Delray Beach and Boca Raton News and Insight

We've got our fingers firmly on the pulse of everything that is Delray-Boca.

And while we're not out to replace the local news media, we think you'll agree we have a very unique perspective to offer on some of the most important stories that affect current and future local residents.

Subscribe to our updates so you never miss a thing in Delray-Boca. Have a tip? Send it to us here.

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.

A Birthday Tribute To A Delray Original

Words to live by…and he does.

My friend Fran Marincola turns 80 today.

He has asked me to write his eulogy.

This isn’t it.

Fran has a lot more life left to live. I’m sure of it.

He has a passion for a whole bunch of things—his wife, his restaurant, the wonderful Caffe Luna Rosa, Mickey Mantle, Delray Beach, national politics, the stock market, Bruce Springsteen, dogs, his family, friends, storytelling and a whole lot more.

I think your passions keep you going. So does a weekly happy hour or “manly lunch” where you can tell those stories, spar with friends and the share the week’s news.

Fran and I have been friends for close to 20 years.

Our friendship started out in a very strange way. I was a newly elected city commissioner and he called to pitch me on some parking contraption that today would have made sense, but I didn’t like it at the time.

So we argued. And argued. And argued and argued some more. Until both of our cell phones died.

It was the start of a beautiful and somewhat volatile friendship because I find myself debating Fran via phone and text 2-3 times a week, in between phone calls and texts and emails where we actually get along quite well and agree with each other.

I admit, sometimes I will actually pick a fight with my friend.

Why? Because he’s a fun guy to debate, he has funny sayings, makes interesting arguments and the whole experience —and Fran is an experience— makes me sharper. It’s not fun to always agree. And we prove that people can disagree—passionately (because Fran is passionate about things) and still like each other very much.

So yes, sometimes I will invite a disagreement just to spice up the week and keep us both sharp. I feel I am providing him with a needed service.

Fran doesn’t like absolutes and so if you want to get him going text him and say ‘so and so doesn’t have a chance to win an election, an Oscar or a Super Bowl.’

It makes him crazy, because his mind works like a mathematician and therefore there is always a chance of something occurring even if it’s remote.

As I have gotten to know Fran, I marvel at the life he has led or should I say the many lives he has led.

He’s worked on boardwalks, owned nightclubs, took acting classes with Broadway stars, travelled far and wide, owned a slew of businesses, made and lost fortunes and hob knobbed with some very famous and infamous people. In short, he is a character. One of the great characters in Delray Beach.

I think characters make a town. They give a place flavor and excitement and set it apart from other blander places.

Fran is a world class character in a town full of world class characters. I have long felt that we in Delray Beach are blessed with more than our fair share of characters—something I briefly touched on in my book “Adventures in Local Politics.”
It seems that all sorts of people are attracted to quaint Florida beach towns and they come from all over creation to add the salt to the water.

I have a friend who believes that Florida attracts modern day rogues and pirates who stop here until they are found out and then migrate to the Keys. The last stop is usually the islands, according to his theory.

There may be some truth to that, but not all characters are rogues and pirates and some like my friend Fran are lovable, big-hearted, generous and compassionate people.

Fran scores the highest on those four categories and that’s why I and many others love and respect him.

He has offered me a ton of hard won wisdom always delivered in an entertaining and unforgettable way. I have resisted some of that wisdom, but he has never held my stubborn streak against me and for that I am grateful.

He has stood by me in good times and in bad times and has proven to be a true friend.

One thing you learn—and for me it was the hard way—is that when you are a public official you have an endless amount of friends and some of them are fair weather. But it’s your true friends who stick by you when your title goes away and you drift off into the next phase of your life.

Fran sticks with his friends through thick and thin.

I have come to admire his business acumen and his strong desire to take care of his employees and customers no matter what. I admire that he is close to his children and grandchildren and that he’s a devoted husband to Kim (another one of my all-time favorite peeps).

I like that he will try new things with a smile and share his past with his closest friends—warts and all. And I’ve come to realize that the warts aren’t really warts after all. Not when they forge character, teach lessons and shape who you become.

My friendship with Fran has been a gift.

It’s nice to have a friend who is a few years older because they can really teach you things if you are willing to listen. And I am, even though I may pretend not to agree with some of his more “colorful” theories on life and love.

He’s given all of his friends the twin gifts of wisdom and laughter. That’s no small thing.

This is my small gift in return.

I hope he is not Disappointed! (Inside joke).

Happy 80th my friend. Here’s too many more playful arguments and good times to come.

My favorite photo of Fran taken on one of his daily walks around Delray.

 

The Magic Of BRIC

Boca Economic Development Director Jessica Del Vecchio, Body Details CEO Claudio Sorrentino and Celsius CEO John Fieldly talk business at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus.

 

It had been many years since I had visited the old IBM campus in Boca Raton.

I had forgotten how big it was and what a large role it had played in the economic life of Southern Palm Beach County.

At its height, more than 10,000 IBMers worked on the picturesque campus and down Congress Avenue in Delray in the Arbors buildings.
It was a remarkable era.

Those memories came flooding back when I attended an event last week at the site which is now known as BRIC for Boca Raton Innovation Campus.
Crocker Partners has poured millions of dollars into the campus and it looks magnificent.
The effort has been hugely successful attracting a slew of companies to the campus including Modernizing Medicine and Vitacost which is now owned by Kroger.
It’s impressive.

I was at BRIC to root for my friend John Fieldly, the CEO of Celsius, a company that my company is heavily invested in. John was on a panel of health care entrepreneurs which included the chief Medical Officer of MDVIP, the chief marketing officer of Vitacost and the CEO of Body Details, a high growth laser hair and skin rejuvenation company.

The panel discussion was moderated by Boca Economic Development Director Jessica Del Vecchio and she led a fascinating discussion on workplace culture, marketing, growth and where the health space is going.

Jessica is a rock star, truly a next level economic developer. Boca is very lucky to have her. Her small office gets big results. She knows how to sell Boca.

At the networking breakfast before the panel, I had a chance to catch up with another friend Pete Martinez, the former IBM site executive, who is now involved in several promising artificial intelligence companies.
Pete reminded me of the site’s legacy. Boca is where the PC was invented but it’s also the birthplace of tech that launched robotics, data analytics, AI and so much more. Boca IP can be found in cellphones, ATM’s and so many more pieces of our daily lives. It’s quite a legacy and it was cool to hear Pete’s pride in the legacy of the location.

It’s also cool to see BRIC and Crocker Partners extend that legacy.

Boca is remarkable when you think about it.
Sure you hear the knocks, but the city aspires, there’s a lot of business happening there, a lot of technology, education, finance and cutting edge medicine too.
The Boca Raton Innovation Campus and its event series is a welcome and needed addition to our local economy.
I can’t wait to go back. And I urge you to visit if you have a chance.

Hurricane Relief Efforts Underway

After a major hurricane, there is an overwhelming desire to do something to help those who were most impacted by the event.

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, there is a great need to help our neighbors in The Bahamas.

There are a lot of efforts being organized and it can be confusing if you want to donate.

While there are scores of reputable organizations rushing to meet the needs of The Bahamas, I can safely recommend BahamasStrong.org because I know many of its principals including Kirsten Stevens, Danny Alberttis and Sarah Crane. All three and have extensive non-profit experience, deep community ties and big hearts.

Using their long established community connections in The Bahamas, Bahamas Strong will coordinate the receipt, storage and distribution of donated supplies. Through their fiscal sponsor, Enterprise Palm Beach, a registered 501(C)(3), they are able to collect funds and distribute them directly to the agencies on the ground.

Bahamas Strong is leading an awareness campaign to drive donations of hard goods to collection points. This includes supplies of food, water, first aid, and construction materials. They are also collecting funds to be distributed to agencies who are conducting relief operations. Another focus will be organizing the Florida boating and aviation communities to coordinate safe transportation of goods collected.

Visit Bahamasstrong.org for a wish list of items and drop off locations. The Delray drop off is at the Chamber of Commerce at 140 NE First Street.

You can also donate by texting Dorian to 21000.

Again, there are many fine efforts underway, this is just one that I know will do a great job.

Stay safe and remain vigilant, there’s plenty of the hurricane season left.

 

Things We Loved In August

Things We Loved in August

Hawkers
Good to see a new restaurant coming to the long vacated space that used to house Sonoma on East Atlantic Avenue.
Hawkers, which features southeast Asian street food, looks awfully  interesting. Can’t wait to try it.
Coco Part 1
Some great photos on social media of Delray tennis sensation Coco Gauff and her family meeting Michelle Obama.
The meeting occurred after Coco competed in the Citi Open in Washington D.C. She won the doubles title with Caty McNally. Her first WTA title.  Pretty impressive. Oh and she made the cover of Teen Vogue too. Not to mention a cover story in USA Today and an appearance on Good Morning America. And a first grand slam singles win on the stadium court  at the U.S. Open.
 Not a bad month.
Mazel Tov
Congratulations to Dupree and Janay Jackson on their wedding. We wish this special couple health and happiness now and forever. They are doing great things in Delray.
Movies around town
We saw “Echo in The Canyon” at the Living Room Theater and it was in a word: wonderful.
The documentary , starring and executive produced by Jakob Dylan, is a loving look back at the amazing music produced by denizens of Laurel Canyon in Southern California in the 60s.
The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Beach Boys, Mamas and The Papas, The Association and Crosby Still Nash are among the musical giants celebrated in the film.
Interviews with Michelle Phillips, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Lou Adler and Eric Clapton add color to the timeless music covered by Dylan, Fiona Apple, Jade, Norah Jones, Beck and others.
It’s truly terrific. A can’t miss if you love classic rock.
Another cant miss is David Crosby: Remember My Name also at the Living Room.
Produced by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) Remember My Name is an unflinching look at Crosby’s life, loves, addictions and broken friendships. It’s powerful and honest but leaves you with more questions than answers.
We also saw The Art of Racing in the Rain. It was wonderful. But bring a box of tissues. You will need it. A must see for dog lovers and those who cherish a good story, well told.
Also outstanding: Blinded By The Light. The feel good movie of the summer.
Caridad
Kudos to the Caridad Center. The nonprofit’s “Back to School Bash” provided 1,000 Deserving Children with Much-Needed School Supplies.
Well done.
A Promising Debut & Other Restaurant Doings
We checked out the new Elisabetta’s on Atlantic Avenue and it was worth the wait.
Located in the former space occupied by the classic 32 East, Elisabetta’s is an Italian restaurant with a huge menu, two bars, a gorgeous terrace, great pasta and truly special pizza.
The restaurant is very beautiful, the build out is really something to see.
We continue to be impressed by the Driftwood on US 1 in Boynton Beach.
Excellent service and an innovative menu makes for a very good experience.
The short rib is as good as I’ve ever had.
Check it out. Don’t miss the yuca tots, they are delicious.
 
ER Bradley’s remains a favorite. 
The West Palm Beach staple is always fun and we like that it’s dog friendly. 
The Impossible Burger is on the menu and the pretzel bread is always a treat. 
We wish Rick Jankee smooth sailing upon his retirement from Delray’s legendary Sail Inn.
Rick sold the sail after 30 years of running one of Delray’s favorite local bars.
So many memories. So many good times. Thanks Rick!
Brule is such a special restaurant. Despite the construction across the street, it was crowded when we went to enjoy a recent lunch.
The chicken parm panini, truffle fries, greens and chicken meatballs are just out of this world.
Welcome to the Ave!
The Wine Room opened this month. Haven’t been over there yet, but the photos online look great and they run a great store in Winter Park.
We had a great happy hour/ dinner with friends at the always wonderful Papas Tapas. With construction on The Ray closing off one lane of traffic it’s important we support the businesses affected on Pineapple Grove.
More Coco.
Coco Gauff is not just showing athletic prowess she’s showing class and leadership too.
The budding tennis star surprised students at The Village Academy on the first day of school with an impromptu visit.
Very cool move.
Boca Eco Dev
Boca keeps landing  new business headquarters.
FlexShoppers will expand by 200 jobs as it consolidates locations under one roof.
Jessica Del Vecchio, Boca‘s Economic development director is a rockstar.
Happy Birthday Bill
Finally, happy birthday to Bill Branning.
Bill who chairs our chamber of commerce has been an invaluable contributor to Delray chairing Old School Square, serving on city advisory boards and on the CRA while running a great local business- BSA Corp.
We were thrilled to celebrate his birthday with friends and family.
Have a great month and stay safe during Dorian.

Assessing iPic

The story of iPic in Delray is a long and complicated one.

So let’s sit for a spell and unpack a little of it because it’s important to try and understand.

The CRA board chose iPic over three other proposals in August 2013. That was six years ago.

Ipic’s winning bid promised a theater and office space on land that once housed the library and the Chamber of Commerce.

But the history of that RFP goes back even further than 2013.

I was on the commission in the early 2000s when we moved forward with a complicated transaction to move the chamber and library and free up the land for redevelopment. The goal was to give the chamber and library new and better facilities replacing what had become dilapidated buildings.

Both of those goals were achieved—with the chamber occupying beautiful space under the Old School Square Parking Garage and the library occupying larger space on West Atlantic Avenue. The library’s board believed that the library would better serve the needs of the community on West Atlantic.

We agreed.

It was not an easy decision and it was not without controversy either.

I remember hearing from residents who didn’t want the library to move to the West Atlantic corridor. One citizen put it bluntly: “why would you put the library out there with those people?”

Yep, that was said.

It just made us want to move it more.

Still, the transaction was a complicated one since the Chamber had a lot of years left on a very sweet lease and there were a lot of moving parts and entities involved.

But it got done, because that was an era where people were able to work together. I sure miss those days.

Once the deal was struck,  an RFP was issued and awarded to a group that envisioned a mixed use project and a hotel. But the Great Recession hit and the deal never got off the ground. Eventually, the CRA issued a new RFP and that led to the iPic deal.

It should be noted that CRA staff liked the iPic bid, but did not rank it first. There was another theater concept—an European style theater if I remember correctly—that they ranked ahead of iPic.

But once the Boca-based iPic was chosen, the CRA staff embraced the concept and worked to make it happen.

The proposal sparked controversy—as so many projects do—over concerns about traffic, design and parking. Those are the usual bugaboos—all understandable.

Mix in personalities, ancient feuds, politics, misinformation and the difficulty of getting things done and it took nearly six years from awarding the RFP to opening night. When iPic won the deal the expected opening date was 2016—it took twice that long.

It seems like the entire town showed up for the grand opening party which may have been the best party Delray has ever seen.

The reviews were mostly glowing—the building was next level beautiful, with living walls of plants, striking art work and plush seating.

The office space—still in the process of being leased—is also beautiful and much needed in our downtown to complement and diversify our abundance of food and beverage options.

Since then, I’ve been to iPic twice. Most of my friends have gone as well— a time or two.

We tend to agree—it’s a good experience but very expensive and not something we see ourselves doing regularly and many of us are movie fans who go frequently.

That said, I supported iPic and hoped the concept would succeed creating a new use downtown and adding jobs to our city since there were promises—albeit sometimes vague ones– to move their corporate headquarters here. It’s important for cities to be business friendly and to have good economies. That doesn’t mean compromising your ethics, selling your soul or offering back breaking incentives. But it does mean hanging an “open for business” sign at your City Hall and being reasonable. It also means welcoming debate.

That said,  I and many others were disappointed in the tone of the debate surrounding iPic.

And while I sympathized with the views and concerns of opponents, I thought more than a few crossed the line with personal attacks on those who supported the project. I also thought some elected officials pushed it by supporting the use but adding costly conditions (outside the scope of the RFP) making it more difficult to succeed.

I felt so bad about the treatment, that I invited iPic CEO Hamid Hashemi to lunch to tell him that despite the vitriol Delray was a nice place and many people wished him and his company success.

So when the news broke last week that iPic missed an interest payment on over $200 million in debt and may have to consider bankruptcy it stirred a lot of emotions. This week, bankruptcy became the path and iPic will operate as usual until it either restructures or is sold.

There was the usual chorus of “I told you so’s” and a slew of people wishing the company ill will which I think is wrong.

Do we really want to see a company fail? Do we want to see an empty building in the heart of our downtown? Do we want to see iPic staff lose their jobs because management loaded the company up with debt?

I don’t think so.

You know who should be mad?
iPic shareholders who have seen their stock plummet.

The retired teachers who depend on their Alabama pension fund also have a right to be angry and concerned since they funded a large chunk of that debt.

And yes, citizens of Delray are justified in feeling disappointed. Our downtown’s real estate is precious. It’s not a good feeling to see a high profile project threatened.

The initial financial blogs quoted iPic as saying sales dipped as a result of the government shut down earlier this year. That really doesn’t pass the smell test.

Round two explanations made more sense: iPic was a trendsetter but other chains are loading up on the luxury too—often at lower ticket prices. So there’s competition in an industry being disrupted by streaming services. Add crushing debt to that equation and all the innovation in the world or the biggest rooftop bar won’t save you.

Still, many people in this community supported the downtown iPic. I did.

While pricey, we liked the idea of another use in the downtown and we liked the idea of Class A office space and a corporate headquarters too.

We liked that iPic offered corporate event space, special events and unique programming through partnerships with entities such as Netflix. We trusted their projections and studies that showed that this market could support an iPic so close to the Mizner Park location.

We liked that business publications were featuring the company and that it was able to go public and was considered an innovator in its space.

So seeing it fall into bankruptcy is no reason to celebrate.

This is where strong communities come together and make lemonade out of lemons. I hope and trust we will do just that.

So what can we learn from this?

iPic Delray has not struggled because of parking or traffic woes.

The local theater was not challenged because downtown Delray isn’t strong enough to support the use.

Clearly, the business model is deeply flawed.

But other chains are managing to figure it out.

Living Room Theater at FAU regularly sells out offering offbeat, independent and foreign fare.

Alamo Drafthouse and other innovative chains seem to be doing well and drawing crowds.

I hope iPic finds a good strong buyer with solid vision and a healthy balance sheet. I also hope the Alabama teachers don’t get crushed in the process. That one might be tough…

It would be great if the Class A office space that was built gets leased and brings much needed jobs to our city.

Regardless, whatever happens we should find ways to work together to pick up the pieces and make this a success somehow, someway. That’s what strong towns do.

What a concept, huh?

 

 

 

Things We Loved In July

Don’t miss the latest exhibit in the Cornell Museum. Seven Solos is awesome.

 

Things we loved in July

Coco Gauff’s magical run to the round of 16 at Wimbledon won’t be soon forgotten.
The budding Delray Beach legend acquitted herself with grace and courage on the grass at Wimbledon thrilling fans around the world.
We can’t wait to see her play in the U.S. Open next month.
CanCode is a really cool concept we learned about last month.
CanCode is a group of high school students in Palm Beach County, committed to teaching elementary school students computer programming through engaging workshops. The effort is funded by the Philanthropy Tank and was recently featured on Channel 25 news. We were thrilled to see CanCode working with the Summer Camp Program at Delray’s Achievement Center for Children and Families.
July 4th is always a highlight. After years of braving the crowds at the beach we have settled into a routine where we eat dinner with friends and watch the fireworks far away from the hustle and bustle.
On America’s 243rd birthday, I found myself still marveling at how lucky we are to live in America. My grandparents fled persecution and almost certain death so that future generations could enjoy freedom, opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. I’m grateful for their journey and for a country that would take them in and give their children and grandchildren and now great grandchildren a chance to enjoy all that America has to offer.
We had a chance to see The Spy Behind Home Plate at the Movies of Delray. 
It’s a terrific new documentary that tells the remarkable story of Moe Berg, a major league catcher who went on to play a key role in World War II as a Spy.
It’s an amazing story. Don’t miss it.
Restaurants
We really like Wood & Fire on West Atlantic and Military.
Very lively atmosphere, good food and a nice drink menu.
The Paradise Sports Lounge  also on West Atlantic and Military got some great national press as a result of the Coco Gauff Wimbledon run.
NBC Nightly News and other outlets captured the raucous scene of fans rooting for Coco at the restaurant/sports bar which is owned by Coco’s parents.
Just a great feel good story.
Great to see Troy’s Barbecue open a second location in Boca on Dixie Highway.
The restaurant on US 1 in Boynton is fabulous.
Delray’s Harvest continues to delight with some of the healthiest meals you can find.
We enjoyed a terrific happy hour at Vic & Angelos.
Inexpensive drinks and half price food from 4-7 makes this an extraordinary deal. The bar staff is terrific.
La Cigale remains a favorite.
We had two wonderful large parties in July with candidates for the CEO job at Old School Square.
The food is always sensational as is the service and ambience. Congratulations to the great Francis Toboul and his wonderful staff. 
On a sad note, we were disappointed to see Sardinia on South Federal Highway close. Boca lost the Tilted Kilt on Airport road.
Congratulations to the Chris Evert Pro Celebrity Classic which announced that Chase Private Client Group is the new title sponsor for the event’s 30th anniversary this year.
The two day event is set for Nov. 22-24 at the Delray Tennis Stadium. Celebs include Carson Kressley and Jon Lovitz among others.
Boca’s Chris Evert did a great job giving color commentary at last month’s Wimbledon. We also recommend her entertaining and often funny Instagram feed.
It was great to see Jonathan Burns on America’s Got Talent and on the cover of the Lifestyle section of USA Today.
The talented contortionist and comedian recently performed at Old School Square.
The Seven Solos exhibit at Old School Square’s Cornell Museum is a must see.
Unique installations using light, salt and other materials makes for a fun visit. Don’t miss it.
While at the Cornell, we also enjoyed the terrific 6×6 exhibit featuring a slew of local artists. More than 700 pieces this year.
Marusca Gatto and Melanie Johanson are doing an amazing job at the museum. We’re grateful.
Congratulations to Coach TJ Jackson and the Atlantic High School football team.
The Eagles are the subject of an upcoming documentary produced by the Sturdy Group. 
The documentary will emphasize the team’s devotion to academics and community service. TJ has been a game changer.
We had a blast at the Arts Garage’s summer fundraiser featuring several magicians including headliner Gary Goodman. 
If you haven’t checked out the Arts Garage, please do. You won’t regret it. World class talent served up several times a week in an intimate venue. It’s been really great for Delray.
Welcome to Atlantic Avenue Elisabetta’s. 
After a long wait, Big Time Restaurant Group parent of Rocco’s Tacos and Louie Bossi, debuted Elisabetta’s Ristorante Bar and Pizzeria at 32 East Atlantic.
At 7,800 square feet, the eatery is big and beautiful. Welcome to the Ave.
Two local companies were among the top 10 South Florida venture capital investments in Q2.
Coming in at number 5 was Boca based software management platform Pixeom which raised $15 million.
In 7th place, Delray Beach based health care software firm Sunwave raised $6 million. Keep an eye on both the ecosystem is growing.
Finally, July saw the 85th birthday of a special friend, the high Commissioner himself, Mr. Bob Costin.
Bob is somewhere out there with his lovely wife Sonya riding in his rock star RV. We miss him and will buy him his favorite Chinese food upon his return this fall.

A Star Is Born

Delray’s own: Coco Gauff

 

Every now and again an athlete breaks through and touches the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
The ability to capture those hearts is part of the magic of sports.

Maybe it’s the talent it takes to excel, maybe it’s the sacrifice or the personal story. Regardless, some athletes seem to rise above.

You don’t have to be a tennis fan to be caught up in the story of Cori “Coco” Gauff.

The 15-year-old from Delray Beach will play in the Round of 16 today at Wimbledon and that’s a monumental achievement.  Coco is making headlines all over the world after three scintillating victories, including a convincing first round win over her hero Venus Williams who also has extensive ties to Delray.

There are many aspects to the Coco story. Yes, she’s the youngest. Yes, she’s the “next one” and yes she has a very big game.
But she also has the “it” factor, that intangible that is hard to explain but you sure know it when you see it.

She plays without fear.

Staring down her idol Venus, beating a past semi finalist in the second round and digging deep to escape a tough third round match against a powerful and experienced opponent who was playing very very well announced to all who were watching that they were witnessing something special.

Coco has that champion’s demeanor. She know she belongs. And despite what must be enormous pressure she continues to play fearlessly, going for shots and digging deep  when she gets in a hole.
It’s amazing to watch. And she has become the story of the tournament no matter what happens from here on out.

You get the sense that you are watching history, the glorious coming out party of a special transcendent athlete.

Of course, a few wins at a high profile event does not a career make.
But…this feels different. This feels real.

For her hometown of Delray Beach, Coco’s amazing run has been a joyous occasion.
Large crowds gather at her parents restaurant, The Paradise Sports Lounge on West Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail for “watch parties” that have been covered on the national and international news.

Leading the cheers are Coco’s grandmother –the wonderful Yvonne Odom, herself an historic figure as the first African American student to attend Atlantic High School.
We’ve written about my friend Mrs. Odom on this site. She’s special too.

That her own athletic ambitions were scuttled by the racial attitudes of the times is a part of her grand daughter’s amazing story. Yvonne was not able to play sports at Atlantic despite her considerable athletic talents.
To see Coco thrive at Wimbledon must be extra special for Mrs. Odom and her family. You can see the joy the family is experiencing and it’s inspiring.
I’ll be hoping that the run continues. But even if it ends today or with Coco lifting the championship trophy, we have a strong sense that this story is just beginning.

In Pursuit Of Equal Justice

Bryan Stevenson

Sometimes you see someone so special that it literally takes your breath away.

Someone so brilliant and emotionally intelligent that their words stop you in their tracks and you are left changed by the experience.

That’s how I felt when I heard Bryan Stevenson speak recently at the annual meeting of Leadership Florida in Orlando.

Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative which is the subject of a new HBO documentary.

His work focuses on race and criminal justice reform and how we can inch our way toward a more perfect union.

We live in a society in which 1 in 3 African American males and 1 in 6 Latino men will end up incarcerated; a disturbing statistic that we somehow seem to accept. As if those lives are disposable. As if our nation can afford to throw these people away.

Stevenson wants us to chafe at these statistics.

It’s not that he wants us to feel bad or guilty.

In fact, he wants us to heal and feels that the only path to healing is facing what ails us as Americans.

Stevenson is a founder of the only museum dedicated to the history of lynching in America. It’s located in Montgomery, Alabama.

In fact, he was in Orlando to dedicate a marker at the site of a lynching in that city right here in our state.

By putting the issues front and center, Stevenson is hoping to spark a dialogue and a process that will ultimately lead to the airing of truths and a national reconciliation.

He fears what will happen to us if we don’t discuss these painful issues—slavery, bigotry, racism, violence. He believes it is keeping us apart.

Regardless of how you feel, it’s hard to deny that we have a racial divide in this country and in our own community.
Delray has a fraught relationship with race—Swinton has been a dividing line, we wrestle with issues of equity, trust, inequality and how to communicate.
I see it every day in Delray.

I feel it too.
I know I am not alone.

But I also know that many people  don’t feel the tension or have no interest in engaging.

But those who care about making a lasting difference should care. Because the divide holds us back and we are forever at risk of volatility if we ignore or pretend that these issues aren’t real or don’t exist. We will never reach our potential until we face up to what separates us.
So what we can do?

Stevenson suggests that we put ourselves where we typically refuse to venture.

The best part of Stevenson’s powerful message was his plea for people, especially those who seek to lead to get “proximate” to the issues in their communities.

Stevenson urges all of us to get close to the issues and get to know the most troubled parts of our community.

Proximity enables us to understand, empathize and eventually help.

Distance keeps us apart and does not allow for solutions to take root. It may even be wasteful since often we will prescribe the wrong solutions to community problems because we haven’t taken the time to get close to the suffering.

It may seem easier to turn away, but it’s not says Stevenson. The price we pay is too high—estrangement, anger, violence, division and a host of other ills.

As I watched Stevenson mesmerize a large crowd of experienced leaders, I couldn’t help but think that this is the kind of leadership we are missing in our cities and  inour country.
We need leaders who share, empathize and truly care to get close enough to understand, grow and evolve.

It takes an investment of time and heart. It takes a willingness to set aside preconceptions and open ourselves to possibilities and healing.
This not us versus them politics designed to keep us angry and apart. This is true inclusiveness, idealistic and human. It summons our better angels.

We can choose to remain angry, divided and sure of our positions from the safety of our couches and echo chambers or we can be “proximate” and learn to love thy neighbor.

It’s a simple choice. And an obvious one.

Things We Liked In June

Delray’s Coco Gauff makes her Wimbledon debut today.

Things We Liked n June

 

After reading a stellar review, we checked out the Driftwood restaurant on U.S. 1 in Boynton Beach.

It’s fabulous.

 

Located in the former location of Sculley’s, the Driftwood offers craft cocktails and farm fresh food inventively prepared from local farms.

We recommend the Yuca tots, the calamari (the presentation is very different), the deviled eggs and the pita and hummus.

Great happy hour from 3-6 daily.

We skipped the lion fish, but they offer it.

 

 

We went back to La Vie, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Pompano. It did not disappoint. Great food. Entertainment and a really cool atmosphere. Highly recommend.

 

We enjoyed Maya Flavors of India in Boca and Oli’s Fashion Cuisine in Wellington. Recommend both.

 

Johnny Mango’s on North Federal Highway is a local treasure. Just a fun place to stroll through and admire the orchids, plants and eclectic decorations. These are the type of unique local businesses you hope to see last and flourish.

 

A special thank you shout out to Elise and Charles Johnson for hosting a tropical cocktail party at their beautiful home.

The goal was to bring Old School Square board members and donors together for a fun evening of bonding. Mission accomplished. The Johnson’s are a special couple who quietly do a lot for Delray.

 

Congratulations to Two Fat Cookies on their new location right next to Salt 7 in the SoFA district. The new store is larger than their previous location in Pineapple Grove. We wish them well.

 

It’s also good to see the new Aloft Hotel at 202 Southeast Fifth Avenue nearing their grand opening. The hotel held a job fair in June. We look forward to seeing the new hotel and WXYZ lounge.

 

Impact 100 For Men awarded $50,000 to the Florence Fuller Child Development Center and $4,500 each to the Milagro Center and First Serve West Palm Beach at their annual meeting in June.

I’ve been a member of this terrific group since its inception two years ago. We need more members so we can give away more money to important non-profits serving our community.

Please consider joining. Visit https://unitedwaypbc.org/impact100-men/ for more information.

 

The Dish on Dishes

 

The chicken lemon picatta at Grand Luxe is awfully good.

 

It’s hard to beat the chips and salsa at Senor Burrito.

 

The Chicken and dumplings at the aforementioned Driftwood—very good.

The pasta dishes at La Villetta are outstanding.

 

Summer Movies

 

Don’t miss Rocket Man on the big screen. Elton John music, great acting and unique storytelling.

Yesterday is a feel good movie and features a slew of Beatles songs. We loved it.

Lean on Pete is streaming on Amazon. It’s a sad, but exceedingly well done movie featuring a boy and his horse.

 

Chocolate Everywhere

We finally made it to The Chocolate Factory in Delray.

Beautiful facility, friendly staff and delicious chocolate all made right here in Delray. Add it to your list of places to scope out.

 

 

Congratulations to Delray’s Gary Woodland who shot 13 under to win the U.S. Open golf tournament.

 

Yes, he lives here. In a Marc Julien home. Pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

On a sad note, Delray lost a great friend in June with the passing of Charlie Gwynn.

The long time business and civic leader was born in Delray in 1931.

He was a business owner, coach, volunteer and just a wonderful gentleman.

He was also a regular at the old Green Owl where he met daily with several other long time leaders to eat breakfast, sip coffee and hold court on all things.

That’s how I will remember Charlie. Meeting with his friends and greeting everyone with a warm smile.

 

On another sad note, Delray lost a wonderful benefactor with the loss of Sara Jo Kobacher this month. I had the pleasure of spending time with Sara Jo and her late husband Art as they worked toward their dream of establishing The Village Academy in Delray.

Opened in 2000, The Village Academy School on the Art & Sara Jo Kobacker Campus serves students from low income homes from birth (Head Start) through 12th Grade. Following Sara Jo’s wishes, the United Way of PBC will be the beneficiary of donations in her honor. Condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.schoedinger.com.

 

Recognition

Congratulations to the fabulous Crane’s Beach House on earning a place in the TripAdvisors’ Hall of Fame.

Crane’s received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for the fifth year in a row.

In order to be eligible for the Certificate of Excellence, properties must maintain an overall rating of 4 out of 5 on TripAdvisor.

Only 10 percent of properties worldwide are in the Hall of Fame so this is a special and deserved honor indeed.

GM Cathy Balestiere and her team have been great assets to Delray for a very long time. So cool to see the property recognized.

 

It’s also heartwarming to see another deserving local business win national recognition.

 

Boca’s Farmer’s Table was named one of the “100 Best Al Fresco Restaurants” in America in 2019 by Open Table.

 

Farmer’s Table—which is wonderful—was selected from the reviews of more than 30,000 restaurants submitted by Open Table diners.

 

Congrats to Delray’s Joseph Gianuzzi on this well deserved honor.

 

Congratulations also goes to the Sandoway House.

 

Sandoway Discovery Center received a two-year grant totaling $90,000 from The Jim Moran Foundation. The funds will be used to support Sandoway’s Education and Animal Care Program which allows students and visitors to learn environmental education through hands-on activities and live-animal encounters. The Jim Moran Foundation grant will also allow for the purchase of a new environmental education book to be sent home with every student participating in Sandoway’s Junior Naturalist Program from a Title I school.

 

 

This from CNN and it’s not fake news.

 

(CNN) – “American tennis prodigy Cori “Coco” Gauff just became the youngest player in the Open Era to advance through qualifying to reach Wimbledon’s main draw.”

The 15 year old Delray native has often been compared to Serena Williams. It’s not an unfair comparison. Stay tuned. She’s special.

Coco plays Venus Williams today at Wimbledon. She grew up idolizing the Williams sisters, who also trained in Delray.

No less a legend than Roger Federer calls the match-up “fascinating.”

Have a wonderful July and a safe Independence Day!