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Job is attracting people to Richmond Hill
Christy Sherman is the executive director of the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau. - photo by Photo by Steve Scholar

Executive Director of the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau Christy Sherman describes herself as a homebody who likes to restore antiques, continue to refurbish her home that was once a gas station on Highway 17 near the KOA campground and occasionally, just occasionally, listen to classic rap music.

"The top level of the house is the original gas station that sat on the ground and faced Highway 17. We’ve lived here for 10 years and we had friends we knew lived in an old gas station way down Highway 144. Our friends moved the house 27 years ago onto this five acre tract.

"Our friends went to a yard sale back in the late 1980s at this house when it was on Highway 17 and they ended up buying the house and moving it to this location. So, when they decided to sell, we bought it.

"We have some really cool pictures of the house being moved down Highway 17. It got stuck in a ditch a couple of times on its way here. When they got it here, they decided to raise the house up and enclose the lower level. It’s really like having two houses. The lower level has the same footprint as this level.

"We have replaced light fixtures, ceiling fans and painted the entire house. We love the original wood. We’re not replacing original windows, doors or anything like that. We love all the original fixtures and features. A lot of people say we should replace the windows with more energy efficient windows. I would never do that.

"The windows have that wavy glass and have character," she said passionately.

Christy has been married to husband Steve almost 20 years. The have two children, daughter Reid, a student at Richmond Hill High School, and son Stephen, a student at a Richmond Hill Middle School.

Sherman is originally from Greenville, South Carolina.

"Steve and I met there and lived there for a lot of years. He’s in the cable advertising business and he got a job offer with Comcast in Savannah and we just thought it would be a good opportunity career wise and we wanted a change.

"We’ve been here for 10 years and have just fallen in love withRichmond Hill and the Georgia coast," she said.

"I was a stay-at-mom for nine years. When when the kids started school, I volunteered some. Then I took on a part-time job, just to have something to do, basically. I was only going to work if it sounded like fun and working part time at the Fort McAllister visitor center sounded like a lot of fun.

"When I was at the fort, I dealt with a lot of people. Fort McAllister receives 330,000 visitors a year, so I was very busy all the time meeting people and telling them about Richmond Hill and the Georgia coast and I got involved with the CVB through some different projects and joined their board.

"I was on their board two years and when the previous director moved to New Mexico, I applied for that job and got it.

Sherman never thought of pursuing a career in sales but her job with the CVB is all about selling the virtues of spending time in Richmond Hill.

"We are the marketing arm of the city. We try to get people to come to Richmond Hill to stay in our hotels. We are funded by the hotel/motel tax and so a lot of what I do is try to bring people to the city and have them stay overnight.

"We market through billboards, travel guides, Georgia Outdoor Magazine and things like thst. We use history and museum guides, also."

She said the effectiveness of the CVB’s efforts is gauged, in part, by the occupancy rates of the city’s motels.

"We stay in close contact with the hoteliers. We have 12 motels in Richmond Hill and two under construction."

Sherman said the CVB is currently involved with restoring the Henry Ford-era Sweet Shop on Ford Avenue and the corner of Ivey Street. Once restored the CVB will move its offices into the building and out of the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce.

The Sweet Shop was built during the Henry Ford-era in Richmond Hill and served as a place for the auto magnate and wife, Clara, to go to get cakes and other sweets for their many social functions at the Ford mansion, now part of the Ford Plantation.

"We are now in phase two of the building’s restoration. A lot of the building is the same as it was in Ford’s day. A couple of walls have been added but they’re not load bearing so they can be removed. We’re is search of photographs to see what the interior originally looked like. The building still has the original floor."

Sherman said the orginal commercial mixer used in the Sweet Shop, now in the Richmond Hill Museum, will be loaned and on display in the building once the restoration is complete. She also said more original artifacts may be available when the CVB moves in.

She said the completion date of the restoration depends heavily on funding, which might include a bond sale, proceeds from grants and fundraisers.

Sherman has high hopes for Richmond Hill and thinks there is a place for national chain restaurants and stores but says it is important to also emphasize local historic sites, along with local restaurants and stores.

"I would never want to see the local places go away. I think the two can co-exist. With our new interchange, we will have three interchange exits. People using those, generally, are on an on-off basis, they are on a mission. Those are the people who will stop at a restaurant they are familiar with. But I want them to be drawn into Richmond Hill to see what we have to offer. You’ll get something here you won’t get at home. We’re unique."

Sherman also said she sees a return to recognizing and promoting the contributions of Henry Ford to Ways Station, later to be known as Richmond Hill.

"We have a really unique piece of the Henry Ford story. It’s not about cars. It’s about the personal side of Henry and Clara Ford. I think we should showcase that. It’s a big story. We try to tell what happened here in Richmond Hill."

"Selling" the city takes a great deal of time, but Sherman said she likes to relax on the weekend by camping, kayaking or just being outdoors.

"I also love the Georgia coast and love taking day trips to see various things. I’ve been spending a lot of weekends here working on the house and things in the house, which I love. I love to paint and decorate. I’m a DIYer. I love old houses and this house has been a palette for me.

She likes to listen to music to relax. That even includes classic rock and rap. She admitted, in a moment of weakness, perhaps, that she even listens to "Ice Ice Baby," by Vanilla Ice.

Sherman said family heirlooms also mean a lot to her, as evidenced by some things in her home. She has her grandmother’s Starburst quilt on a bed and is restoring a family bed to use in her daughter’s room.

"I like things I can look at and have a memory attached to it."

Sherman credits her parents with giving her the drive and passion needed to balance the demands of family, her passion for the beauty and history of the area she lives in and hard work.

"My parents and grandparents were definitely very hard workers. They taught me the value of hard work.

My grandfather worked in a textile mill in Greenville. My other grandfather started his own sheet metal shop, which is still in business today run by his sons."

Sherman said her grandfather got his start in the sheet metal busiiness in World War II, repairing shrapnel and other sheet metal damage on B-17 aircraft.

The love of all things old and family-related seem to run deep in her family. That’s not surprising for a lady living in a historic gas station.

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