Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Nicolle Meadows ~ Reservation & Office Manager


So enchanted with Evins Mill after celebrating her anniversary with us in early 2021, Nicolle made a career change and joined our staff when the opportunity arose. A Nashville native, Nicolle spent the previous fourteen years in property management in both Nashville and Franklin, and now lives in Bellevue with her husband Dave and two kids Elizabeth & James. 

Responsible for both individual reservations and corporate events, Nicolle also manages our Nashville reservation office and performs a variety of bookkeeping tasks as well. She is a most welcome and talented addition to an already talented Evins Mill staff.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

2021/2022 Upgrades


After we completed our kitchen renovation and expansion in early 2019, all remained quiet on the physical plant front until earlier this year, when we decided to make several more significant investments in our facilities. The upgrades outlined below are either completed, in progress or on schedule for completion by end of first quarter 2022.

Overnight Accommodations

  • Upgraded lamps/lighting in all rooms *
  • Upgraded seat cushions for rocking chairs on all decks *
  • Added side table on all decks *
  • Upgrading carpet, flooring, paint color and other fixtures/furnishings in Creek Side rooms
  • Upgrading paint color and cabinetry in Creek Side bathrooms
  • Replaced wooden countertops with granite at beverage stations in Solstice rooms *
  • Adding beverage stations to Creek Side rooms
  • Adding refrigerators in Evergreen rooms 
  • Upgraded couches in Solstice common areas *
  • Upgraded side/coffee tables in Solstice rooms & common areas *

Taylor Hall

  • Added two chandeliers *
  • Added window treatments *
  • Upgraded carpet & paint color *
Main Lodge
  • Upgraded carpet in dining room & rest of Lodge *
  • Upgrading upholstery in dining rooms
  • Upgrading Manning Overlook to year-round and private-use

Grounds

  • Replacing wooden bridge with steel, clear-span bridge
  • Added up-lights to Gristmill & Granary *
  • Added string lights to Hammock Bower *

* Completed



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Michael Jason Evans

Considering the history of Evins Mill as a business, there are a few watershed moments. Its founding in 1994 would be one, as would be major construction projects. Maybe the year it first made a profit should also be on that list. But without doubt, the addition of Jason Evans to its staff roster fifteen years ago is another milestone, for he has transformed the business in profound ways.

So profoundly that it’s fair to reference a “pre-Jason” era, one marked by a revolving staff line-up, inconsistent service, average if not erratic quality of cuisine, and bleak bottom lines. Today however the business thrives – and does so in part for the quality and tenure of its staff, as well as for its reputation for first-class food and service. Jason has been instrumental in developing both.

Born on July 13, 1976 to Dorothy Knipfer and Michael Evans, Michael Jason Evans lived in Smithville from birth through his senior year at Dekalb County High School, where he excelled in a variety of arenas – so much so he was voted by his classmates most likely to succeed.  

He was straight-A student with a 3.7 GPA, participated on the quiz bowl team, and played on the school’s basketball squad. The most pivotal figure for Jason in high school however was not a coach but the teacher of a culinary arts class, who alerted him of culinary opportunities after graduation and beyond Smithville.

Another seminal influence in high school was a trip with the 4-H Club to Chicago, Jason’s first encounter with a world-class city. The experience was in his words “eye-opening and emboldening,” strengthening his resolve to leave Smithville, pursue his culinary ambitions and explore the world.

So, when Jason’s guidance counselor encouraged him to attend a four-year college, Jason declined and instead listened to his heart. Indeed, he was rare among teenagers in that he had a clear vision of his profession and career – and more than that, was brave enough to pursue it. Needless to say, that vision involved his passion for food.

Food and cooking were integral parts of Jason’s life from an early age. With a mother who worked full-time, Jason was often responsible for preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for himself and later his younger half-brothers. On weekends with his grandparents, he remembers preparing polk salad and fried squirrel. He also savors the memory of grilling out with his father - slow cooking pork loin on a wire grate.

Cooking wasn’t confined to family. Jason also worked at the Smithville McDonald's and became a manager at the age of seventeen, which meant getting up at 4:00 a.m. to open shop – an insurmountable challenge for a normal teenager. While in most respects his time at McDonald’s was superfluous to his culinary dreams, it did help him develop important kitchen skills – namely organization and speed.

After graduating from DCHS, Jason embarked on a three-week long, 2,000-mile road trip. While driving cross country in a ’78 mustang without air conditioning, Jason and a friend visited the Grand Canyon and a famed corner in Winslow, Arizona, Zion National Park in Utah, and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, among other sites and states. 

Upon his return, he enrolled at Sullivan College in Louisville, KY, where he was in his words “a sponge,” soaking up all there was to learn and acing his classes. Finishing the two-year program in 18 months, Jason eventually accepted a position with Clipper Cruise Lines, where he worked from 1997 to 2002.

Hired as an entry level chef, Jason’s initial job was preparing cold foods on a stint from Jacksonville to Charleston. He would soon graduate to the level of Executive Chef. Whatever the position, shipmates worked all the time – every day from breakfast through dinner for three months straight. The work was so relentless that Jason – a hard worker by any measure – mused at one point if he would stay the course.

His next stint, a cruise through the Great Lakes, was more encouraging – not because the workload was lighter, but because he was now in charge of hot foods, working in closer collaboration with other chefs. He may have also been encouraged by the company of Sharon Webster, who was a Guest Attendant on the ship and who would later become his wife.

Over the next few years, the company expanded its destinations beyond North America, with cruises to Europe, South America, Antarctica and Asia. Jason leveraged the ship’s destinations into his own travel opportunities, which included jaunts in the Caribbean, New Zealand and Philippines. His favorite adventure was a trip to the Greek Islands – and that figures, for Sharon was one of his travel companions.

Under the guise of being just pals, Jason and Sharon would take several other trips together. Behind the platonic pretense though, Jason had strong feelings for Sharon. They started dating in 2001 and married two years later – not long after Jason joined Evins Mill as its Executive Chef. In 2007, their daughter Sylvia was born, while their son Wade was born two years after that.

Jason’s transition to Evins Mill was something of a fluke. On a trip to Nashville in 2001, Jason and Evins Mill proprietor William Cochran randomly bumped into each other - a chance encounter which led to conversations about a job opportunity. Prior to the exchange, Jason had no plans to return to Smithville and suspects he would not be there today if the two had not happened upon each other.

During Jason’s time at Evins Mill, the business has grown almost every year. Playing a part in that growth has provided him the opportunity to expand his own skill set as well as to improve the business. In addition, as the business grew, so too did his job responsibilities, which have kept him professionally nimble and provided him a degree of flexibility and freedom. 

Jason has used that flexibility on one hand to be active the life of his community – serving on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, teaching culinary classes for high schoolers, leading Sunday School classes and serving as an Elder at his church, and not least, coaching the Frogs, a little league soccer team.

Jason has also used that freedom to remain active in the life of his family, which among many other endeavors manifests itself in local camping trips, and increasingly, in traveling as a family to different parts of the country. They especially enjoy visiting National Parks but plan one day to travel further afield. 

It might be safe to say that staff members at Evins Mill hope he won’t travel too far for too long – for intelligent, competent, reasonable, honest, fair, funny and caring bosses don’t grow on trees. Rarer still is the colleague who inspires his or her own boss to be a better one.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tina Gail Clark

No other staff member at Evins Mill has functioned in as many capacities as Tina Clark. At various times over her seventeen-year career at Evins Mill, Tina has operated as a dishwasher, server, chef, housekeeper, house manager, painter, groundskeeper, concierge, administrative liaison to the Nashville office, special event facilitator, and more. If such a position existed, she might also serve as the resort’s historian, for she has more institutional knowledge about its past and inner workings than perhaps anyone else. 

Born on August 1, 1969 to Judy & Kenneth Clark, Tina grew up in nearby Livingston, TN, as did most of her immediate ancestors - all the way back to her great grandparents. Tina’s forebearers have in fact lived in Overton County since at least 1880. While Tina’s line has deep roots in the county, it also has many branches. Tina’s mother for example is the oldest of thirteen children, while her father is one of nine. Between her many aunts and uncles, Tina has twenty-six cousins on her mother’s side alone, most of whom remain in Livingston.

And these branches intertwine. Tina’s parents for example were introduced to each other by her father’s brother and her mother’s sister, who were dating at the time and later married. However they met, her parents have been together for nearly forty-nine years, residing today in the very house where Tina and her two younger siblings grew up. Between her brother and sister, Tina is an aunt five times over. Tina remains close to her nuclear family and returns home routinely to visit them, as she does annually for a reunion with her extended family. 

While Tina’s parents are retired, they remain active in her life and on their farm, raising quail, rabbits and chickens. The family farm is symbolic of Tina’s rural upbringing and early childhood. She spent many of her summers for instance playing in the woods, swinging on grapevines, swimming in local ponds, and hunting for squirrels and rabbits – all in the company of her many cousins and under the supervision of her maternal grandparents, who taught her and her kin how to use a gun safely and effectively – one of many reasons not to cross her. 

As she got older, Tina spent less time in the woods and at least two summers during high school working at Livingston Manufacturing, a factory where her mother worked and where Tina performed mostly janitorial work, including toilet bowl “husbandry,” giving her valuable expertise for work she would later need to perform at Evins Mill from time to time. After graduating in 1988 from Livingston High School, Tina returned to the same factory as a full-time worker. For the next eight years, she worked in a variety of manufacturing jobs throughout the Middle Tennessee area.

In 1996, Tina took a job with Nelson Construction, a company owned by one of her uncles. For the next three years, Tina dug ditches, cut wood, painted and learned how to hang sheet rock – again, providing experience for tasks she would later perform at Evins Mill. Tina left Nelson Construction in 1999 to work in a frame shop. After it closed its doors a year later, her partner – a groundskeeper at Evins Mill at the time – requested her help in the kitchen, washing dishes at crunch times. That ad hoc assistance led to a permanent position in 2000, when Tina was trained as a guest attendant by Chris Dotson, a much beloved Evins Mill staff member and step-son to Gary Wince. 
Tina more than excelled in her new role and just one year later was offered the position of House Manager. As the resort was smaller and business slower then, the position at that time was more hands-on than it is today. Tina served breakfast, lunch and dinner, cleaning rooms in between. Even so, it didn’t add up to a full-time job, so Tina helped Gary out on the grounds and took on special projects – painting all the Creek Side rooms and helping to build the original boardwalk to Lockhart 2.

In 2002, Tina was still serving meals but at Jason’s request also started preparing them – first breakfast, then lunch and later dinner – Jason was our only chef at that time and needed a night off every now and then. Without any official culinary training, Tina has over the last fifteen years impressed guests not only with her kind and professional disposition but also with her ability to don a chef’s cap. From the time Tina arrived on the scene through 2008, she lived in the Miller’s House and so for many years also assumed the informal role as property caretaker as well.

Today, Tina lives in a lovely home she owns not too far from Evins Mill. There she relishes her favorite pastime and hobby – her flower and vegetable garden. Her love for all things growing may in part explain what she enjoys about her job at Evins Mill – the property never ceases to “wow” her. Whether it is raspberries, blackberries or St. Johns Wort, Tina takes great pleasure and surprise in discovering all the flora the property has to offer.

What she appreciates most about her job however is that it doesn’t feel like one. To Tina, Evins Mill feels more like a home than a job, perhaps in part because her co-workers feel like family. And not just her co-workers either. For the many guests who return to Evins Mill time and time again, and whose names Tina remembers without a cheat sheet, they too have come to feel like family. 

As Evins Mill has grown and evolved over the years and has more moving parts than ever, Tina remains the heart, and at the heart, of the whole operation. With as big a heart as she has, that is no surprise and as it should be.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Gary Wince

At his retirement on Friday, August 6, 2021, Gary Wince was the most tenured staff member at Evins Mill. Arriving on the scene in November 1995 as our one and only groundskeeper, Gary took on the role and title of Plant Manager as the business grew, assuming greater responsibility for the endless repairs a physical plant such as ours demands. 

He also assumed responsibility for a long list of capital improvements over the years. Specializing in carpentry, a trade he learned from his father and later taught to his son, his fingerprints are all over the property, fresh from what Gary called his “magic workshop” at the Granary.

Those fingerprints are found on relatively minor additions – such as bars, booths, buffets, cabinets, closets, counters, desks, displays, frames, knee walls, sheds, shelves, stalls, tables, vanities, etc. – as well as on more substantial projects such as the construction of Creek Side decks, Cortland Hall, Taylor Hall and Ivy Overlook. As Gary is fond of saying: “I bring William’s imagination to fruitation.”

Born in 1949 in Canton, Ohio to William & Vera Wince, Gary came to Nashville when he was only six weeks old. His mother was a Nashville native and eager to return – she didn’t care much for northerners, her husband notwithstanding. 

So Gary grew up in Nashville, where in 1967 he graduated from Antioch High School. While Gary didn’t study much, he all the same made honor roll every term. He also excelled at chess and still plays a mean game. Gary’s native intelligence comes as no surprise to anyone who knows him - and his dry wit. 

Before even graduating from high school, Gary enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University. To finance his education, he took out loans and worked a full-time job. Even so, he depleted his funds mid-way through and so took a year off to re-fill his educational coffers. No longer enrolled as a student however, Gary was eligible for the draft, and drafted he was. 

For better or worse, his active duty was not in the jungles of Vietnam but at Fort Campbell on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Fortunately for Gary, he wasn’t alone, for his son Chris was born as his service began in 1969. Another son Cortland, after whom Cortland Hall is named, was born in 1975. 

Following his military service, Gary from 1973 to 1991 excelled as a sales representative for a variety of products, including insurance, chemicals and telecommunications equipment. In these years, Gary often worked on the side with his father at Wince Cabinet & Home Improvement, where he further honed his carpentry skills.

Gary’s father passed away in 1988 at the age of seventy-two, a painful loss – and a harbinger of a lot more hurt to come. In 1991 Gary’s sixteen-year old son Cortland died in a car accident, while in 1993 his mother died from cancer. Within a five-year period then, Gary lost a father, a mother and a son.

To escape Nashville and maybe more than just the city, Gary took up residence on Center Hill Lake – at the house that he and his father built decades earlier and that he inhabits to this day. For a time, Gary lived off his savings but grew bored in short order – bored enough anyway to respond to the Evins Mill job ad in the local paper.

A year after joining Evins Mill, Gary met and fell in love with Kim Terry – a red-headed, and some have said hot-headed, Evins Mill housekeeper. They married at Evins Mill in 2002 and were together until Kim passed away in 2012. Kim came to the relationship with two children, Chris & Lacey Dotson, and they became Gary’s children. Gary remains instrumental in their lives and in the lives of Lacy’s children, Braxton & Logan.

He’s also active in the lives of two other grandchildren – Veralena and Cortland, daughter and son respectively of Chris & Nikki Wince, who live in Nashville. Just as Gary assisted his own father on many a construction project, Gary’s son Chris has helped him on numerous capital improvements at Evins Mill. 

In his role as Plant Manager, Gary remained an active and witty presence in my own life and work – a force and a friend for which I will always be grateful. 

Post Script

To view "handyman" video tutorials fresh from Gary's Magic Workshop, visit...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

Heart attacks come in all shapes and sizes I'm told, but surely the most consequential category involves the fatal kind. My father of forty-six years and business partner of twenty unexpectedly suffered such in January of this year.

When I asked my ten year old daughter what she would remember most about her grandfather, her unflinching response was to cite his sense of humor. As exacting as my father could be, he did possess a robust wit - and one with a big smile.

One dimension of my father's humor that I found especially impressive was his capacity to elicit a laugh, while at the same time affirming the butt of his joke. Which is to say, he was a master of the back-handed compliment.

Growing up in the same household as my father, I found myself on the receiving end of many a classic zinger over the years, as many who knew him probably did as well - even if not at such close range.

Be that as it may, my favorite of his one-liners went something like this, and there are endless variations - he would say: "William - I don't care what everyone else thinks about you - you're OK in my book."

...to which I just want to say to my father: "Dad, I don't care what everyone else thinks about you either! You were, and you will remain, a figure of deep and enduring  consequence in my book. And I know you will remain such in Ivy's book.

And I am confident you will in the books of just about everyone who got to know you very well. I imagine also that you will remain such in the books of a lot of folks who may or may not have known you all so well...

...but whose lives nonetheless were enhanced or advanced, or enriched or improved by your indefatigable volunteerism; or by your earnest (though in some circles not always welcome) mentoring and managing; or by your big-hearted and heart-felt generosity.

Now, when I consider this particular dimension of my father's life - this legacy if we can call it that, of wanting to help others improve themselves, or up their game as it were, or of wanting to help folks improve their lot in life and get a leg up in life...

Whatever the impulse was, I think it had something to do with wanting to lift people up, make them better or make them more whole. Whatever it was, I find it among the more admirable of my dad's qualities.


So much so that I would want to echo back to him a sentiment that he would routinely share with me following a task that I had admirably completed. And it would sound something like this: "Dad - GREAT JOB WITH YOUR LIFE!

I am so impressed with all that you did with it...and with the impact that you had through it. All of it makes me exceedingly proud of you.

I don't care what everyone else thinks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Giddy

We could tell you were giddy to be there – almost like school girls you were. But who can blame you for fawning over us? After all, not every broad is as privileged as you are to have spent a reunion weekend with the fine "gentlemen, scholars & athletes" from the storied MBA Class of ’86.
~
You were a fortunate few indeed, and whether or not you grasp the magnitude of the honor our invitation conferred, you were surely awed by the collective character of our class and have no doubt been bragging about the time you spent with us to your friends, who are understandably envious of you since they were not also invited to bask in the glory of our company. Life just isn’t fair that way.
~
We trust you’re appropriately grateful for, perhaps even humbled by, the fact we graced you with our presence. While no spouse or partner has thanked us yet, we know you want to, but please don’t. You are more than welcome, for we were happy to indulge you. We only wish we could oblige you more than once every five years, as we know you also opine. Again, life just isn’t fair that way.
~
Speaking of injustices, we understand that a few contrarians among you may have just assumed stay home with a good book. Scholars that we are, we can appreciate a book as much as the next guy but are galled nonetheless by your ingratitude. That said, as gentlemen also, we strive to be magnanimous and would deign to consider your attitude as best we can - enough so anyway to put some perspective on your perspective.
~
For one, it was just a weekend, and whatever pain you experienced along the way didn’t last long. Moreover, you surely encountered kindred spirits who didn’t want to be there any more than you did and with whom you could then commiserate and bond. We know of several spouses for instance who've met the dearest of friends this way. So not only was your discomfort short lived, it was also intimately if not broadly shared.
~
Most importantly, remember that it will be five long years before you will once again be called upon to suffer the likes of Bottorff, Cochran, Fuson, Mason, Wills or any of the other arrogant pricks from our class. You should take great comfort in this – God knows we do.