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Choosing Hall: One couple's leap of faith worked out
Melissa Griffin, a hairstylist at Georgia’s Finest Salon, styles Gwen Bagley’s hair Thursday afternoon. Although she knew no one in the area, Griffin and her husband decided to move to Gainesville from Alma in August 2007. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Melissa Griffin had a steady clientele at her beauty shop in the Southeast Georgia town of Alma.

The small agricultural county seat is perhaps best known for its annual crop of blueberries.

Griffin, 39, had grown up and gone to school in Bacon County. After studying cosmetology at a technical school, she began what would be an 18-year career of cutting, coloring and curling the hair of the folks in town.

The last three years, she had owned a house in the town’s commercial district that she calls "her dream house." The building was the home to the business she owned until a year ago.

One day, her husband, Dale Griffin, 44, came home with talk of change in their family’s life. Her folks had moved away to Hartwell years before, and Dale Griffin’s parents had passed away.

Without a destination in mind, the couple paid the first of several visits to Gainesville and began to feel at home.

"We had no connections here," said Melissa Griffin. "One afternoon, my husband came home and said we might consider moving. Initially, I was excited and scared, too."

In August 2007, the Griffins and their son, Clint, 14, moved to North Hall. This week, Clint will begin his second year in the Hall County school system as a freshman at North Hall High School.

Dale, who had worked for a distribution company in South Georgia, took an insurance job here. The job was not a good fit, and he now finds himself looking for work.

Melissa was drawn to a shop, Georgia’s Finest on Washington Street, which, like her shop, is in a former residence.

A bubbly redhead, although like many in the hairdressing profession, the color is subject to change, Melissa has found her niche and steadily is building a loyal clientele.

While the shop has all the modern conveniences, it has all the charm of a typical Southern beauty parlor, much akin to the one in the motion picture "Steel Magnolias." The customers and the stylists all seem to have a warm, friendly rapport.

It’s part of what drew Melissa to the shop. She hears from her former clients from time to time, including some who came to her for regular appointments for years. But she is convinced that she and Dale did the right thing in moving here.

Dale and Melissa had thought of the move to Gainesville as an opportunity to dabble in real estate investing, however, the current economic situation has pushed that idea aside for the time being.

She said that moving here was both a test and exercise of their Christian faith.

"I asked God to show me what to do," she said.

A number of things that have happened indicated that they were doing the right thing.

Ironically, she said the answer came from a sermon from the man who would become their pastor in their new home, the Rev. Jentezen Franklin of Free Chapel Worship Center.

Melissa and Dale occasionally watched Franklin on his national television program and had visited Free Chapel previously, not knowing that Gainesville would, in time, become their home.

However, she said Franklin’s message about what he called "location frustration," helped give her a firm answer.

"He (Franklin) said that the Lord said to make the move not based on the money, but because God said so," she said. "We felt that God had a purpose in us being here in Gainesville."

Another sign came in the sale of their home and business property.

"I was able to get a contract on both of them, 20 minutes apart, from two different people," she said.

The entire process, from deciding to move to selling their property and moving, took about eight months.

A year later, Melissa said their family indeed has found a place they proudly call home.

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