On a street surrounded by many of Cary’s oldest and most iconic structures, one house stands out for its unusual color – pink.
The Guess-White-Ogle House – a Queen Anne-style dwelling that was built in the 1830s and renovated in the late 19th century – stands majestically along one of Cary’s most prominent roadways.
And the house’s owner, Sheila Ogle, stands out, too, for working to give back to the town she calls home.
Over the years, local entrepreneur Sheila Ogle has worked to build her community through job creation, the nurturing of small business and charitable work. She is best known as the owner and operator of the Cary event spot, The Matthews House, which she recently sold to new owners. She also is a founding member of the Cary Community Foundation and Cary Women’s Giving Network and the owner and rehabilitator of what’s often called “The Pink House.”
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Her efforts were recently rewarded with the Town of Cary’s annual Hometown Spirit Award. The award, according to the town, “recognizes community-minded residents who preserve, promote and carry out positive small town community values and traits.”
“She’s done a lot,” Cary Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said. “She’s the person that you’re more surprised when she isn’t at an event than when she is because she is just so engaged.”
Friends describe her as high-energy, enthusiastic, well-respected and a visionary who knows how to put plans into action. She greets visitors with Southern hospitality and fills the room with warmth when talking about Cary.
Despite Ogle’s accomplishments, she said she doesn’t believe she has done as much for Cary as previous recipients of the Hometown Spirit Award, which has been given out since 2009.
“She’s a very accomplished person,” said Travis Wright Colopy, who nominated her for the award. “She’s very business savvy. She does so many charitable causes and yet she’s still a very humble person. I think that’s one of her best qualities.”
Ogle, a Raleigh native, started her first business – Media Research Planning and Placement Inc. – after working 20 years for a Raleigh advertising firm. She moved the company to downtown Cary when she and her husband Carroll moved there 24 years ago. He died in 2014.
In 1994, Ogle was the first woman inducted into the N.C. Advertising Hall of Fame at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, formerly the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Her growing advertising agency prompted Ogle to give the Matthews House a look as a change in location, but she decided it wasn’t the right fit. When it went back on the market and didn’t sell, she came up with a new idea.
“I came downstairs one morning, and Carroll was sitting out there in the sun room, and I said, ‘Oh honey, I had this great idea,’ and he said, ‘Oh no,’ ” Ogle recalled.
They purchased the Matthews House in 2001 and turned it into a facility for small corporate meetings and weddings. Demand for the space quickly grew, and before long, Ogle was adding a grand ballroom and purchasing a catering company to create a full-service facility.
“My philosophy is, you know, if you haven’t tried it, you don’t know it’s not going to work,” she said. “Because really the only thing you have to lose is, if you don’t do it, then you don’t know if it’s not going to work or not.”
Since then, she has spent much of her time creating and managing her businesses, including the Cary Innovation Center, a small business incubator on West Chatham Street. She sold her advertising agency in 2011. Last month, she sold the Matthews House to business owner and real estate investor Lila Chung and her daughter-in-law Sarah Chung.
“We just began to get really involved and entrenched in what was going on in downtown Cary and really began to love the small town that we were living in,” Ogle said of her and her husband.
A town supporter
Ogle attributes her success to knowing her strengths. She says she can recognize the big picture, and she surrounds herself with people who know how to get a job done. She also has a knack for encouraging others to get involved in business and nonprofit organizations, Robinson said.
“Sheila is very good at recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of other people and how the work that other people do helps our community,” Robinson said. “She’s a cheerleader for a lot of people.”
Over the years, Ogle has been involved in many nonprofits and has been a founding member of several others. She is now focused on the Cary Women’s Giving Network, which seeks to bring women together and strengthen the community through collective giving.
“I think it’s important for us to show the next generation that everything that we have should not be self-contained in our own family,” she said. “That there are ways to have what you need for your family, but that we owe it to our town to give back to them because the town gives us so much.”
Colopy said Ogle is a perfect match for the Hometown Spirit Award because she puts her heart and soul into her work and inspires people through her “tireless example of giving to others and supporting everyone around her.”
But, Colopy said, despite what Ogle has accomplished, she isn’t ready to slow down yet.
“Even though she has done all this, she is not done giving to Cary,” he said. “I know she still has some pretty big plans for Cary, what she wants to contribute to it, and she’s going to keep going. She’s still going to be a very big support and asset to Cary for years to come.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon