Written by Kelli Fuqua Hart, Editor-in-chief
Photography by Chris Wims, Director of Media
You can’t go home again.” Asheville native and literary genius Thomas Wolfe’s words made sense as I wound my way through the many facets of his inspiring hometown. From the breathtaking views at the Biltmore House to the many local boutiques nestled into the heart of downtown, Asheville offers some of the most diverse, unique cultures and lifestyles in North America. As much as I adore my hometown Ocala, it was tempting to abide by Wolfe’s demand.

You can’t go home again.” Asheville native and literary genius Thomas Wolfe’s words made sense as I wound my way through the many facets of his inspiring hometown. From the breathtaking views at the Biltmore House to the many local boutiques nestled into the heart of downtown, Asheville offers some of the most diverse, unique cultures and lifestyles in North America. As much as I adore my hometown Ocala, it was tempting to abide by Wolfe’s demand.

Much like I fell in love with its mountainous skyline and blooming dogwoods, George Vanderbilt too was immediately mesmerized by Asheville’s majestic views and change of seasons. In 1889, after visiting his mother, Vanderbilt began building what is now called Asheville’s crown jewel, Biltmore, “A retreat reminiscent of the grand castles and estates of France and Britain.”America’s largest private home, Vanderbilt’s estate has over 4-acres of floor space and 250 rooms, all originally set inside 125,000-acres of wildlife and scenic pathways. Today, the family home is filled with original collections of art, heirloom furniture and over 20,000 rare books both read and cataloged by Mr. Vanderbilt himself. A quick Google search will yield you page after page of information pertaining to Mr. Vanderbilt’s prized home but, what you might not read about are the intricate details hidden throughout the iconic manor’s four floors. Over 60 stonemasons worked to produce over 32,000 bricks each day. Thousands of furnishings dating back to the 15th century were bought during extensive overseas purchasing excursions – items to include tapestries, prints, linens, carpets and decorative elements. The main floor contains Italian marble, stone archways, sculptured wood and multifaceted glasswork. Many of the rooms’ ceilings are hand-stenciled – a common European practice that Vanderbilt admired. Walnut paneling, ornate mantles, golden walls and ornate tiles are found throughout the home, as well as thousands of dollars’ worth of fresh cut flowers, arranged perfectly in ornamented vases. The sound of a melodious harp bounces off of the marble columns and breezes up the winding staircase as I make my way through the spacious bedroom chambers and sitting rooms. An indoor bowling alley, state-of-the-art gymnasium, indoor pool and smoking room are just a part of what you will experience along the tour – all leaving you in awe. The 30,000-acres of grounds surrounding Biltmore House include formal and informal gardens, designed by renowned American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. From the Italian Garden with its reflecting pools and aquatic life to the Walled Garden surrounded by 75,000 blooming spring tulips and a native butterfly sanctuary, the picturesque scene Vanderbilt planted for his guests forever blooms. Visitors can spend an entire day touring the depths of the estate, meandering through ornamental gardens, indulging in fine cuisine and exploring the Biltmore Estate Winery. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the historic winery offers complimentary tastings, a wine bar, winemaking tours and delicious food in a gorgeous setting. Named America’s Most Visited Winery, the Biltmore Winery provides guests an underground stroll through the cellar towards a tasting room where they enjoy a variety of wines and shopping opportunity. A multitude of events are offered each month, making it a new experience every time you visit. The historic, awe-inspiring Biltmore is one of the many reasons the city in which it resides is called Romantic Asheville.
River Arts District
Between 1880 and 1900, Asheville’s population grew from 500 residents to 10,000. This booming little town thrived for nearly three decades before the Great Depression moved in. Businesses shut down and production ceased. Large buildings and warehouses were vacated, putting the town in debt – $56 million to be exact – and laborers at a loss. Rather than renouncing its debt, Asheville committed to paying off the Depression-era bonds in full, despite the 40-plus years it would take. In fact, “Asheville is believed to be the only American city not to have defaulted on its bonds,” according to John Miguel Almaguer, owner of Asheville Art Studio Tours. However, during the almost 50 years Asheville lied dormant, little new construction was performed and many buildings became increasingly dilapidated. It wasn’t until around 1985 this sector of town – known today as the River Arts District or RAD – was reignited. Once a neglected ghost town, this district finally had life breathed back into it when a group of local artists moved their studios and galleries here, calling it home. Porge and Lewis Buck were the first artists to invest in the RAD, buying an old building in 1987 they named Warehouse Studios. Two years later, Pattiy Torno purchased what is now CURVE Studios and Garden – “the first live/work studio space in the district,” according to www.AshevilleRAD.com. By the early 1990s, more and more artists flooded the RAD and in 1994, these same artists hosted the inaugural Studio Stroll. Today, just shy of a 30-year milestone, Asheville’s RAD is home to over 220 working artists within 21 unique buildings. Some of the art guests will enjoy includes basketry, bookbinding, clay, textiles, glass, interior design, lighting, music, painting, mixed media, sculpting, wood, glass and more. Several eateries and breweries have landed in the mix, providing artists and spectators alike a chance to dine, socialize and bask in the culture of the RAD. As part of the Asheville Art Studio Tours, you will engage with artists, watch them work and hear their stories. One of the most mesmerizing stops along the tour is the North Carolina Glass Center which offers demos and hands-on workshops. This non-profit studio’s mission is one of dedication to education, exploration and artist collaboration. Executive Director Kari Rinn, alongside Operations Manager Kathryn Adams and Studio Manager Hayden Wilson, operate with a high respect for tradition, responsibility and sustainability for energy, innovation and focus on the discipline as a whole. Visitors and students will be in awe of the masterpieces displayed throughout the spacious gallery, as well as the ability to create their own beads, vases and other pieces of ornamental glass. Open 7 days a week, North Carolina Glass Center offers a Hot, Coldworking and Flameworking Shop. Students work one on one with glass artists, getting undivided attention while creating a work of art that will last a lifetime. With over 20 in-house artists, the North Carolina Glass Center has become a staple in the RAD and a fan-favorite along the Asheville Art Studio Tour. Artist Stephen St. Claire comes to Asheville by way of Los Angeles. The owner of St. Claire Art, another stop along the guided art tour, Stephen has developed an oil painting technique he calls Dialuminism or light passing through. This one-of-a-kind technique involves embedding metal leafing onto a three dimensional, oil-painted canvas that Stephen ultimately seals with layer upon layer of solar resistant resin. When light hits the canvas, some of it gets swallowed in the shadows, while other facets of light reflect off of the silver leafing hidden within. Gallery-goers stand in awe of the results, often moving left to right to see how the light plays on the surface of the canvas. From abstracts to landscapes, Stephen St. Claire is well versed in his craft, having won numerous awards for his work – many of those international. His studio is immensely welcoming, filled with natural sunlight and colorful, intriguing works of art. Stephen creates his art in the lobby of his space so guests can watch him as he becomes engulfed in his craft. Stephen is like most of the artists in the RAD, making himself accessible to his guests and other artists alike. What once served as the National Biscuit Company, the 5,000-square foot, century-old Lift Studios is one spot you do not want to miss along your stroll of the RAD. Artist Daniel McClendon, owner of Lift Studios, has one remarkable story. He graduated from Western Michigan University with his Bachelors of Fine Arts. Having focused his studies on realism, Daniel soon found himself living in Asheville, painting full time. The idea of making a living while doing one’s passion sounds like a dream realized for most. For Daniel, however, it became a dark and confusing void. “I was creating was I was good at,” explains Daniel, “not what I was meant for.” His work felt insincere and “fraudulent.” For several months, he’d go to his studio, his wife Michelle convinced he was happily working – painting – when, in reality, he was at a total stand-still. “How do you tell your wife you’ve given up painting?” Daniel asked in rhetoric. “You don’t!” he chuckled. It was an internal struggle he battled until one very early March morning. Unexpectedly, Daniel had an epiphany that broke his hiatus and had him back in front of the easel. On the back of the last page of a Doubletree Hotel scratch pad, he jotted down his vision. “Find good scientific/accurate/simple source material of animals. Think about use of black. Emphasis on layers and process.” The list of ideas went on. On the back side of the same paper, Daniel sketched a buffalo and made a few other notes about layers, oil paint and facts. Today, this integral note hangs framed, pressed between glass, in The Lift Studios. Now, and authentically, Daniel creates primal compositions that reference highly abstract animal forms. He begins with a white canvas and then loosely applies large strokes of black paint that ultimately decide which animal will be born on canvas. His pieces are powerful, dynamic, colorful and exert an energy that stirs throughout the hallways and corridors of Daniel’s exquisite studio. Set diagonally from The Lift Studios is Studio A – a co-op of artists with varying talents. From handmade lamps and paper to scrap metal jewelry and woodblock prints, this creative space offers a uniqueness unlike any other stop along the tour. One artist who calls Studio A home is Andrea Kulish, owner of Pink Dog Creative. Andrea is diverse in her talents making lamps with handmade paper shades as well as teaching pysanky workshops – a class that introduces students to the art of Ukrainian egg decoration. Looking much like folk art, Ukrainian pysanky is executed using a wax resist method and dyes to create colorful, intricately detailed eggs that Andrea sells. Watching Andrea work was mesmerizing. Her steady hand and attention to detail encapsulates spectators. She begins the process with a real egg, writing out her design in hot wax using a special stylus called a pysachok or kistka. Imagine first a white egg. Andrea executes near perfect lines, swirls, dots or the likes on areas she wishes to remain white. She then submerges the egg in a colored dye of her liking. Once dry, she adds more wax lines or details to areas she wishes to remain colored. Again, she submerges her egg. As more wax is added, the layers of colors are preserved. After Andrea has skillfully finished each detail of her egg, she uses a lit candle to carefully melt away the wax, exposing a multitude of colors and designs. Her art is authentic and her passion, unsurpassed. Although it is a tiny shoppe, there is a huge amount of talent filling the joyful space.
Part of beautiful Asheville’s culture is the attention to fine dining – fine in the sense most of its eateries and restaurants focus on farm-fresh ingredients and healthy recipes. One venue in particular, housed on North Market Street, is Sovereign Remedies – owned by Charlie Hodge and his partner Sunil Patel. “Somewhere between warm and regal, [Sovereign Remedies] is filled with visual treasures of vintage service-ware, rich black and gold curtains, and locally built furniture and fixtures by Iron Maiden Studios,” says Hodge. Tall, picture windows allow natural lighting to enter the space as it hugs the foliage that is tucked into SR’s many nooks and crannies. In addition to SR’s massive, fully-stocked bar, patrons can gather in an urban-style atmosphere, enjoying culinary creations that are 100-percent farmed or foraged. From artisinal cheese and meat boards to crispy pig ears and stinging nettle tagliatelle, the menu items at SR are one-of-a-kind – made with the freshest of ingredients. The mission behind SR is that of organic, locally-sourced, sustainable foods. Charlie and Sunil mix with patrons, a true testament to their amazing customer service – a theme among Asheville’s restaurateurs. Once a Gulf service station, Asheville’s Ghan Shan Station welcomed us in and presented us with a chef’s tasting that was beyond expectation. The fully converted space is adorned with mementos from the original Gulf station, meshed with trendy fixtures, updated bar and local artwork. Chef’s first presentation began with a coconut squash soup – a creamy, flavorful starter of winter squash, coconut milk, chili oil, chive and black sesame. Next a progression of delicacies arrived to include a mushroom yuba salad, dan dan brussel sprouts, whipped tofu, house made dumpling and Koji marinated beef. To sweeten the deal, a Szechuan Root Beer Float followed the six courses. Between each tasting, we were taught what each recipe included, how the ingredients are farmed and which wines were best paired to enhance flavor. With an open-view kitchen, patrons are able to see their meals being prepared by Gan Shan chefs and an open-seating area allows guests to see every aspect of the space. The concept might remind you of the RAD, where older buildings are reborn as new businesses. Before a long day touring Asheville’s Biltmore or hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, make sure you indulge in a hearty, southern-style breakfast at Early Girl Eatery. Falling in line with many other local restaurants, Early Girl Eatery offers made from scratch dishes using local, organic ingredients. Imagine my surprise, finding out I was sitting at the same table actress Andie MacDowell once sat at while enjoying eggs over easy! Although I did not order Andie’s favorite dish, I did enjoy the freshest, most delicious banana nut bread I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Owners John and Julie Stehling are active owners, offering patrons and newbies alike a true dose of southern hospitality. According to their website, “John does the cooking while Julie does the talking.” Having been featured in publications such as The New York Times, USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, Southern Living and now Ocala Magazine, Julie has many reasons to talk – about both what’s on the menu and the many diners who claim Early Girl Eatery is the best breakfast in town. Dining in downtown Asheville is an experience. Walking city streets to your venue, you will be met with fantastic street art, musicians and highly decorated boutique storefronts. When choosing the perfect place to have dinner during your visit to Asheville, there is really no wrong selection. However, a few places do stand out among the rest. Chef John Fleer was named one of the Rising Stars of the 21st Century by the James Beard Foundation and is a four-time finalist for the James Beard Best Chef in the Southeast award. “His unique foothills cuisine he helped establish at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm wanders the link between refined and rugged, fancy and familiar,” according to Landis Taylor, Asheville Public Relations Specialist. With a menu that changes daily, Rhubarb makes for the perfect venue to celebrate some of life’s most special moments. Growing up, most of us shared moments and created memories while sharing a meal together at the dining table. This is the same feel and concept Rhubarb has built its mission around. Chef Fleer wants Rhubarb to be the go-to place to meet, celebrate, propose or reconnect. It made for the perfect stopping place to reminisce on the day’s events and wonderful first-time moments made in Asheville. The Mongolian Barbecued Lamb Ribs were a perfect selection from the snacks and shares menu, followed by a Grilled Ashley Farms Half-Chicken and a smooth glass of white wine. From Glazed Duck Confit and Octopus a la Plancha to Charmoula Grilled Bear Creek Farm Bavette – all fresh and made to order – the menu at Rhubarb pleases any palate. However, if you are looking for a quaint venue located in the heart of downtown Asheville, near Fine Arts Cinema, Diana Worthham Theater and many fine art galleries, look no further than The Blackbird.Blackbird owners Jesson and Cristina Gil pride themselves on serving locally farmed ingredients, fresh catches and creative specialties – coined modern southern with a nod to tradition. While enjoying a crisp white wine, I watched locals walk past the venue’s massive windows, many walking hand in hand or being led by their pooch. (Sidenote: Asheville is big on dogs and most every venue in the city welcomes dogs of all breeds.) I had the perfect view of sparkling patio lights, boutique window displays and giggling people enjoying Asheville’s Amazing Pubcycle tour. Soon after being greeted by both Jesson and his wife, welcoming us to The Blackbird, a spread of delicious charcuterie and house crackers kicked off what would ultimately be my favorite meal while in Asheville. Allergic to shellfish, I required a twist to Blackbird’s Grilled Seafood Risotto – of which Chef Michael Reppert happily obliged, replacing the seared scallops with a mouth-watering stack of seasoned, grilled asparagus. Each bite of my fresh catch was flaky and melted like butter on my tongue. From the Blood Orange Tuna Tartare and Wellington to his Cold Smoked Heritage Pork Chop Schnitzel, Chef Reppert has designed a menu that will have you calling The Blackbird your favorite stop in Asheville.
Good Morning America named Asheville among the Ten Most Beautiful Places in America. Citizen Times named Asheville the Number 1 Coolest City in America. Last year, Conde Nast Traveler voted Asheville among the Friendliest Cities in the U.S. But in 2014, TravelandLeisure.com named it the Quirkiest Town in America – perhaps I stumbled on one of the reasons why?After an 8-hour car ride from Ocala to Asheville, getting a foot soak sounded like an absolute marvelous idea. Imagine being nestled into a soft chair or loveseat, inside a dimly lit room where cell phones and noise are restricted. Now imagine having a warm wrap placed at the nape of your neck while a soft-spoken technician delicately places your foot into a copper pot filled with hot water, oils and spices. A gentle hand begins to massage your neck and you feel the worries and stresses of the day lift and flee from your body. It’s a retreat from life’s madness that is offered at Asheville’s Wake Foot Sanctuary. Wake is not what’s quirky about Asheville. In fact, Wake may be one of the best, most necessary and overlooked concepts in all of business. What I found quirky is the fact Asheville has numerous – like one on every corner – foot-focused businesses. From massage and soaks to podiatrists and reflexology, Asheville is very adamant about foot care. And for a girl who spends plenty of time on her feet – usually bare – I had no complaints! Another venue that offers foot treatments, along with skin care, massage and other body treatments is the Spa at Omni Grove Park Inn. This luxurious escape offers a 43,000-square foot spa with amenities to include mineral pools, an inhalation room, eucalyptus-infused steam room, relaxation lounges, outdoor fireplaces overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and more. From scalp refreshers infused with exotic botanicals to honey wraps and aura imaging, the Spa at Omni Grove is an oasis where visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of life, all while wrapped in a plush robe, sipping the finest herbal teas on the market.
Beer enthusiasts will love Asheville’s Wedge Brewing Company, now brewing it up at two Asheville locations. According to www.WedgeBrewing.com, “Malt, hops and adjunct ingredients are of the highest quality and each beer is given the time it needs.”The newest location on Foundy Street, once the largest leather tannery in the country, opened this year and offers patrons the finest, most consistent of brews as well as a tasting room. Located in the River Arts District, Wedge Brewing Co. stands out with its graffiti-covered exterior and outdoor patio. Neighboring buildings are covered roof to footer with colorful, dynamic street art, making this location within the RAD a must-stop, must-see destination when visiting Asheville. There is even a collaborative skate park project behind the brewery – Foundation Skatepark – which was built by and totally funded by local skaters. Open daily, Wedge Brewing Co. is quickly gaining momentum, becoming a hub for locals and travelers alike. Other interesting offers you will want to consider when visiting Asheville include the local Friday night drum circles, a stroll through Grovewood Village shops and museums, a hike along the Catawba Falls trails, peddling through town on a pedal-powered, BYOB Pubcycle, Thomas Wolfe Memorial and Ghost and Vampire Tours.
After setting out to explore all of what Asheville has to offer, you will want to find a place to sleep peacefully that offers luxurious amenities and is located close to downtown. Asheville’s Hotel Indigo makes checking in, parking and dining incredibly simple. Like most all of Asheville’s dining establishments, the hotel’s oneFIFTYone Bar & Kitchen offers a strictly farm-to-table menu and serves brews from local breweries. A supporter of the arts, you will find original works of local artists displayed throughout the hotel’s hallways and lobby. The rooms offer sightly views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and, if you are as lucky as was I, you will wake up to a fleet of gorgeous hot air balloons hovering in the distance. Don’t leave your pooch at home. Hotel Indigo welcomes your pet and makes even those accommodations a cinch. Greeted with a smile each time we left and returned, the Hotel Indigo staff practices unsurpassable customer service. OM
For more information:
Asheville Visitors Bureau

Our mission was to celebrate nurses and celebrate nurses we did!

Our mission was to celebrate nurses and celebrate nurses we did!

written by Kelli Fuqua Hart, Editor-in-chief
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Ocala Magazine and a host of local businesses came together on Thursday, April 20th to host the 3rd Annual Celebration of Nurses event. Over 800 nurses, nursing students, medical staff and instructors, along with their families and friends celebrated local nurses with a fun night filled with a variety of food, spirits, games, door prizes, live entertainment, awards and more. Pixel Pro and The Event Firm set the tone for the evening with a upbeat music and a photo booth –all carrying out the Mardi Gras theme. Guests were welcomed by a Zydeco Band and soon after entertained by live jazz performers and a Blues Brothers Tribute Band. Local food vendors were vying for a People’s Choice Award –Mojo’s taking First Place and Brick City Southern Kitchen & Whiskey Bar coming in a close second, just 6 votes behind. Six deserving nurses received honors from their peers and loved ones, some shedding tears over the kind words spoken of them. And every guest left with a neck full of beads, full stomachs, vendor swag and smiles – many with a valuable door prizes and bottles of delicious wine.
Instructor award
Dr. Justin Williams
College of Central Florida
“When I felt as if I wasn’t meant to be a nurse and was ready to give up, Dr. Williams was there to remind me what nursing is all about,” recalls Roxana Valle. “He played a major role in me finding my confidence as both a new nurse and person as a whole.” Williams was both an instructor in Roxana’s ADN program and a professor in her BSN program at CF. Denise Odier also had amazing things to say about Justin. “He’s not just here to make sure his students succeed in class, but in life overall. He’s the best nursing instructor Marion County has ever had!”As an Associate Professor of Nursing in CF’s RN-BSN program, he’s earned a reputation for being as inspiration to faculty as well. “His passion to advance the nursing profession is evident in his teaching pedagogies,” according to CF’s Tammy Martineau. “Dr. Williams is an asset to the nursing profession and the future of nursing education.” June Tickle goes on to say, “Dr. Williams promotes nursing professionalism, interdisciplinary collaboration and lifelong learning.” With over seven individual nominations from peers and students alike, it is clear Justin has touched many lives. Lorna Rembert agrees. “Dr.Williams is a shining example of both a leader and teacher. He should be celebrated for that!”That is exactly what we did –celebrate Justin and his accomplishments in winning Ocala Magazine’s Nursing Instructor Award – presented for the first time at this year’s event.
Student award
Gina Hall
Rasmussen College
West Milligan had this to say about his mother, Gina Hall, “My mom has worked so hard to get through school. She has stretched her savings and sacrificed so much to make sure we all have what we need. However, she’s never once sacrificed the care she’s given to her family. I’ve seen her sick and still study and make it to class – never late, never complaining. Even when she’s been tired, she’s never slowed down or given up. She’s an awesome mom and will be an awesome nurse. I am so happy to see her dream coming true.” West’s nomination was one of over one-dozen that rolled in, all saying the same things. Gina’s sister Jennifer Way knows how becoming a nurse has been a lifelong dream of Gina’s. “When [Gina] was a child, she’d pretend she was a nurse, taking care of me by sticking me with cough syrup syringes that resembled actual syringes. She’d pretend to take my blood pressure and heartbeat. Today, as an adult there is no one I’d rather have take actual care of me than Gina.”In raising three wonderful children, no obstacle or challenge has slowed Gina down. “She was challenged early in life, at just 20-years old, with the birth of her oldest son who has Down’s Syndrome,” explains Kristian Branch. Her strength has always been unwavering and that same determination and dedication is evident as a student. “Gina will push patients who need enthusiasm and nurture those who need a tender touch,” says Erin Callahan. “Marion County will be lucky to have her.” Ocala Magazine agrees and was happy to award her with the first-ever Celebration of Nurses Student Award.
Legacy award
Cindy Phillips
Ocala Regional Medical Center
“She is fun-loving, classy and a ray of sunshine,” says Michele Svenningsen of Cindy Phillips. “She is always there when you need her – a mom to us all.” Cindy has been caring for patients for over 30 years. With over one dozen independent nominations, the majority of those who know Cindy have known her for a very long time. They all agree she’s always had a reputation for being charismatic and completely committed to her patients, friends and loved ones. Sultana Beverly-Duke has known Cindy since grade school and says, “Her character alone is something to honor.”“We need more nurses like her,” says Sandi O’Boyle in her nomination. “She is one-of-a-kind. There are few like [Cindy].”Cindy’s daughter sent Ocala Magazine a heartfelt nomination and had this to say about her mom, “Even when her day has exhausted her, my mom keeps her head high and does everything in her power to do what she’s done for decades. She is the reason I decided to become a nurse. She has inspired me to follow in her steps and I hope to be even half the nurse she is every single day.” Family is most important to Cindy and even after a long day on her feet caring for other people’s loved ones, she makes sure her husband and children have dinner on the table – a moment they all value. Cindy’s sister Gloria Cochran agrees with the many kind words spoken and says, “This award will mean the world to her.”
Inspiration award
Christine Barbur
Hospice of Marion County
Christine graduated from the Crouse Hospital School of Nursing in Syracuse, NY. She worked in multiple clinical specialties before finding her true calling in 2010 at Hospice of Marion County. She began her career as a case manager. Within six months, she was taking on pediatric hospice cases and ultimately landed a management role in the newly created Palliative Program, designed specifically for children. According to Lila Ivey, “Christie excels at mentoring and served as Senior Nurse, teaching others. She was recently promoted again – three times in seven years – to a senior management position, overseeing a team of 30 people and caring for 140 patients in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.” Christine started a joint program in Florida that provides care for children with advancing illnesses. As the Pediatric Palliative Care Program Manager, Christine expanded the services to include dozens of youngsters who received excellent comfort care and specialty services. One of Christine’s cases involved a baby born with multiple anomalies just before Christmas of 2015. Not expected to survive her birth, the girl lived for two weeks at home under the care of Hospice and Christine’s direction. She worked with her team around the clock to care for not only the infant but the distraught young parents as well.Christine used to bandage her little sister with a toy nursing kit, dreaming of the day she’d be able to help people for real. She’s acheived that dream and so we honor her!
Spirit award
Lorelly Mobley
Munroe Regional Medical Center
Some of the adjectives used to describe Lorelly, by the multiple peers and friends who nominated her, include competent, dedicated, hard working, compassionate, kind, joyful and bubbly. Christina Philbin says, “Nursing has been a dream of [Lorelly’s] for a very long time. Since realizing her dream in 2014, her passion for this career has done nothing but expand.” Lorelly grew up in Marion County so her continuous passion for and dedication to providing health and wellness here comes as no surprise. Chad Mobley describes Lorelly by saying, “She has a spirit like no other, uplifting the hearts and minds of both her patients and coworkers.” Prakash Motwani would agree.“Lorelly is a very conscientious, responsible nurse. She provides great care to her patients and everyone under her care is appreciative of her positive personality.”With over 25 independent nominations, an Ocala Magazine Celebration of Nurses record, there is no doubt Lorelly’s peers and loved ones admire her devotion to not only nursing, but everything she touches. Debi Pardee was a patient of Lorelly’s and Debi’s husband Chuck had this to say, “Lorelly stands out. Having started in hospital housekeeping, I admire her working her way to her dream career.” Ocala Magazine congratulates Lorelly for her excellence in nursing.
People’s choice award
Sharese Ajuzie
Heart of florida
In addition to honoring nurses with our judged awards, we present the opportunity for local nurses to be chosen by their peers for a prestigious People’s Choice Award. This year, with over 950 votes, Ocala Magazine is happy to name Sharese Ajuzie our People’s Choice winner! Sharese’s photo received over 209 comments, all praising her work ethic, compassion for others, selflessness, ambition and professionalism. One Facebook follower, Maxine Hutchinson McFarlane, wrote, “I am not surprised Sharese has been nominated for this special award. During our high school years, she demonstrated leadership skills, excellence and a passion for living life to the fullest. Through the years she has epitomized strength and grace while showing she is a woman with a heart of service. Sharese is a blessing to humanity.”Patrick Clarke wrote,” Sharese was born to serve people – it is in her DNA. She’s from a family that dedicated their whole lives to public service – her mother, a retired teacher and principal; her late father, a former municipal councilor,JP and dedicated entrepreneur that gave long unwavering service to his county – now Sharese Ulett Brown-Ajuzie is walking in her parents’ path.”Linda Ulett-Dixon wrote, “Most importantly you are commited to the needs of the less fortunate and often go beyond the call of your profession to give assistance. I admire your spirited personality and positive disposition. I continue to applaud you on your achievements over the years.” Ocala Magazine applauds Sharese as well on this deserved People’s Choice Award.

Written by Kelli Fuqua Hart, Editor – in – chief
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Mark Hall
D&H Homes & Remodeling
Proudly serving Ocala, The Villages and Leesburg as well as Marion, Sumter and Lake Counties, D&H Homes & Remodeling has boundless experience in both commercial and residential construction. This experience has come from primarily the state of Florida but expands to another 9 states within the Southeastern United States as well.. A forerunner in their industry, CEO/President Mark Hall and his highly trained team are the best in Central Florida when it comes to custom home construction, home additions, residential remodels, garage expansions, lanai enclosures, kitchen/bath remodels, driveways, pavers and more. Katie Donahue contacted D&H for an upstairs remodel estimate. “Mark took the time to discuss all aspects of the project and different options to best fit our needs. He presented us with ideas and sought our approval every step of the way. The D&H team was friendly, knowledgeable and worked around our busy schedule,” she says. Many people put off remodels and upgrades because of inconvenience – it’s difficult to live in a space that’s undergoing renovations. “With three school-aged kids under one roof, we thought overhauling our kitchen would be impossible,” recalls John Marks. “Mark made sure the process was executed in a way that finished the project without interrupting the daily routine of making meals for my family.” The D&H philosophy is one of fine craftsmanship and superior work. Their family and faith-based foundation includes not only using quality products and promising excellent service but helping families maintain their standard of living throughout the process.
Shannon Roth
Interior Decorator
Located inside Ocala’s historic Dixie Theater on the downtown square, the Shannon Roth Collection is a place where design meets distinctiveness. When someone desires to transform a space – home or office – they look to the expertise and creativity of Shannon and her team. With over 20 years of retail and interior design experience and an impressive list of clientele, Shannon has earned a reputation for being Marion County’s top designer. Shannon has built relationships with the finest of seamstresses, upholsterers, painters, galleries and furniture collections to provide her clients the very best in the way of décor and interior upgrades. She treats each job with superior attention to detail, understanding each client’s styles, preferences and needs are unique – customizing the process to ensure brilliant, beautiful results. Front Street Managing Director Keith Crutcher called on Shannon when he needed a remodel inside downtown’s 101 Building. “Shannon has excellent taste and was able to transform the space into something modern, yet functional – all within our budget. She is a pleasure to work with, helpful, resourceful and always conscientious of style.” What sets Shannon Roth apart from other interior designers is her intrinsic ability to perfectly pair objects. She seems to have a magic about her when she takes a collection of objects and marries them together – always creating perfect symmetry, balance and attractiveness. Shannon has an eye for buying and display. Her taste is exquisite and classy, tasteful and divine. Her signature blue doors are the entryway to Ocala’s best décor boutique, operated by Ocala’s most reputable, most sought-after interior designer.
Bryan Caracciolo
BWC Construction
When it comes to a wide range of service, BWC Construction sets the bar. From custom home construction and large-scale construction management to commercial building services, Bryan Caracciolo and his team offer unexceeded quality and service. A superlative in his field, Caracciolo and his family have proudly served Ocala and surrounding areas for over two decades. Fully licensed and insured, BWC Construction believes in quality workmanship which is how they can confidently guarantee all of their work. Hiring a true professional with a reputation for stellar work and craftsmanship can be the missing link when building with or maintaining the integrity of your home or commercial space. BWC has that stellar reputation. “I have referred him on multiple occasions because I feel confident attaching my name to a company who is reliable, professional, organized and who left my properties in pristine condition upon completion,” says Kelli Fuqua Hart, Editor-in-chief at Ocala Magazine. “And thankfully, the BWC team came highly recommended to me.”BWC is a general contractor, focusing on custom home and commercial construction. In the last year, BWC has built one dozen homes ranging anywhere from 175K to 2-million dollars in value. They also have over 200,000-square feet of commercial space under construction to include full retail shopping centers to large box store build-outs. Some of BWC’s commercial work includes a new, ground-up 300-room boutique hotel, large scale apartments and hotel building remodeling.
Dale Martin & DebWiseman
Jireh Custom Landscape
Jireh Custom Landscape is the crème de la crème of landscaping companies. They are more than just a landscape company. Jireh is an outdoor oasis – an exterior showroom that leads you along exquisite paved pathways that wind in and out of foliage, patios, waterfalls and pergolas. Their massive 5-acre location welcomes customers and displays the natural stones, hard woods and dramatic lighting they use as part of their service. Both perfectionists, Dale and Deb guarantee satisfaction and pride themselves on superior knowledge, products and execution of services. There is no other landscape company in Central Florida that compares.

On the Menu: The Kosar Pizza Recipe

Written by Amber Tompkins, Food Editor
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer

For this pizza recipe The Kozar The Ocala Wine Experience’s Mark Sykuta recommends using store bought pizza dough that can be found in your grocery’s bakery section. So next time you’re grocery shopping, pick one up. And any of the following ingredients if you don’t already have them in your pantry…


Pizza Recipe Ingredients:

Crushed Roma Tomatoes
Parmesan Cheese, grated
Mozzarella Cheese, grated
Organic Genoa Salami
Organic Chicken Meatballs
Anchovy paste
Fennel, dried
Basil, dried
Black Pepper


Pizza Recipe Directions:

To make the sauce, begin by combining one large can of crushed roma tomatoes, a tablespoon of anchovy paste and a splash of heavy cream into a saucepan over medium high heat. Once it is simmering, incorporate a few tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Spread the dough into your desired pizza shape.

Since you’re creating this at home, you can think outside of the (pizza) box here. Ladle the sauce onto the dough and spread around evenly. Then sprinkle with 1 and a half cups of mozzarella cheese. Add a pinch of fennel, a teaspoon of dried Basil and a teaspoon of Black Pepper.

Last step before baking the pizza, add your meats. “The Kosar” calls for 5 ounces of chicken meatballs, 3 ounces of pepperoni and 3 ounces of organic Genoa salami.

Bake according to dough instructions and enjoy! OM

For 18-years, the Ocala Wine Experience has been a local staple – a place to socialize with friends, network and pick up a quick gift. In 2016, a lot has changed under the new ownership of Megan Whittaker and Mark Sykuta – a local couple who has breathed new life into an already popular after-hours establishment. The duo is carrying new product lines and has introduced a completely new menu to the establishment to include gourmet cheese and fruit plates, delicious chicken wings, fresh shrimp cocktail, piping-hot pizza and mouth-watering desserts. Now, patrons can do more than just indulge on wine or toke on a hookah after a long day’s work. Today, guests of the Ocala Wine Experience can stop in for a full meal while getting to know the new owners and their improved establishment. Like the Ocala Wine Experience on Facebook as there are always exciting events to attend and new opportunities to meet and mingle.

On the Menu: The Ocala Wine Experience

Written by Amber Tompkins, Food Editor
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer

Just as wine gets better with age, so has the Ocala Wine Experience, now under new ownership.


Just as the old song says, “might be a little dust on the bottle, but don’t let it fool you about what’s inside…” Ocala Wine Experience is being revamped and new owners, Megan Whittaker and Mark Sykuta are up to the challenge. They are planning on “keeping the things that worked and changing the things that didn’t.” Whittaker and Sykuta have been together for over 10 years and have wanted to pursue a business venture for a while. The couple met in The Villages, where they were both working in fine dining at a country club. When they decided it was time to go into business for themselves, they knew they wanted to break away from “The Villages’ style of service.” After searching and searching, they came across Ocala Wine Experience in May of 2016 and knew right away it was the right spot for them. While Megan will tell you that she has more of the business smarts, Mark has the palette. “He can find the flavors in everything,” Megan told OM affectionately of her business and life partner, Mark.

Changes that are expected to take place in the future include, redecorating the upstairs lounge and bar area, refreshing the Mediterranean courtyard, expanding the menu and hosting more themed nights for customers to enjoy. Ocala Wine Experience has hundreds of bottles of wine to choose from. Bottles can be purchased and consumed onsite for a small corkage fee. They also sell select wine varietals by the glass, 8 pour wine flights that include 4 reds and 4 whites and beers by the bottle. Patrons should expect to see local beers on tap soon.

And what goes better with wine than cheese? Cheese and Fruit plates are available and include 6 different cheese options (Iberico, Swiss with leeks and morel mushrooms, Muenster, Aged Cheddar, Gruyere with candied cranberries and cream aged Brie). The traditional cheese and fruit plate is served with organic Genoa Salami, crackers and fresh fruit while the Brie and fruit plate is served with carrots, crackers and fresh fruit. Hummus can be added to any of the cheese plates for an additional charge. Other menu options include pizzas, chicken wings, shrimp cocktail and desserts.

Be it produce, meats, cheeses or organic Viennese Roast Espresso beans, new Ocala Wine Experience owners are doing everything they can to support local food vendors for their supplies. Frequent stops for Mark include the downtown Farmer’s Market and the Florida Grub Hub which is inside Infinite Ale Works downtown. It is safe to say that these new business owners are loyal to local.

And not only do they offer local food ingredients, they have local wines too. The most popular being the Panty Dropper collection, which is exclusive to Ocala Wine Experience and comes from the Murielle Winery in Clearwater, Florida. “These wines tend to be on the sweeter side, but people love this stuff,” Mark told OM.

For those interested in smoking Hookah, Ocala Wine Experience has different coal selections for you to try. $15 gets you a single coal and as many hoses as you want.

For dessert be sure to try the NY style Cheesecake or if you’re lactose intolerant give the Goat Cheese Cheesecake a try- it’s divine!. Chocolate Brownie a la mode, Cappuccino truffles and Amaretto truffles also appear on the dessert menu.

If you really love the Ocala Wine Experience space and can see yourself hosting an event there- wait no longer, reserve it for your next party or business networking meeting! The upstairs area alone can accommodate 30 – 50 people. To stay in the loop with all of the events and specials Ocala Wine Experience has to offer, follow them on Facebook and Instagram! They also have a website with upcoming event information and a mailing list for those who don’t want to miss anything! OM

The Ocala Wine Experience offers delicious pizza options and they have shared one of their favorite recipes with you – the Kosar. Click here for the full recipe.


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