BY HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
Aberdeen business owner Sheila Higgins is a very busy woman. As the owner of Buddy’s Quick Stop in Aberdeen, Higgins said her schedule rarely allows her to plan a vacation. Having recently added a small cafe in her business, Higgins said she hasn’t had a day away from work in months. Little did she know that a vacation was literally on her horizon.
“It’s kind of an amazing story,”Higgins said. “My friend, Dwight Stevens, called me up one night and said, ‘Hey, you need to be making a schedule where you can get off from work, because I went ahead and bought you an airplane ticket to go to New York. You’re gonna get a vacation.’ It’s the first one I’ve had in five years. Heck, it’s the first weekend I’ve had off since September of last year.”
Higgins rearranged her schedule and caught a plane from Atlanta, along with another friend, Jamie Lewis, less than two weeks later. Her daughter, Hannah, who met President Barack Obama a few years ago in Gulf Shores, and employee Julia Lee agreed to divide the added workload so Higgins could leave with the knowledge that her business was in good hands.
“It about killed me to pay that overhead, because I work the bulk of the hours,” said Higgins with a laugh. “I spent more money on that than I did in New York. But it was so worth it, everybody needs to go at least once.”
Stevens had arranged for them to stay in the heart of New York, on Times Square at the Hotel Edison, a “beautiful” hotel built in 1931 in the classic Art Deco-style so associated with old New York City. Upon their arrival, Stevens, who has traveled to New York several times, opted to stay and rest, but newbies Higgins said she and Lewis hit the streets as soon as they got there.
“We walked all the way through Central Park to The Met in the rain, enjoying all the unusual sights and people along the way,” Higgins said. “I just want everybody to know that if you plan to go to the Metropolitan in New York, you do not have to pay It is free I did not know that. They told me they accepted donations, so I gave them $55. Dwight fell out laughing when we found out later on that it was free”
Higgins said they did all the things tourists do in New York, including having a street portrait made, eating at places such as Bubba Gump’s, and the original Olive Garden. She said she was pleasantly surprised to find out that Central Park and the subways were not “like they are on CSI.”
We felt safe the whole time,” Higgins said. “The people were nice.”
Among the activities Higgins and Lewis enjoyed were seeing Broadway shows.
The first show Higgins said they saw was the $63 million dollar production, “Spider-Man”.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “They were flying everywhere! We had great seats, and one landed right beside Dwight. They were throwing confetti at everyone. We were like little kids. It wasn’t until the curtain call that we realized there were 10 people playing Spidey. We also got to see ‘Annie’, which is my favorite musical.”
Being a cook herself, Higgins said said she enjoyed the food in NYC and she ate pizza every chance she had. While Higgins makes a living selling gas and sundries, she said the gas in NYC was only $3.49, but a pack of cigarettes was $13.50. Higgins also attended the renowned Mississippi Picnic in Central Park.
“I would say there was about 2,400 people there, coming and going,” Higgins said. “Columbus and Tupelo representatives were there, along with Mississippi-based businesses like Sugaree’s Bakery out of New Albany, and McAllister’s Deli. All the colleges were there. Aberdeen will definitely be represented next year. “
Higgins said highlight of the trip was running into an interesting couple in Times Square who gave them free tickets to the Tony Awards.
“People from the different plays hung out in Times Square all day performing for the crowds before the Tony Awards started,” she said. “It was awesome.”
All too soon, Higgins said, the trip came to an end, and life has returned to normal, with one exception: she just found out that she won a weekend at The Broadway Training Camp in New York, for which she registered while at the Tony’s. Higgins hopes to go back to the Big Apple in October or November.
“It was a trip of a lifetime, and I’m so lucky to have such a good friend who’d give me such a generous gift,” Higgins said. “It was one of the best times of my life.”