September 26, 2016
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Haus Party

Bauerhaus has storied history as event host
The last three generations, pictured here, have helped evolve the company to keep it continually growing.

Few business owners trace their company beginnings to a party. The Bauerhaus first was used more than 135 years ago as a venue for church summer socials, known then as Bauer’s Grove. Today, the historic property has defined its place in Southern Indiana by serving parties and celebrations.

Started in 1880 by Michael Bauer, the great-great-grandfather of current owner Jim Bauer, the Bauerhaus hosted potlucks between the Methodist and Lutheran churches in the Darmstadt, Indiana, area. Michael and his family had come to America from Darmstadt, Germany, and were a part of the original settlers to the Southern Indiana area of the same name. Many changes and expansions happened over the next century to make the business what it is today, according to Jim Bauer, who is the fifth-generation Bauer to head the venue.

He attributes his staff’s ability to transform with trends — the Bauerhaus once sported square dance halls before updating to the current European-inspired building of today — and their level of service as reasons why the business continues to grow.

“I truly do believe, and I say humbly, because we are concentrated on our customer service … that’s why we get the recognition. I’ve got a wonderful team that works for me,” he says.

The Central High School and University of Evansville alumnus returned to take over the family business in 1994. Along with the expansion of Bauerhaus Catering and the addition of Bauerhaus Pastry, Bauer says he also is proud of the company’s move to become a full-service wedding destination spot.

The site has become just as popular with wedding parties as it has with corporate event planners.

Bauer says his staff’s ability to stay up-to-date with wedding trends is what helps the historic business stay current. “We do definitely keep track of the web, just like our client might,” he says. “We also attend conferences, just being aware of things.”

There is a lot of pride in the family’s history with the business and what they continue to accomplish, Bauer says.

“I don’t think in his wildest dreams, (my great-great-grandfather) would have thought that we would be who we are,” he says. “I have three generations in heaven above me; I hope we put a smile on their faces.”

For more information about the Bauerhaus, call 812-759-9000 or visit


Safe and Secure

On the worst day of a family’s life, Lampion Center pulls those facing hard times out of the dark
Executive Director Lynn Kyle, Development Director Jennifer Childress, and Board Member Scott Wylie

When families come to Lampion Center, it’s often on the day they would consider the worst of their lives. Their child may have been sexually molested or abused — one in 10 children nationwide are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Someone may have had an addiction problem or undergone trauma, and the family sought the nonprofit counseling agency for help.

In an attempt to encourage this healing process with young children, who often struggle communicating what they’ve gone through, Lampion, which specializes in counseling children and families with a sub-specialty in treating young children, introduced something to help in addition to their highly-skilled therapists. Roary the Lampion Lion, a stuffed animal lion and unconditional friend, is given to children upon arrival at the center. Lisa Tanner and Sue Anne Mullen conceived the idea of Lampion’s mascot around eight years ago.

“We were looking for a way to have (the children) immediately connect security and safety to Lampion,” says Scott Wylie, Lampion board member and executive director at the Vanderburgh Community Foundation.

Children at Lampion, located at 655 S. Hebron Ave., receive a Roary stuffed animal when community members donate $20 — $10 pays for the lion and $10 goes to providing the child therapy. A therapist gives the lion to the child upon arrival at the agency the first time and it becomes his or her connection with the therapist, says Lampion Development Director Jennifer Childress. The therapist then explains how lions are courageous and protective.

“We want children to know at Lampion that we are all about family. We want them to be courageous so we can help them,” says Childress, who has worked at the center for three years. “Roary comes back to a lot of therapy appointments. The stories I hear in the hallways absolutely make you cry. The kiddos say, ‘I brought Roary today and I’m going to tell you what happened.’

“For that to happen, it sometimes takes months for a child to tell what happened. Roary will come and if Roary is on the table they can talk, but if Roary leaves the room, they can’t. Roary has gone to court and all kinds of places. Roary is this stuffed thing that gives them courage to talk about this awful stuff that has happened. He also comes back in more lighthearted ways with haircuts and clothes. It really is a huge way we do therapy here — through a stuffed animal we buy in bulk.”

Lampion, formerly Family and Children’s Service, offers counseling services to people of all ages in Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Posey counties for affordable rates based on their income. The type of counseling offered can range from marriage and family counseling, grief and loss, depression and anxiety, and others. Lampion also provides psychological testing to all age groups for issues such as ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. The nonprofit operates with help from local United Way support and through program service fees, grants, contracts, and donor gifts. The agency’s history in Evansville can be traced back to Aug. 6, 1885, when a group of women formed an organization to help meet the needs of Civil War veterans and their families in Evansville.

The organization has several partnerships in the community including sharing services and therapists and offering support groups. Lampion works with groups such as Albion Fellows Bacon Center, Holly’s House, House of Bread and Peace, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., and others. Lampion also works with the court system and offers mandatory parenting divorce classes, which both parents are required to attend if they have a child under 18.

“By forming these partnerships, we help them help their clients,” says Childress. “It’s a community response that can hopefully heal that whole circumstance. Those collaborations are vital not only to community health but to keeping people out of the system so we don’t see them again in 10 to 15 years.”

These collaborations potentially can help prevent a harmful cycle. Another way Lampion works to prevent child sexual abuse is through a free class called Stewards of Children. This program has trained 4,000 people in the last five years and helps educate adults on the proactive steps to protect children.

“These are hard services to find. These are areas that are very challenging to talk about even,” says Childress. “When you talk about child sexual abuse, people say, ‘Well there’s only one or two cases in Evansville.’ You’re only getting it when it’s in the newspaper. We have eight therapists who are fulltime. We are booked for months. It’s heartbreaking. Our therapists are seeing significant issues, not only in dealing with child sexual abuse, but also other issues that impact the lives of families and our community.”

“Every time one of these kids is able to stay in school or a family is able to function more effectively, it doesn’t just benefit them. It benefits everybody,” says Wylie.

For more information about the Lampion Center, call 812-471-1776 or visit

First Impression

Lampion launches first-ever capital campaign to help repair facility
By Emily Patton • Photos by Heather Gray

Battling a leaky and stained ceiling, broken desks, water and structural concrete damage, and aged phone and computer technology, the Lampion Center had to work to convince its clients that the agency was a place of safety and healing.

“If you are bringing in your 6 year old for counseling, something concerning has happened,” says Jennifer Childress, development director at Lampion Center. “If that worst day in your family’s life has occurred and you’re sitting in our lobby and I have duct-taped the ceiling tiles, it doesn’t feel like you are at the right place. That specialty wasn’t aligning with the impression our building was making. Clients started to feel like they weren’t worth anything.”

Two years ago, the agency sought help from Bob Jones, CEO of Old National Bank, “because the building was aging dramatically,” says Childress. Lampion had lost a furnace and an air conditioner, and the need for a capital campaign became a reality. After the initial meeting to gauge whether a campaign was feasible, Lampion left with not only a plan to start raising money, but also with co-chairs of Jones and Jim Muehlbauer, who is vice president of Koch Enterprises.

“When the head of your capital campaign are co-chairs of Bob and Jim, it shows the belief the community has in the work we are doing,” says Scott Wylie, Lampion board member and executive director at the Vanderburgh Community Foundation. “You need leaders of that group who can get in the door and ask for the resources to make it happen. Every nonprofit dreams of having people like Bob and Jim.

“There’s a reason why everyone knows their names. It’s not just because they lead large corporate entities.Having people who are regarded for their community service is a game changer.”

Three weeks after meeting with Jones, Lampion’s first-ever capital campaign was launched. The agency asked for $1.4 million and in the last two years it has raised $1 million. Childress says she hopes to obtain the remaining deficit by the end of the year.

“The only issue we have to overcome is that Lampion is one of Evansville’s best kept secrets,” says Jones. “The staff is so dedicated to serving their clients and they are reticent about promoting themselves and the challenges they faced in their building — we often times need to tell the story.”

A portion of the $1 million raised has gone to the much-needed interior and exterior repairs to the building. In June 2014, the agency began working with CORE Contractors Inc. in an 11-month renovation project. The improvements included new flooring, new paint, new roofing, new furniture, new HVAC, and allowed the agency to gain 2,000 square feet of previously unusable space and transform it into a meeting space for 40 to 60 people.

“What this transformation of the facility has done is allow us to immediately show that our clients deserve the same environment for their healing that anyone has,” says Wylie.

“The hole in the community without Lampion Center would be huge,” says CORE owner Jeff Hatfield. “It is deserving of everyone’s support to keep it going and keep it vibrant.”


For Their Service

Former restaurant Raffi’s transforms into counseling center for veterans
Mike Richardson, broker and developer, helped provide a place for veterans.

Gone are the tables for four, lined with linen. So are the carafes of wine. No longer can you savor the waft of veal saltimbocca or shrimp diablo.

The red brick building at 1100 N. Burkhardt Road where Raffi Manna served as restaurateur for 13 years closed at the end of 2014. Since late June, however, there’s been new life at Raffi’s, albeit in very different form. It now houses the Vet Center, a Veterans Administration facility that provides counseling primarily to combat zone veterans, but also to drone operators, anyone affected by Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and those who were assigned to what the military calls mortuary services — dealing with human remains.

At a time when the VA is under heavy scrutiny amid accusations of delays at hospitals and clinics, the landscape for veterans in Southwest Indiana has never looked better. The three-story, 96,000-square-foot Veterans Affairs Health Care Center near the intersection of Burkhardt and Vogel Road opened in 2011, creating an outpatient clinic three times larger and more advanced technologically than its predecessor in Downtown Evansville. Now comes the relocation of the Vet Center, from an aged, small brick building on N. Weinbach Avenue to the bright, new space that once housed Raffi’s. VA rules require separate facilities for its vet centers and healthcare sites.

Mike Richardson, a broker/developer with RE/MAX Commercial, gets credit for providing a vision that turned an Italian restaurant into an array of rooms serving the psychological needs of veterans. Richardson worked with the VA several years ago to select the site that is now the VA Health Care Center, and VA officials turned to him when searching for a new Vet Center location.

“We looked at five to 10 properties,” says Richardson. “They narrowed it to three, and eventually chose Raffi’s because of its proximity to the VA Health Care Center and its visibility from Burkhardt.”

At that point, events moved quickly. Manna had been ready to sell Raffi’s for some time, and when the VA chose to settle there, Richardson purchased the building from Manna and signed the VA to a 10-year lease. Paperwork was completed last November, and Raffi’s served its final meals six weeks later on New Year’s Eve.

“The entire process took a year and a half,” Richardson says about the selection of the property and makeover. “The Vet Center gave me a complete set of their requirements — the exact size of the break room, restrooms, counseling offices, group therapy offices, etc. If a counseling office in Kansas City is 10-foot-by-12-foot, the counseling office here has to be the same exact size. I went to ARC Construction to work with Danny Bateman to design the plans. It involved literally demolishing the entire inside of the building. They took it down to the four walls. The only things that remained from Raffi’s were the two restrooms. We had to replace the entire roof, the entire HVAC system. There are three brand new HVAC units on the roof. We added a sprinkler system that the VA required and shatter-resistant film to the inside of the windows. It’s a clear film. You’d never notice it. But it makes the windows bullet resistant.”

Bateman, president of ARC, says the four to five months that ARC served onsite as general contractor were “very typical of a renovation,” and even included new landscaping and re-sealing the parking lot. The patio at the south end of the building also was refurbished, and more than 30 homeless vets gathered there for a cookout one week after the Vet Center opened. Future plans include an addition to the back of the building, providing a 14-foot-high and 40-foot-long canopy for the vehicle that serves as a Mobile Vet Center.

Today, the 4,200-square-foot Vet Center under the direction of Team Leader Paul Greene looks and smells new inside. Warm, muted colors prevail. There’s a feeling of comfort and security inside, which is exactly what the VA wants in a facility serving veterans trying to start a new life or restart their previous one following service in harrowing conditions. Greene’s staff includes an office manager and four counselors. A vocational rehabilitation specialist also is available. All counselors are licensed, and six of the seven employees are veterans themselves. While the nearby Health Care Center serves veterans in a more clinical fashion — doctors, nurses, labs, and scans — the Vet Center provides a slower pace and more personal interaction. Next to Marriage and Family Counselor Trudy Buckman’s office is the Play Therapy room filled with toys that every 4-year-old would surely love to take home. The office and Play Therapy room, where the counselor can use play therapy to interact with children dealing with stress and trauma, are separated by glass, allowing mom and dad to take their time with the counselor, knowing their kids are happy and safe nearby.

At the end of one hallway, right about where Raffi’s kitchen stood, is now a group room with a conference table surrounded by large executive chairs. At one end is a Smart Board, at the other a wall-mounted flat screen TV.

Richardson admits that federal regulations sometimes made the project complex, but overall, “It was a fairly smooth process,” he says. “I just followed their rules.”

Richardson is not a vet, but his 88-year-old father Frank served in the U.S. Navy and led his son into the commercial real estate business. “I think he’s proud of me for being involved with this, proud of the project,” says the younger Richardson. “I know it makes me feel good. We believe it’s helping the community.”

For more information about the Vet Center, call 812-473-5993 or visit

Issue CoverEvansvill Business August / September 2015 Issue Cover

Carol Schaefer

Hometown: Newburgh, Indiana

Job: Executive Director at Historic Newburgh, Inc.

Resume: Executive director at the Evansville Regional Better Business Bureau, 1981 to 1984; senior executive sales representative with Ortho Women’s Health at Johnson & Johnson, 1985 to 2004; senior executive sales representative president’s circle with Ortho Women’s Health at Johnson & Johnson, 2004 to 2009; executive director at Historic Newburgh, Inc., 2010 to present.

Family: Husband, Jim, two daughters, Tori, 19, and Alexandria, 17.

After 25 years serving Johnson & Johnson, Newburgh resident Carol Schaefer joined Historic Newburgh, Inc. as its executive director. The William H. Harrison High School and University of Tennessee, in Knoxville, Tennessee, alumna says the transition meant returning “where my heart has always been.” Schaefer, who has served as executive director for the past five years, studied interior design with a focus in historic preservation. Today, Historic Newburgh has around 300 people who volunteer at its various events.

How does Historic Newburgh, Inc. work to impact the locally owned shops and restaurants in Newburgh?
We are dedicated to historic preservation, but we also are dedicated to economic revitalization and sustainability of downtown businesses. We do that a number of different ways. One of the ways is through the events. They bring people to town. They may not go in the shops that day, but they see that we’ve got wonderful shops, cool restaurants, a Rivertown Trail that can be a destination; we have a museum that is a wonderful snapshot into the development of the whole U.S., but it’s all about Newburgh.

When you joined Historic Newburgh in 2010, what did you hope to accomplish in the community?
My philosophy is we are here to help make things happen. Historic Newburgh helps to be a catalyst. That’s how we ended up with a farmer’s market. (The farmer’s market is held every Saturday until Sept. 26, and every Wednesday until Oct. 28.) Someone simply came by the office — Jim Arnold — and said ‘What do you think about us having a farmer’s market?’ And I said, ‘We’ll do everything we can to promote it.’ That’s how we ended up with theater. Brenda Bender (producer) took it and ran with it. (“Murder’s in the Heir,” an audience interactive murder mystery comedy, is scheduled for Oct. 2-4.) Movie night is coming up and it’s because someone stood up at our annual meeting and said, ‘I think we should do movies out on the lawn.’ (There are three movie nights scheduled — “The Lego Movie” on Aug. 15, “Paddington” on Sept. 19, and “Hocus Pocus” on Oct. 24.)

What event are you most proud of during your time with Historic Newburgh, Inc.?
The Historic Newburgh Farmer’s Market is in its fifth year. This year has taken us to an entirely different level. We are at the point where we have expanded the number of vendors and we have events within the event. We’ve had an environmental day, we’ve had our fireworks rally, and recently had a children’s day with more than 20 nonprofit and profit organizations.

Describe Newburgh as a community.
People who live in Newburgh love to share their community with others. The town of Newburgh is only 3,000 people, then there’s the 47630 Newburgh that is 40,000 people. I think people see Newburgh as a backdrop to their events and activities. Any spring day you can see people doing photographs — senior pictures, weddings, and anniversaries — or runs. There are so many runs and activities throughout the year. There is always something going on.


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


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


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


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


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