Category Archives: Life & Leisure


Business Spotlight – Mountcastle Insurance Celebrates 125th Anniversary

By Andy Calvert

G. W. Mountcastle Agency, Inc. was established in 1890 by George W. Mountcastle, one of Lexington’s founding fathers. Mountcastle came to Lexington from Jefferson City, Tenn. at the age of 18 as the bookkeeper for the Bank of Lexington and rose up the ranks to become president of the bank. As a part of the bank’s function in making loans to customers, he saw the need to insure those loans and started the G. W. Mountcastle Agency to provide that service to bank customers and the public.

George W. Mountcastle helped start or had a hand in bringing many businesses to Lexington during the early 1900s. A few notable businesses included Lexington Light and Power Company in 1894, Lexington Telephone Company in 1896 and Erlanger Cotton Mill in 1914. Mountcastle remained in the banking business through the Bank of Lexington’s merger with the Commercial Bank of Lexington. The agency continued to be operated by his son Charles Mountcastle, who hired Robert Satterfield to run the agency in the 1940s. Satterfield had an insurance background from his days as an adjuster with the Bituminous Insurance Company.

MountcastleThe agency continued to grow, and in the early 1960s Jack Calvert and Eddie Allred were hired as agents and worked out of the office at 18 S. Main St. The ownership of the agency began to change from Satterfield to Calvert and Allred, and in 1975 the current location was built at 307 W. Center St. The agency began to expand, and by the mid 1980s the entire building was filled with 25 employees.

Calvert and Allred remained in the agency until their retirement in February 1999. Current owners are Andy Calvert, Walt Rouse, Chris Call and Pete Schantz, and the agency now has 27 employees, with 21 in Lexington and six in Winston Salem. In 2003, the agency became a partner agency in the Keystone Insurers Group. The partnership with Keystone brings together a wide array of products and services for their customers.

The Mountcastle Agency has always been active in the community through donations of money, time and talent to many civic and charitable organizations. In order to remain a progressive and viable agency, Mountcastle made investments in technology much earlier than their peers, and will be making further investments in 2015 better to serve their customers.

One important investment has been to bring in young and talented employees to ensure continued future success. This milestone could not have been achieved without the hard work of both past and present employees and the loyal relationships they have had with many generations of families and businesses in the community.

The principles of community development that George W. Mountcastle brought to Lexington continue to be a motivating factor in the operation of Mountcastle Insurance today and for the future. Mountcastle Insurance has been blessed to be a part of Lexington and Davidson County and its partners are grateful to the community for helping them reach 125 years of service.


Business Spotlight – G.W. Smith Lumber Company

G.W. Smith Lumber Co., Davidson County’s’ oldest lumber & building materials firm celebrates its 110th Anniversary

G.W. Smith Lumber Company was founded in 1905 by Griff W. Smith, who also served as chairman of the Davidson County Board of Commissioners for over 22 years. The business was first established at 310 East Center Street behind Mr. Smith’s house, presently Tastings Wine and Beer Shop.  At times, Mrs. Smith (Nora) was even called on to tend the planer. She finally convinced Smith to move the business so she could tend to her own “yard work.”

historyIn 1921, Griff Smith moved the original office to its present location at 720 West Center Street. The structure was hauled by wagon across town and set on a new foundation. The old office now serves as the entrance sign and historical museum for the present day professional building supply complex.

The business began with the manufacturing and delivery of lumber for construction with the use of only horse and wagon. J. Frank Smith, former partner and the son of the founder, recalled, “The rocks on Main Street used to make the delivery wagon joggle as the ‘ol horse, Bob, pulled it through downtown.”  From the days of horse and wagon, G.W. Smith Lumber now deploys a fleet of heavy trucks including boom, forklift mounted, covered and four wheel drive trucks to insure proper delivery of materials to professional jobsites.

G. W. Smith Lumber has sold over one billion board feet of lumber since 1905. Millwork became so important to the business that it started a separate operation named Smith Millwork at 920 Robbins Street in 1979. Over 19 years through the able leadership of Ellis Myers, Smith Millwork outgrew its parent. The operation now wholesales moldings, door parts, columns, railing, and decking throughout the Southeast. Smith Millwork specializes in the manufacture of fine custom moldings and presently has over 1,000 custom knives.

In the beginning, G.W. Smith Lumber manufactured framing lumber, but now inventories over 4,000 items with over 120,000 items available upon special order. Recently, the firm has become more dominant in the finish end of the home with a design showroom featuring kitchens and baths, windows, doors, counter tops, molding, and builders’ hardware.  G. W. Smith Lumber is a complete builder’s supply that caters to professional builders with “everything for the home from the tree to the key.”

GWSmith_MenThe management of G.W. Smith Lumber Co. has passed through four generations. Founder Griff W. Smith turned over the business to his sons Griff, Jr., Frank, and Bruce in 1940, with Bruce eventually becoming sole owner. Upon Bruce’s untimely death in 1966, his sons Jerry, R.B., Dan, and Steve gained ownership, with Jerry and Dan directly involved in the management of the company. In 1985, Dan sold his share of the business to his brothers. Jerry Smith serves as president of Smith Companies, Inc. with Steve Smith serving as vice president.

Mark Smith is president and general manager of G.W. Smith Lumber.  Ted Smith is president of Smith Millwork. In 1997, the Smith Brothers established the Bruce and Eleanor Smith Charitable Foundation that supports many Davidson County charities and continues the company’s policy of community involvement.

The Smith Companies work as a team to serve the needs of their customers. “For the past 110 years, our customers have always been the chairman of our board,” states Jerry Smith. G.W. Smith appreciates the support it has earned from its many friends and customers over the last four generations and pledges to prove “There is a material difference” for generations to come!


A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

By Donna Tobin Smith

“Do you ever wonder whether or not to say it?” I was looking for a little empathy, a listening ear. For some reason, I had assumed that as my children grew into young adults that my distinct, audible instructions would gradually transform into a still small voice in their heads.

Surely twenty-something years of a mother’s words would be plenty of time to teach, advise and direct. But as a parent of three grown sons, I continue to find myself in situations when I feel the need to say something, to make some kind of comment. Sometimes it is just a fleeting thought in my head and I am able to dismiss the words rather easily. But sometimes the urge is so strong that I catch myself mentally clamping my hands over my mouth, willing the words not to escape. Then there are the times when I just say it. Not sure whether I should or not, I just say it.

“I do,” she answered. “In fact, let me tell you about last night,” she explained, as she recounted a conversation that she had had with her adult daughter.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” I exclaimed as my friend finished her story. “You do understand.”

I had a story of my own. I had measured my words too. I had avoided the temptation to tell my son what he already knew. I was aware that he had a midnight deadline for a college class that he was taking. He had told me earlier in the day that he had a paper to write, a quiz to take, and another assignment, all due by midnight. I watched as the hours ticked by, mentally noting that he had made not a single attempt to stroke the first key toward completing the assignments.

I stayed out of his room, trying desperately to hold my tongue as the midnight deadline approached. All the while my mind was screaming, “Are you nuts? What if the computer dies? Why are you waiting so late when you know the work is due?” When I nonchalantly sauntered into his room a few minutes after midnight under the guise of putting away laundry, he announced. “11:57. Assignments complete.” Believe it or not, I had not spoken a word

Do you see what I mean? Does it happen to you?

In the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, Solomon penned these wise words of counsel. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

Fortunately, I know the words that have been spoken in our home. I know the godly instructions that have been given to these sons through the years. I am also aware of the times when wise counsel has been ignored and careless words have hurt.

So the next time I wonder whether or not to say it, I will remind myself again of the words of Solomon. And when I speak, I will pray that my words will be “aptly spoken, like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

But most of all, I will pray that one day the words I have spoken to my sons will help them hear God’s words just a little clearer.


Teams are sizing up their competition trays.   Image By LMM Photography

Barbecue Capital Cook Off

From Barbecue to BBQ: The BBQ Capital Cook-Off Brings Thousands and Invites You to Be the Judge

By Melissa Sheets and Rebekah Cansler McGee

Each year during the fourth weekend of April, the smell of barbecue wafts through the streets and alleyways of Uptown Lexington. Doors throughout the town are ajar, inviting in both out-of-town guests and the sweet and spicy aromas of Southern barbecue. Locals are reminded of a long gone era when these scents tempted the taste buds of the Uptown lunch crowd during a time when many barbecue restaurants crowded the streets of the then furniture industry-driven community.

Today Lexington has a proud heritage of barbecue which continues with the BBQ Capital Cook-Off. It’s not just the typical chopped pork that is offered in local restaurants. Instead the Cook-Off calls for teams to challenge each other in chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket categories.

It all begins on a Friday night. Trucks, campers, and vans pull in by the dozens, all eager to begin their setup. Once teams register with the Uptown Lexington office, they are given their own piece of grass in an expansive lot just behind the Edward C. Smith Civic Center between East Second and Third Avenues. The teams will call this home for the next two days.

There is camaraderie on the lawns; tents and lawn chairs dot the aisles. As the sun sets just behind Main Street, excitement builds. Chefs begin to prime their grills. Chunks of wood are piled high next to open pits. Smoke rises from some of the larger grills. Men stand in groups talking and laughing, while others quietly mix spices and sauces into secret recipe rubs and marinades. The Cook-Off is large, stretching a city block. However, with the mix of tents and families, it is very quaint.

Spending the evening meandering through this gypsy-like hamlet is an experience one will never forget. Music not only beats rhythmically from the stage, but also from banjo players and guitar pickers sitting with circles of friends. For now, friends who travel from state to state chasing the title of grand champion share stories and tips, but by Saturday morning it’s all about game faces and determination.

Teams are sizing up their competition trays.   Image By LMM Photography
Teams are sizing up their competition trays. Image By LMM Photography

With prize pots swelling every year, this competition is fueled by a desire to win big money and bragging rights. Competitors come from far and wide. The playing field here is a level one. Teams from New York, Australia, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee — all over the Southeast and Midwest — join North Carolina in the competition. This isn’t just for the out-of-towners though. Lexington natives join in the fun, too. The only prerequisite for this competition is a love to cook and pounds of meat that is ready to grill. Teams bring their own pork, ribs and brisket to be inspected by the Uptown staff.

This Kansas City BBQ sanctioned event gained Lexington a spot on in the Old North State Series. This was huge step for the event that began in 2013 and is now in its third year. The 5th Anniversary Cook-Off also welcomes back the Great American BBQ Tour, where guests can sample barbecue and enjoy cooking demonstrations.

But in a twist to welcome more spectators and introduce something new to the fifth anniversary event, the BBQ Capital Cook-Off invites you to be the judge! Uptown Lexington is excited to partner with Tourism Recreation Investment Partnership to bring the People’s Choice Award. This area will invite spectators to taste competition barbecue and vote for their favorite. On Friday night, spectators will judge chicken wings and on Saturday they will judge pulled pork. Tickets will be sold the day of the event.

Just one of the many things you are likely to see at the BBQ Capital Cook-off. Photo by LMM Photography
Just one of the many things you are likely to see at the BBQ Capital Cook-off. Photo by LMM Photography

Live music will begin Friday and continue through Saturday with a mixture of genres and sounds. Visitors can enjoy great eats with tastes of barbecue, snacks, Italian ice, funnel cakes, and much more along with craft beers and Yadkin Valley wines. Families are encouraged to attend with an area set aside just for children. In addition to enjoying the atmosphere of the cook-off area, just a block away is historic uptown Lexington with unique shopping and dining venues.

Come dig in to the 5th Anniversary BBQ Capital Cook-Off Friday and Saturday, April 24-25, 2015, where for the first time ever, you can be the judge.