Since Jim Deer opened Martinez Gold nearly 30 years ago, he said, Martinez has changed tremendously.
"When they first built this, it was pretty much by itself," Deer said of the store at Columbia Plaza, which is now in the heart of Martinez.
These days, Martinez has much more development and, most recently, was named one of the nation's best places to live, according to Money magazine.
"That's pretty incredible," said Cynthia Lynch, a chiropractor who has operated the Martinez Wellness Clinic on Columbia Road for the past nine years. "It is a good place to live."
The magazine recognized Martinez as the 76th Best Place to Live among a top 100 for 2007. Evans was listed 32nd on the publication's list two years ago.
This time, the list focused on smaller places that offered the best combination of eco-nomic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community, said Phil DiIanni, the magazine's associate director of communications.
Middleton, Wis., with a population of 17,400, took the top slot out of the 2,876 places with populations between 7,500 and 50,000.
Martinez is unique as it is "rich with history and Southern charm," according to the magazine.
At least three other communities share the name of Martinez nationwide. Martinez, Texas, just 10 miles east of San Antonio, was home to 75 residents in 1990. Another Martinez is in Torrance County, N.M., about 26 miles east of Albuquerque.
The magazine says Martinez, Ga., is home to nearly 31,000 people, compared with Martinez, Calif., which boasts more than 36,000 people, said Albert Lopez, a city planner for the Martinez in California.
That California city was founded as a trading post and grew as a shipping and gold rush town, unlike Columbia County's Martinez, which grew largely as a bedroom community of Augusta.
"We're considered a bedroom community, too," Lopez said, but his city is near the large employment centers of Oakland and San Francisco.
Although the local Martinez continues to grow, Lopez said his town is "pretty much built-out" and is experiencing only a little redevelopment and fill-in development.
Deer, who has lived near William Few Parkway in Evans with his wife, Karen, for nearly 25 years, said he remembers Martinez before much of the development along Washington Road occurred. He said that as a young man, he frequented a country house surrounded by fields of chinaberry trees where West Town shopping center now is.
Back then, Deer said, having the word "Martinez" in the business name helped clients find his store, which was outside of the city center of Augusta.
"This used to be the country," he said. Deer purchased the entire Columbia Plaza 15 years ago.
Lynch said the Martinez area has changed drastically in her short nine years in the area. She included "Martinez" in the name of her practice on Columbia Road because "I didn't want to name it after my last name."
Lynch said it would be wonderful if Martinez's ranking on the list brought more business to the area. Deer and his wife agree because they love the Martinez area.
"You think about if there is anywhere else that you'd really, really rather live, and I don't know anywhere," Mrs. Deer said.
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