August 1, 2015
Clear sky
  • 84.2 °F
  • Clear sky
Comment

Into The Deep

View the full feature in Evansville Business June/July 2015. Photo of Larry Babcock by Zach Straw.

Sixteen years ago during a highly advanced technical cave dive, Evansville native Larry Babcock was swimming in an underwater cave called Little River in Branford, Florida, when the steel twin cylinders of air he was wearing hit the cave ceiling and busted a manifold. Babcock then broke several cardinal rules of cave diving, including adventuring off line, a guideline a diver follows to return to the surface. In zero visibility, he managed to isolate the leak and save one cylinder. Babcock was left with little air and soon was forced to hold his breath for more than 100 feet under water until he reached another cylinder waiting for him.

It is moments like this that have placed cave diving on the short list of the most dangerous sports in the world. Babcock, the owner of Aquatech Scuba and Travel Center who has logged more than 6,000 dives, is quick to dispute that claim.

“Cave diving has a bad reputation,” says Babcock. “If you’re trained properly and you don’t break the rules, you can have multiple failures and still get out.”

Today, the 54-year-old uses those experiences to educate the hundreds of students taking classes through his business. Aquatech teaches courses ranging from Try Scuba, an introductory class, and beginner levels to highly technical diving, such as Babcock’s cave dive in Florida.

Babcock was introduced to scuba, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, late in life on a group vacation to Cancun, Mexico. In his mid-30s, he balked at the idea of joining in the activity — he was content laying on the beach with a drink in hand — until he finally stopped resisting and gave it a go.

Larry Babcock, owner of Aquatech Scuba and Travel Center, has logged more than 6,000 dives in places all around the world. Above, he is capturing pictures in Cozumel, Mexico. The 54-year-old says his favorite type of diving is cave diving as seen below in the underwater caves of Tulum, Mexico. Photo by Sue Miles, photo of Mexico cave by Steve Garrado.

“I really tried it to make the group be quiet,” says Babcock with a laugh. “Once I got down there and saw all the colors, the reefs, the fish, I loved it immediately. I felt like it was something you would do at Disney World. The reefs had so much color, so many reds, oranges, and yellows, and the tropical fish had so many colors. I was thinking ‘Wow!’ It was peaceful.

“Although I was apprehensive, once I was down in the water, the whole thing changed. This is my life. This is what I do.”

Babcock says he never was a water kid in his youth. His mother often discouraged him and his sister, Diane Freeman, from going into water past their knees because of a fear of drowning.

“Our mother had us terrified of water,” says Freeman, who manages the daily operations of Aquatech and has worked there for the last 15 years. “We would walk out to our knees, and she would say, ‘Get back here!’”

A graduate of Bosse High School, Babcock played basketball year-round while in school and became a mechanic by trade. He opened his own automotive business, Muffler & Auto Express, 2100 S. Weinbach Ave., in 1981 — a business he still owns today. The owner relies on the help of 46-year-old Danny Hayes, manager of Muffler & Auto Express, who has worked at the store since he was 17. Babcock says he wouldn’t be able to operate both businesses successfully without an employee like Hayes whom he trusts completely.

After Babcock’s first diving experience in Mexico, he was hooked. He began traveling to Panama City, Florida, once a month for long weekends and spent time off the coast of North Carolina on the Outer Banks, an area coined “the Graveyard of the Atlantic,” because of its navigational challenges and numerous shipwrecks. His résumé of dives includes two legendary wrecks — the SS Andrea Doria and Hitler’s Lost Sub.

The SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner for the Italian Line and is considered the “Mount Everest of scuba diving” because of its depth of 236 feet off the coast of New York.

“It is a technical dive,” says Babcock. “It was 100 miles off the coast of New York. The water is very cold and dark with strong currents — it takes a lot of equipment just to dive it.”

“Hitler’s Lost Sub,” or German U-Boat 869, is a German submarine off the coast of New Jersey where three divers have lost their lives trying to identify the U-boat at around 230 feet deep.

“I like exploring things,” he says. “These wrecks haven’t been explored a lot, and there’s still a lot of artifacts to be found. Of course, the sub was a little different because I viewed it as a graveyard. I really didn’t want to go in there and start pulling things out there. Of course, people did, but I wasn’t comfortable with that.”

Babcock became instructor-certified in 1996, and two years later, he opened Aquatech in a small warehouse located next to his automotive shop. Aquatech is a full-service dive operation, offering training from eight different instructors, equipment sales and repair, and dive travel accommodations.

“When I opened the store, there were four dive shops in Evansville. They were everywhere,” he says. “I had a pretty big nut to crack, and turns out we are the only ones left after all these years.”

After owning an automotive business for several years before owning Aquatech, Babcock says he quickly learned the companies were completely different from the moment a customer walked in the door.

“I’m used to the automotive business, so when people come in they usually have car problems, and they didn’t want to be there,” he says. “People want to be here. It is two different spectrums. It is a different type of clientele.”

“We meet a lot of nice people,” says Freeman. “They are all so excited about scuba. The diving community is like a family. They will just swing by and stop in and say, ‘I just had to say hi.’”

Babcock’s first large client was instructing and scuba dive-certifying biology students and professors from the University of Southern Indiana before a study abroad trip to Belize. Teaching teachers was intimidating, says Babcock.

“My first classes were with college professors, and it was a hurdle for me,” he says. “But it all worked out great. They enjoyed the class, and they continued to bring people back. Next thing you know, I had people coming in, and I grew out of that store pretty quick.”

The owner of Aquatech Scuba and Travel Center also works with his sister Diane Freeman, who has managed the daily operations of the store for the last 15 years. Photos by Zach Straw.

Aquatech relocated to 4313 E. Morgan Ave., Ste. A, in 2006 and Babcock credits the store’s longevity to customer relations and filling all the needs of the customer in a one-stop shop.

“In order to run a successful dive shop, you have to offer training, have a store full of inventory to sell or rent them equipment, and once they become certified and buy the dive equipment, you have to give them a place to use it, so we are a big dive travel company,” he says. “We offer more of a spectrum, and we are full-time instead of part-time. Our hours are posted and we are open during those hours.”

Aquatech certifies more than 200 divers a year in the Tri-State area at the beginner level, and around 40 percent of those divers go on to take additional classes and achieve certifications at higher levels. The scuba center offers Try Scuba classes, which allow participants to decide whether a scuba diving certification is right for them. Divers spend two hours in the pool at the Downtown YMCA, 222 N.W. Sixth St., experiencing scuba in the safety of a familiar setting. Babcock says the quality of Aquatech’s training is what sets the company apart from others. If divers wish to brush up on their skills through repeating a class, Aquatech offers it at no charge. When a diver finishes a course through Aquatech, Babcock guarantees they will feel safe, comfortable, and ready to begin his or her underwater adventure. All of the scuba center’s classes are taught at the Downtown YMCA.

Sharon Walden of Grayville, Illinois, echoes the feeling of safety from Aquatech’s “unbelievable training.” The 57-year-old always wanted to scuba dive, which she calls “a bucket list item.” In 2011, she attended an introductory Try Scuba class to see if it was for her.

“In a 3-foot pool, they put a tank on you, and you try to breathe with a regulator,” says Walden. “I was ready to dive right in. I signed up for a class the next day.”

Walden recently completed her 100th dive in February and has traveled all over the world through trips organized by Aquatech. She says there is a distinct difference between those who have been trained through the Evansville scuba center and those who went elsewhere.

“Being around divers who have been trained by Larry, they are so safe and well-trained,” says Walden. “If you get in trouble, you know what to do. Others who haven’t just don’t have a clue. Larry and his staff train you correctly. It makes you feel good.”

Walden also explains scuba diving opened her up to a whole new group of friends, including Henderson, Kentucky, resident Sue Miles. The two met for the first time as roommates on a dive trip in Honduras.

When Miles’ husband passed away, she says “it rocked my world.” Miles felt like she was living her life in limbo for two years, until she decided she needed to focus on the parts of life that gave her joy. That's when she decided to give a long-time desire a chance.

Sharon Walden and Sue Miles hold hands while diving together at Socorro Island in Mexico. The friends first met as roommates in Honduras through a dive trip organized by Aquatech Scuba and Travel Center. Photo by Dan Epler.

“Aquatech is more than just a business and more than just a shop to buy equipment,” says Miles, who received her certification from instructor Tammy Storm at Aquatech. “They involved me as if I was family. We are so lucky to have them. We are so lucky to have someone of Larry’s caliber in Evansville.”

In addition to certifying recreational swimmers, the scuba center also trains Boy Scout troops and many of the fire department divers on search and rescue operations. The fire departments also purchase their dive equipment at Aquatech. Aquatech’s instructors have extensive experience with more than 10,000 logged dives combined at locations around the world.

“Most of the stuff we do is recreational, and that’s what pays the bills in Evansville,” says Babcock. “We have eight instructors, and we also are an instructor training facility, which is hard to find anymore.”

“I give the Super 8 (Evansville East Hotel) a lot of business across the street for people coming in to take classes,” he says laughing.

Most of his business from technical courses comes from out of the area. People will travel from all over the world to attend classes taught by Babcock. He is the first Hollis Rebreather Cave instructor in the world. The number of instructors on the system is less than 10. The fully-closed system absorbs the carbon dioxide of the user’s exhaled breath and recycles the unused oxygen. Rebreathers “opened up a new world,” says Babcock, allowing divers to go further and longer without bubbles produced. Without bubbles, his videography and interaction with marine life has improved.

One of the most common misconceptions with scuba diving is that sharks are dangerous, says Babcock. He shares experiences of being surrounded by hundreds of sharks and never being bothered. He’s been bitten by only one deep-sea creature, which was a clown fish or “Nemo,” as Babcock jokes.
In addition to instructing dive classes, Aquatech also offers dive excursions to exotic locations, such as Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Galapagos, Mexico, and more. Babcock leads international trips about four times a year with smaller trips organized throughout the calendar as well.

“What brings joy to me is seeing these people who have never been on scuba before and watch them progress,” says Babcock. “I have a lot of people who come up to me and say, ‘Do you realize how many people you have brought enjoyment to?’ I had never really thought about it. You change people’s lives.”

For more information about Aquatech Scuba and Travel Center, call 812-479-5764 or visit aquatechdivecenter.com.

Comment

Greyhounds Can Run

A question often posed to me regarding our business is twofold. The first generally is “Do you really do anything down there?” and the second is “How do you come up with story ideas?”

Generally story ideas are compiled into our idea files and are then discussed at editorial meetings. Often the very scientific litmus test is whether my wife as the publisher of Evansville Living or I as publisher of Evansville Business find an idea interesting to us. If so, we tend to think readers will find it interesting as well. We often are “pitched” story ideas by friends, staff, and advertisers. This issue contains two stories given to us by long-time clients.

Local automobile dealer and diver Doug Duell first suggested to us the story featured on our cover, “Into the Deep.” In a meeting about his dealership, he told me about Aquatech Scuba and Travel Center owner Larry Babcock (page 28). It made our story files, but in a subsequent meeting with Duell, he asked me about his story idea again. Then he “sold” me the idea months later with stories of how Larry was beloved by everyone who knew him and how interesting he was. After the interview, Managing Editor Emily Patton came back into the office and announced “what a great guy” and “how interesting he was” in the interview. Genius on our part.

For the story “Hometown Heroes,” on page 18, local real estate agent Janice Miller mentioned in a casual conversation that her father, World War II veteran Wayne Geurin, was preparing to go on an Honor Flight. The resulting story is about those who served having this tremendous experience afforded to them as a way of thanking them for their service. It wasn’t even a story pitch, just a daughter proud of her father.

So, thanks to those who call, write, email, or catch me in a meeting or in the grocery store. It is always appreciated.

One of the many things I love about this community is that there are not many degrees of separation among friends and family. In this issue, we were fortunate enough to profile two of the finest gentlemen I know. (That was painful.)

In “Community Partners,” page 14, we talk to Robbie Kent Sr. Robbie’s father was well-known auto dealer and great civic booster Kenny Kent, who knew my grandfather well. Robbie has that special gift of making you feel that no matter where you see him, you are the person he is most pleased to see. He is occasionally even glad to see me. With a huge heart, he gives back to this community with time and resources. Need a dose of optimism? Robbie’s your man.

We also talk to Bob Zimmermann Sr. in “A Century of History” on page 16. As genuine as it gets, our editorial staff mentioned more than once what fine men and how enjoyable Bob Sr. and Robbie Sr. were to interact with.

Always (fairly) quick with a mediocre quip, Bob Sr. is a go-to man for family, friendship, church, and a tremendous sense of community spirit. He and his wife Becky sponsored Kristen and me into the church. We are friends with his son Bob Jr. and daughter-in-law Cathy. My boys are very close friends of their sons. Not many degrees of separation at all. It is a pleasure and privilege to write about and know these two fine gentlemen.*Note to Robbie and Bob: I am concerned having both of you in the same issue will make it a real “dog” on the newsstand.

Speaking of dogs (yes, I am proud of that segue), I am so pleased to look out of our office windows and see the exterior renovation of the Greyhound terminal nearly complete. Through a tremendous effort of Indiana Landmarks, the building is visually stunning. The original sign with the Greyhound running across the top will be dedicated and lit later this month. If you have not seen the transformation, do yourself a favor and drive Downtown and take a look.

Those of you who made it happen, well done.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Todd A. Tucker
Publisher

Comment

In with the New

Eastland Mall sees significant changes since 2014
Eastland Mall

Since last year, changes can be seen from inside and out of Eastland Mall on N. Green River Road. A new entry sign greets the mall’s 10 million annual visitors. The shopping center also has bid farewell to some stores.

Evansville Business previously wrote about Eastland Mall in “Point of Sale” in the June/July 2014 issue. Sean Ferguson, Eastland Mall’s marketing manager, said the mall is always 95-100 percent full, but numbers dropped in the last year. Several retailers including Coldwater Creek, Wet Seal, Sleep Number, LOFT, and others have exited the mall.

“Numbers slipped down a little ... because we are making room for some new tenants,” says Ferguson. “We also have had some unexpected bankruptcies which opened up spaces.”

Eastland Mall maintains a variety of stores including high-end and strong middle-market stores, which thrive in Evansville, and plans to announce new stores soon.

“We are fortunate to have national retailers in one spot,” adds Ferguson. “Many retailers are attracting people from out of town.”
The mall, which opened in 1981, is seeing a big change in 2015 in customer service.

“For the longest time, customer service has been located in the middle of the mall,” says Ferguson. “Now, instead of having one primary location, we will have several locations, including our mall office, to sell gift cards starting this month.”

Along with new customer service stations, Ferguson says they are continuing to renovate pedestrian entrances. The restrooms in the Café Court were updated, adding a family restroom to create a more family-friendly shopping experience.

For more information about Eastland Mall, visit shopeastlandmall.com.

Comment

All In The Twist

Tell City Pretzels keeps unique tradition alive
Larry Cardin, owner Brad Smith, and Peggy Cardin mix the dough and hand twist the pretzels before prepping them for baking.

After a year as owner of Tell City Pretzels, Brad Smith was asked to autograph a tin full of the famous snack.

“It was right after we opened, and I said to the customer, ‘You realize I’ve only been doing this for a year,’” says Smith. “He said, ‘I want the person who’s making Tell City Pretzels to sign it.’ That’s what people think of them.”

The business has a long, storied past and is famous for its extremely hard pretzel. It began in 1858 when Swiss immigrant Casper Gloor used a secret recipe to create the pretzels in his bakery in Tell City, Indiana. Before he passed away in the early 1900s, Gloor revealed the recipe to his apprentice, Alex Kessler, who took over the bakery.“The Kesslers are the ones who kind of made them famous,” explains Smith, a Jasper, Indiana, native. “They did them up until the late ’50s, early ’60s. Since the ’60s, it’s had numerous owners, and it’s been good and bad, up and down.”

He and his wife, Sandy, began to look into the business after they learned it closed in 2008. The couple investigated the opportunity and after a year, Smith says they “pulled the trigger.”

Since taking over the business in 2009, they have made many updates to the equipment, but Smith and his small staff strive to keep the tradition of the process the same. A few former workers returned to help Smith keep the pretzel true to the original recipe.

“Everybody remembered it,” he says. “Peggy Cardin worked here before, so she had a great grasp on the process.”

Cardin has worked at Tell City Pretzels for a total of nine years, and her husband, Larry Cardin, has been twisting for five years. In the morning, they mix the pretzel dough and place it in an extruder, which cuts the correct amount for one pretzel. Smith and the Cardins hand twist the pretzels and place them on trays. After a dip in a hot water solution and a trip under a salter, the trays are positioned in the first oven.

Tell City Pretzels are baked twice. To check if the pretzels are done, Smith says a pretzel is smacked against a cooling bin to break it. If the knot in the center is baked through, then the pretzels are ready. The batches are bagged with warnings on the packages to “Bite at your own risk!” Some are broken up and seasoned with one of six flavors, from the popular honey mustard to the sweet cinnamon and sugar.

“The people of Tell City take so much pride in them,” says Smith. “It’s not been duplicated. I really think the taste and the unique hardness of it has really made the pretzel popular.”

For more information about Tell City Pretzels, call 812-548-4499 or visit tellcitypretzels.com.

Comment

Piano Man

We’re all in the mood for Matt Clark’s melodies
Evansville native Matt Clark punches the clock at the Piano Bar at Cavanaugh’s in Tropicana Evansville.

Evansville native Matt Clark is at the top of his game. Newly married, he carries himself like a man who has found his center. Wander into the recently renovated Cavanaugh’s at Tropicana Evansville on one of the “14 or 15” times he plays there a month, and you’ll feel it, too.

The Harrison High School and University of Evansville graduate sings and tickles the ivories at the Piano Bar, bringing a unique and time-tested vibe to well-known hits to help you ease into your evening. “I’ve been doing Cavanaugh’s since they opened the Piano Bar in 2002,” he muses. “As long as they keep asking me, I’ll keep showing up.”

The Piano Bar at Cavanaugh’s has live entertainment nightly and is open evening hours seven days a week. Clark says he sees a free-flowing parade of faces and characters and he does his best to accommodate requests. There have been dozens of special moments, says Clark, although one stands out.

“My mom had just passed away, and I had a raging cold,” he says. “Folks started filtering into the bar and I was doing Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer.’ I looked up and the piano was surrounded by people singing along with me and holding up lighters. I think it was my mom saying hello.”

His typical day is not what you associate with a musician and part of his appeal. He has worked in finance and mortgage industries for 20 years, and also worked in media sales. He recently started emerson 37 Advertising, an advertising agency in Newburgh, Indiana.

“I generally get up about the same time everyone else does,” he deadpans. “The gigs end about 11 p.m. I’d be staying up that late anyway.”

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. He led the stereotypical lifestyle for years. “The band thing was different — 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. and getting home at 5 a.m.” He smiles warmly, “I was younger then.”

Clark is regularly joined by local music legend Bob Green on the saxophone. Clark says he loves the simplicity of the solo and duo life.

Clark started piano lessons at six years old and later began performing at youth clubs and bars at 17. Now 56, the Evansville native has been a working musician for nearly 40 years.

His parents had other ideas.

“They only wanted me to play in church, but eventually they quit complaining.” In a nice twist, he has had a regular gig playing at Methodist Temple, 2109 Lincoln Ave., since 2004. He also performs three nursing home shows a month.

For more information about the Piano Bar at Cavanaugh’s, visit tropevansville.com/nightlife/piano-bar-cavanaughs/.

Comment

Information Inventory

Evansville CVB new website offers mobile accessibility

Whose Site Is It?
As the tourism organization serving Evansville and Vanderburgh County, the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau provides information to visitors on hotel accommodations, travel, dining, and entertainment.

The bureau’s website at visitevansville.com recently was revamped with the mobile user in mind. The focus of the redesign was to make the site accessible and viewable on any device, because half of its users viewed the webpage through a mobile device — often while traveling in the city. Along with desktops and laptops, iPads, iPhones, Androids, or any other mobile device can now access the same information online.

Laura Libs, director of marketing and communications at the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the inventory of the information has been streamlined allowing the site to load with no extra time. The vibrant, colorful display of scrolling glamour shots of the city with easy accessible link tabs has been retained.

“We wanted to make sure we could pull it up on the smallest cell phone,” says Libs, who has overseen multiple web redesigns during her nearly 15 years at the bureau.

Don’t Miss:
Easy to find hotel packages, accommodations, attractions, restaurants, and upcoming events are popular with the weekend traveling audience and provide countless pieces of information for visitors to enjoy their stay in the city.

“The categories cut through the clutter,” says Libs.

Site Designed and Maintained By: Gray Loon Marketing Group, Inc.

Comment

This Time It’s Personal

Owner of three businesses strives to help the community
Winetree Liquors owner Robert Jarrett II started running the company after his father’s death in 2006.

It could be said Robert Jarrett II is a version of James Bond. He can install and use surveillance equipment, ignite explosions, and offers a Bond-worthy cocktail. Jarrett just happens to work as an entrepreneur, owning three companies in the Evansville area.

Jarrett Security Solutions, 4031 E. Morgan Ave., sells security and surveillance equipment to local residents and businesses. The store originally began as CDS Video Security, but Jarrett changed the name when he purchased the company in 2007.

Jarrett, 43, prides himself on ensuring Evansville citizens, including his wife and son, feel secure. He says he could write books on the different ways his company has been able to catch criminals. His main goal is to make the Tri-State area a better place.

“I love the fact that I can help people protect their homes or their businesses,” he says. “If you don’t have peace of mind, you don’t have anything.”

Having a pleasant community is important to Jarrett, who has lived in the area his entire life. His father Robert Jarrett worked in Evansville real estate for roughly 40 years and was the first owner of Winetree Liquors, expanding it to three locations. Jarrett II has been its official owner since 2012.

Jarrett’s father designed the company logo and registered the trademark, but Jarrett created the name as a boy. After his father’s death in 2006, Jarrett started running the company and says he learned the value of marketing.

“I’ve always liked marketing,” he says. “You could have the best business in the world, but if you don’t market properly, nobody is going to know what you do or what your business does.”

Jarrett says some patrons assume Winetree Liquors sells only wine because of its name, but it houses a full range of beer, wine, and spirits. Customers at Winetree Liquors East can choose from more than 500 selections of beer, some of which are difficult to find.

Using his passions to give customers the best possible product is critical to Jarrett, which is why he started Jarrett Pyrotechnics last February. He completed electronics classes at Harrison High School 27 years ago, and later began performing shows. He programs fireworks to launch at specific intervals using a remote control system, which connects electronic boxes through igniters.

The audience’s reaction is Jarrett’s favorite aspect of “painting the sky.” He is directing the fireworks display in Mount Vernon, Indiana, on July 3. Owning three local companies is more than just business to Jarrett.

“It’s not just about making money,” he says. “It’s about giving back to the community.”

For more information about Jarrett Security Solutions, call 812-475-1779 or visit jarrettsecurity.com. For more information about Winetree Liquors, call 812-476-8141 or visit winetreeliquors.com.

Comment

Philanthropic Ways

Robbie Kent Sr. continues legacy of giving
Evansville native Robbie Kent Sr. is known for his many philanthropic efforts.

Robbie Kent Sr. is a man who has a hard time saying no. Known for his philanthropic acts, the 67-year-old says the one thing he believes in most is giving.

“You have to sacrifice for your family, for your fellow man,” he says. “The ones who are more fortunate need to continue to assist those less fortunate.”

Born and raised in Evansville, Kent received his undergraduate degree from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Southern Indiana, and an honorary degree from the University of Evansville. The former owner of Kenny Kent Chevrolet, Toyota, and Lexus and his team expanded the dealership into 11 franchises at one time. Since 1971 he has served on 14 different boards in the community.

“There are individuals and causes around Evansville that have touched my heart,” he says. “And it’s not the fact that I was able to give money, time, and energy, but the fact that others benefited from it, including myself.”

Kent was the first chairman of St. Mary’s Health Foundation’s Heritage Open Golf Scramble, which benefits St. Mary’s Center for Children. The event raised about $11,000 during its first year, Kent says, and now it collects more than $200,000. He still does not shy away from helping; he’s also co-chaired the 10th and 25th scrambles.

“St. Mary’s has already agreed that if I live long enough, I can chair the 50th Heritage Open,” he says with a laugh.

He is humble to a fault and credits the successes in his life to those around him. First and foremost, he shares how his family’s support allows him to pursue his philanthropic efforts.

“I have my wife of 46 years, Marguerite, and four children, Robbie Jr., Christopher, Jennifer, and Lauren. My family always gave me the rope to be able to do what I wanted to do, when I needed to do it, and for the right causes,” says Kent. “My second family, which was my employees, supported me as well. They made my job easier so I could go out and do what I needed.”

He also gives credit to his late father Kenny Kent, who taught his son the lesson of serving those around him. “I was fortunate to have my father as a mentor; he was a prime example of what life should be,” he says. “I could never walk in his shoes, but I could make him proud. That’s been my goal.”

Kent hopes Evansville’s future is filled with a younger generation stepping up to take charge of the city. “We need a next level of entrepreneurs to move the city forward,” he says. “Let’s look at the positive things about Evansville. We need to find the good because Evansville has a lot to be proud of.”

For more information about the St. Mary’s Heritage Open, call 812-485-5850 or visit stmarys.org/foundation.

Comment

Electronic Lullaby

Lullafi helps restless babies and their parents

When it comes to restless babies, many parents turn to the same practice. They drive their child around the neighborhood block a few times. But local sound engineer and musician Mike Boren wondered why the habit was so effective and if he could invent a device to eliminate late night drives. That’s when Lullafi was born.

“It started with a conversation with my brother,” says Boren. “He couldn’t get my nephew to sleep. He said, ‘If you could figure out a way to keep me from driving about three hours every night to keep him asleep, let me know.’”

The Evansville native and founder of the Evansville Music Academy, formerly Guitar Lab, began to research and test different ways to create the same sounds and feels of riding in a car. Three years later, he created a finished prototype.

Lullafi works by using sound to reproduce the hum of a moving car, as well as the vibrations, pulsing sensations, and low-frequency rumbles felt during a ride. According to Boren, these elements are similar to those experienced by babies in their mother’s womb, which puts a baby to sleep.

To recreate that in Lullafi, Boren completed many sound studies, recording as he drove his car and analyzing audio samples of womb sounds. “From an audio engineering side, I could see what was going on and what was common. It’s all based off that,” he says.

The small device can attach to a side of a crib or a car seat and has a USB rechargeable battery. The small speaker is programmed with five built-in sounds. Lullafi also is Bluetooth® compatible, so parents can plug in any type of recorded sound.

Boren says he’s produced two Lullafis and began a Kickstarter page to help raise funds for production. The ultimate goal is to see Lullafi on the market, but if not, he feels his goal has been met.

“At this point, I’m pretty happy with it,” he says. “I’ve learned a ton from doing this and from both the business and manufacturing side. I would say if it stops here, I’m pretty darn happy with that.”

For more information about Lullafi, visit lullafi.com or kickstarter.com/projects/325058527/lullafi-sound-sleep-solution.

Comment

Princeton Platform

Visitors and tourism bureau operates in former train depot
Paula French, Kelly Scott, and Eric Heidenreich are employees at the Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau.

As Executive Director Eric Heidenreich promotes the attractions in Gibson County, he finds his workplace also is on many visitors’ must-see lists.

The Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau, 702 W. Broadway St. in Princeton, Indiana, is located in a former train depot used by the former Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad and CSX Transportation today. The building, constructed in 1875, is considered a landmark for residents and notable for its caboose, historic brick walkway, and position next to the still-functioning railroad tracks that run through Princeton.

Tours are available at no charge Monday through Friday. Antiques, an old safe, baggage claim sliding doors, a ticketing window, and an ice pick stuck into the main office wall are all evidence of the former depot, which was used as a train station until the service was discontinued in the 1960s. Train operators used it as their office space until the early ’80s. Princeton Railroad Station, Inc. acquired the building and began the process of restoring it. John Burris, a retired banker, is credited with handling a majority of the renovations himself.

The Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau began in 1998 and three months later, Heidenreich was hired. It was formerly located in a small office building east of the Gibson County Courthouse. The tourism bureau has two full-time employees, Heidenreich and Kelly Scott, manager of visitor services, and a part-time marketing consultant, Paula French.

“As work continued on this building, people were really interested in the building,” says Heidenreich, who grew up in Princeton. “We thought there was no way we could use that as an office. But we were down here one day as the renovations were getting close to done, and we thought, ‘Maybe we can make this work.’”

The tourism office moved into the former train depot in 2005 after agreeing with the railroad board that it could be mutually beneficial.

“We kind of resisted because of the proximity to the railroad tracks,” says French.“Mr. Burris had done an excellent job on the renovation, but there were still things to be done. Once we made the commitment, we wanted to save this building. A building that is not inhabited will deteriorate over time. We took the plunge and said, ‘We can make this work.’”

In addition to Burris’ renovations, the bureau replaced all of the windows, renovated the bathroom, added cabinets for office needs, painted the exterior of the building, and added workspaces in the former baggage claim area of the depot. A fence also was installed to eliminate access from the building onto the tracks. Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana provided a grant to replace the roof.

“We try to keep everything as authentic as we can and still function as an office,” says Heidenreich.

For more information about the Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau, call 812-385-0999 or visit gibsoncountyin.org.