Events and Things to Do in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are among the most vibrant communities you’ll ever find.

Both cities feature a vast array of events year-round that are sure to interest people of all ages and interests. From arts festivals and music events to a vibrant food scene and cultural landscape Boca-Delray has it all.

At YourDelrayBoca.com we strive to curate the best events and give you insider’s tips to make your experience the best it can be.

The Arts Garage: Fulfilling Its Vast Promise

Unique experiences such as a reading and “playwright talk back” distinguish Delray’s Arts Garage.

When Marjorie Waldo took the reigns of The Arts Garage three years ago the organization was in crisis.

While The Arts Garage had earned a lot of applause  for its edgy programming and for presenting a wide range of jazz and blues artists in an intimate setting, the organization had become a political lightning rod with messy finances.
Enter Ms. Waldo.

Thanks to her leadership, a stellar board of directors and a dedicated corps of volunteers today the Arts Garage is on solid footing and is no longer a political punching bag.

When Ms. Waldo, a former school administrator, came aboard one of the initial “fixes” was to cancel  the theater season, a necessary financial decision but not an easy one for someone who has a degree in theater from the University of Virginia and is passionate about the magic of the stage.

So I was intrigued when I saw tickets go on sale for “The Monroe Doctrine”, a new play by Mark Scharf (remember that name) a celebrated American playwright.
Was theater making a comeback at the Arts Garage?
Yes, but in a wise move, the Arts Garage will dip it’s toes back into the theater world in a measured and financially sustainable way.

“The Monroe Doctrine” was a play reading, featuring a very talented cast of local actors. It was not a full fledged production with sets, producers, a full run etc.
The reading was a great success. The play is wonderful, the audience was engaged and the playwright was there to answer questions and share insights. In short, it was a unique experience. Intimate, unique and special.
This is how theater could work at the Arts Garage.

Perhaps readings, new works, playwright “talk backs” and opportunities to talk to the cast is the formula for success.

The Arts Garage has a wonderful “black box” theater nd there is clearly an audience for smart plays and readings.

So keep your eye on The Arts Garage. The organization remains an important player in Delray’s arts and cultural scene.

Many of the people in the audience were acting students at the Arts Garage which was a cool footnote. (I always wanted to act, but I have a face for radio).
After all the turmoil and tumult, it’s heartening to see The Arts Garage emerge on sound footing and firmly focused on the mission with an engaged leader who clearly loves her job.

Ms. Waldo is a former school administrator, I got to know her when she ran the Youth Enrichment Vocational Center, an innovative charter school founded by two close friends from the Delray Beach Police Department Johnny Pun and Fred Glass. As an educator, Marjorie has the requisite mix of warmth and passion mixed with an ability to manage what can be at times an unruly environment. It’s a great skill set to run an arts organization.

Still, while the finances have improved, this is a non-profit we are talking about. One that relies on the good graces of our Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the city and generous patrons.

So if you’re looking for a cool and important place to invest your time and charitable dollars, you may want to consider this wonderful organization.

Veterans Day

 

Many years ago– it was 1987 to be exact–I drove a blue ‘78 Toyota Corolla 1,328 miles from Binghamton N.Y to South Florida to take a newspaper job in Boca Raton.

I worked for the Monday-Thursday papers which were pretty famous in those days in a warehouse type office on East Rogers Circle.

The newsroom was populated with amazing characters. Talented writers, editors and photographers.

The managing editor’s name was Tom Sawyer. He took me to lunch on my first day at work at the restaurant also named Tom Sawyer.

He looked me in the eye and told me the place was named after him. I think I believed him. I was young and naïve. He was grizzled and experienced. He was also tough and gruff and would help me grow up fast in the business.

In the newsroom they sat me next to a sportswriter named Jim Baker.
He was a good writer, about 20 years my senior.  Jim was experienced and wore sweaters every day even in summer.
We quickly became friends and he sort of served as a mentor for me even though I was writing news  and he was covering locals sports. I shared a lot of what I was covering in a rip roaring 1980s era Delray Beach and we talked about sports, music and politics.

Jim was a Vietnam Veteran. And I’m thinking about him today which is Veterans Day.

I’ve long lost track of him and have tried periodically to find him. To date, I haven’t.
But even if I never do, he made an impression on my life.

I hadn’t really known a Vietnam Veteran before and over the course of my brief friendship with Jim he would occasionally open up about his experiences over beers at a bowling alley we would frequent off of Cypress Creek Road.

The bowling alley is long gone but I was told it was once owned by tennis hustler Bobby Riggs. I’m not sure if that was true or just an urban legend. South Florida was different back then. Less built up and we found ourselves driving south for amusement because there was nothing much to do in my new hometown Delray. Jim lived in Sunrise and so Cypress Creek was on his way home.

Jim liked the bowling alley bar because the beer was cold and cheap and the bartender looked like Elvira. Google her if you must. But she was a big name back then.
One day, the Oliver Stone movie “Platoon” was playing over the bar and I could see Jim’s demeanor change.
The color drained from his face, the man who wore sweaters in 90 degree heat started to sweat and slowly he began to tell me more about his experiences in Vietnam.
He was a medic. He saw a lot. Things were never the same for him he said. There were more details and he told me the movie was a very accurate depiction of what life was like in the jungles of Vietnam. He spoke softly and slowly his eyes never leaving the screen. I remember his face looked very pale as if the color was drained from it.

I just sat and listened. I may have thanked him for sharing. It’s hard to know what to say. I was 22 or 23 at the time. I really hadn’t lived much yet, but I remember recalling that Jim had seen a whole lot more when he was my age. What he saw changed him because there is just no way to experience war and not have it change you.

Since then, I have known and talked to several other Vietnam vets, a few World War II vets and a few Korean War veterans. I have also met some brave soldiers, men and women, who went to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I hope you have also had a chance to know and talk to people who have served.

They are special people. We enjoy America because of their service and their sacrifices.
There is no America without them. It’s just that simple.

And yet, how often do we think of those who serve and have served?
How many veterans suffer health and mental issues as a result of their service? How many are homeless?
The statistics are alarming.
My old newsroom neighbor Jim was clearly affected by his service. I learned a lot from him that day. It wouldn’t be long before he left the newspaper for a new life in Denver. We promised to stay in touch but we didn’t. Sometimes that happens. But I will never forget Jim. How he took me under his wing when I was the young guy in the newsroom, how he befriended me and then confided in me.
Today, I will toast my old friend and all the veterans and active duty service members and thank them for keeping us safe and free.
We should honor them each and every day.

A House Divided

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”—Abraham Lincoln.

I was thinking of Lincoln last week as I watched news coverage of the historic House vote on impeachment.

As member after member rose and went on record for or against, we saw the stark and dark divisions in our country laid bare for all to see. Of course, it was nothing new. We see it every single day and have seen it for years.

And I thought of Lincoln. And whether our better angels have departed for good.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham reminds us that we have been through worse and have always come back and for sure we have. But I have this nagging feeling that somehow what we’re seeing is different.

And I thought of Lincoln.

I went to the Internet to re-read his “House Divided” speech. I hadn’t read it in decades, since I was in school.

The House Divided Speech was delivered on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after Lincoln had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination to run for the U.S. Senate.

The speech became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the seat, held by Stephen A. Douglas; the campaign would climax with the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.

At the time, even Lincoln’s friends regarded his speech as too radical for the occasion.

But when you read it, you can’t help but feel that it is tame by today’s standards. The language is almost poetic, the writing is outstanding and while he argues passionately against slavery it is devoid of personal attacks. Instead it is full of ideas and optimism.

It concludes with the following line: “We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”

It is vintage Lincoln, acknowledging the high stakes and the possibility of failure, but ultimately ending on an optimistic note.

I don’t see that optimism today. That belief that things are going to get better, that problems are going to be solved and divisions will be repaired.

Not on the international stage where a teenager chastises the world’s leaders for doing nothing to save the environment and not on the national stage where we see a constant barrage of attacks, lies and accusations. Even locally, we see a ton of negativity especially on social media which can be a cesspool.

In such a world, is there a place for our better angels to make a stand?
Are people willing to put the world, nation and their own community ahead of their tribe?

What will it take for good people to rise up and say enough is enough?
Do we sit idly by as standards and rules that seemed to work for so long get obliterated?

Or will we continue to bicker and watch the heat and anger rise and take us to ever more dangerous places?

It’s a fundamental choice to make, but the path to something better is not clear.

As a hyperlocal blog, I invite you to cruise some local Facebook pages and see what you find.

It seems like almost every post that has to do with local government attracts a large share of cynicism and snark.

Pebb Capital, a fine firm with a deep track record of success in real estate, ponies up a whopping $40 million to buy the Sundy House and the first comment you see is a cynical prediction that the historic structures will be bulldozed and the historic neighborhood trashed. Followed by comments such as “Delray is shot,” no longer charming or in the least appealing. Really? Is that true?

Should we be concerned about historic properties? Of course. But there doesn’t seem to be any trust in the process or in the officials responsible for enforcing the city’s codes and land development rules.

In reality, with Pebb Capital in town, we will actually see the long-awaited investment promised. We won’t ever see 10 story buildings downtown and if you want to see real traffic try navigating Glades Road after 4 p.m.

To be sure, there is plenty to be concerned about in Delray and I have written extensively on those topics. I will note that you only spend time on the things you care about. So when we see columns on instability at City Hall, poor leadership, a lack of long term thinking, incivility, the lack of talent attracted to public service and rising rents downtown it’s not coming from a nasty place but from a love of this community and a desire to see it thrive and be a happy place. I hope the other comments I referenced on Facebook come from that place too. Sometimes I have my doubts.

While fixing the national scene may be a bridge too far, we can always start at home.

Groups like WiseTribe offer a great template for building community.

Another suggestion is to go back to the old playbook.

Delray made significant strides beginning in the late 80s when the city began to offer a slew of ways for citizens to get engaged. From citizen police academies and resident academies to visioning charrettes and neighborhood dinners, there was a concerted effort to find, recruit and bring citizens to the public square so they could work together and building a better city.

It worked.

As important as those initiatives were, they may be even more important today. We cannot let social media be the only or even the primary way for citizens to engage. For sure, there is a place for Facebook. But it is a poor replacement for face to face meetings and social media does not provide a meaningful way to facilitate important conversations.

It’s hard to demonize someone sitting across a table from you, but very easy to do so on Facebook, especially since the platform allows for the use of fake identities.

Sometimes the old fashioned ways are best; face to face conversations still have a place in our hyper connected world. If we lose the ability to relate to our neighbors we will lose the common ground that builds community and with it our sense of belonging.

 

Honoring Two Very Special Public Servants

Larry Garito had a memorable career at Delray Beach Fire Rescue.

It was a weekend of love, affection and appreciation in Delray Beach.
Two well-known and beloved community servants were honored: one at a memorial at the Elks Club and one at a retirement party at the Delray Beach Golf Club.
We attended both events and came  away with a feeling that The Beatles were right: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Indeed.
Retired Delray Beach Fire Rescue Lt. Larry Garito was remembered as someone who was devoted to two families; his real one and his extended family at Delray Fire Rescue.
In cruising the room and talking to old friends gathered at The Elks Club, it seemed that everyone remembered Larry’s warm smile, friendly personality and desire to bring people together.
He found a great outlet at Delray Fire Rescue where he was one of the more visible firefighters working in the community and teaching children and adults about fire safety. He was a great ambassador to the outside world and did his best to take new firefighters under his wing.
Larry and his late wife Barbara, the former city clerk, were devoted to Delray. His son, son in law and grandchildren work or have worked at Delray Fire Rescue creating a legacy of service that few families can match.
Larry mentored younger firefighters and was well known by generations of elected officials who welcomed his advice and insights.
I valued our conversations and the many laughs we shared over the years and I absolutely adored his wife Barbara, one of the warmest people I’ve ever met. During my years in office, if I ever needed a pick me up or a dose of happiness, I would wander over to the City Clerk’s office where you could count on kindness and smiles.
I admired the closeness of the Garito family and when I lived in Sabal Lakes, Larry would often ride his bike to my house so we could talk shop. He loved his city and his fire department.
A wide cross section of Delray turned out to pay respects to this kind man: active duty firefighters, retirees, fire chiefs, the retired assistant city manager and retired city attorney, a former commissioner, business leaders, neighbors and of course a slew of Elks.
Larry Garito was a special man. He loved his city, his job, his family and his friends and they loved him back.

Dorothy Ellington led the Delray Beach Housing Authority with kindness and a passion for people,

Later that night, a large crowd filled a banquet room at the Golf Club to celebrate the retirement of Dorothy Ellington after 32 years of service to Delray Beach including more than two decades as head of the Delray Beach Housing Authority.
Dorothy cleaned up a troubled agency and  positively impacted the lives of so many by providing affordable housing to families she genuinely cared for and took the time to know. She also enriched the lives of her staff whose outpouring of love was truly touching to see.

Dorothy got along with everyone. She cared deeply about housing and was passionate about the people she served.
She had an extraordinary career in a tough field rife with regulations and challenges.
She led with love.
She left us wanting more.
The great ones always do.
They also lead with love, have passion for the mission and touch lives.
When they pass that doesn’t go away. And when they retire they are remembered. They leave a legacy for all who follow.
Delray has been blessed with some extraordinary people who have given this town their all.
That’s our  secret sauce.
It isn’t about buildings or the issue du jour. It’s about loving and serving your community.
And it’s vitally important to thank those who do.

Talking to Legends: Denny Laine Edition

Denny Laine is coming to Boca.

Editor’s note: Long time readers of this blog know that I am passionate about music.
While I like a wide variety of music, my favorite is classic rock— the music I grew up with.
As the co-owner of a local newspaper (the Delray and Boca Newspapers), we are often pitched interviews with musicians who pass through the area playing at local venues ranging from Funky Biscuit in Boca or The Arts Garage and Old School Square in Delray Beach.
When time permits– or if I simply can’t resist– I jump at the opportunity to talk to some of my musical heroes. So far that has included Martin Barre’, guitarist for Jethro Tull, Jesse Colin Young and of course the Mighty Max Weinberg of the E Street Band who has become a friend. Don’t miss Max’s upcoming show at The Arts Garage Nov. 30, it will be awesome.
Last week, I had the pleasure to talk with Denny Laine the guitarist for Wings and The Moody Blues two bands I love. I thought I’d share our conversation.

Denny Laine has had an amazing life.

He spent 10 years working with Paul and Linda McCartney as the lead guitarist for Wings, played on a bill with Jimi Hendrix, was a member of the Moody Blues, toured with Chuck Berry and sang lead vocals on a number one hit: “Go Now.”

He also was a band mate of the legendary Ginger Baker, co-wrote (with McCartney) “Mull of Kintyre” which became the best- selling single in U.K. history and has spent his entire life doing what he always wanted to do—play music.

But when you ask Laine to talk about the legends he has worked with he’s almost reluctant to talk—- not because he isn’t friendly (he is) but because he’s afraid of leaving others out of the conversation and he doesn’t want to slight musicians he knows and admires. He has worked with members of The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Hollies, ELO and more.

But he will give you some cool tidbits such as:

“Paul is great to work with. He’s easy. We knew each other for years before Wings so when he formed the group it was really easy to work together. There was a comfort level and a great rapport.”

He and Paul went to a London club to see Hendrix play and came away impressed. But did he ever talk to Jimi about the guitar? You know two great guitarists just talking shop?

“Not really, Jimi was very nice but knew his band mates Mitch (Mitchell) and Noel (Redding) better . Jimi was shy but friendly. But no we never did get around to talking music.”

As for the mercurial Ginger Baker, the legendary Cream drummer, Laine knew him well and performed in a group called Air Force with Ginger.

“He was a great band mate,” he says. “I know he has a reputation, but he had a big heart and was great to work with. He was good person once you got to know him.”

Laine who will turn 75 at the end of the month is still playing, writing and touring.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will visit Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Saturday, Nov. 16 for a show at 8 p.m.

For tickets visit https://www.funkybiscuit.com/e/denny-laine-trio-74178440713/

Denny in his Wings days.

We spoke to Laine recently from his home in New Jersey. He told us he will be moving to Florida this winter in search of sunshine and warmth.

He also mentioned that South Floridians will be able to catch him live more often now that he’s relocating. He plays three types of shows: a solo act which includes songs and stories, as the Denny Laine Trio (the Funky Biscuit show) and as part of a band called the Moody Wings, a nod to his two most famous bands.

While he’s written a slew of songs and still writes, Laine sees himself first and foremost as a guitarist. His distinctive sound can be heard on classic albums including Band on the Run, Back to the Egg, London Town and early Moody Blues material, work that earned him entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 and I still feel like I’m growing as a musician,” he says. “I always have a guitar with me and I still have the drive to improve and evolve.”

Laine says he listens to a wide variety of music—jazz, blues, rock and that he’s exactly where he wants to be:  playing music in front of fans.

“I’ve had a great life,” he says. “Lots of things just seem to come to me which is great because I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.”

As for hit songs, he says there’s some magic involved.

“The songs have to be good and as musicians we know when they are,” he says. “But there’s so much more that must happen. There needs to be promotion, you have to know what do with the song in the studio and when you perform it. I knew ‘Go Now’ was a great song, but a hit? I don’t know. We were touring with Chuck Berry when that song came out. All of Chuck’s fans must have bought it, because they heard it and it became number one. It was a thrill for us.”

So what can the fans in Boca expect?
A variety of songs spanning Denny Laine’s career—Wings material, Moody Blues songs and solo material as well.

“It’s a fun night,” says Laine. “Because we just love playing live.”

 

 

 

A Golden Age For Restaurants

Suzanne Perrotto has been cooking up magic in Delray since 2008. First Brule’ and now Rose’s Daughter.

We went to Rose’s Daughter, a new restaurant in Pineapple Grove recently.

In a word, it was amazing.

Inventive dishes, fresh ingredients, cool vibe: check, check, check.

A few weeks before, we ventured to Elisabetta’s, the new restaurant that now inhabits the space once occupied by the acclaimed 32 East.

The Delray/Boca culinary scene is something to savor and taste.

We are chock full of great restaurants featuring the work of innovative chefs who ply their magic in spaces that are often breathtaking.

But I often wonder if we take full advantage of the culinary talent in our midst. Despite being relatively small cities,  Boca and Delray is a foodie paradise. Scores of truly terrific restaurants dot the landscape.

Yet, whenever I see a national magazine or web story about “foodie” destinations I tend to see yet another story about Asheville’s farm to table scene or Nashville’s culinary innovators.

We have our own culinary talent and we ought to celebrate them.

Rose’s Daughter and Brule’s Suzanne Perrotto, Caffe Luna Rosa’s Ernie DeBlasi, Michael Haycock at The Grove, Ron and Rhonda Weisheit of the TwentyTwenty Grille, the brilliant chefs at La Nouvelle Maison and the list goes on and on. I  also must give special recognition to Frances Touboul for consistent excellence at La Cigale.

It’s a golden age—especially for those of us who have been around long enough to remember when there wasn’t much around.

Personally, I have deep appreciation for the entrepreneurs driving some interesting concepts. The group behind El Camino, Park Tavern and Cut 432 and the creative team behind Elisabetta’s, Louie Bossi and City Oyster are to be commended. It can’t be easy to develop restaurants around such varied cuisine.

So we have a lot to be thankful for and a whole lot to build on.

And now that we have the hotels–which seem to be opening rapidly—we should drive the destination marketing and amp up the food festivals and events.

We should also strive to create opportunities for food and beverage entrepreneurs and expand the foodie footprint beyond pricey Atlantic Avenue and East Boca.

After all, according to WalletHub, the South Florida region was ranked the third best area for foodies in the United States.

We can build on this.

I think it will happen. It’s a great opportunity for our community.

 

The Art Of Continuing Education

 

A wonderful shot of the Portland Lighthouse commissioned by George Washington. One of many incredible photos of New England splendor.

Every now and then I get the chance to speak to a young person about their lives and their career aspirations.

They all seem to be in a rush and I suppose that’s good. I was too when I was twentysomething. In time, you learn to slow down. In fact, you long to slow down.

The young people I meet with all want to be connected to people who can move them ahead and that’s cool.

I did too.

And if I can, I try to help them, but with one condition: that they listen and learn from the people they meet along the way.

Careers are often described as a ladder and we are urged to climb ever higher— rung by rung.

But life is more like a meandering path, with starts, stops, new roads, a bunch of obstacles, oceans, mountains and hopefully time to stop and reflect.

So I urge those who seek my help to build relationships and be open to learning—those relationships will enrich you in ways that defy description.

It’s OK to ask for help or request that a door be opened, but if you don’t pause to learn from those around you, ultimately you are cheating yourself.

I’m fortunate and very, very grateful to have a number of special people in my orbit who I continue to learn from as I slide well into middle age. I’ve learned that you are never too old to learn and in many ways the older I get, it seems the more questions I have and the more knowledge I need to help me navigate life.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I have made a special friend in retired Delray and Boca fire chief Kerry Koen.

Chief Koen was very helpful to me during my term in office, which ended long ago. But he has been even more helpful to me as the years have passed.

I’m not sure that he knows it, but Kerry is a wonderful teacher.

He’s well-read and has traveled to places that resonate with me. He always brings back beautiful photographs for me and others to look at over long Friday afternoon lunches that cover a whole range of subjects from history and politics to cities and society. I feel special that he takes the time to show me and to teach me what he’s learned and what he’s seen. It’s a gift. And it’s priceless.

A collection of his wonderful photos—some look like paintings—are available for all to see until Friday, Oct. 25 in the front entrance of the Boca Public Library, 400 NW Second Avenue.

“Autumn in New England” depicts my favorite part of the country in all of its colorful splendor. It’s a spectacular exhibit.

Recently, members of a breakfast group that I sometimes visit, broke with routine and re-located from Ellie’s Diner to Tom Sawyer’s in Boca so that we could accompany Kerry for a personal tour of the exhibit.

Over breakfast, we talked and joked about the usual stuff before we followed Kerry to the downtown library where for 30 minutes or so we were transported to New England.

Make sure to visit, it’s worth your time. The photos are breathtaking.

Meanwhile, I made sure to schedule my next lunch with Chief Koen. I want to talk about local and national politics, history, management, cities and a whole range of things with a wonderful friend, teacher and man.

I have a whole lot left to learn and even more to do.

 

 

Passion & Belief

“You need more to eyes to see, more brains to think, and more legs to act in order to accelerate. You need additional people with their own particular windows on the world and with their additional good working relationships with others, in order to truly innovate. More people need to be able to have the latitude to initiate—not just carry out someone else’s directives.”—John P. Kotter

Want to build a great team?

You need passion and you need to believe in the mission.

Passion and belief are what move people.

Always have, always will.

And moving people is what organizational success is all about.

I’ve been thinking a lot about culture these days.

Workplace culture, community culture and national culture.

I’m not talking about music or art, but culture in the sense of what it feels like to be part of a company, an organization, a neighborhood, a city, a state and a nation.

There’s a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch and I believe it.

Heck, I’ve seen it.

But if you marry the two—a good culture with a sound strategy—you’ve got magic.

I’ve seen that too.

Culture trumps good fortune, it overcomes money issues and it will get you over just about any obstacle.

I’ve been thinking about these things in the context of a recent panel discussion I attended at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus in which CEOs and executives from four local companies Celsius, MDVIP, Vitacost/Kroger and Body Details talked about the importance of engagement, culture, flexibility and pleasant work environments and how those things grow business by attracting and keeping talent.

Of course, they also talked about Artificial Intelligence, growth strategies and automation, but the executives—representing a beverage company, a laser hair removal company, an e-commerce platform and a health care company– all talked about the importance of the human touch—of developing a brand and value proposition that cares about people.

I can speak with a bit of knowledge about Celsius, which is one of the companies in our portfolio where I work.

We are proud of the company and the team and have invested heavily—both emotionally and financially– in Celsius because we believe in the brand’s mission which is to provide products (beverages, powders and coming soon—drum roll please…. protein bars) to help people “live fit.”

It has been a long and winding road to NASDAQ and to widespread international and national distribution with more than its share of peaks and valleys. But when you believe in the mission and the team—and we always have—you don’t give up and you will find success. It may take some time, you will suffer setbacks but you will make progress and we have.

Celsius CEO John Fieldly is a young guy and I often think about the pressures that are on him as the leader of a publicly held company that does business across the globe and with some of the world’s largest retailers.

As an insider/outsider at Celsius I’ve glimpsed their culture and the team is tight-knit and passionate about the mission. You have to be because the beverage biz is incredibly competitive and crowded too. Celsius has always been able to punch above its weight because the team is bought in to the mission which is creating products that help people live healthier lives.

Vitacost has a similar mission and Marketing VP Guy Burgstahler says the company has benefitted greatly by relocating to attractive space at BRIC.

Body Details CEO Claudio Sorrentino understands that social media is ubiquitous these days so he doesn’t sweat his employees indulging as long as the work gets done. The company also has Champagne Tuesdays where for the cost of a bottle of bubbly they celebrate things large and small. It helps to build camaraderie.

Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer for MDVIP, says her company lets people work from home one day a week which has boosted morale and retention. The company was started to improve the experience patients have with their doctors—and as an MDVIP client I can personally attest that it would be hard to go back to a “regular” practice once you’ve experienced the VIP experience.

I have long believed that cities have cultures and values and if they are frayed or violated you pay a heavy price.

The new city manager in Delray—George Gretsas—has a wonderful opportunity to rebuild the culture at City Hall. Employees need to be empowered, staff needs to be feel valued and the community as a whole has to feel like it’s working on building a better city if that is to occur.

You have to stop majoring in the minor for good things to happen. The community has to come first and you have to be willing to think about doing what’s right versus doing the expedient. And you have to create a culture where it feels safe for people to invest their hearts, minds, time and emotion.

Is it easy?
No.

But it’s not impossible either and this is one area of life where trying scores you points.

Make it safe to fail. Make it safe to have an idea and say it out loud.

Celebrate success. Share credit. Give credit.

Be thankful. Be kind. The little stuff matters—a whole lot.

Creating and protecting a great culture makes all the difference.

Passion and belief are what move people.

Always have, always will.

Boca Lead Is A Revelation

Pastor Bill Mitchell traded a successful career in real estate for a spiritual mission. Boca is benefitting from his wisdom.

I’ve become a huge fan of Boca Lead, the monthly speaker series hosted by Pastor Bill Mitchell at Boca Raton Community Church.

Every month, 400 plus people gather to hear a positive message designed to help them live a better life, run a better business and build a better Boca. The demand is so strong that Boca Lead added a dinner series with a debut last week that attracted more than 200 people.

It’s an inclusive group—all faiths are made to feel welcome—and the message is not only smart it’s extremely relevant. My good friend Karen Granger turned me onto the series when she invited me to sit with her colleagues at 4 Kids. I owe her a debt of gratitude, because Boca Lead has become an important part of my month.

As a result of Karen’s intro, our company is buying a table most months so we can be inspired to lead, mentor and build a better community. We all have a role in making that happen.

In its 5 year existence, Boca Lead has attracted over 5,500 different people to the monthly talks and now with dinner sessions the audience is sure to grow and deservedly so, because in a word it’s awesome. And we desperately need to apply the lessons being taught every month.

I’ve gotten to know Pastor Mitchell since attending my first Boca Lead and I’m incredibly impressed by his insights, devotion to the community and his work across the globe. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are remarkable people and talented communicators. The ability to command a room month after month—to inspire, motivate and get us to stop our busy lives so that we may focus on what’s really important is truly something special to witness.

Every month, I don’t think he can top the prior month, but he seems to do so.

This month was no exception.

The title of the talk was “Drifting” which will soon be an e-book. I just finished “Shifting” another e-book by Pastor Mitchell that I found riveting. Again, the message is universal and this Jewish guy from New York can relate to the insights and better yet, can apply the principles to my life and business.

Drifting talked about how distractions, a lack of integrity and another assorted noise lead us astray.

The talk ended with four suggestions for building community—a subject I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember. A sense of community attracted me to Delray Beach, pushed me into a stint in public service and has kept me engaged since moving to Florida in 1987.

Pastor Mitchell posited that in order to build community you need four elements:

Proximity—you can’t build community from afar, people need to be brought together. But that’s just a start. We can all live in the same neighborhood, work at the same company or attend the same school but if we don’t mix we can’t build community. So proximity is a must, but it’s just a start.

Hospitality—is necessary to build community. We need to break bread with people, extend them courtesies, and invite them into our homes and lives if we are to grow close.

Relationship—we need to work on building relationships with our neighbors in order to build community. It’s not enough to just wave hello, we need to work on forging real relationships.

Peacemaking—this one fascinating. It’s not peacekeeping, it’s the ability to make peace not the ability to keep people from hurting each other. This is so important in a community. It struck me that we are lacking peacemakers in our world today and in our local communities too.

As Pastor Mitchell walked us through the list, a thought crossed my mind.

Social media—which pretends to build community does not possess any of the four community building blocks.

It’s not proximate, you can sit in your pajamas and spew venom on Twitter without ever having to face the target of your wrath, there’s no means of providing real hospitality other than maybe sending an emoji, social media doesn’t really foster real relationships beyond a post here and a reply there and finally social media does not seem to have any mechanism for peacemaking. People start a lot of wars on Facebook, but I have yet to see them make peace.

Now admittedly, I am a social media user. I enjoy Facebook for allowing me to share photos of my dogs and stay in touch with old friends and classmates. But I don’t enjoy seeing the posts about my town that seek to divide, label and malign. There are a whole lot of them, entire pages devoted to ripping the town apart.

Truth be told, I think it has harmed our sense of community and nearly destroyed civic pride. That’s a lot of damage to overcome.

We are not the only city that has suffered this fate and the fact is America is incredibly and maybe hopelessly divided at this point in our history. It’s a sad time, it really is.

I don’t see how this ends or how we can magically unwind some of the abhorrent behavior we’ve all witnessed.

But there was a time, it now seems so long ago, when I and many others viewed Delray Beach as an oasis in a desert. A place where you always felt the best was yet to come and that every problem could be solved.

Please don’t tell me it didn’t exist, because I experienced it and so have others. I have witnesses and these days most of them shake their heads when you mention the current state of affairs.

That doesn’t mean that we were conflict free, we surely weren’t.

Worthing Place, Atlantic Plaza part 1, the Jerrod Miller shooting—and on and on the list goes. There was a time when African Americans could not safely cross Swinton and couldn’t use the public beach but….despite those serious challenges there was this feeling that we could work things out, that we could and would somehow find a way forward even in the face of tragedy.

When I think back on how past controversies resolved themselves, I see Pastor Mitchell’s four pillars of community building come to life. Differences were solved because people got together, built relationships, extended hospitality and made peace.

C. Spencer Pompey was a peacemaker extraordinaire.

He knew the power of relationships and hospitality and so he got people together and eventually we opened up our beaches.

We were bitterly divided over development after Worthing Place so we got together and worked on a Downtown Master Plan.

When a developer wanted to put 10 pounds of you know what in a five pound bag on Atlantic Plaza, the city commission brought in designers and the community to try and find a plan that everyone could embrace.

Sometimes the efforts produce solutions (Mr. Pompey succeeded) and sometimes they fall short (the developer walked away from the plan the designers and community produced) but the effort always seemed to matter. You were extended credit for trying. You built relationships by coming to the table and working on issues large and small.

This kind of peacemaking doesn’t seem to be happening online and it’s destroying us—rapidly.

I’ve been going through old files in a sometimes futile effort to de-clutter my life.

I recently stumbled across a flier called the Atlantic Gazette that absolutely ripped me and some of my friends to shreds. It was anonymous and really ugly. You get these things when you are in public life or even if you just venture an opinion or an idea. I guess it comes with the territory.

When I was young and new to the game, I would cringe at this stuff. But I learned that despite the best efforts of critics, most people never saw the fliers, email blasts or in one case the banner flown over the beach.

Life went on, the people who know you laugh it off, the critics tell their friends “see, I told you so” and soon it’s on to the next subject.

But today, social media is ubiquitous. It’s hard to avoid the toxicity.

Joni Mitchell urged us to get “back to the garden” in her classic song Woodstock.

Pastor Mitchell reminds us that we need to get back to proximity, relationships, hospitality and peacemaking before it is too late.

Can we?
Will we?
What if we don’t?

For more information on Boca Lead. To view past talks (highly recommended) and for ticket information please visit http://www.bocalead.com

Things We Loved In September

Stephanie Immelman is the new CEO of the Delray Chamber.

Things We Loved In September

Bahamian Relief efforts. It was great to see the community response to Hurricane Dorian. The efforts were heartfelt and needed.
Boynton Beach will hereafter be known as the city of romance.
Elitesingles.com has named six South Florida cities to its most romantic cities list.
Boynton Beach tops the list with Boca landing at number 6 well ahead of number 17 West Palm Beach. No sign of Delray in the rankings….sigh.
The rankings are based on data compiled by more than 150,000 people who use the website.
Tech Power
South Florida Business Journal’s 2019 Tech Power List includes a bunch of local names. Here they are:
Joe Russo, who spearheads Palm Beach Tech and the 1909 incubator which has a location in Delray, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever, Gregory Van Horn of Launch Potato, ShipMonk CEO Jan Bednar who went to FAU and got his start at FAU’s Tech Runway, Dan Cane of Boca’s Modernizing Medicine, Rob Flippo of Boca based Mobile Help, Boca’s Adam Rogers of Ultimate Software, Sam Zietz of Touchsuite and  Rhys Williams of Tech Runway were on the elite list. Very cool.
Food and Beverage
Vino Wine Bar in Boca.
Magnificent wine list, wonderful pastas and great apps.
Don’t miss the chicken piccata and the gnocchi.
The Tropical Salad at Papas Tapas…try it. You’ll love it.
I adore Five Spice. Just great tasting food.
Grand Luxe is always a fun time. Best fried pickles around.
Pizza Craft in Fort Lauderdale was a fun outing for me and my buddy Chuck Halberg. Great calamari, good thin pizza and very nice servers.
We are big fans of Baciami in Boynton Beach which is owned by the Pellegrini family who live in Delray. They also own Il Bacio and Prime.
If you venture north to their beautiful restaurant don’t miss the chicken rollatini, eggplant and if you really want to indulge they have the best NY style cheesecake which is homemade.
Interesting to see the legendary Tom’s Place BBQ open a store in the Boynton Beach Mall.
Beer Trade Company in Delray is underrated. It’s a relaxing hangout with good food and a vast array of beer choices. Some good ciders too.
Heartland Rock
We had a chance to catch the legendary BoDeans when they played the Broward Performing Arts Center last month.
The band, well known in the 80s and 90s, still sounds great.
They should have been bigger.
Check them out on Spotify. We recommend “Idaho”, “Still the Night”, “Stay On” and “Closer to Free” as a primer. If you love rock, this Wisconsin based band will hook you.
Enjoyed The Spy on Netflix.
The true story of Israeli spy Eli Cohen was riveting and featured a great performance by Sacha Baron Cohen in a very different role for him.
My dad had a book on Eli Cohen when I was a kid and I often found myself picking it up and delving into the story and photos. Don’t miss it.
Really pleased to see Boca based fitness drink Celsius take off.
It was an eventful month for the Nasdaq traded company. The company purchased Finland based Func Foods for $25mm and also introduced a BCAA line of drinks that will be out soon and available on Amazon and at fine retailers.
The company that I work for is the largest shareholder in Celsius and I’m a former COO of the company. We are very proud of their growth and their talented team. The future is very bright.
Congrats to The Arts Garage for their fine work and for being recognized by the School District for their art education efforts. Marjorie Waldo is a rock star.
This from the Delray Parks and Recreation Department:
“Sending a big congratulations to our one and only Senovain Stephens. Delray Beach born and raised, from living in Frog Alley to graduating from Atlantic High School, he knows Delray like the back of his hand. He started with us in 1993 and worked his way up the ladder earning him a promotion from Assistant Parks Superintendent to THE Parks Superintendent!  Congratulations Senovain!!”
Rock Star Energy Drink founder Russell Weiner is selling his Delray Beach home and it can be yours for only $36.5 million.
Sounds like a bargain.
The mansion does have six bedrooms, a 12 car garage, a tennis court and a pool with a water slide.
Weiner purchased the home for $11.6 million in 2009.
Now that’s appreciation.
Finally,
The Delray Chamber of Commerce announced that Stephanie Immelman has taken the permanent position of CEO.
Stephanie said, “I’m proud of what this new team and I have already accomplished the past four months. Our new hires, Angelica Vasquez and Kristopher Fisher, are already making waves, membership has increased dramatically, and the Chamber has re-engaged in a big way with the Delray community. We can’t wait to do more,”.
The selection of Ms. Immelman caps a search process focused on selecting a results-driven leader to drive change management, mission fulfillment, and operational outcomes to maximize the value the Chamber provides to its membership. The choice was made after the search committee considered the qualifications and experience of over 240 qualified applicants.
“After an extensive search for a new CEO of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, we are pleased to have selected Stephanie Immelman,” said Bill Branning, Chairman. “Stephanie has an energetic leadership style. This combined with experience in non-profit and for-profit management positions makes Stephanie uniquely qualified to lead the Delray Chamber.”
You may know Stephanie Immelman as the former Executive Director of the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative but she has extensive business experience at Fortune 500 companies both in the US and Europe. She has held senior marketing positions at Continental Airlines and AT&T and worked in the corporate finance department of Global Crossing focusing on international mergers and acquisitions.
We wish her well.
Have a great October.