Durham County

You might be surprised who from Durham has been picked as ‘Southerners of the Year’

Mac McCaughan (left) and Laura Ballance (right), founders of Merge Records and the independent rock band Superchunk, were tabbed by Southern Living magazine for its “Southerners of the Year” list.
Mac McCaughan (left) and Laura Ballance (right), founders of Merge Records and the independent rock band Superchunk, were tabbed by Southern Living magazine for its “Southerners of the Year” list. The Herald-Sun

Superchunk and Southern Living magazine aren’t usually uttered in the same breath.

But in the current edition of the lifestyle magazine for Southerners and fans of the South, Superchunk band founders Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan, were selected for its “Southerners of the Year 2017” list.

Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, another Durham entrepreneur, made the list, too.

The choices Southern Living made to include them were representative of Durham’s gritty spirit.

McCaughan and Ballance have been staples in the independent music scene for more than 30 years with Superchunk, while also running Merge Records. They were pioneers in downtown Durham, building Merge there after moving inside the loop in 2001. Besides their civic pride in the Bull City, they’re also big in the community. They often organize company volunteer events and are known to match their employees’ charitable contributions, the magazine said.

“It is a huge deal and yeah, we’re excited,” Ballance said. “I’m honored to be named along with all those other people but I haven’t had a chance to look at who they all are, yet. But I’m sure it’s a great bunch of people who do great things.”

The magazine also picked two other North Carolinians — Ron Rash of Cullowhee and Carolyn Mason of Beaufort.

The competition was tough. The list included 46 people and organizations the magazine felt represented the South the best and “make us proud to call this region home.”

Ballance said she recently began subscribing to the magazine thanks to the insistence of her 13-year-old daughter, who she says she just loves it.

Bonner is known for bringing bees to downtown Durham. Her first two hives went on the roof of American Underground, the downtown business incubator. It led to the start of “Bee Downtown,” her urban beekeeping business. She sells the hives and provides maintenance for a fee. Some of the companies that have hives include Burt’s Bees, the Research Triangle Park headquarters and the Bull Durham Beer Company.

The latest edition of Southern Living is now on newsstands.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews

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