Gina Stradley's top priorities can be summed up in two words: Food and family.
Although Lebanon is an entire state away from her native town of St. Louis, Missouri, the longtime restaurateur has made her mark locally by serving up signature dishes with a smile. Many folks know her as the face of the new Sammy B's at The Mill; however, her love of creating good food in a fun environment has spanned three decades.
Gina married her husband, Jim, twenty-seven years ago and during that time has owned and operated several successful businesses with him.
The pair first partnered to start a catering business, RSVP Management, Inc. - which through foodservice contracts serves golf courses, private clubs, healthcare offices and museums. In the early 1990s they opened the first Sammy B's on Music Row. "It was a great hangout for people in the music industry and tourists as well," she said.
During that time, the Stradleys, who worked with Cracker Barrel founder Danny Evins, took notice of Wilson County and decided to put down roots in Lebanon for themselves and their sons, Reese and Sam, who are now 24 and 22, respectively.
"After migrating to Wilson County we eventually sold the restaurant on Music Row and went on to other ventures," she added. These ventures included growing RSVP Management, Inc. and operating foodservice for the Lebanon Golf and Country Club.
"Over a year ago we started looking for a new thing. We looked at the space in The Mill and it reminded us of the old Sammy B's," Gina said. "We decided to re-open Sammy B's in Lebanon. We have several customers who were regulars on Music Row.
"I love the people in Wilson County. I try to talk to everyone when I'm at the restaurant - or at least say "Hi" if it is busy."
Of course, life is always busy for Gina.
"Spare time? What is that?" she joked when asked what she does during her time off. "I've always said when you own your own business your work life and home life are intertwined. Early on my responsibilities of our business afforded me the opportunity to spend time working from home while the kids were young - giving me the opportunity to volunteer at their school, chaperone field trips and chauffer them to and from their activities."
Now that her sons are grown and have graduated from college, her days no longer revolve around chauffeuring them to soccer practice, swim meets and the golf course. Her new hobbies include getting to play golf herself, taking adult Tap and Jazz classes at Diamond Academy of Dance in Mt. Juliet and taking care of her "family of miniature Schnauzers," Josephine and Napoleon, Border Collie, Spatula and two "grand dogs," Zeus and Barrett.
So who does this Woman of Wilson admire? Her mother, Martha Hansford.
"She taught me how to raise my family, work hard, stay strong and make good choices ... She isn't a CEO. She doesn't have an MBA or even a BA for that matter. She is just a lady whose number one job was to raise a family. She took that job very seriously, and in my opinion, that is the most important job in the world."