March 21, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Grand Bay Nurse Chosen as Small Business Person of the Year

March 20, 2012


Robin Gregorius, owner of Country Gables Assisted Living poses for a photo Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2012 at the facility in Grand Bay, Alabama. Gregorius has been named the Small Business Person of the Year for Alabama and will travel to Washington D.C. in May to receive the award. (G.M. Andrews/Press-Register)

GRAND BAY, Alabama -- When Robin Gregorius walks into the Mandarin Oriental hotel in the nation's capital May 20, she plans on representing more than her Country Gables Assisted Living home in Grand Bay.

Gregorius was recently named the 2012 Small Business Person of the Year for Alabama by the Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C.

And while the 47-year-old registered nurse will enjoy a chance to be lauded in a city she's never visited -- and bring her family along -- she said she has a more important goal in mind.

"I have a mission to get there and make a statement (that) the South definitely has a lot to offer," Gregorius said during an interview Monday. "I'm going to put out the fire that Southern women are dumb or redneck, because that's anything but me."

The daughter of a Robertsdale area farmer, Gregorius grew up sweating in the dirt and fields of her Czechoslovakian parents' dream, and credits their example of hard work and determination as the keys to her success.

Serving as a nurse in hospitals from Los Angeles to New Orleans, Pascagoula and Mobile, she developed her care skills and listened closely to what her older patients had to say about the places where they lived.

They talked of how the "homes were never 'homey,'" how the staffs failed to function as families and how they missed old-fashioned cooking, she said.

"I always thought I could do it better," Gregorius said.

Country Gables "is pretty much run like a big bed-and-breakfast hotel, except it's breakfast, lunch and dinner with a 24-hour continuum of care," she said. "It's my home, just extended to 24 people.

"Even though they are in assisted living, their home has a heartbeat."

It was a hard row to hoe, as Gregorius spent nearly 20 years saving for the eventual down payment that she would need.

She worked double shifts as a nurse to make that possible. She took rejection on the chin a half-dozen times from lenders until, finally, a bank in New York agreed to loan her $1 million to build her dream.

Although she's the nurse administrator, landscaper and grocery shopper, Gregorius gives generous credit to her staff of 14 and her family. In fact, her sister Ramona is one of the cooks at Country Gables, and her mother, Lahoma, is the activities director.

"I couldn't have done this without the support of my mother," she said.

Gregorius said, "If you have determination and you continue to work and save... you can actually cross that finish line. I knew one day, if I could just hold on, I would be able to deliver people a true Southern home.

"There was no way I was going to go belly up."

Visit the Country Gables Assisted Living website here.

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