” She served with Blue Ridge until 2015.  Other service boards include:

In discussing that list, Mrs. Gambill-Gywn says that, “ ‘No’ is not in my vocabulary.”

This combination of work ethic and community orientation caught the eye of former Alleghany School superintendent John Woodruff.  He approached her and encouraged her to run for the school board.  She pointed out that she was a high school dropout.  Mr. Woodruff countered, “But you know the needs of our students.”  She won the party primary that spring and led the ticket that fall.  She went on to serve 16 years on the board.

After 16 years she decided to get out of politics, but the community saw value in her elected role – she was encouraged to run for county commission.  With her win that fall, she became the 1st female and 1st African American county commissioner in Alleghany County.  With the support of Commissioners Ken Richardson and Patrick Woodie, the board voted to begin observing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a county holiday.

charityRecognition for her work has come in various forms – from her selection to the State School Board in 1992 to the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award in 1994 to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine (the State of North Carolina’s highest award) in 2002.  Alleghany County declared June 30, 2001 as Charity Gambill Day and she served as the grand marshal for the 4th of July parade.

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1995 Issue of Carolina Country

These days Mrs. Gambill-Gwyn remains active the community.  She teaches Sunday School and is the church clerk at White Oak Baptist Church, the oldest African American church in Alleghany County.  She loves the outdoors and tends two gardens during the summer.

Charity Gambill-Gywn is fond of saying, “One grows and blossoms where they are planted.”  Our community has reaped an abundant harvest of her being planted in Alleghany County.

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The Dreamers of Alleghany County, NC

by Dale Caveny

I was struck that in virtually every sense, she is an average young American. She wore a T-shirt festooned with the name of a well-known clothier that caters to young adults. Her jeans had rips on the legs – a style common among that age group. She described her years at Alleghany High School in a way many understand – a period of academic rebellion that led to a stern conversation with her father. He described the challenges he had faced and emphasized that he wanted her to have a stable life and career. That conversation resulted in her getting serious about her studies and filling her afternoons with sports.

She is now in college with an eye on a professional career in a city. She is articulate and well-spoken with big plans for her future. She is a Dreamer. She asked that her identity not be revealed because of the uncertainty on the horizon for her and other students.

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Her father came to the United States from Mexico when she was just a baby. She describes him as having always been an independent businessman. He has told her many times of starting an ice cream business in Mexico when he was only 7 years old. His business grew quickly and soon he employed his friends. Once in the U.S., he found work in the construction field in a large southern city.  He came here with his own set of dreams.

Once established, he sent for the family when she was only 3 years old. She crossed into Texas with her mother and brother, and the three were reunited with her father. They traveled across the South until they came to the city where he was working. Her memories of those days are a little fuzzy, but her father often tells her of them living in a cramped one room apartment.

She and her brother slept on couch cushions with her dad’s coat as a blanket. He continues the story with, “…and then we got an apartment with a bedroom and a bed. We lived there a while and then we moved to Alleghany County.”

A family member was already in Alleghany when her family arrived. They settled in quickly. They now had a house with multiple rooms and multiple beds. Her father began doing construction work. The quality of his work created more demand for his services, and he now has six others working for him.

When she was considering college, an older family member told her of the new program, initiated by the executive action of President Obama, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. This program would grant legal protection that would allow her to attend college.

While this program offers protection against deportation, it does not grant her true resident status in North Carolina. While she has lived in this state most of her life and resides here now, because of her immigration status, she is considered a non-resident for tuition purposes. This quadruples her college costs. She accepts this reality with a shrug.

The political discussion of the DACA program and immigration reform is a different story. While she is concerned about the approximately 800,000 young people offered protection under DACA, the protection granted is very personal to her. She would like to visit family in Mexico – she has never been back – but she is afraid that if she leaves she won’t be allowed to return to the United States.

She has family members who work and contribute to our local economy but live in the shadows and on the fringe of our community due to their immigration status. A simple trip to the grocery store could result in an automobile accident that touches off a chain of events that could lead to deportation. She describes lives filled with cautious steps that most of us take for granted.

Immigration is one of the most contentious issues facing our country. It is a complex subject that impacts the social, political and economic fabric of our nation. This complexity often steers our conversations in an abstract direction.

However, for us, here in a rural mountain community, it is an issue that directly affects our neighbors and coworkers and classmates and friends. We tend to look to Washington, D.C. to take care of these complex problems. Perhaps the solution should begin here in Alleghany County.

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Lorene Moxley Sturgill

 

                      “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”                                                                                                           Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)

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Lorene Moxley Sturgill

Lorene Moxley Sturgill traces her family lineage back to Scottish born, William Black who came to America around 1817.  After hearing there were Scottish people in North Carolina, Black made his way to Alleghany County.  While visiting the Allison family, he became ill and was nursed back to health by one of the daughters, Nancy.  The pair married and settled into life in Alleghany County.

In 1961, descendants of William Black gathered at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Alleghany County.  There were family members present from Scotland, South Africa, and the United States.  It was determined that the family’s history should be preserved and a committee was formed to begin that process.  Lorene Sturgill was asked to serve on that committee.  Together, they compiled the family’s history and published a book on the Black family.

Those two paragraphs go a ways toward describing Lorene Sturgill – a strong love of family, an deep appreciation of history, and a curiosity of what lies beyond the horizon.

During the Great Depression, as the economy tightened, Mrs. Sturgill’s father looked beyond Alleghany County to provide for his family.  He took the family to Pennsylvania where he found work on a dairy farm.  He worked there a year before returning to Alleghany.  After a year of struggle back home, he returned to Pennsylvania for another year.  He then returned to Alleghany for good and started a dairy in the Topia community near the South Fork of the New River.

Mrs. Sturgill describes her childhood years in a way that seems both nostalgic and difficult.  She attended Rocky Ridge School, a one room school house.  In sixth grade, Rocky Ridge consolidated with the larger Piney Creek School.  Until the roads were upgraded to allow for bus traffic, she walked three miles to catch the bus to school.  In those years prior to and during World War II, electrical service was scattered around the county.  She recalls carrying water from the spring to their home and visiting neighbors to listen to a battery powered radio.  She says that we take for granted that we can now turn a knob and have water available in our kitchens or press a button on a remote to access hundreds of television channels.  Her earliest memory of the telephone were those that were hand cranked which evolved into party lines and then to phones we can carry in our pockets.

Mrs. Sturgill graduated from Piney Creek in 1943.  Her cousin was working in Baltimore and sent word that there was work available in the city.  Mrs. Sturgill caught a bus in Sparta that took her to Wytheville, Virginia and then on to Maryland.  During those war years she worked at aircraft manufacturer, Glenn L. Martin Company as a file clerk.  “Baltimore was quite a change from Piney Creek,” she said recently with a laugh.  Due to the war effort, many staple items were rationed.  She said that her paycheck included ration stamps that allowed for the purchase of items that were not otherwise available.

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Graduating class of Piney Creek School – 1943
from History of Alleghany County, NC 1859 – 1976

After the war, aircraft production slowed and Mrs. Sturgill returned to Piney Creek.  In 1946, Sid Sturgill was discharged from the military where he had served as an aircraft mechanic in England, France and occupied Germany.  He also found his way back to Piney Creek.  Lorene and Sid rekindled their friendship and were married in 1947.  Their daughter, Ellen Sturgill, writes in the book of the Black family history that, “I have often heard my father say that my mother was the most beautiful woman in the county.”

Sid and Lorene settled into life in Piney Creek.  Sid took over the family farm that had belonged to his father and grandfather.  Lorene worked briefly in Independence and then at the Hanes plant in Sparta.  She left public work to tend to ailing family members and raise their two children.

Those years were also filled with community service as a 4-H leader and an active member of the Piney Creek Homemaker’s Club.  She is a member of the Alleghany Historical and Genealogical Society and a past member of the Alleghany County Library Board of Directors.  In addition to the Black family history, Mrs. Sturgill authored a genealogy book of the Moxley, Hopper and Toliver families.  She and Sid were active collectors of Native American artifacts and spent many hours walking the plowed fields along the New River looking for arrowheads.

And they traveled. They bought a motorhome and traveled all over the country.  They later switched to bus tours.  Over time, they visited 49 of the 50 states in the union.

Lorene Moxley Sturgill is anchored in a community occupied by family for 200 years, in a house that she moved into in the early years of her marriage.  She and her husband played a role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.  She has preserved her family’s history and experienced tremendous technological changes over the course of her life.  Her family adores her and holds her in the highest esteem.  She has a richness and depth to life that is Absolutely Alleghany.

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The books referenced are available from Imaging Specialists in Sparta.

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Sarah Wagg Dalton

IMG_5096A short conversation with Sarah Dalton quickly reveals a quick wit and an engaging personality.  She has a ready smile and exudes confidence in her ability to take on any task set before her.  It is obvious that she is someone who makes good things happen.

Sarah grew up in the Piney Creek community, the daughter of Mark and Judy Wagg.   Her father is the pastor of Pine Fork Baptist Church in Laurel Springs and is also a cattle farmer.  Sarah says that she “spent a lot of time on the farm” as a girl.  She attended Piney Creek Elementary until the family moved to Ennice.  Her mom drove her back to Piney Creek for a while before Sarah settled in to Glade Creek School.  In the 8th grade, she left public school for a home school program.

SarahDalton3The home school schedule allowed Sarah to spend more time with her parents.  While some kids would view that as something less than positive, Sarah cherishes the time with her mom and dad.  Her dad coached Sarah’s home school basketball team which was based out of Galax.  The team played against Christian and private schools with Sarah filling the role of point guard. She counts playing in a large tournament at Liberty University as a highlight of her high school career.

Sarah’s athletic skills carried over to college.  She continued to play basketball at Piedmont International University in Winston Salem during her freshman and sophomore years.

Then Sarah’s life made an interesting turn.

A young man from Pulaski, Virginia struck up a running conversation with Sarah on social media.  He was a friend of a friend and was serving in the US Army at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  As their conversation continued and deepened over time, Sarah felt there may be some potential to the relationship.

Sarah military ball

In November of 2014, Sarah flew to Colorado to visit Dustin.  As the week neared its end, Sarah found herself high atop Pikes Peak where Dustin asked for her hand in marriage.  He was anticipating a deployment to Germany in the near future.  Faced with the prospect of a long distance courtship, they married in January of 2015.

Instead of Germany, the newlyweds were assigned to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  Sarah continued her education through Liberty University’s online program, graduating with a degree in elementary education in 2017.

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Sarah with her parents, Mark and Judy Wagg

As Dustin neared the end of his military enlistment in 2016, the young couple considered where they wanted to live.  As bad as Sarah wanted to return to Alleghany County, she knew she was facing an assortment of personal challenges in transitioning back home.  Since she was home schooled through high school, she didn’t have a network of classmates to help her find a job.  Complicating that further was that she was coming back with a new last name.  It true rural fashion she often introduces herself in relation to her family members.  Her older sister, Stacey Presnell works for the Alleghany County Department of Social Service.  Sarah said with a laugh that, “When I tell people who my sister is they warm up to me pretty quickly.  Everyone seems to know her!”

Sarah began a part-time job with the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce in November of 2016.  Three months later, she also assumed the role of director with the Sparta Revitalization Committee.  The two jobs put her in the middle of many business and community support activities.  She quickly found that there are a number of local organizations doing similar work.  Establishing communication across those organizational boundaries is a key part of Sarah’s responsibilities.

For those not familiar with basketball, the point guard is the team’s primary ball handler and the player who puts the plays in motion.  On successful teams, this player is fully synced with the coach and becomes extension of the coach on the court.  The truly successful point guards often describe having an intuitive sense of where all the players are at on the court.  Most importantly, they know where those players will be and how to set those players up to score.

Sarah Dalton’s life is characterized by this point guard mentality.  She adjusted to being home schooled and developed a group of life-long friends playing basketball. Her trip to Colorado to explore whether a budding relationship had legs may seem impulsive to some, but her family had been praying for a man to come into her life that would be a good mate.  When marriage took her out of the county, she continued her education online.

This leads to a question we must consider about Sarah and other young Alleghany County residents.  Are we willing to give them the ball and then trust them to make the plays that lead to us having a healthy, thriving community?absolutelyalleghanylogosm

 

Zach Barricklow – The Versado Foundation

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The Boston Marathon

Zach Barricklow is a runner.  The word “runner” is a bit if an understatement.  “Distance runner” is a more accurate descriptor.  He has competed in the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, touted as one of the toughest marathons in the country.  He had a 3:04 hour time in the storied Boston Marathon in 2015.  And he is a frequent competitor in 200 mile relay races such as the Blue Ridge Relay and this year’s inaugural Get Outside Mountain Relay held here in Alleghany County.   His success on the race course is reflective of a work ethic that began in his teenage years.

As a 16 year-old, Zach began mowing lawns in his hometown of Brooklyn, Michigan.  His customers grew from 10 in 1999 to 120 in 2005.  To meet this growing demand for services, he employed many of his friends.  The business revenue grew from $5,700 the first year to almost $60,000 six years later.  The success of his business earned an award for Young Entrepreneur of Michigan and paid Zach’s way through college.

During his college years, Zach expanded his service orientation through jobs with the AmeriCorps in Southern California, a Spanish language tutoring program in Michigan, and Habitat for Humanity International in Mexico.  After graduating from Hope College in 2005, Zach became a Peace Corp volunteer.  The Peace Corp challenges their volunteers to “Make the Most of Your World” and Zach set out to do just that in the Republic of Panama.

During his five years in Panama, Zach responsibilities grew from consultant to trainer to associate director.  While his titles and roles changed, he spent those five years on community economic development projects.  Through a network of  governmental agencies and non-profit community groups, Zach and his group helped entrepreneurs develop and grow small businesses.  All his work in rural cooperative development, eco-tourism, community mobilization and volunteer training was focused on empowering local people to develop local solutions that were sustainable over time.

One of the best things that happened during those years in Panama was Zach meeting Lauren Edwards of Sparta.  They shared common values and a desire to empower local community members to take charge of their economic and social destinies.  Zach and Lauren were married on December 29, 2007.

In 2010, Zach and Lauren returned to Sparta.  They were drawn to the close-knit community, the outdoor recreation opportunities, the rich cultural heritage, the beautiful scenery at every turn, and the ability to have a vibrant, engaging social life.  The couple plunged into Alleghany County life with Zach serving on the board of Alleghany County Community Foundation and helping co-found the Blue Ridge Developmental Day, a five-star rated daycare facility.  Lauren put her Spanish language skills to work as  Alleghany County School’s Migrant Education Program Coordinator.

The entrepreneurial spirit was still alive in Zach.  He and Lauren co-founded Barricklow Holdings a commercial property management firm with properties in Boone, Wake Forest, and North Wilkesboro.  They are also co-founders of Anytime Fitness, a 24 hour fitness facility in North Wilkesboro.

Their boldest step was partnering with Zach’s siblings to found and launch Versado Training.  In seven short years, the company has developed a global footprint.  They now have 30 full-time employees who live across the country and employ 100 contractors.  Versado recently earned national recognition as an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies.  This places them in the 99.98 percentile of small businesses in the United States.

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Zach and Lauren receive the Inc 5000 award for having one of the top 5000 fastest growing private companies in the country

A key element of Versado’s mission is to engage in local communities.  To facilitate this vision, the Barricklows setup the Versado Foundation, the nonprofit arm of their business.  Zach has begun transitioning away from the for-profit side of Versado to spend more time with the foundation.  He is using this transitional period as a sabbatical as he begins channeling his entrepreneurial energy into the social sector.

A beneficiary of this transition is Sparta.  Zach has agreed to partner with the Chamber of Commerce and the Blue Ridge Business Development Center to develop a communication and community engagement plan for the upcoming Streetscape project.  It is his hope that this plan will have applications and usefulness long after the work on Main Street is complete.

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Zach and kids

Which brings us back to the thought of the marathon. Most of us can’t just wake up one morning and run 26.2 miles.  To prepare for a run of that length requires incremental and focused action steps.  Runners must attend to minute details and be willing to make lifestyle changes. They must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and have the determination to finish the race well.

Sustainable economic vitality follows a similar path.  There is no simple formula for economic growth.  It takes actionable steps by a number of people working together toward a common goal.  Zach and Lauren Barricklow are committed to helping us grow our community in a way that honors our heritage and culture while meeting the needs of the future.

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Zhen Bin “Jimmy” Li – Golden China

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Jimmy Li

Many of us have nicknames.  For some, it is simply a shortened version of a formal, given name.  Rich for Richard and Bill for William come to mind.  Others are tagged with a term of endearment given to them by a friend or family member.  For Zhen Bin Li, going with “Jimmy” is a matter of practicality in his adopted home.

Jimmy grew up in Fujian province in its capital city of Fuzhou, China.  Fuzhou is located almost due west of Taipei, Taiwan and about 400 miles northeast of Hong Kong along the coastline the East China Sea.  It is a sprawling city of 7.1 million residents with a rich cultural heritage.  Jimmy describes the area simply as “beautiful.”

Jimmy’s father emigrated from Fuzhou to New York in 1990.  He found employment in a restaurant and established legal residency.  It took him five years to settle in before sending for the rest of his family.

Fuzhou

When 19 year-old Jimmy arrived in New York, he spoke no English.  Like his father, he took a job in a restaurant. He took a class in English, but primarily picked up the language by practicing his skills in conversational settings

In the 1990s a family friend opened the Golden China Restaurant in Sparta Plaza.  He asked Jimmy to come to Sparta in 1998 to run the store.  Jimmy and his family have managed the business for the past 19 years.

When asked about the challenges in having a small business in Sparta, Jimmy voices many of the same concerns experienced by most local businesses: maintaining a steady, consistent stream of customers; adjusting to the seasonal fluctuations of customer traffic; and dealing with the occasional disruptions caused by weather.  In addition to these work related challenges, he is faced with trying to maintain a work/family life balance.  The store is open from 10:30 am until 9:30 pm six days each week with Tuesday as their only day off.

Jimmy’s family works alongside him in the restaurant.  His wife, Biao Yun Cai (pronounced Be-Yow Unoon), and his sister pitch in by taking customer’s orders and helping cook.  His parents also help out during peak times.  Jimmy and Biao Yun’s daughter is a 4th grader at Sparta Elementary and can often be found in the dining area of the restaurant.  Many in Sparta have seen Biao Yun zipping around Sparta on her pink scooter.

When pressed about why he has planted his family here in Sparta, Jimmy quickly runs through a list of attributes: the quiet mountain setting, good neighbors, low crime rate and a place where he fits in.  Jimmy takes the mindset of fitting in and extends it to his customers.  He has a strong base of Hispanic patrons, many of whom speak limited English.  So, Jimmy has learned basic Spanish to help his Spanish speaking customers feel welcomed.  It makes for an interesting lunch experience to hear Jimmy toggle back and forth from Chinese to English to Spanish while he juggles taking an order by phone, ringing up a customer and cooking the next dish.

When we think of international melting pots, our thoughts generally steer toward cities like New York or Los Angeles with their sprawling ethnic communities. Sparta doesn’t seem to remotely fit that category. But, a quick survey of businesses along Hwy 21 through town offers an alternative definition and viewpoint.  Manuel Rivas Alvarez of La Mexicana Restaurant is from Spain and his wife, Janet, is from Bolivia.  The Torres family of Mis Arados is from Mexico.  Ofelia Killeen hails from Peru. Gill Thadani of Gill’s Jeans and Things is from India and spent time in Hong Kong.  And Jimmy Li and family is from China.

On the surface, this international flavor challenges of stereotype of what it means to be Absolutely Alleghany.  But a closer examination reveal these business owners plug in perfectly to our community.  They bring their unique perspectives and skills, and integrate them with local residents.  Jimmy Li words may best describe this group of residents: good neighbors with a longing to fit in.

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Call in orders to Golden China can be placed at 336-372-6938.