In all likelihood, the name Fred Daitch means nothing to people in southeast Texas.
But there’s a good chance as many as 4,800 people in that water-logged section of The Lone Star State have worn, or are still wearing, the Augusta businessman’s clothes.
Daitch, the owner of International Uniform Inc., a retailer of specialty uniform and health care apparel, sent cases of medical scrubs and security-style uniform shirts to the Hurricane Harvey-ravaged region with help from a small band of local volunteers who quickly sprung to action a couple of weeks ago.
The downtown businessman didn’t offer up $95,000 worth of inventory solely for a write-off; the brick-and-mortar apparel business isn’t exactly a cash cow these days. He didn’t do it to improve his reputation in the community; it’s already stellar. He didn’t do it for attention or accolades; this is the same man who skipped a ceremony in Washington where he was to receive a presidential citation for his Hurricane Katrina contributions in 2005.
Daitch didn’t seek attention for the recent donation, either. He never issued a press release, called a TV station or promoted himself via social media.
The only reason I found out is because he happened to call me for advice. Specifically, to ask if could mine my social network for a nonprofit that could actually deliver his cache of dry, clean clothes to disaster victims. He was specifically was looking for “boots-on-the-ground” volunteers; his experience with well-known – i.e. well-funded – nonprofits is that they aren’t the most nimble organizations in times of crisis.
“I don’t want these boxes to end up just sitting in a warehouse somewhere,” he told me. “That’s no better than keeping them at my store.”
I’m no nonprofit guru, but having been a Rotarian for more than a decade and a former director for Junior Achievement of Augusta, I know a few people. So I was happy to help broker Daitch’s donation.
My first call was to Laurie Cook, a former JA executive and the current head of Communities in Schools of Augusta-Richmond County. She’s also a member of the Columbia County Rotary Club.
It turned out to be a “one call that’s all” deal, because within 24 hours a host of civic-minded professionals sprung into action, including fellow Rotarian Lee Wheatley of PM&A Consulting Engineers; Patrick Wells of Piedmont Landscape Management, a member of the Martinez Masonic Lodge No. 710; and Morgan Stanley’s Jeremy Wilson, a member of the Valley of Augusta Scottish Rite.
After much leg work and a couple of dead ends, this cadre got connected with Larry Bullard, the pastor of The Vine Church in Grovetown, who was able to get Daitch’s 700 boxes of clothes – along with other donated goods – on several Penske rental trucks to distribution centers in the most flood-ravaged regions.
“I am happy and humbled to make this donation of clothing,” Daitch told the volunteer group at the end of the multi-day email thread.
None of the aforementioned people asked for recognition, nor did I seek their “OK” to write about what they did. If I’ve embarrassed you, sorry. This is what I do for a living.
And I’d much rather write about a topic such as this than about why the Sonic Drive-In on Furys Ferry Road has closed (though I’ll get to that shortly).
It’s uplifting to see the spirit of generosity that exists throughout our region, particularly in the current climate of unbridled cynicism, in which civic groups, fraternal organizations, churches and eve capitalism – the very thing that allows philanthropy to exist – seem to be increasingly maligned in popular culture.
Keep in mind this particular donation drive was just one example of what was surely hundreds or thousands of unreported and unacknowledged acts of kindness that emanated from our region during Hurricane Harvey.
Now that our focus has shifted to a much more local problem, Hurricane Irma, there will be an even greater need for this region’s humanitarianism to shine bright.
I have no doubt that it will.
HOLLYWOOD COMES TO TOWN: Besides one’s love for their fellow man, the thing people seem to care about more than anything these days is their pets.
In fact, based on the way some people act, they might actually love animals more than their fellow man.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, you most likely want the Fido or Whiskers in your life to have the best of everything. Well, by next summer, there will be one more place in town to find nourishing pet nosh: Hollywood Feed.
The regional chain known for high-quality and organic critter vittles is expected to open by June in the Sprouts Farmers Market-anchored Crane Creek shopping center in west Augusta.
Brittany Gilliam, Hollywood Feed’s chief operating officer, said Augusta’s growing economy and the success of the 58-store chain’s seven metro Atlanta-area stores motivated the Memphis, Tenn.-based chain to expand here.
“When we looked at Augusta, we felt it was another one of those communities that we could fit into really well,” she said.
The 3,500-square foot store is under construction in front of the upscale Grand Oaks at Crane Creek apartment complex at the corner of Walton Way Extension and Interstate 20.
Hollywood Feed, named after Memphis’ Hollywood Street, sells food and toys for dogs and cats, but primarily dogs. It’s high-end dog food brands such as Fromm, ORIJEN and Acana are perennial best sellers.
Locating next to a specialty grocer such as Sprouts makes sense because people who eat well also tend to feed their pets well, Gilliam said.
“People are becoming more conscious about how they treat themselves and, with their dogs being family members, are becoming more conscious about what they buy for their dogs,” she said.
Gilliam said the store plans to partner with local rescue groups to host adoption days, and that employees undergo 40 hours of education each year on nutrition and veterinary trends. She said the typical store employs four to five people.
DOG DAYS ARE NOT OVER: Brian and Lisa Getson recently sold The Animal House, the doggie day care, boarding and grooming facility off River Watch Parkway, to Eric Austin, ending a 14-year run they started out as a “ridiculous idea.”
“According to most of our friends and all of the banks at the time,” the couple said in a message to their customers.
The couple plans to remain at the Riverwest Drive business for a brief transitional period before turning the keys and the care of their loyal customers’ pets to Austin.
“We’ll let the new owner, Eric, properly introduce himself, but know that he and his wife own other successful pet related businesses and that we feel that we can confidently turn “our baby” over to them and that they will carry on, and maybe even improve upon, our vision,” they said.
NO (HOT) DOGS HERE: It’s gone from tots to nots at the Martinez Sonic Drive-In.
The burger joint at the corner of Furys Ferry Road and The Pass abruptly closed a couple weeks ago. A sign on the door alludes to an electrical issue, and the folks running the 13-unit local franchise group apparently don’t want to talk about the problem or when, or if, the restaurant will reopen.
A person identifying himself as the manager of the Washington Road Sonic in Evans said: “We’re not answering any questions on that.” Then he promptly hung up on me.
I then called the regional office and left a message for the operating partner, Mark Irvin. As of this writing, I still haven’t heard back. Same story with the messages I left with Rick McMurtrey, who developed the Furys Ferry property and was responsible for bringing the drive-in chain to Augusta more than two decades ago.
So your guess, as they say, is as good as mine.
I will say that particular location has been somewhat of an outlier since it opened 10 years ago. It didn’t look much like a Sonic when it was built. It looked even less like a Sonic when the owners eliminated the carhop service. Then it ceased to be a Sonic for a while – becoming a barbecue-rib joint – before reverting back to a Sonic.
Who knows what it will be next?
DENTAL ALLEY: Just up the road from the shuttered Sonic is the future location of Dr. David Alemar’s dental office, which will be in the Professional Circle office complex next to the Church of the Holy Comforter. He’ll be moving from 3128 Washington Road as soon as his new building is finished.
The practice will be less than a mile from Drs. Alan and Eliza Myers’ newly opened Myers Dental at the Furys Ferry Town Center office park next to West Lake.
SPEAKING OF DRILLIN’ AND FILLIN’: I wouldn’t be surprised at some point to see more Aspen Dental practices open in the metro area. There are nearly 650 of the general dentistry franchises in 36 states.
Two have opened up in the metro area in just the past two years: one in Augusta on Wrightsboro Road and one on Whiskey Road in Aiken. A third is under construction on Knox Avenue in North Augusta.
Though the brand is national and most non-dental administrative work is handled elsewhere, the offices are staffed by real, live local dentists – just like your independent practices.
DON’T FORGET THE OTHER DOCS: The easy-access, multilocation dental care model is very similar to what you see on the medical side, with companies such as MedNow, Urgent MD and PerfectHealth – the latter of which is in the process of building its third area office on Peach Orchard Road – opening offices all over town.
But the provider that is most aggressively blanketing the region with quick-service health care facilities is an actual hospital: University Hospital.
The nonprofit community hospital is recently opened its fifth Prompt Care facility in North Augusta on Sweetwater Road and is in the process of building another one in south Augusta at the corner of Peach Orchard and Phinizy roads.
That 22-acre property was previously owned by South Point Church, which recently merged with Stevens Creek Community Church.
University Hospital CEO Jim Davis recently told The Chronicle more Prompt Care facilities are planned for Aiken and Columbia counties.
An interesting aside: Sherman & Hemstreet’s Joe Edge, who brokered the sale, said the land University purchased was once the Weis Drive-in Theater.
OLD IS NEW: The Metro Diner chain, which has carved out a niche by reinventing age-old comfort-food recipes (think meatloaf), says its Augusta restaurant will opening in mid-October.
Metro Diner operates more than three dozen eateries in the region and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. The Florida-based company is planning to hire up to 100 people to staff the eatery at 2820 Washington Road.
If that address sounds familiar, it’s the former Somewhere in Augusta building in front of the National Hills Publix supermarket, which, for the 15th time, has not been sold.
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.