small business

Jack Marble Junior's Precious Restorations

Photo by Charles Lybrand

Photo by Charles Lybrand

I love to bring things back to life, to beautify things. To take something that’s like a piece of rubble… and bring it back to form.
— Jack Marble Jr.
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Standing outside the blue-painted, cedar-planked Precious Restorations shop on John Street, a place that looks like an Old West saloon, is a building filled with history and nostalgia. When moving the shop from South End to Matthews, Jack Marble Jr. and his father, Jack Marble Sr., found the building offered a large interior space, ample parking and an excellent location on a heavily-trafficked main street. The mid-century building built in 1947, is on-brand for the vintage wares sold inside.

Looking through the large front windows, an old stop light and a strand of glass fishing buoys just inside give a feel like it’s an off-the-wall shop in Plaza Midwood, not Matthews. Walk through the front door of Precious Restorations (315 W. John St.) though, and you’re greeted with a deep voice from a corner, “How are you?” It’s the neighborly, down-to-earth vibe of Matthews.

There’s nothing stuffy about the shop, just a faint odor of old papers, the recognizable smell of vinyl records, and epoxy.

Jack’s voice is the one coming from a desk to the right. He looks up and smiles, chats, but continues working on the restoration of the day. On this day it’s a teapot with a broken handle. Jack gets to a stopping point, comes over and shakes my hand. His firm handshake a sharp contrast to the delicate teapot he’s carefully piecing back together.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

On this slow morning, Jack has some time to talk, noting the few antiques dotting the floor, reminiscent of his antique dealer father’s legacy. Of the very few true antiques for sale are a vintage victrola and some other brown, well-aged pieces of furniture. Lining the walls are the crates and crates of well-organized records and CDs. In the center of the room are a vast collection of comics, the usual Marvel and DC. The more valuable ones are on display in glass cabinets alongside Star Wars collectibles and estate jewelry.

Ask Jack about himself and it’s apparent: he’s far less comfortable taking center stage, a clue to how deeply entwined he is with his work. In a shop full of treasures, he has little attachment to the cool toys and pottery all around. He’s more interested in sharing the stories: how things ended up with him, and, for more unique pieces, he’ll explain the original use. He knows the provenance of the antique display cabinets which may look familiar to those who have been in Matthews for a while. The large wood and glass boxes came from Holiday Haus, a since-closed antique shop that was once on Trade St in downtown Matthews.

Visit long enough and Jack will use his uncanny ability to get you to share your story, keeping the focus off himself. He’s trained in music and loves to listen to all sorts, but can’t peg a genre that’s a favorite. Though not a fan of gangster rap, there’s something of a twinkle in his eyes that hints he just hasn’t heard the right album yet.

Get him started on restoration work and his face lights up. He’s got a wall lined with paintings to bring back to their vibrant, original state, and it’s evident that’s where his heart is. “I love to bring things back to life, to beautify things,” he said. “To take something that’s like a piece of rubble… and bring it back to form.” He gets up to 10 repairs a week - everything from porcelain and furniture, to lamp repairs and fine art. Basically what he is given, he learns how to fix.

The man knows his work and through that, he’s getting to know the people of Matthews. He knows the customers who come in, like Jim who shops for Grateful Dead albums, and Aana Lisa, who uses Jack for all of her restorations. He knows about her home (the one that was recently moved across Fullwood) and her history in town. He laughs, clearly proud of the connections he’s made, “See? I’m learning!” It’s that ability to find friendships in the community that makes Jack Marble Jr.'s Precious Restorations so very Matthews.

Photo by Charles Lybrand

Mark Frye: Alchemist of Love

They had endured innumerable crises and experiences; their love was a story for the ages. Harry and Carla Workman turned to Matthews jeweler Mark Frye to capture their constant faith and love in wearable form.

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

When long-time jeweler, Mark Frye, manager of Trade Street Jewelers (100 West John Street), was asked to create a one-of-a-kind necklace for the Workman family, last fall, he knew little about the back story and the long journey which was about to unfold right before his eyes.

His clients, Harry and Carla Workman of Mint Hill, had previously lived a 15-year family journey – starting with Carla taking on Harry’s three children at marriage, to Carla’s subsequent diagnosis with cancer. Then, four years ago, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer (and passed).

The original design created by Harry Workman’s daughter.

The original design created by Harry Workman’s daughter.

They had endured innumerable crises and experiences; this was a story for the ages, said Harry, who had all along imagined an infinity symbol with an anchor as an indelible image reflecting their constant faith and love.

And, so, he asked his daughter to create such an image; they also toyed with getting matching tattoos on their ring fingers. Then, one day, last year, he got a tattoo of such an anchor on his forearm and went home to show his wife.

She said, “I’m not going to get a tattoo like that!” But, she had a thought: to create a likeness of that same image using pieces of both her mother’s jewelry and her own. Who better to ask this of but her beloved jeweler, Mark.

By using the images provided, Mark would make a three-dimensional piece of what was two dimensional. Together with a designer from Texas, who cast the piece, the result would allow “the full design with the breaks and wraps” which you can’t see on the flat image.

At points, Mark says, he and the Workmans were in touch so often that their conversations eclipsed those he’d usually have with his family or children. One month later, the final creation was born.

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

“I love the symbol of all of it,” said Carla. “It’s beautiful,” she said, adding that she wears it all the time. To secure the free-dangling hooks, Mark eventually put the three-dimensional piece on a solid shape of white gold so that the fragile end pieces wouldn’t break or get caught on clothing.

“The tattoo has become a story of our love story,” Harry said. “The emblem has become a family crest. [Now] Carla wears precious metal from the precious family. [Our symbol] is memorialized from this medallion that Mark made so beautifully.”

Although Mark is often asked to make custom pieces, this experience has touched his heart and cemented his relationship with the Workmans. “This was a unique experience,” he said. “This was different because it had a story that had deep sentiment to them - that was the significance.” Add in the request “coming from an already great customer,” and the result meant a lot to Mark, too. It is work which gives his talents and skills even greater meaning.

In the future, Harry doesn’t think that any more anchors will be created for family members, but he and Carla have their own design, forever. “It’s something really special between us,” said Carla. “That we’re always going to be bound together…in infinity.”

Kind of like their relationship with Mark.

Photo courtesy Harry Workman

Photo courtesy Harry Workman

Trade Street Jewelers
100 W John St, Matthews
(704) 321-7944

M - F 10 a.m. til 5 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. til 4 p.m.

Holly Prouty: Holistic Health Through CranioSacral Therapy

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Approximately 20 years ago, Mineral Springs resident Holly Prouty, a long-time RN and Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), was in the thick of trying to help alleviate her husband’s ongoing and severe brain-related medical problems. Despite trying numerous modalities, they could not find him relief from pain. After four major surgeries and advice to do more invasive treatments, she felt, on his behalf, that they had done enough.

A suggestion to try a “cranial-something” practitioner down the hall from her neurologist led both Proutys’ lives in a different direction. A respected nurse, speaker, and consultant, Holly had no intention of changing what had become a successful, wide-reaching career. However, she could not disregard the nearly instant and sustainable long-term relief that craniosacral work had given her husband.

She took on the task of becoming his primary therapist by studying and becoming certified as a craniosacral therapist (CST), which then infused itself into her other specialties.

“I was well grounded, and people knew me in my work,” she said. “…..When I said I was doing this, they were intrigued. Everything I’d done (before this) culminated in this work…a new profession. I just really felt like divine intervention had a plan for me.” She began working on clients and performing this technique on the many babies in her care.

Why should it surprise us that we can tap into the body’s own inner wisdom to facilitate a positive response through the use of our hands and an innate desire to help? In my mind, this is health as it was meant to be...allowing the body to do what it was born to do best.
— John E. Upledger

As the intensity of work and her passions continued to merge, it was during a solo drive down the road, that she distinctly heard a voice say, ‘You are going to be a craniosacral therapist.’ She pulled off the road and proceeded to have a singular debate. At that moment, on that day, she said, “ok” – and her life changed forever.

As she began treating people in increasingly larger numbers, her mentor, fresh from a car accident suggested she take over her book of business. Twelve years ago, the work “just came.”

CranioSacral Therapy, developed by Dr. John E. Upledger, is a bodywork approach using a light touch to release tension, relieve pain, and improve whole body health. Upledger, an osteopathic physician and professor of biomechanics at Michigan State University, led a team of various scientists from 1975-83 to create the basis for CST.

The session takes place in a quiet setting; the patient remains fully clothed as the therapist touches parts of the body to monitor the rhythm of the fluid that flows around an individual’s nervous system. The therapist then uses delicate, manual techniques to release restrictions in problem areas and relieve tension on the brain and spinal cord.

“I know I shouldn’t be amazed at the results, but I am amazed,” said Holly. “You just trust the process. You trust what you do and you have confidence in it. What you are feeling for is so minute. You are feeling for wave-like movements in the fluid in the body….I work where the body tells me to work. When changes are occurring in their body you get release signs (abrupt halt, a rhythm, or waves, for example). You stay there until their body completes that process.”

Some of the conditions believed to be helped or cured by CST include newborn feeding issues, reflux, ear infections, fibromyalgia, headaches, neck aches, temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ), stress, and pain.

Now, she gets client referrals from Western practitioners (neurologists, dentists, psychologists, specialists, pediatricians, chiropractors, etc.) and even sees the practitioners herself, working trauma through the tissues with a light touch. She has seen nearly miraculous results. “I have had sessions where I knelt down in thanks-giving for having learned a modality that has such an effect in changing people’s lives,” she said.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Humble in approach, Holly firmly detracts from any praise given to her workings and eschews being known as a healer, by repeatedly stating that it is the patients who heal themselves.

“You can’t heal if your mind, body, and spirit aren’t together – healing is (done by) all three of those. They are very important and integral to the process,” said Holly.

“I know what the Lord wants me to do,” she added referencing when much-necessary synchronicities occur. She says this is something she will continue passionately doing until it is “made known to me to quit.” In the end, she conveys the wonderment of it all. "It was a journey for me – it was a jump over [to another perspective].”

Holly Prouty RN IBCLC CST, 1312 Matthews Mint Hill Rd, Matthews, website.

Mumukshu Brahmbhatt: Giving Back Through Service

In the joy of others lies our own.
— Pramukh Swami Maharaj

To hear Mumukshu “MB” Brahmbhatt, 45, of Waxhaw, tell it, his life has been a whirlwind.

Moving from India to study business and finance in Australia 23 years ago, to working at the UPS Store (2217 Matthews Township Pkwy), MB has always squarely placed his faith in God, his religion, and his core values. In doing so, he has been on a rollercoaster ride—of life.  The last stop has been Matthews; he’s now celebrating his 10th year as owner of that store.  

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

But this story begins 20 years ago when on a trip (from Australia) to visit relatives in New Jersey, he had a half-hour face-to-face with a potential new wife in Jacksonville, FL. Before leaving to go back to Australia, he requested a second brief meeting but was turned down.  

Unbeknownst to him, and shortly thereafter, his now-wife’s father flew her family to MB’s parent’s house in India to meet his family. His wife’s family was so thrilled with what they saw that they asked him to immediately fly to India to get engaged. At that point, he could not remember what his future bride looked like. More importantly, he was unsure what to do.

Conferring with his spiritual leader in India, he requested permission to delay his final exams, and off he flew to Mumbai to meet her parents.  

They requested that he get engaged and then travel 300 miles to his parents’ house to marry. He requested time to finish his studies, graduate, land a job, and then marry before moving with his future wife. They requested a local court marriage. And so he was engaged and then marriedwithin 10 days.

They had a one-day honeymoon.

She went back to Florida; he went back to Australia to complete his studies. He was, as he says, “in shock.”

It would be one year after their whirlwind meeting that he would finish his schooling, obtain his visa, and move to Florida to discuss the specifics of their life.

He laid out his intentions: he wanted to move to New York to live in the financial capital of the world. She didn’t want to go north. He opened up a map and asked her to tell him where they might move. They found a “happy medium.” In 1999, they moved to the Charlotte area. He is now the father of two children.

For MB, all of the stories—the stuff of life in between birth and death—has been but a mere journey to an afterlife, one that is ordained and divined by God. Until that happens, this devotee of Hinduism says he is experiencing his life as intended—as a life of joy, service, giving back to the community, and serving for the greater good of family, friends, and customers.

“This is a temporary life,” said MB. “He designed this for me. I’m happy, and I’m here to serve,” he said.

He is proud of his guru, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, 5th spiritual Guru of BAPS Organization following in the footsteps of Shastriji Maharaj and Bhagwan (God) Swaminarayan, with their emphasis on a life dedicated to the betterment of others. Following their dictates, he is alive and on earth to “serve others” without “attachments to things, as we all have to leave [those] behind one day.”

First arriving in Charlotte, MB sought the advice of others to help him find a good path and an applicable business. Investigation led to the purchase of a UPS store in Pineville. He purchased a second store in Indian Trail, and then finally the store in Matthews. The first two have been sold.  The Matthews store he calls his “home.”

Those values keep me content, on the ground. I’ve had all the big American dreams so far … I have been blessed by all that. I have gotten more than I deserve.
— MB Brahmbhatt
Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

His story, he says, is the American dream. He built up “sweat equity”; he extended himself to the community, joined local business groups, walked door-to-door to introduce himself to people, and attended every community event he could find. He is proud of his success, but quick to state that riches are not important in this lifetime. “Those values keep me content, on the ground. I’ve had all the big American dreams so far … I have been blessed by all that. I have gotten more than I deserve.”

The extra touches he brings include holding the door open for his customers, driving to get the packages himself, offering a discount while providing superior service. “We do small, small things that people don’t expect us to do,” he said, including calling customers when their sent packages have been delivered, and dropping off packages when they arrive.  

Honesty and integrity remain at the heart of his values, as do his religious tenets.  “What you preach, you have to practice,” he says. MB prays and meditates each morning and each evening. He also fasts every 15 days and attends his temple (mandir) every Sunday. He remains one of the pre-eminent members of his Indian temple (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Matthews) and is PR Lead of its community outreach program.

In the future, he hopes to double his volume and, perhaps, own other businesses – more chances to give back to the community that he has grown to love and that he feels accepts and appreciates him. “Ten years later, I’m learning that all I’ve done is a byproduct of [my hard work],” he said. “I don’t expect [anything]. When you have no expectations and you do your work, sometimes you get the fruit.”

The UPS Store 2729, 2217 Matthews Township Pkwy, Ste D, Matthews, North Carolina

Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.; Saturday: 9;00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Sunday: Closed

Morning Minute: December 27, 2018

News About Town: The Matthews Police Department is holding a community meeting to present a plan addressing traffic concerns for Elizabeth Lane Elementary. Stop by the school gymnasium on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 6:15 P.M. to hear their plans for increasing safety and efficiency during major traffic hours. During the mini-planning conference, the Board of Commissioners heard a presentation by the Town’s Transportation Department as well as the Police Department. Some solutions included having a dedicated School Resource Officer for the school as well as encouraging bus ridership.

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News Around Town: Youth Shrine Bowls of the Carolinas’ annual Battle of the Borders is coming to the Sportsplex, 2425 Sports Parkway, this Saturday, December 29, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Youth Shrine Bowl Athletics of the Carolinas, a nonprofit, provides fifth to eighth graders who typically can’t afford sports programs the opportunity to participate in youth sports. After rigorous tryouts, coaches select players based on detailed analysis. While the program is free, participants must fundraise to participate in the bowl, with proceeds going to local children’s hospitals. Tickets are $20.

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One Fun Thing: The Pizza Peel Matthews, 110 Matthews Station St , is throwing a New Year’s bash for the younger set. Kids will finally understand the fun of New Years with the Peel’s free buffet of cheese and pepperoni pizza, party favors, sparkling juice, and a countdown at noon. And for the parents? We don’t have to worry about grumpy kids who didn’t get enough sleep the night before! December 31, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

*Kids 12 and under, must be accompanied by a legal parent or guardian. Parents wanting pizza can have the regular weekday pizza buffet.

J. Jones Jewelers, a Bittersweet Closure

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

After 30 years in the jewelry business, J. Jones Jewelry, at 11229 East Independence Boulevard, is closing its doors at the end of December.

According to owner and Matthews resident, Judy Jones, the closing will be bittersweet – a good time to retire for the 67-year-old and her husband Larry, 65, but a sad time to say goodbye to long-time clients.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

When the repair and custom fine-jewelry design store opened, in 1988, it was the only custom jewelry store in town and a dream for the couple to find something to do together and to make a living for their family of five. Judy serves as business manager and Larry is the jeweler.

“We wanted to stay close to home and thought Matthews would be a good place” to run a business, said Judy.

Along with the couple is their trusty dog, Brutus – always present and at their feet.

Over the years, the couple has seen changing trends in the field – affecting declining sales of jewelry purchases and the demise of small businesses.

Younger people buy less jewelry and are opting for a one-time bridal jewelry purchase. Judy has also noticed they “shop on the Internet or big boxed stores. Mom and pop stores are going out of style.”

Through the decades clients have formed close, personal connections with the family, including the Jones' 38-year-old son who worked at the store and is now grappling with a serious disease. “We’re going to miss our long-time customers. They’ve been through a lot with us,” Judy said.

Photo courtesy J Jones Jewelers

Photo courtesy J Jones Jewelers

According to Signifyd, three of the most significant trends in 2018 include:

a 12.5% year-over-year increase in brick and mortar jewelry stores going out of business; online fine jewelry sales will have doubled between 2014 – 2020; and diamond purchases by single women will increase by 20% between 2013-2016.

Get Hyperlocal this holiday season

If you haven’t checked out the Hyperlocal Holiday Gift Guide, we went live this past Friday and it’s good. REALLY REALLY GOOD.

Our participants are truly small businesses working extra hard to earn your support. From financial coaching to custom jewelry, from sleds at Renfrow’s to delightful desserts, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes (mmmm…ice cream cake). Treat your bestie to a reiki session then treat yourself to some luxurious handmade bath bombs.

Check out the gift guide then get to (hyperlocal) shopping!

Hyperlocal Sneak Peek

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While we’re busy whipping up the food for tomorrow’s feast we’re also doing a little prepping here at the Beacon. We’re unveiling the Hyperlocal Holiday Gift Guide this Friday. In the meantime, here’s a little taste of the small businesses and local talent that would love to have your support this holiday season.

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While you’re planning ahead, don’t forget your Hand Turkey!

Morning Minute: November 14, 2018

News About Town: It’s time once again for Coffee with a Commissioner. Head out in the rain and meet three of our Council Members at 10 AM at Brakeman’s Coffee for a chance to chat. Conversation is led by the attendees at these events, so come ready with all the Matthews questions you’ve been wondering about.

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News Around Town: If you see a particularly hairy looking male police officer around town don’t worry, nobody’s joining ZZ Top. Thirty two Matthews Police officers are participating in No Shave November. Each officer donated $25 to participate and those funds will be donated to Zero Cancer Foundation, a prostate cancer patient advocacy and public awareness group. Check out the Zero Cancer site to learn more and donate.

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One Good Thing: Aside from our obvious obsession with bacon, we at the Beacon also love handmade goods and small businesses. Are you a crafter, baker, candlestick maker? Manicurist or masseuse? Got something that would make a great gift? We have a gift guide for the smallest of businesses at the best of prices: $15! Message us or email Norah about advertising in our Hyperlocal Holiday Gift Guide.

Morning Minute: October 25, 2018

News About Town: Have you voted yet? Early Voting for the 2018 Elections continues at the Matthews Library this week. Voters are coming out this year with turnout approximately two times 2014 totals after 5 days of voting. Polls will be open daily until November 3. Check the Board of Elections website for hours.


News Around Town: The Matthews Heritage Museum, 232 North Trade Street, recently opened a new holiday-themed exhibit. “Christmas Past” displays holiday ornaments, books and memorabilia from the early to mid-twentieth century. Tour the museum and warmly embrace the nostalgia of Christmas past. The exhibit closes January 19, 2019. Admission is $4 per person, $2 for ages 11-17, children 10 and under are free.

One Fun Thing:  The Loyalist, 435 North Trade Street #102, is celebrating their One Year Anniversary this Saturday from noon until 9 PM. To celebrate they’re offering discounts on cheese and charcuterie boards, $1 off drafts and wine by the glass, and raffling off a year of free cheese (tickets are $5). Raffle proceeds will be donated to the The Joe Martin ALS Foundation.

Courtney Buckley and the Drive Behind Your Mom's Donuts

If you’re looking for the 55+ Meetup article, please click here. We’re so sorry for the early morning confusion.


“I would like people to think of us as an ethical business…A big part of having the business for me is being a part of the community - to give other people jobs.”

This October, Courtney Buckley will celebrate the 5th anniversary of her business, Your Mom’s Donuts. The idea was to run a (family) business…support her family and pay her employees a living wage. “I originally just wanted a family-friendly donut shop,” she said.

Back then, she was a brand new mom who delivered her donuts to people. Now, she owns three locations (Matthews, Charlotte and Monroe, NC) and is scouting around for more (looking at Davidson and South Charlotte). “I’m getting to the point where I’d like to grow this to a much larger brand, regionally,” she said. Courtney employees four full-time and three part-time employees. “I’m always looking for an opportunity (for another shop),” she said. Her Matthews kitchen, at her flagship store, is used to bake donuts for the other locations. Nearly 2,100 donuts were made on a recent Saturday, alone.

Her donuts remain square, not round; her flavors are all natural and are sometimes found right at the Farmer’s Market: carrot-thyme; strawberry fennel jam; snow pea glaze with yogurt drizzle; sliced beets; cucumber-mint; and basil when it’s available. “I didn’t want anything here that I wouldn’t find in my own kitchen,” she said. Her one caveat? The recent addition of sprinkles on her donuts. Everyone wanted sprinkles, she said, which she “fought and fought and fought,” but recently agreed to add them on top.

Nothing is premade; everything possible is found locally; and she supports local businesses, too (Pure Intentions Coffee, for example).

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While donuts are her main staple, any leftovers at the end of the day are turned into donut bread pudding at night – a fan favorite.

It is not lost on Courtney that she remains one of the few women entrepreneurs in the Charlotte food-service industry. “I’m constantly trying to find other women as mentors,” she said. “Most of the mentors I go to are men.” She added that she sometimes encounters sexism in the workplace to which she responds by “put(ting) my head down and just go. It’s like white noise. We get used to it as women,” she said.

It is her wish that she can serve as a mentor to younger women entering the food service industry, and as a role model to her children. “I think I’m an entrepreneur first; I think that’s what makes me the mother I am. I WANT my girls to see their mom do something,” she said.

She would also like to continue giving back to her employees and the community at large. “I would like people to think of us as an ethical business, a business which not only treats their employees fairly but puts out a good product without thinking about the bottom dollar,” said Courtney. “A big part of having the business for me is being a part of the community - to give other people jobs.”

“There are people that I delivered to their doors (and) they had two kids, now they have four. I have watched their families grow, and I LOVE that. It’s an amazing thing to feel part of something so much bigger,” she said.

Ultimately, it’s the joy – of baking, being a mom and an entrepreneur, supporting her family, living within a tight-knit community, giving back whenever possible, and satisfying her customers which drives Courtney on. “Donuts make people happy,” she said. “Nobody walks into a donut shop in a bad mood.”

Photo courtesy Your Mom’s Donuts

Photo courtesy Your Mom’s Donuts

Your Mom’s Donuts: 11025 Monroe Rd, Matthews

Mon – Fri 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Sat 7:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

Sun Closed

Silent Images: The Conversation Starters

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Silent Images is a non-profit organization that provides charities with professional photography and video services that educate and inspire viewers to take action.


Preserving the dignity of the story is most important to Johnson.

Tucked away in the far left corner of the old brick Matthews Marketplace on South Trade St. is a group of employees working diligently on a variety of projects, most of which involve the (shooting and) editing of videos. This is clearly a millennial-driven space – something one might easily see in New York City, Chicago or San Francisco.  Tall ceilings, tree illustrations on walls, prayers on cards, blessings on rocks, a bike from Africa, international still photos all bespeak and reflect the quiet passions and intent of David Johnson – owner of Silent Images. (Named with a nod to Proverb 38 1.) This place and work is clearly a calling for David and a mission with a message.   

“We are a nonprofit that tells stories for other nonprofits - we serve other nonprofits by helping to tell their stories,” said Johnson. “We’re telling stories of hope in the midst of some sort of injustice,” he said, explaining, “A nonprofit exists because they are trying to fill a gap for somebody…..(like, saying) ‘I feel overwhelmed

by something’ – genocide, human trafficking, lack of water, housing, whatever. But, we’re not going to tell the same story that the media is telling because they tell the doom-and-gloom  -- that’s what gets the most attention or makes the most money. We want to tell them the story of hope.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

This mission and message extends back to 2006: while returning from an overseas trip, then-English teacher Johnson looked up at an airport TV monitor to see the amalgam of overlapping current events he had missed – Anna Nicole Smith’s death and Britney Spear’s head-shaving incident, to name a few.   As a volunteer who had annually gone on overseas trips with nonprofit organizations, he had seen many catastrophic events – including the genocide of Darfur – where he’d just returned from. However, this time, he could not get the images he had just witnessed out of his head, nor the juxtaposition of the mundanity of what the media was showing versus what he’d just seen. There and then, he realized that the mass-media had failed - these less significant stories far overshadowed those that he felt were more important, occurring each and every day all across the world.

He came home a changed man with a “burn to tell stories.”  Johnson quit his job to put his creative writing skills together with still-photographs to capture images and events around the world. He found a void he thought he could fill – “no one was providing services for small nonprofits that don’t have budgets,” he said.   Within one year, he and his Board of Directors made a fundamental decision to forego utilizing photography, choosing to focus on videography to capture the story.

Silent Images team.  Photo courtesy Silent Images

Silent Images team. Photo courtesy Silent Images

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial, always looked for opportunities and been somewhat of a risk taker,” reflected Johnson, adding that while he was single and without encumbrances, he could more easily pursue an uncertain path.

Originally working out of a room in the First Baptist Church, then leasing commercial space on West John Street to finding his present two-level office space, Johnson is quite comfortable acknowledging that his life and work have melded into one.  “I feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life,” he said. "(This work is) purposeful, missionful. There’s something about waking up and doing what you (love) know(ing) you’ve contributed something, today, to help somebody out.”

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In his earliest years, Johnson used his own work and the work of wedding and corporate photographers who volunteered their time on his projects. Nearly a dozen years later, he has six employees whom he admires and is clearly bursting with pride when he discusses their work, skills, and abilities. “I love what they produce – they are so talented,” he said, adding that he has moved his role from being hands-on to serving as a “mentor, coach – really I’m a ‘cheerleader’ to them.”

Psalms 31: 8 - Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Working with donors as well as local and national nonprofit organizations, Johnson, himself, has been on nearly one dozen trips to Tanzania and Kenya. He and/or his employees have also worked in Burma (Bush Foundation), Mexico and South America (World Vision), Ethiopia (US Embassy) and With Open Eyes (Africa). Locally, he’s also made inroads with nonprofits such as United Way, Big Brother/Big Sister and Habitat for Humanity (Charlotte). All his work has been referred through word of mouth.

“Preserving the dignity of the story,” is most important to Johnson. “When you are dealing with sensitive subjects where people could feel exploited through the camera…My team all signs a kind of code-of-ethics that you are there to be a servant first, and a photographer second.  Yes, we’re storytellers and do a clean production…but we’ve treated (our subjects) with sensitivity (too).”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Within the next year, his employees will travel to Haiti and to the Middle East. “These are the stories that haven’t really been discussed,” he said.  His mission is to “connect the human journey to (capturing) that story.” Videos range in length from 30 seconds to 25 minutes.

Of significance to the naming of his company is “the importance of being observant and the importance of listening,” said Johnson. “I think those are two things you can’t teach and they are two timeless things that are particularly important for the next generation: to be observant and still, to be quiet and listen - which I imagine has become much more difficult.  When someone is able to do that, it makes their story (line) and production that much poignant and it grabs (the viewer’s) attention because somebody has paid close attention to the detail of the story… With all the distraction of social media, it gets harder and harder to be still,” said Johnson.

When someone is able to [be observant and still], it makes their story and production poignant and it grabs attention because somebody has paid close attention to the detail of the story.

Unlike many other businesses intent on continual growth, Johnson is clear that he wants to continue his work as a small company with a precise mission. “I’m content with our size,” he said. “There’s something about keeping it small and (retaining) the quality (just) where we are – we can produce high quality and with the personal touch.”

Most recently, Silent Images just released the first of three series on mental health issues – depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Next, they hope to tackle the subject of suicide, PTSD, and opioid addiction.  

“The things we look for are stories that haven’t really been discussed,” said Johnson. “We know the media covers stories, but often they just give facts and tragic facts. We want to do the human journey – the (personal) story.  We like to look for those quiet, hidden stories to unveil the conversation in a new way… We like to call ourselves the ‘conversation starters’ – we’re not experts in any of these areas, but we love serving those who are the experts and starting a new conversation around (any of) those topics.”

Viewers can watch “Into the Light” videos from the Compass & Light documentary series on Sunday, October 28 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Christ Central Church, 3646 Central Ave., Charlotte. RSVP @ Silent Images.


Matthews Morning Minute: September 6, 2018


News About Town: The Cottage Greenway Project goes before the Board of Adjustment next Thursday (Sepember 13). Town Public Works department has recommended construction of a private road for the subdivision. According to the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance, all streets must be dedicated public. The quasi-judicial Board of Adjustment must determine several findings before approving or denying the request for variance.


News Above Town: The Weather Channel says we’re heading back to the 90s, but don’t start singing Pearl Jam yet. The evenings take us back to the low 70s.

News Around Town: It’s time for the September First Thursday Matthews Crawl. Check out the vendors on the green in front of town hall, then hit up Moe’s BBQ for a Thanksgiving Sandwich or $1.25 ribs.

One Fun Thing: The monarchs are here! Monarchs migrate in the spring and again in the fall. It’s not quite fall, but a few have been spotted around town on their way to Mexico. How’d they know Matthews is a pit stop on the Butterfly Highway?

Allen Tate's Tina Whitley, A Matthews Staple

I have another #PreserveMatthewsLocalBizInterview for you today! This one is with Tina Breese Whitley, a realtor with Allen Tate Matthews. I've known Tina since I was a teenager and we recently reconnected at a Town Hall event. To say she's a Matthews staple would be an understatement.

Tina Whitey, Realtor, NC & SC
Allen Tate Co.
101 E Matthews St, Ste 100, Matthews, NC 28105

Tina Whitley, Allen Tate Rookie of the Year. Photo via    Facebook   .

Tina Whitley, Allen Tate Rookie of the Year. Photo via Facebook.

Share a little background/introduction about you: I have been in Matthews for over 30 years, owning my own business, working at BB&T and the Director of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce for over 13 years while raising 3 children and being active in the local community. I am at the Matthews office with Allen Tate but can help buyers and sellers all over the region in NC and SC. My goal is to help as many people as I can and Real Estate allows me to do that daily! I am also involved in Kiwanis, Matthews Executive Group and the Chamber of Commerce. And since Tina is too modest to include this, I'll brag on her a bit: she was recently named the Allen Tate Rookie of the Year Award for the Charlotte Region.

What brought you to establish a business in Matthews? The good schools, lifestyle and great people. The business community is thriving and supportive of local businesses.

What do you believe makes Matthews special? What does the phrase “Preserve Matthews” mean to you? Matthews is fortunate to have leaders and residents who care about the town and want to see it maintain it's small town character. I have been working with the Town and businesses for 30 years and know that the people will work together to help keep the quality of life that we treasure.


What attracts people to the neighborhoods close to downtown Matthews? People who enjoy and want to live in Matthews want to be within walking distance of downtown! It is a very popular town and the amenities for adults and families are wonderful! Parks, greenways, playgrounds, concerts in the park, movies, restaurants, bars, breweries, history, and more!

What’s another business in Matthews you love to support? The non-profits I support 100% are the Matthews Help Center, The Free Medical Clinic and COS Kids. They have formed an alliance and are doing great work!!

Do you have any promos or specials you'd like to offer to Preserve Matthews Community Members? Please call me for any Real Estate or town questions!! I can offer you a free Market Analysis for your home!

This interview was originally posted on Preserve Matthews' Facebook page. Images courtesy Tina’s real estate Facebook page.