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St. Augustine Restaurant Investor Serves Up Support

Mar 22, 2010
by Laura Smith

Local investor James Babcock, a partner in upscale St. Augustine eateries Opus 39 and The Tasting Room, has pledged $250,000 in unrestricted funds to help the students of Flagler College

A relative newcomer to the Flagler College community, Babcock was inspired to help support the college after meeting and working with a number of Flagler students employed in the restaurants.

“I have been so impressed with the quality of the students who have become my friends and colleagues,” Babcock said. “They immediately caught my attention, and I started to think about how I could get involved with the college that’s helping to shape them.”

Babcock, a native of New York City, grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, not far from Cleveland, and attended Ohio University. An expansive logistics career took him all over the country, including back to his native New York where he continued to grow his logistics expertise. He established his own distribution company and ultimately transitioned into industrial real estate development.

After a 1979 business transaction brought him south to Jacksonville, Babcock was taken with Northeast Florida and soon made plans to relocate to the area. He and his wife now live in Ponte Vedra’s Marsh Landing.

“I love what this area was back then, and I love what it is today,” he said. But after recently selling his logistics business to his employees and retiring from the industry, Babcock was ready for new initiatives, and his attention turned south to St. Augustine.

“I spend more and more of my time in St. Augustine these days,” he said. “I still love Jacksonville, but as my career has evolved and I have more time to look at new projects, St. Augustine is very appealing to me.”

Today, Babcock works with a few Flagler College students at Opus 39 and The Tasting Room. He says the restaurants offer good employment opportunities for students looking for upscale, local dining establishments where they can work while completing their degrees.

It didn’t take long before Babcock began noticing a trend in the students working in his restaurants: they were positive, smart, polished, professional and industrious, qualities Babcock values as an investor and an entrepreneur.

He connected the dots and quickly credited Flagler College with recruiting and retaining such a high level of student. Then, Babcock began looking into the history of the college and talking with Flagler representatives about getting involved. The plans for his gift fell into place quickly, and it wasn’t long before Babcock felt confident with his pledge of $250,000 in unrestricted funds.

“I like to see resources go to scholarship funds,” he said, “but I feel a great sense of trust with Flagler College, and I know they will use the funds toward whatever need is greatest. It’s up to the college; I’m happy to categorize my support as unrestricted giving.”

Babcock says however his gift is used, he’s convinced of one thing: it will be money well spent in transforming the lives of many, many young people at Flagler College.

“Getting to know the Flagler students I’ve had the pleasure to work with has made me less cynical about tomorrow,” he said. “These are hard-working students, people who have to work to support their educations. I see, in Flagler’s students, how good things are going to be in our future. And I’m proud to support their college in any small way I can.”

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