The owners of Applewood Manor, Stephen Collins and Robin Ritchey Collins, both attended the University of Alabama. But they did not connect as a couple until about 1991 after both had moved to New York City to launch their careers, Robin in commercial interior design and Stephen as a CPA with Price Waterhouse (now PwC). Robin is from Birmingham, Alabama, part of a large extended family of Ritcheys and their Melkite Greek Catholic Church community. Robin is an avid tennis player and loves baking—we’re talking serious commercial ovens that turn out wonderful and delicious breads and other treats. As the couple moved from city to city and from the USA to Europe and back again, she has had to put her design skills to work, and now that includes restoring the Applewood Manor to its former glory.
In 1992, Stephen left Price Waterhouse to join Colgate-Palmolive. During his tenure at Colgate, he traveled to more than 20 countries in Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia. Then in 1996, he and Robin moved to Bucharest, Romania to oversee Colgate’s introduction of consumer products to people of that former communist country. While there, they discovered the Internet—it was their source for Alabama football games and their connection to the world outside of Bucharest. They realized its commercial importance and Stephen begin looking for related business opportunities. He found it—a startup dot-com business based in in New York—DoubleClick. Stephen join the DobubleClick team in January of 1997 and served as the company’s Chief Financial Officer & Chief Information Officer. DoubleClick went public in February of 1998 and was acquired by Google in 2007.
After Stephen and Robin had started their family, they moved to Westport Connecticut. Two things happened, 9/11 and my cancer diagnosis. The family, which now included three girls, returned to Stephen’s hometown, the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee, and Stephen took over the operation of my company, Juris, Inc. so I could concentrate on fighting cancer. The significant growth of the business under his leadership attracted the attention of the international company, LexisNexis, and Stephen guided the company through LexisNexis acquisition of Juris in 2008. Stephen and Robin’s next adventure was in Austin, Texas where Stephen took on leadership roles in Bazaarvoice. Next, it was San Francisco where Stephen became President of Quantcast. After that, he became CEO of Monetate in Philadelphia.
During these years, Stephen continued to find time for cycling, and on an amateur level, competed in the sport. He became an investor in Chris Carmichael’s operation, training professional cyclists. His love of the sport sent him to France to ride some of the Tour de France routes and eventually he and Robin purchased a villa in Provence, La Petite Colline de Roussillon—the retreat they visited several times a year and the base for cycling excursions. Back in the states, the couple picked Asheville as the place to settle down and retire from high pressure corporate leadership positions. The idea was to split their time between Asheville and their France retreat. While the plan had been for Stephen to limit his future corporate activities to board membership and mentoring executives, the commercial world came calling again. In 2021, he joined Phantom Auto as Chief Financial Officer. Phantom Auto provides software that enables humans to remotely operate all types of unmanned vehicles from thousands of miles away, including forklifts, tuggers, robots, trucks, cars, and more. Headquartered in Silicon Valley and with an R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel.
When Stephen is not dealing with corporate affairs or on the phone with his three adult daughters, he spends time with the family’s French bulldogs, Cleo and Pearl, and working with Robin on the operations and restoration of Applewood Manor, or cycling through the mountains around Asheville. As for their 2nd home in Provence, restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic has put travel to France on hold for now. Hopefully, that will change soon.