Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ginger Grantham, Hanceville Herald, Hanceville, Ala

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ginger Grantham, Hanceville Herald, Hanceville, Ala

Article excerpt

GINGER AND JOHNNY Grantham of Hanceville, Ala., probably never thought of themselves as conglomerate entrepreneurs.

But to many in this 2,200-population town, they qualify.

The Granthams own and operate a bridal shop, photography studio and the weekly Hanceville Herald, circulation 1,750, all located in a neat brick building which originally housed a drug store.

Combined, the three businesses gross $350,000. That might not put them in the Ted Turner class. But big bucks aren't the only hallmark of heady corporate operators. Ingenuity, a willingness to branch out, free wheel and experimentation also count.

Eighteen years ago, when Ginger and Johnny bought their downtown headquarters, they discovered the druggist had left behind a dozen American Greeting Card display racks. Perfect for newspaper use, said Johnny. He converted them into paste-up units by adding a two-page-wide square of plywood to each. Now that's entrepreneurial.

A lot like Mayberry

It's a stifling hot Hanceville afternoon in August. For the third month in a row, temperatures flirt with 98 degrees. The giant sign in front of the First United Methodist Church at the eastern end of Commercial Street, whimsically points out: "Hell's Hotter, Really."

In the Herald office, the air conditioning hums as editor and publisher Ginger Grantham, in a soft, Southern drawl, tells about her weekly and the town it serves.

"When people ask me what kind of newspaper I publish, I tell them, `One for Mayberry.' All small towns are like it [the mythical community featured in the old TV series starring Andy Griffith].

"You have the gathering place, the drug store where everyone drinks coffee and gossips. You have a town drunk and town derelict. There are one or two very wealthy families. School teachers mostly live in town. Police chiefs' daughters play softball on teams they sponsor. We're very much like Mayberry. Lots of similarities."

Ginger explains that Hanceville Rexall Drug, owned by three generations of the Burkart family, is the local gathering place.

"They still have the old soda fountain and booths. You can get lemonade, real old-fashioned milkshakes and malts. Saturday mornings everyone goes there and has coffee.

"The farmers, wearing bib overalls, come in. A lot of what you hear is not dependable to print. But it's interesting gossip.

"Occasionally, Mr. Michelfelder comes in and parks his tractor and trailer full of those round hay bales in the lot next door. Everybody has to be real careful driving around it. He has been known to go through the drive-in at the bank with the tractor and hay bales."

Ginger warms to her report.

"Like the character Otis in Mayberry, we have the gentleman in town who tends to drink too much. He occasionally turns up on one of the benches. The joke is that when we change the lingerie manikin in the bridal shop window, he can be seen after we're closed sort of studying it. So at night, we usually cover it with a cloth."

The way it happened

Ginger explains how the three-businesses-in-one concept happened.

"My husband, as a professional photographer, does a good bit of weddings. So the newspaper and photography seem to go together. But this building was too big for just the newspaper and his studio.

"Since we used to encounter problems dealing with brides on what they'd wear, we decided to start a shop selling bridal dresses."

Thus was born The Bridal Path, Inc. (Slogan: "Your way to a perfect wedding." Ginger Grantham, consultant. Johnny Grantham, photographer.)

Over the years, the bridal shop added mother-of-the-bride dresses and prom gowns, plus men's formal wear rentals.

"It works out fairly well," says the slender, stylishly-dressed Ginger.

"The newspaper is a pretty good business the last six months of the year, through the Christmas advertising and the January sales. …

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