One of Chautauqua County's female entrepreneurs has written a book about her journey to success.
Gail Black, owner of Vinewood Acres Sugar Shack in Westfield, has written an autobiography about her life from youth to today, including the acquisition of her business.
According to Black, the book, entitled "Asses And Angels: A Journey From Abuse To Achievement," is about how she transformed a piece of land that was in shambles into a successful farm and vineyard that produces homemade syrups and is a place she can call home.
Rose Bissett, Ann Sitler, Louise Thorne, Bev Hildebrand and MaryEllen Maruschak traveled from Ohio to Vinewood Acres Sugar Shack to meet owner Gail Black, the author of “Asses And Angels: A Journey From Abuse To Achievement.”
"I was a mink farmer that grew up on West Oak Hill in Jamestown before moving to Sinclairville where I was feeding more than 8,000 animals a day," said Black. "One day I had a vision of a house. At the time I was engaged, but I knew that if I left I would find the house."
Black did end up leaving, and she did eventually find the house from her vision, she said.
"It's been an unusual ride," said Black. "The mortgage got paid in an unusual way, I acquired the grapes in an unusual way and I've had no problems with frost."
Black picked 10 tons to the acre in 1972 when a frost hit, and she picked the same this year when another frost hit, she said.
"I have always felt that there was a purpose and predestination to me being on that piece of land," said Black.
But, in order to get to where she is today, Black had to overcome abuse, neglect and the struggle of competing in what she calls "male-dominated business ventures."
"I survived, and came out much stronger," said Black. "I couldn't figure out why this had to have happened to me. But, as the Sugar Shack evolved people came in who needed to hear that story. A true memoir is taking some traumatic experience in your life, writing about it and then showing how it applies to whatever happened to you later."
Although Black had always desired to write a book, she never thought that she would have time to finish one. But, after receiving numerous requests to finish her book from visitors to the Sugar Shack she finally had the motivation to complete the work, she said. Black attributes part of her inspiration to two retired female English teachers who were on a bike trip from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine, who wrote a book called "Across America By Bicycle: Alice and Bobbi's Summer on Wheels."
"It's my first book, and it was quite a process, but during the process I got a wonderful free education in creative writing and English from those two ladies," said Black. "There are other examples in the book of women who have helped women, and helped me, for nothing."
Black's book was self-published through iUniverse Inc., an organization that offers quick and affordable professional publishing. Although Black was unsure of how many copies to have printed, she found that the book garnered much interest from the community, and from those who visit Chautauqua County, so each time she orders she has increased the number of printed copies.
"First I had 50 copies, and they were gone in four days," said Black. "Then I had 300 copies, and they were gone recently just as I received a shipment of 2,700 books."
Several women from Ohio recently made a trip to the Sugar Shack to meet Black and have her sign her book. One member of the group noticed a sign about the book and the Sugar Shack on Route 5 while camping at KOA in Westfield. So, she and her husband stopped in to purchase the book. On the drive home the woman read the book and decided that she wanted to organize another trip with a group of five friends to visit the Sugar Shack again.
"After visiting they sent me a note that said, 'Gail, we all had a wonderful time at the Sugar Shack, and we will be talking about our trip for some time,'" said Black. "I also had a group come from Bradford. They couldn't afford to purchase the book. So, I gave them a proof copy of the book. They are planning another trip now because they read it. Getting wonderful feedback and visitors is beyond any money you could ever make."
The book has received numerous positive reviews on Amazon.com, where the first chapter is available for free. It was also endorsed by Bobbi Montgomery, co-author of "Across America By Bicycle," and Daniel O'Rourke, author of "The Spirit At Your Back" and "The Living Spirit."
Black will sign her book and host a presentation with an overview of the book, and the reason for writing it on Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Lakewood Memorial Library, 12 W. Summit St. in Lakewood. Homemade cupcakes with pumpkin butter filling will be served. She will also have gift packages including the book and a bottle of homemade grape syrup for $20, in which $2 of each package sold will be donated to The Salvation Army in Jamestown to prevent domestic violence.
The gift packages, books and more are also available at Vinewood Acres Sugar Shack, which is located at 7904 Route 5 in Westfield. For more information call 326-3351 or visit sugarshack1.com.