by Spencer Crawford/The Villa Rican
“I’m from here and I never planned on living somewhere else,” he said.
Villa Rica’s growth the past 10 years has brought in a variety of national shopping chains and restaurants, but on South Carroll Road many of the businesses are owned by Villa Rica High School graduates who are trying to make their way in their hometown.
Villa Rica is no stranger to the family-run businesses being passed from one generation to another, but many of those on South Carroll Road have made their own professional mark and, like Pilgrim, say they wouldn’t have done it anywhere else.
“For years and years, a lot of businesses in our city have enjoyed being able to be passed down from one generation to another, which is a wonderful thing to have in the city,” said Mayor J. Collins, a 1995 graduate of VRHS and owner of J. Collins Funeral Home on South Carroll Road. “There are a lot of great, well-known businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation, but it’s refreshing to me to see people my age, my generation — all these people we’re talking about are under 40 years old and most are not much over 30 — to step out and hang their shingle to be able to serve the people of the community they grew up in. That makes me feel good about where our town’s going.”
Pilgrim said at the time he opened his law practice in Villa Rica there were just a handful of attorneys operating in the city and those were mainly concentrating on real estate law. He used his experience in criminal law, worker’s compensation and personal injury law to fill a need that wasn’t being met in the city.
“I felt like the city could support another lawyer who could fill that niche and being from here that name recognition could go a very long way,” he said. “It’s been a very good experience. The city has grown tremendously since I was growing up and being from here I get a lot of business from people who know me, but the new people moving in aren’t tied to any local attorney and I get business there as well.”
Jaime Best, a 1994 graduate of Villa Rica High, opened her own hair salon, J. Best Hair Co., on South Carroll Road a few months ago. After working for others in Atlanta and Temple, she said she always knew when she opened her own salon it would be in Villa Rica.
“I bleed purple and gold,” Best said, referring to the Villa Rica High School colors. “I’m a big Villa Rica supporter, the city, the school, everything. I’m just a hometown girl.”
Best, like Pilgrim, said she benefits from name recognition and it’s more convenient for her customers who were coming to her when she worked in Temple to set appointments now that she’s in Villa Rica. Best also employs another Villa Rica graduate, Jaime Perry, who graduated in 1998.
Businesses locate in a particular city for a variety of reasons, but, like Pilgrim, they approach it from a practical business standpoint. If you offer services no one else in town does, it will usually bode well for your success.
For Karen Fountain, owner of The Perfect Poppy Florist and 1995 graduate of Villa Rica High, opening her shop in Villa Rica was a practical business decision. Though she lives in Carrollton now, she said the nature of her business dictated that she locate in Villa Rica so she’d be close to the interstate and thus more mobile to serve not only Villa Rica, but the entire region.
“Villa Rica is centralized,” she said. “I do a lot of full-service jobs, but I specialize in weddings and being here it makes it a lot easier to get jobs in Dallas, Carrollton, Buchanan, all over really.”
Niles Woodall was born and raised in Villa Rica, though he graduated from Oak Mountain Academy in Carrollton in 1996. His father, Steve Woodall, is a prominent dentist in the city and his son worked by his side for three years. However, he too saw that he could fill a need so he went back to school to become an orthodontist.
Woodall opened his orthodontics office on South Carroll Road late last year and has benefited from the family name, as well as the fact that he’s the only orthodontist in the city.
“Villa Rica is home,” Woodall said. “There was never a question that I would come back to Villa Rica after I finished school because I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Collins said the opportunity for local graduates to open businesses locally is directly related to the growth the city has felt in recent years, jumping from a population of just a few thousand people to one that has far surpassed 10,000 people.
“I love Villa Rica, it’s my home,” Collins said. “There are a lot of things I miss about the 3,500 population we used to have, but the one good thing I see about growth and new people in our community is the need for these services that our hometown people are providing.
“There’s a lot said about preserving history and preserving the hometown feel, but nothing makes your hometown even better than having hometown folks going into business for themselves.”