Now Playing

David Epps; photography by Billy Black and Sarah Dorio

Another Man’s Treasure

by Wendy Bowman-Littler | Men's Book Atlanta magazine | September 14, 2012

From sports memorabilia to classic wooden yachts, three Atlantans take collecting to another level. Here, their favorite finds.

Harvesting Helmets
Seventeen years ago, when David Epps became chief operating officer of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he started accumulating every piece of game-related memorabilia he could get his hands on. Eventually, he focused all of his attention on acquiring a helmet from each team that plays in his postseason collegiate ACC-versus-SEC matchup.

Epps also includes helmets from the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game that opens the college football season.
Today, a credenza behind his desk at the Metro Atlanta Chamber holds 33 helmets (most autographed by head coaches). “As long as we have a team I haven’t seen before,” says Epps, “I will definitely figure out a way to get my hands on a helmet.”

He kicked off his collection during his first bowl week in 1994 with helmets from the University of North Carolina and Mississippi State signed by head coaches Dick Sheridan and Jackie Sherrill.
Epps acquires leftover headgear after games or buys them from the participating schools for up to $150. His most unusual: a limited-edition Nike Pro Combat Helmet (one of only 130 made) used in The University of Georgia Bulldogs’ opening game last season. “There aren’t a lot of people who are in a position to get their hands on this many helmets,” he says. “You probably won’t see this many in one place unless you go to a museum.”

All Aboard!
Atlanta native Earl McMillen III encountered kindred spirits on a “life-changing” motor yacht cruise up the East Coast to Newport, R.I., in his 20s and immediately fell in love with the idea of restoring classic wooden yachts for a living. Before that, he envisioned himself living in Atlanta and following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather’s architecture/real-estate business.

“I started down that path, but I became more intrigued with the idea of restoring classic yachts,” says McMillen, who today is president and founder of McMillen Yachts Inc., which specializes in restoring and maintaining American-designed and -built wooden yachts (mostly rescued from backwoods boatyards and marinas from Florida to Maine).

McMillen also offers fractional yacht ownerships to folks who desire the yachting lifestyle without the hassle of owning their own boat (at a minimum share of $200,000 per partner).

The 15-plus yachts in McMillen’s fleet range from the 62-foot “Miss Asia” commuter to the flagship of the fleet—the 1926, 104-foot “Freedom” fantail motor yacht—that he paid $100 for in 2002. He raised $7 million-plus through syndication in the fractional ownership program to restore the boat, which is now worth more than $9 million.

An Appetite for Cookbooks
An 80-year-old French woman named Josephine kicked off a life-long love affair with cookbooks for Tony Conway, founder and CEO of the 15-year-old Atlanta catering and special events firm A Legendary Event. He found Cooking With Josephine at a rummage sale during a vacation in Paris about 20 years ago and has gone on to assemble a collection of more than 6,000 cookbooks.

Scattered throughout his office and his homes in Atlanta and North Georgia, the cookbooks’ titles range from Glorious Foods—compiled by Christopher Idone, the owner of a New York-based catering firm, and used by Conway as inspiration for his first catering job at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts Dinner—to Unmentionable Cuisine (which he says he has never used, but likes the stories).

The cookbooks have to offer Conway more than just inspiration and recipes. “I also like cookbooks with great photography that tell a story about where the food originated from, where the author is from, what the chef is doing… I read cookbooks like a novel,” he says.

He has no desire to pen his own cookbook, but Conway does write cookbook reviews for magazines and newspapers through an online venture called Cookbooks Uncovered. “I also hope to eventually create a reality show reminiscent of Chopped versus American Idol to come up with the next cookbook author,” he says.