Sue Atkinson

duGard Communications Presents

The Beat Won’t Stop: Gratitude Ceremony

Sue Atkinson

Nashville’s premier PR executive.

Latin is the start of everything, especially a long PR relationship.

Sue G. Atkinson fell in love with Public Relations when I was just getting started in the world. After teaching Latin and Math at John Overton High School, as well as serving at Nashville Public Television, Sue began a PR career that would span over 30 years. I met her at HCA as a wide-eyed intern. I introduced myself to Sue by saying I was one year away from being an ‘alumnus’ of NCCU. She, quite pointedly, corrected me and said “Alumna, you will be an Alumna.”  I was absolutely mortified, embarrassed and disappointed. I wanted to crawl under the table. That was 1997.

Fast forward to 2001 and Sue’s company, Atkinson Public Relations, handled PR for TriStar Health System. Here was an opportunity to interact with this woman who loomed larger than life, in my eyes.  What I loved most about Sue was that she was always hard to hear, which meant you had to lean in to listen. In retrospect, I think that was a strategic move on her part. She also gave me the best marriage advice: 

“Perri, always remember it’s about three cups, not just pouring in to make one cup. You are always important as an individual and Anthony is too. There is the cup that represents the two of you, but do NOT forget your cup. Keep your cup full just as much.”

I’ve used that advice to give others, for years… Thank you Sue.

Smashin Crab Music Fest 2022 Features The Carl Stewart Band and NBC The Voice’s Audra McLaughlin

Outdoor Event Brings Together Seafood and Music Lovers on Sept 3 Benefiting TSU

Nashville, Tenn. (Aug 3, 2022) – Smashin Crab Hendersonville announced today the Smashin Crab Music Fest 2022 will take place on Sat., Sept. 3 and feature some of Middle Tennessee’s best musicians – including The Carl Stewart Band and Audra McLaughlin. McLaughlin is a Country Soul Singer known for participating in NBC’s, The Voice. For 15 years, The Carl Stewart Band has mixed a signature blend of blues, jazz, and soul at the legendary BB King’s Blues Club.

Smashin Crab brings the historic sounds and smells of the New Orleans Jazz Festival to Middle Tennessee, for an unforgettable Southern experience, featuring fresh seafood boils, po’boys, and crawfish etouffee. The free event takes place at the outdoor Center Stage at The Streets of Indian Lake. Proceeds will be donated to Tennessee State University (TSU).

WHAT:             Smashin Crab Music Fest 2022

WHEN:             Saturday, September 3, 2022

                         3:00 pm – The Carl Stewart Band
4:15 pm – Audra McLaughlin
                         5:30 pm – TBD

                         6:45 pm – Will Davenport
8:00 pm – Khrys Hatch

WHERE:          300 Indian Lake Boulevard, Hendersonville, TN 37075

TICKETS:         Free and Open to the Public

                        Premium Smashin Crab patio seating is available by reservation

About Smashin Crab

Backyard crab and crawfish boils are a way of life for those lucky enough to live near the plentiful Gulf. Since forever, Smashin Crab connects with the land and sea to appreciate the delicious bounty available to us. Smashin Crab continues this tradition every day. Walk through the doors and you’re greeted with the smells and feel of home! Smashin Crab helps you relive or create memories of Mardi Gras parades and your grandma’s gumbo while listening to Second Line Brass Bands and Zydeco tunes. We’re bringing the good vibes all day long!

Tennessee’s Minority-Owned Wine and Spirits Association Celebrates Immediate Impact of Industry Collaboration

Nashville, TN (July 19, 2022) – The Tennessee Minority-Owned Wine and Spirits Association (TMOWSA) is emphasizing the impact of collaboration on reaching one of the new organization’s key priorities, improving access to local, minority-owned brands. This month, association partner and Nashville landmark Last Chance Liquors celebrated its grand re-opening with an event that highlighted TMOWSA brands, now featured in a premier section of the store. TMOWSA was founded by seven black-owned wine and spirits brands headquartered in Nashville, a key marker in the Historic Tennessee Whiskey Trail.

“One thing we identified early on is that there is a true desire from companies to partner with minority-owned brands. In Nashville, both Nissan Stadium and FedEx Forum partner with black-owned Slim and Husky’s, but the independent spirits industry still isn’t being represented at most local spots,” said Jason Ridgel, President of TMOWSA. “Working together, we have more clout to go to big players and demand the inclusion of minority-owned spirits brands too. I am proud to say that Guidance Whiskey is now served on Nashville’s historic Broadway.”

At launch, TMOWSA was the first minority-led wine and spirits association in the U.S. The seven Nashville-based members, which include four Tennessee State University alumni, are Uncle Nearest, Guidance Whiskey, Twisted Sistuhs, Disbelief Tequila, Fiyori Vodka, La Leyenda Mezcal, and Reverence Bourbon.  All seven TMOWSA brands are sold throughout Middle Tennessee, but they are still relatively unknown nationwide. Even inclusion on the menu at Nashville bars and restaurants is a challenge, with national distributors a hurdle in accessing the members’ own backyard.

The association’s first goal is making sure that minority-owned wine and spirits brands are available where locals shop. In a big early win, Last Chance Liquors chose all seven TMOWSA brands to feature in its grand reopening. The iconic store is one of the oldest in the state and the new owner’s decision to feature local brands with marquee real estate is a chance to reach new customers, each with the potential to become an ambassador for independent, minority-owned brands.

“We’re proud to carry these products and provide an equitable platform for local minority-owned brands to exhibit their work to our customers,” said Richard Exton, Jr., Last Chance Liquors. “By supporting TMOWSA we know we are not only supporting the existing community but creating an opportunity for the next great wine or spirits brand.”

TMOWSA is also working to connect its members with the tourists who visit Nashville looking to experience all the city has to offer. Independent wine and spirits brands deliver the unique taste and hands-on experience of a location that visitors appreciate. Next on the agenda is reaching out to minority-owned wine and spirit brands in other states to encourage cross-state collaboration. TMOWSA is also working on a roadmap for minority-owned brands. The idea for TMOWSA began in March 2022 at a gathering of Nashville-based founders to share lessons learned and navigate new challenges in the competitive beverage industry together.

“The inspiration to create TMOWSA was sparked by an understanding early on in my own experience with Guidance Whiskey that to succeed in this turbulent and competitive market, we were going to need to stick together,” said Ridgel. “Working together, TMOWSA has helped Guidance secure better distribution, materials, and partnership opportunities, strengthen our marketing impact, and reach more potential customers and investors. We are transforming the brands Nashville is known for around the world – by showcasing the true spirit of Tennessee.”

Guidance Whiskey Hosts ‘The Spirit of Country’ Artist Showcase

June 11 Event at ACME Feed & Seed Features Valerie Ponzio, The Kentucky Gentleman and Julie Williams

Nashville, TN (June 8, 2022) – Guidance Whiskey announced today the black-owned brand will host ‘The Spirit of Country’ on Saturday, June 11 from 5 – 7 PM CST at Acme Feed & Seed. The artist showcase features Valerie Ponzio, The Kentucky Gentleman and Julie Williams. Guidance is partnering with Power Entertainment & Powerhouse Management Group to host the event.

After appearing on NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ singer Valerie Ponzio is currently touring the US, making country music that reflects her Latin-American roots. Hailing from Versailles, Kentucky, twin brothers Derek and Brandon Campbell make up the country music singer-songwriter duo of The Kentucky Gentleman. From Tampa, Florida, Julie Williams attended Duke University and is now making waves in the Nashville music scene.

WHAT:             Power Entertainment and Guidance Whiskey Present The Spirit of Country

WHEN:             Saturday, June 11, 5 – 7 PM, CST

WHERE:          ACME Feed and Seed, 1st Floor

                        101 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37201

TICKETS:         Free/No Ticket Needed

About Guidance Whiskey

Guidance Whiskey is an homage to founder Jason Ridgel’s Southern roots and American whiskey traditions. With a commitment to building relationships with other Black-owned operations and supporting the next generation of diverse founders, Ridgel carved out a place amongst industry giants. Guidance Whiskey delivers a quality product that appeals to a wide breadth of whiskey enthusiasts, as well as a distinctive lifestyle brand rooted in Black, Southern culture. Today, Guidance Whiskey is one of the few Black-owned premium craft small-batch whiskey brands in the country and is available online in 44 states. Learn more:


First Black Owned Bourbon Brand in Tennessee Launches in Nashville

On the Heels of National Cigar Day Nashville Firefighter’s Reverence Bourbon Announces Companion, Infused Cigar

Nashville, TN (Feb. 23, 2022) – Nashville’s newest spirit is Reverence Bourbon, the first black-owned bourbon brand in the state. The spirits startup launched last week with a welcome event at Casa de Montecristo Cigar Lounge & Bar. Home to the most famous bourbon maker in the world since 1866, Tennessee’s rich whiskey history is getting a revamp led by local firefighter and Tennessee State University grad Michael Frazier.

Tennessee’s bourbon history runs deep. Before prohibition, the Volunteer State registered hundreds of distilleries across the state. Today the number is around thirty. The Tennessee Whiskey Trail was established in 2017 and last year, May 21 was declared as “International Tennessee Whiskey Day,” marking 84 years since the state’s repeal of prohibition-era laws. 

“Reverence means deep respect for someone or something,” says Michael Frazier, founder and CEO, Reverence Bourbon. “This bourbon was made for first responders. Reverence is dedicated to giving back to that community, who safeguard our families and our community. We should honor those who protect us in our moments of need.”

Frazier gets his drive to give back from his mother, who served in the military and was deployed after 9/11. Today, Michael Frazier serves as a firefighter with the Nashville Fire Department and is the co-founder of Hydrate the Hood, a local nonprofit.

Reverence is curated from two different aged barrels, creating a blend rich with taste and delivering a unique flavor that cannot be duplicated. Every batch of the locally made bourbon is aged in brand new charred oak barrels, with a precise corn to rye ratio and a touch of barley that delivers the premium oak flavor that bourbon aficionados desire. Tasting notes include caramel, maple, and kettle corn as well as chocolate, malt, and oak. The finish is smooth and refreshing, with a hint of fresh cut spearmint. In addition to launching the spirit, Reverence Bourbon also announced the launch of a companion, handmade cigar crafted with Nicaraguan tobaccos and a Sumatra wrapper, each imbued with Reverence Bourbon.

Launch event attendees included actor Timon Kyle Durrett (Cheaper By the Dozen (2022), Queen Sugar), Jason Ridgel, founder of Guidance Whiskey and spirits mentor, H. Beecher Hicks, III (Henry), President & CEO of the National Museum of African American Music, Don Hardin, President of the Don Hardin Group and Tequila Johnson, co-founder of The Equity Alliance. 

Reverence Bourbon and cigars will be delivered direct to consumers via online sales and available at local retailers, as well as bars, restaurants, country clubs, private clubs and nightclubs in Nashville and Memphis. By March, Reverence will be available to ship to 46 states. 

The brand’s local launch partners include Casa De Montecristo Cigar Lounge, EG&MC Cocktail Bar, The Tennessee Tribune-Nashville Airport, The WKND Hang Suite, Minerva Cocktail Lounge, Willie B’s Restaurant, The W Hotel, The Loews at Vanderbilt Hotel, Lighthouse on the Lake Private Club, The Smashin’ Crab, Alley Pub, R&R Liquor Store, and LaVergne Depot Liquor Store.

Learn more: 

High-res images of the launch event are available here.



dGC’s 2021 Leads Into a Fabulous Start to 2022

We’re proud of all our work, the challenges, successes and ongoing strategies, which includes opportunities where we’ve aided Renewal House with serving pregnant women, mothers and their children. We assisted KCI Technologies, AECOM (MNAA),Gresham Smith (GSP), WSP along with Smith Gee Studios and WeGo Public Transit with strategic communications and community engagement. We also celebrated the diversity of Music City’s brand, the rich history of the Jefferson Street corridor as well as the community through the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival. We helped a leading executive with her brand while preparing the next generation of leaders, produced countless community conversations educating the general community and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community, along with crafting messaging to push for extra HIV testing.

Additionally, we introduced Smashin Crab’s inaugural music festival and this past Spring, we jumped on board to help The Trap Music Museum plant roots in a city rich in music history and hopped on stage (not really) to help a faith-leader increase covid awareness and education with an outdoor Easter service. We’ve helped clients make adjustments during an ongoing pandemic, including in response to changing travel needs in the wake of COVID-19, Getaway Society helped Americans looking to stay closer to home, escape with friends and family members, and protect themselves while traveling. The business owners are also working to close the wealth gap through their private equity firm, East Chop Capital.

We’ve done all of this and countless other projects while highlighting amazing work in the community. All year we’ve celebrated those who make our community better. Sometimes people tend to focus on the bad and forget the good, but duGood Work highlights the good we see in humanity every day!

And because of all of these projects, amazing clients and team, we were able to celebrate our 8th year in business at our The Beat Won’t Stop: Gratitude Celebration event, earlier this year. View pictures here: event pictures (on Facebook) here or read about the people who shaped us and fueled dGC.

Watson Grove Baptist Church Hosts Metro Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic

By: Emma Vondra

To work with a community of good people doing good work like Watson Grove is what our dGC team gets excited about. To lead by example is to believe and act out the values that one promotes. Watson Grove names that their goal as a Church is to serve God’s people on the ground in South Nashville. The Church community lived this out beautifully  in the month of April when they hosted a COVD-19 vaccine clinic for the Nashville community. 

When large groups of people begin to gather together, we have learned in the past couple years it is important to have a plan on how to keep everyone attending safe. The event was prepared for this as prior to the start of the event, attendees were asked to sign up on a virtual platform to create organization at the site. 

To stay in the loop with what the Watson Grove Baptist Church family is doing, head to their website at

Smashin Crab After Dark

Smashin Crab After Dark

Smashin Crab After Dark

By: Emma Vondra

The homecoming game between Tennessee State University (TSU) and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) brought some excitement beyond the field this year. Smashin’ Crab Hendersonville hosted a homecoming kickoff event with national recording artist and TSU alum Joe Johnson and Friends. A portion of proceeds from Smashin Crab After Dark was donated in support of the TSU Foundation. This fun-filled event played host to live music, a DJ, and Homecoming kickoff activities.

The duGard Communications team was able to assist Smashin’ Crab in preparation for the celebratory event through lineup creation, promotion through media outlets, day-of planning, and more! To be able to watch the two collegiate communities come together to both celebrate and help a phenomenal cause was an experience that dGC will never forget. 

Escape the Trap Participates in Creative Girls Rock’s Back-to-School Event

By: Emma Vondra

The back-to-school season was fun-filled this past August all thanks to Creative Girls Rock and Trap Music Museum’s Escape the Trap who came together to distribute donated backpacks and school supplies to local families in Middle Tennessee. At a total of nine locations, the event was created in partnership with the Youth Services Division of the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, and Girls Inc. of YWCA of Middle Tennessee.

Volunteers came from all over to help distribute 3,500 backpacks filled with supplies, including pencils, composition books, crayons, folders, glue sticks, rulers, USB drives, and earphones. 

Escape the Trap Nashville knew that they wanted to immerse themselves in the Nashville community after being the new kids on the block in the summer of 2021. James Miller, SVP of Marketing for Escape the Trap Nashville stated that “Starting the school year off on a positive note is important to ensure that children from any community have the right resources to succeed.” 

“Escape the Trap” Escape Room offers participants a unique blend of the escape room game experience, along with Trap music history and culture. During the hands-on experience, visitors interact with a series of rooms highlighting Trap Culture. To book a spot at Nashville’s new favorite spot go to

The Grove Hosts YMCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee’s AMEND Together Ambassadors

By: Emma Vondra

Covering the hard topics to promote positive change is not always the easy route, but The Grove took steps this October to make the Nashville community a more positive and safer place for all. October serves every year as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this year The Grove and YMCA Nashville banded together to promote the month’s message. On October 3, individuals from the AMEND team spoke on stage with Rev. Dr. John Faison and were available after the service to spread the positive national initiative. 

AMEND Together is a group through the YMCA whose primary goal is to stop violence targeted at women and girls by educating men and boys about the culture that supports violent acts. In the community, AMEND teams up with Metro Nashville Public Schools to create AMEND clubs for boys to immerse themselves into a safe environment to talk about healthy masculinity and gender-based violence.

Rev. Dr. John Faison explained that they were “proud to invite AMEND Together to The Grove to promote the importance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to help our community work together to encourage healthy masculinity and respect, support strong families, and share information on how to prevent and report domestic violence.”

It is with work like this through individuals, groups, and organizations that change can be seen in a community.