From coast to coast, “shop local” campaigns often cite small businesses’ vested interest in the communities they serve as reasons for consumers to support them. In other words, the local, independently-owned businesses are the ones supporting the community’s youth sports teams, academic clubs, non-profits and other worthwhile community indeavors. In fact, Sue Lynn Sasser estimates that almost 80 cents of every dollar spent at a locally-owned restaurant stays in the community where that restaurant is located — and that’s due in no small part to its owner’s willingness to invest in their business and their community.
Embodying that concept are Daniel and Michelle King, owners of RaeZack’s in Helenwood. Helping people has been a motto for the Kings, who are guided by the principles of their Christian faith and have made helping people a central part of their business. The Kings have been selected as the 2019 Independent Herald/Scott County Chamber of Commerce Persons of the Year, the first time a couple rather than an individual has been named.
The Kings’ charitable nature was most visible this past November, when they opened their restaurant on Thanksgiving Day to serve a free turkey-and-dressing dinner with all the fixings for anyone who wished to partake. It was something Michelle King said she had wanted to do since the couple opened the restaurant several years ago. And her first worry wasn’t that too many people would show up because people were taking advantage of their kindness — but that not enough people would show up.
“My biggest fear,” she told the Independent Herald at the time, “(is) that we do this and nobody shows up. But, either way, we’re going to serve Thanksgiving dinner, and we’re going to do it with a smile and be thankful.”
People did show up, and in droves. From 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the Kings and their team of employees, family members and volunteers served Thanksgiving dinner to 315 people. And that suited them just fine. Their goal, after all, was providing a place for people who had nowhere else to go on what should have been a day for being surrounded by family and friends. Family is important for the Kings — so much so that they’re closed on Sundays, which is traditionally the best sales day for casual dining restaurants, so that they can spend time with their family.
“If we can show somebody some love, that’s what we’re here for,” Daniel King said at the time.
The Kings’ effort received media attention both locally and on a regional scale, but that’s not what they were looking for. In fact, it was this newspaper that contacted them — not the other way around — and requested an interview.
That free Thanksgiving dinner may have been the most visible example of the Kings’ giving nature, but it was far from the only one. From its sports teams to its schools to its first responders and more, Dan and Michelle King go above and beyond to support Scott County’s institutions and its people. Those who know them best say much of what the Kings do to support their community goes unnoticed because they aren’t looking for attention or to market their business; they’re just looking to serve.
“They don’t expect more of you than they would do themselves,” said Nancy Chambers, who works for the Kings at RaeZack’s. “Even though they push you, they give their whole hearts in everything they do. Their work ethic benefits their family, their employees and the entire community.”
These days, patrons of RaeZack’s — which is named for the Kings’ children, Raeleigh and Zack — rarely see Michelle King in the front of the store; she’s too busy in the back, keeping things flowing smoothly. But when the restaurant first opened and she was in the front, she had a tendency to give away food. “I would give more food away than we were selling,” she told the Independent Herald in November. ” Daniel would jump onto his wife for being too giving. “But then I’d turn around and he’d be giving food away.”
“Daniel and Michelle both embrace the spirit of a small community,” said Stacey Swann, executive director of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, which co-presents the Scott County Person of the Year with the Independent Herald. “It is about people helping one another and never forgetting their neighbors, no matter how successful they become. They are living their dream and inviting the community to be a part of it every day.”
About the Person of the Year Recognition
The Independent Herald has named a Scott County Person of the Year since 2013, when Amy Martin was selected for her successful efforts to raise more than $150,000 to build an all-inclusive playground at Oneida City Park for special needs children. Since 2017, the Person of the Year has been co-presented by the Independent Herald and the Scott County Chamber of Commerce. Daniel and Michelle King will be formally presented as the Persons of the Year on January 23 at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Chamber of Commerce.
2019: Dan and Michelle King
2018: Kaidance Lewallen
2017: Joe Cross
2016: Tony Taylor
2015: Stacey Kidd
2014: Jerry Slaven
2013: Amy Martin