Erin and Ben Napier
Six days after their first meeting in college, Erin and Ben Napier decided they would marry. Their personal partnership became a professional one as a shared appreciation for small-town revitalization and American craftsmanship morphed into two successful companies—Laurel Mercantile Co., where they design, manufacture, and sell heirloom-quality, U.S.-made goods from candles to duck calls to cast-iron skillets; and Scotsman Co., Ben’s woodshop, where he builds one-of-a-kind fine furnishings—and a television show. Today the Napiers are the stars of HGTV’s Home Town—the hit home renovation series based in Laurel, Mississippi.
Born in Nashville, Carla Hall grew up surrounded by good old-fashioned Southern cooking. But it was traveling (and eating) her way through Europe, while working as a runway model, that led her to believe her passion for food could become a career. Today Hall is a classically trained chef and culinary personality, competing on Bravo’s Top Chef and Top Chef: All Stars and acting as cohost of ABC’s former Emmy Award–winning lifestyle television show The Chew. She is also the author of three cookbooks and is the Culinary Ambassador for Sweet Home Café at the Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
An eighth-generation whiskey maker and the current chief operating officer of Maker’s Mark, Rob Samuels knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it in the drinks business. He took the helm of one of Kentucky’s most storied bourbon brands in 2010 when his father retired, but not before spending time at every job in the distillery—from overseeing the grain and roller mill to hand dipping bottles in the company’s signature red wax. Since 2010, Samuels has introduced a cask strength expression for both Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46 and launched Maker’s Mark Private Select. He also serves as chairman of the board for the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
Laura Vinroot Poole
Charlotte, North Carolina
After observing the most stylish women in her life schedule twice-yearly buying trips to Atlanta and New York, the Charlotte native Laura Vinroot Poole recognized a market in her hometown for high fashion with a global perspective and Southern sensibility. More than twenty years after opening, Capitol continues to deliver a unique combination of emerging designer labels and venerable brands that encourage women to have the confidence to stand out in a crowd. The success of Capitol spawned the men’s shop Tabor, a sister store Poole Shop, which stocks contemporary labels, denim, and swimwear, and a recently opened second location of Capitol in Los Angeles. And last year, Poole launched What We Wore, a podcast on which designers, editors, and fashion icons discuss the ways their lives were shaped by major sartorial moments.
New York, New York
Before assuming the position of creative director at F. Schumacher & Co., the 130-year-old American company that encompasses both Schumacher, the luxury fabric house and wall-covering house, and Patterson Flynn Martin, the prestigious rug firm, Dara Caponigro worked for some of the biggest shelter magazines in the business. Her résumé includes time as design director at House Beautiful, a stint as design and decoration director at Elle Decor, and a few years as editor in chief of Veranda. She was also a founding editor at Domino, where she coauthored domino: The Book of Decorating, a New York Times best seller.
T. Edward Nickens
G&G contributing editor and author
Raleigh, North Carolina
An expert sportsman and the author of a collection of outdoor guides, including The Total Outdoorsman Manual, T. Edward Nickens puts his vast sporting knowledge to good use with his ninth appearance as a Made in the South Awards judge. He’s a frequent Garden & Gun contributor—assignments have taken him from the quail fields of the South Carolina Lowcountry to the mountains of Honduras. He also contributed to the magazine’s book S Is for Southern.