Locals call it Hammond’s Crossing.
At the intersection of state route 306 and 369 sits a couple of convenience stores, gas signs, a few avoidable pot holes and gravel driveways that dust up just enough to change the color of the underside of your vehicle.
Though, as much as the old country intersection quite literally is a crossing in a small town, the crossing of pathways—old and new—make it such a special place.
Hammond’s Fishing Center sits on the northwest corner of the crossing, where the Hammond family has owned property since 1898. The current business is owned and operated by Candy Hammond and her son-in-law, Tim Hawkins. The building, which opened in 2010, is the physical iteration of a sketch that Thomas Hammond drew in colored pencils. He wasn’t a man of many words, but he was always a visionary.
“Thomas was just a thinker,” Hawkins said. “He’d pace the store back and forth, not saying much, but he did a lot.”
In 2010, Thomas and Candy Hammond moved from a small shop across the street to build what Candy called Thomas’ “dream,” the log cabin-style building conceptualized in Thomas’ colorful drawings. He took those concepts to Coal Mountain Builders, and his vision became a reality. But as it turned out, the beautiful building wasn’t the end goal. Thomas wanted his new building to facilitate a change in his community.
He wanted more kids fishing, and he wanted his shop to be the place to promote a culture change.
“When we opened the new store, we wanted to know what we could do to get young kids coming in,” Hawkins said. “Thomas grew up on this corner his entire life. His dream was to have a store like this, but also he felt like we were losing the younger generation. They were becoming less and less of our business.”
Shortly after opening the store, Thomas began a battle with liver cancer. Two weeks before passing away on Aug. 26, 2013, Hammond asked, in lieu of flowers, to open the Thomas Hammond High School Fishing club fund. Four-thousand dollars in donations came in year one, which helped the Hammonds begin sponsorships for the newly-formed high school teams in the area.
“We couldn’t do any of this without the people at Hammond’s Fishing Center,” North Forsyth fishing coach Scott Beard said.
“A lot of these coaches, they’re not getting paid to do this,” Hawkins said. “It’s all about wanting to do it, and if they do we want to provide for them any way we can.”
Candy proudly claimed that any local team that asks for help at least gets “a little something.”
“We try our best to help anyone we can,” Candy said. The business’ fund-raising has become a non-profit lifeline for young, ambitious fishermen in the county.
Sponsorships have landed the Hammond’s Crossing logo patch on North’s official fishing jerseys. Kids in the area are seen in the lake wearing official Hammond’s merchandise, instead of more popular brands, and an increasing amount of inexperienced kids are taking up the sport.
“I’ve got kids coming on all the time just wanting to introduce themselves to me,” Hawkins said. “The influx of kids interested is, I’d say, 100 percent more than it was a few years ago.”
Hawkins said the interest has grown considerably since Hammond’s passing, and the business has been able to sponsor club teams for North Forsyth, West Forsyth, Horizon Christian Academy and East Hall.
West, which edged the two-time defending state champion North team a few weeks ago, is set to host the 2nd Annual Forsyth County Bass Fishing Championship, Saturday, May 16, at Tidwell Park on Lake Lanier.
On May 2, Hammond’s Fishing Center will host the Thomas Hammond High School Memorial Fund Tournament, with signups on the day of the event at the Little Hall Boat Ramp. Entry fees will be $120, with 30-percent of proceeds going toward the memorial fund.
Candy Hammond hopes it will become an annual event. For her, this is just the beginning of seeing through her husband’s vision.
“Fishing was in his blood,” Candy said.