It’s hard to come up with a bigger name that has come out of Albany than the Southern belle of Food Network, Paula Deen.
It’s also hard to hear someone say, “Hey, y’all” without it instantly bringing to mind Deen’s cheerful, heartfelt greeting to her viewers.
In fact, perhaps “Hey, y’all” would be an appropriate greeting to emblazon above the front door of a Paula Deen museum that is being planned for Albany.
A museum recognizing the accomplishments of Deen, who has become one of the nation’s top ambassadors for Southern culture and cuisine, is a worthy endeavor, one that we hope will quickly come to fruition.
In an interview with The Albany Herald, Deen sounded enthused about the museum, which would be housed in Deen’s childhood home. The effort has been led by B.J. Fletcher, an Albany businesswoman who has been active in finding ways to improve the community, and Deen’s former husband, Jimmy Deen. Downtown Albany officials said they are working to help make this happen.
“It just takes my breath away that folks back in Albany would consider doing something like this,” Deen told The Herald. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around this incredible honor. I would want something like this to be a symbol of hope for people looking to make their lives better.”
Indeed, Paula Deen is a prime example of how an individual can succeed — and even find stardom — by working hard, being smart at business and producing a quality product — homestyle cooking with a heavy seasoning of authentic Southern charm — that people want.
The local girl who moved away (to Savannah) and made it big hasn’t forgotten her hometown. Deen’s a frequent visitor to Albany and Southwest Georgia, whether headlining a fundraiser for GraceWay Recovery Center here or teaming with former President Jimmy Carter in Plains for a dinner to benefit the fight against cancer.
The plan appears to be to move Deen’s childhood home from its Whitney Avenue location to the plaza area at the Thronateeska Heritage Foundation, which also houses one of Albany’s most underappreciated entertainment venues — the Wetherbee Planetarium. There’s reason to be optimistic that a Paula Deen museum along with the planetarium and heritage museum — all a stone’s throw from the Flint RiverQuarium, the river trail and the Art Park on Pine Avenue — would attract more visitors.
“I’m just so excited about the possibilities,” Deen said about the museum.
And so are we.