Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


May 5, 2013

Tim Preston: Nice guy award; tasty treats from abroad; truck-stop status: 5/5/13

ASHLAND — I don’t often write about people who have received business awards and recognitions, although I have no trouble making an exception for Bob Hammond, who was recently honored by the Site Selectors Guild for work in the “Small Town” category.

If you mention Hammond in local business circles, you’ll almost certainly hear the phrase “really nice guy” immediately afterward, and everyone I’ve spoken to credits him as a tremendous asset in his role as director of business development for the Ashland Alliance. I asked another area economic development person for a comment about Hammond and he said, “If you bring up Bob Hammond’s name anywhere in this state you will hear nothing but good things about him,” before adding the guild is an outstanding group to earn an award from.

And, even though the guild award has his name on it, Hammond made a point of emphasizing he was merely a member of the team working on an ongoing local project. In fact, he credited everyone from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the District 9 Transportation Cabinet to local state officials, Kentucky Power and CSX representatives, property owners and the Greenup County Fiscal Court without acknowledging any role he played himself.

“There’s a lot of people involved in these projects. It’s never just one person,” he humbly said.

Born and raised in Louisa, Hammond came to work at the alliance in October 1999 after working as the business liaison for Hazard Community College.   

Thrillas from Manila

I was zipping out of the Flatwoods area last week after spending a little too much time talking to students at Russell High School about their trip to the naval base in Norfolk, Va., and took advantage of the opportunity to do a little hit and run at Maria’s Manila Asian Market at 1564 Diederich Blvd.

I’d barely stepped inside before Maria and friends were filling my hands with samples of their “best sellers,” which are differently flavored “cracker nuts,” which are kind of like Corn-Nuts brand snacks only not nearly as tough on the teeth. I tried five or six in rapid succession and liked them all, even the ones flavored like fish and vinegar, although I think the cheese-puff looking snacks that tasted just like buttered corn on the cob were my favorite.

I took the turbo-tour of the compact store, making a point of investigating the inventory of Goldilocks brand snacks and taking mental notes about the number of different things, like fish sauces and canned squid packed in natural ink (which amused me so much, I had to take a photo). I should have been taking actual notes because the number of choices on the shelves is just short of staggering.

Maria also sent me out with a couple of Goldilocks samples, including a bit of chocolate cake with a hint of coffee flavor in the frosting I shared in the newsroom. I was greedy and took the others home (one was a brioche with purple-yam filling that Maria actually selected especially for my wife’s evaluation), so I’ll try to remember to write a little follow-up piece about those treats.

Oddly enough, I got back to the office that day and found a note from my favorite top-secret field agent, who had also visited Maria’s Manila Asian Market. While I was trying to absorb the concepts and flavors, my scout was checking things like the cleanliness of the freezers and noticing the healthy-foods factor while personally seeking (and finding) Kim Chee.

“They seem to be doing everything right and it’s a unique market to this area. So here's hoping they have a long and successful life. It’s definitely one you have to see to believe. I’m used to old woodsy hippy type of Asian markets with owners you can barely understand, so this was a real treat,” the correspondent reported. “May I also say here the freezer was pristine clean and ordered, which mine hasn’t been since a week after I got it.”

Maria and her husband said they did a lot of research before opening the market, although they’ve already had more customers than expected. The factor they didn’t consider, they said, was the density of military veterans in this area who developed a taste for the flavors of the Philippine Islands, and beyond, during their time abroad.

 For more information about Maria’s Manila Asian Market, which is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday, find the page on Facebook or call (606) 388-4088.

Still open

I still get emails and phone calls from people who will be traveling through the area with plans to stop at the Smokey Valley Truck Stop for burgers or the famous pies.

Following a widely spread false report at the end of 2012 that predicted the famous truck stop near Olive Hill in Carter County would be closing (along with the end of the world and the start of the zombie apocalypse), those notes and calls are almost always asking if the place is still open. So, I once again called owner Juanita Flannery last week to confirm the place is still in business.

She sounded a little annoyed by the repeated question and assured me they are on duty and ready to take orders. For more information, call (606) 286-5001.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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