The Shackelford House

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On the same page: Culinary queen Lynne Ranew Mertins joins forces with hospitality king Stewbos Merry Acres to host, cater at Shackelford House

It’s a match made in culinary heaven: The name most synonymous with catering in Southwest Georgia – Lynne Ranew Mertins – joined Merry Acres Event Center/Stewbos, the region’s top food and hospitality company, on Jan. 1., 2015

And, to boot, so did one of the area’s most popular wedding and upscale-event venues: The Shackelford House.

In addition to catering special occasions throughout the region for four decades, Mertins has hosted celebrations and meetings at Shackelford House since 2002. Merry Acres/Stewbos added Mertins to its staff and purchased the “Pink House,” designed by famed architect Edward Vason Jones.

Jones, an Albany native who is best known for renovating 25 White House rooms and seven U.S. Department of State rooms from 1965 to 1980, drew the plans for the pink mansion at 1801 Dawson Road for his friends, Hugh and Marie Shackelford.

“It was built to look old, like Monticello, with hand-carved solid mahogany doors and beautiful architecture” Mertins says.

The transition is a homecoming for Mertins: As she continues to oversee events at the Shackelford House, she will manage the catering operations of Merry Acres Inn & Event Center, a post she held from 1986 to 1992.

Billy Mann, president of Stewbos’ restaurants – Henry Campbell’s Steakhouse, The Catch Seafood Room & Oyster Bar, Harvest Moon, Local Jerry’s and Manor House Pub – works hand-in-hand with Mertins. And, with Mertins’ expertise in catering, food presentation and decorating, the restaurants are benefitting. Mertins’ 10 part-time and temporary staffers made the transition with her, as well.

“I don’t like change much, but I think this combination is going to be great for Albany,” she says.

Mertins has dished up her popular dishes to presidents (Carter and Clinton), governors (Perdue and Deal), judges, Hollywood stars visiting for Albany’s annual celebrity quail hunt, and other dignitaries. She got her start in her kitchen honest, under the tutelage of her mother, a home economics major.

“She always had me and my sisters helping her cook or doing something in the kitchen,” Mertins says. “I always liked not only cooking, but making everything look pretty, so I just started doing little caterings, and it grew from there.”

A mother-of-two and member of Westover High School’s first graduating class, in 1970, Mertins has never lived outside of Albany and Leesburg. Since 1991, she also has served as Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church’s food services manager, responsible for preparing meals for Wednesday-night suppers, senior programs and meetings.

Mertins is an author, too. Her three cookbooks – “That Catered Touch,” “That Family Touch” and “That Seasoned Touch” – are top sellers at local gift shops. They feature her favorite recipes, which include crab cakes, tomato pie, frozen fruit salad, sour cream muffins and crab dip.

The beautiful Southern Living-quality Shackelford House, which features hand-carved details, a parlor and a magnificent wooden staircase, is undergoing renovations to convert former second-floor living quarters into a bridal room and dressing rooms for bridesmaids.

For more information, contact Lynne Ranew Mertins at (229) 432-6092 or sandy@merryacres.com.