Small Business

Providence Florist: Connecting the community through flowers

Working with generations to help give messages which touch their heart. We are the one to give them a message for life.
— Sara Kathrotia
Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

This year, on Valentine’s Day, Providence Florist (118 E. Charles St.) owner Sara Kathrotia will sell at least 1,000 roses (red, orange, yellow and hot pink), not to mention more than 125 other types of bouquets including tropical flowers from Hawaii, orchids, gingers, protea, combined with anthurium  (shape of a heart) and assorted bouquets with stargazer lilies and roses – which she says creates a “really romantic, beautiful smell.” 

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

This year, as in previous years, it will be all hands on deck – they’ll hire temp delivery drivers to help them with the overflow. It will be the boyfriend of the store’s manager, some friends, a previous employee, possibly Sara’s son, and her husband.

While most orders will be for one dozen roses; many men will order two to three dozen. (Sara says it’s usually men doing the ordering – each year, she only receives a few orders from women sending them to men).  The record rose- ordering amount was five dozen white roses – which came from a man proposing to his lady.

Now in her 20th year of business, she, together with her husband, Rajesh, are well-established in the Charlotte-area florist community. Originally located in the Arboretum, and now two years after her move to Matthews, she says it was borne of loving the town center’s uniqueness and finding a reasonable location. Her “good customer base” did not hesitate to follow, she said.

Her love of flowers, owning their own business, and the birth of her first son 21 years ago (wanting to be near home or have him be with her) created the perfect symbiosis to enter floristry.

“It’s an interesting business,” she said. “Working with generations to help give messages which touch their heart. We are the one to give them a message for life,” she added, referencing those children who send flowers to the elderly or even critically ill relatives who live in the area.

“We feel good that we’re there for people. Making a connection and giving a good message from family to others,” Sara said.

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

A cyclical business, the year of a florist typically begins on Valentine’s Day and moves on to proms, Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Appreciation week, graduations, back to school/fall, Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Interspersed are wedding requests.

However, Valentine’s Day remains their biggest and busiest holiday. “We do everything in two days,” she said. “It’s all about love and expressing that to others – including a girlfriend and wife. Kids send them to mothers; fathers send flowers to daughters and to wives. All to show them how much they appreciate how much they do for them,” she adds.

“When we deliver for Valentine’s Day, husbands like to impress their wives at work,” she said, chuckling, that they get to hear the “ooohs and ahhhhs” from the office staff gathering around.

On Valentine’s, more than most other occasions, she finds that “people call at last minute.” A few years ago, a man who had just returned from a trip walked in just as they were closing. He said that he had forgotten the holiday and that he couldn’t show up home without flowers. That was before he realized he’d forgotten his wallet, too.  

Sara recalls, “He said, ‘I can’t call my wife to get my credit card number!’ We felt his pain and said, 'we’d make whatever you’d like.’ ” With two dozen roses in hand, he left happy and called back the next day with his credit card info. She adds, “He said, ‘you made my day and my year! I would have had a terrible week, for sure, if I hadn’t given [flowers] to my wife!’ ”


Providence Florist
118 East Charles Street, Matthews
704-542-3500

Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday: closed

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

Stacks Kitchen: Matthews' Modern Diner

I want people to feel comfortable here. That everyone is smiling and they don’t feel out of place.
— George Gagis
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

When George Gagis’ brother-in-law moved from New Jersey to North Carolina 10 years ago to open a breakfast place, George decided to follow. With a lifetime of hospitality experience with his family in restaurants and catering, it stood to reason that the family would enter another business venture together. This one was called Stacks Kitchen, and it was in Waxhaw.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Seeking other opportunities, his father and brother-in-law drove the surrounding areas looking for a second, larger, more visible location. Eight years ago, Stacks Kitchen in Matthews (11100 Monroe Road) was born. To hear George, 50, tell it, this would be his modern-day diner. Together with his wife, his relatives, and often his teenage sons and nephew, it would be another home away from home filled with good food, a homey atmosphere and full of heart. The menu would reflect that of a diner, with a smattering of specialty items, including those from his childhood - Greek favorites (moussaka and some desserts, for example).

Today, Stacks is one of the most popular breakfast/lunch restaurants in Matthews. On this weekday brunch hour, the restaurant was nearly filled, with many regulars and almost one dozen staff (he has 30 employees) diligently doing their jobs. He says his turnover rate is very low. “I love it here,” said waitress, Ashley Peters, 19, of Matthews. “The people are great, and they care about you.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

At the heart of it all is George, who, together with his wife feel this as their pride and joy – an extension of their lifeblood and an opportunity to make all who enter feel more than welcome.

To continue with this sense of connectedness, George has intentionally kept the restaurant hours to a minimum – no dinner, drinks, or late-night meals - the restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. so that he can stay home with his family. “It is a diner,” he said, “but does not have the hours of a diner.”

However, he works seven days a week, nearly 365 days a year, patiently and meticulously overseeing all facets of the organization, circling the room, making sure that diners are happy, content and well-fed. “I want people to feel comfortable here,” he said. “That everyone is smiling and they don’t feel out of place.”

It is a sentiment echoed by many of those interviewed in the restaurant. “This is good food and good people,” said Michael Keith, of SouthPark. A regular customer who has been going to Stacks six days a week for the past five years, Michael referenced that his 18-mile daily roundtrip commute is always well worth it. He echoed George’s sentiments entirely, too: “It’s a great place to be at. It’s more like a real diner.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Stacks Kitchen
11100 Monroe Rd, Matthews
Open 7 Days a week: 6 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Pappy's Cuts, Downtown Matthews

A step into Pappy’s Cuts is a step back in time.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

A step into Pappy’s Cuts (208 West Matthews Street) is a step back in time. Old-fashioned toys on shelves, older photos on walls; sports memorabilia proudly displayed around the room. A sparsely decorated waiting room, an inner room with two hairdressing chairs (only one is still used) and original wood paneling make it all feel like yesteryear.

Add in the spirit of the beloved original owner, David Large, Sr. (who passed in 2017), but remains in the hearts and minds of many clients (now in their 70s, 80s, 90s and even over 100), and you get the feeling that time has truly stood still – what remains is the ever-steady presence of David’s son, David Large Jr., 49, of Mint Hill, who chose, more than one dozen years ago, to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The only noticeable differences: the original $5 haircuts are now a fixed $10; a 2018 shop name change from Barber Shop to Pappy’s Cuts – was done in memory of and in tribute to David Jr.’s dad.

In truth, very little else has changed since the Large’s originally took ownership of the building in 1996, itself already frozen in time with much of the original 1950s décor. (His mother originally used a significant portion of the house for her finance business; only small two rooms encompass the barbershop).  

A dry-wit abounds here – a gentle, but constant ribbing of and by the owner, as his many long-time clients revolve in and out of the front door. David’s title on his business card: “Cranium Sculpting Engineer;” a specialty price, $7 for “Follically Challenged” patrons (balding or sparsely-haired) all attest to a place where stories are shared and camaraderie appreciated and encouraged.
Many older clients come through just to sit in the waiting room and/or the shop to banter about stories; as long as paying clients aren’t in the seat, David obliges.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

David is more than a barber – a therapist, friend, buddy, and confidant. If only the walls could speak…

The end result for David, like his father before him, is the “tons of best friends…and golfing buddies” he’s gained, many of whom share his love of sports (he was also a marathon runner).  He says that to many repeat clients, he’s more than a barber – a therapist, friend, buddy, and confidant. If only the walls could speak…

Choosing to remain silent on many stories, one of his most memorable moments was shaving off the hair of eight buddies (two with long braided hair), who wanted to support a good friend struggling with the after-effects of cancer treatment.

The father of a 14-year-old daughter, David says that her Saturday presence - to mop and sweep floors - gives him the inkling that she may choose to go to hairdressing school and potentially follow in his footsteps. If not, it remains an all-in-the-family operation with his wife also in and out of the shop. (His early end-hours reflect his need to get his daughter from school and spend quality time with his family).

On this day, an 85-year-old long-time client and his 80-year-brother were getting their hair cut. “I just want to get a good haircut!” ribbed the older brother as he finally got his turn in the chair. Speaking loudly, David asked him to take out his hearing aids so they wouldn’t get cut. It was another fine day at the local barbershop.

cyma pappys 7.jpg
We provide men’s haircuts with great skill at good prices. No up-charges, no bull. And we throw in some laughs, a lot of sports talk (ok, maybe there’s some bull going on here), and random conversation.

At the shop, we “do” simple. No online appointments, no answering machine. If we answer the phone, we’re here.
— @pappyscutsmatthewsnc

Pappy’s Cuts

Mondays from 8 a.m. – noon
Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m
Saturday from 7:30 a.m. – noon

704-844-2617.

2810[top]5: Hot Coffee Spots

If our morning newsletter references didn’t give it away, I’m going to share a big secret today: We are a coffee powered organization here at the Beacon. Today we’re here to share five spots that keep the Beacon fueled.

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Good Cup Coffee Co., 105 N. Trade Street (at the Farmer’s Market and pop-ups elsewhere). The Chopas family makes delicously unique coffee drinks you won’t find anywhere else in the area. It counts as a meeting to follow Norah around while she does her weekly shopping, right?

Photo via Good Cup

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Dilworth Coffee,

3016 Weddington Rd #600. We’ve had more than one meeting here. The vibe is cozy and the staff is friendly, and the coffee isn’t pretentious.

Photo via Dilworth Coffee

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Your Mom’s Donuts, 11025 Monroe Rd, Ste F. Another spot where we often meet, lots of room, not too loud, and the coffee is great. Plus: donuts.

Photo via Your Mom’s Donuts

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Magnolia Coffee. Their tasting room is in Matthews but isn’t open to the public yet, so head on over to Baked Well (10915 Monroe Rd ste D) to try a cup. It’s a good excuse to have a cookie for breakfast with your coffee.

Photo via Magnolia Coffee

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Brakeman’s Coffee, 225 N. Trade Street. Who doesn’t love Brakeman’s? It’s tough to find a table sometimes, so we get the coffee to go and find another spot in Matthews to catch up on all things Beacon.

Photo via Brakeman’s

Bethany Salisbury: Capturing Pets in Paints

Photo of Bethany Salisbury courtesy the artist

Photo of Bethany Salisbury courtesy the artist

I’m lucky to be able to do [this work]. It’s been my passion since I was a kid. I love animals and I love to paint.

Bethany Salisbury, 31, of Matthews, knows a thing or two about pets and pet portraits. That would be nearly 900 things to be exact – the number of pet portraits painted by Bethany in the last handful of years.

A commercial artist, illustrator, and designer, Bethany has had much success with her pet portraiture, illustration and traditional paintings. And, while it is “80% dogs,” it’s also cats, rabbits, horses, birds, elephants, goats, a few ferrets, and sometimes people.

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews.  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Since her mainstay is on social media, and with online orders, her clients come from all over the world (Australia, Africa, Hong Kong, to name a few places) and throughout the country. “I get a lot of repeat customers,” she said. “Many buy these for gifts.”

A childhood spent at art camp and in private art lessons, with minimal TV watching and maximum encouragement to create, combined with a love of animals led her to do just that: create paper dolls, make graphic novels and comic books about dogs.

“I’ve always grown up with animals,” she said.

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews.  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

While she captures the often impassioned and enamored looks of her subjects - “I think dogs are expressive,” she said. “I think it’s kind of second nature (to intuit their) emotions” - she is also not immune to the whiles of animals, herself. Bethany and her husband are the proud owners of one Miniature Long Haired Dachshund, Mochi, and an Australian Cattle Dog named River.

“I’m lucky to be able to do [this work]” said Bethany. “It’s been my passion since I was a kid. I love animals and I love to paint.”

Giant Genie Pharmacy and Community-Based Health Care

Here we have solutions that nobody else has... We’re applying the knowledge that we learned in school; not many pharmacists can say that in a daily setting.
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

To Bill Henning, Pharm.D., pharmacy manager and minority partner of Giant Genie Pharmacy (2925 Senna Dr.), compounding is both an art and a bonus to offering traditional pharmacy services. The pharmacy is one of two compounding pharmacies in Matthews and has been in town since 2010.

“People have to go back to believing the pharmacy is a health-care provider,” said Bill. “We need to be that point of contact in the community because people can reach us.”

In the 17th to 19th centuries, compounding in the US was a function of physicians who prescribed and created their patients’ medications. In the 20th century, with the advent of mass-drug manufacturing, compounding decreased. Today, the industry is experiencing a resurgence as the importance and need for custom-made medications becomes more prevalent.

According to Wikipedia, pharmaceutical compounding is the creation of a particular pharmaceutical product to fit the unique need of a patient. To do this, compounding pharmacists combine or process appropriate ingredients using various tools. This may be done for medically necessity, such as to change the form of the medication from a solid pill to a liquid, to avoid a non-essential ingredient that the patient is allergic to, or to obtain the exact dose needed (not already readily available). It is also the basis for creating bio-identical hormones.

Approximately 5-10% of Genie Pharmacy’s business involves prescriptions for animals.

“It’s exciting…that we can have an impact on so many people from pediatrics to geriatrics,” said Bill. “I have a lot of colleagues who work for big-chain pharmacies…they are put in a more [prescriptive] role where they are expected to fill [a certain number of] prescriptions a day and can’t pick up the phone to talk with people. Here we have solutions that nobody else has... We’re applying the knowledge that we learned in school; not many pharmacists can say that in a daily setting.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The pharmacy retains a staff of four pharmacists and a few drivers – a staple since they offer free delivery.

While the downside of compounding is the cost – approximately $40 - $60 more per month, the individual attention to medication, coupled with a drive for customer service and a “family feel” often makes these Mom and Pop pharmacies more desirable.

“I enjoy it because I wake up each day and get to be excited to come to work,” said Bill.

Tammy Schoolcraft: Reiki for Wellness

Energy therapies like Reiki and Biofield Tuning work at treating the whole person body, mind, and emotions.  People are starting to think outside of the pillbox – they are sick and tired of being sick and tired and are finding relief and results outside of the traditional model.  I am passionate about helping client’s bodies to remember its own potential for healing itself naturally.
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Seven years ago, Tammy Schoolcraft’s son was plagued by chronic ear infections and incessant anxiety; she tried every method possible to alleviate his symptoms. Thinking outside the box, she ended up taking him to a Reiki specialist. The outcome was immediate and transformative. While he changed for the positive, she changed, too.

According to the International Association of Reiki Professionals, Reiki is a spiritual healing art with Japanese roots. The word, “Reiki” comes from the Japanese word, “Rei,” which means “universal life” and ki” which means “energy. Not associated with a religion or religious practice, the modality is a subtle and effective form of energy work using guided life force energy. Reiki practitioners believe that everyone has the ability to connect with their own healing energy to strengthen energy within themselves. The goal is to achieve strong and free-flowing “ki” (or “chi”).

Reiki is associated with Mikao Usui who is credited with rediscovering this system, passed down by generations. A session is usually 60-90 minutes. The client can either choose to lie on a table or sit in a chair. The practitioner will apply a light touch or hands-off, holding hands slightly above the body.  The practitioner will go through specific standard Reiki hand positions starting at the head or feet. Reiki can be used for relaxation or stress reduction. It is also used to stimulate healing.

Photo courtesy Tammy Schoolcraft

Photo courtesy Tammy Schoolcraft

“My mom was always very open to feelings…so I was a little open to [things]…not in my realm,” she said. A series of subsequent related experiences changed her more fully, guiding her toward an even more natural philosophy and perspective. At first, it was considered “woo-woo,” she said, as family and friends wondered where her new approach might take her. But, after she began doing energy work on some of these same people, perceptions began to change.

She began studying the technique of Reiki and subsequently became a Reiki Master. In 2016, she took a Medical Reiki Training class which helped combine her previous experiences as a medical billing supervisor and pharmacy technician with her new-found energy work. She also met her future Reiki partner, Miri Klements. Together, they decided to introduce Reiki into the greater Charlotte medical community.

They were first offered the opportunity to bring Reiki to the staff at Mercy Hospital. Later, that summer, they were invited to participate in a pilot program offering Reiki to orthopedic trauma patients as an alternative to opioids at Carolinas Medical Center Main (now, Atrium). Subsequently, they were invited in to Levine Children’s Hospital Inpatient Rehabilitation to work with patients recovering from traumatic and nontraumatic brain injuries.

Most recently, she and her Reiki partner have also begun work at the LCH’s Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic. To date, they have given over 1,000 treatments to children admitted to that unit. This year, they will again provide Reiki to Levine Children’s Hospital HEMONC/BMT patients.

One year ago, she opened her own office to provide clients with Reiki and to further concentrate on her newest passion -the modality of Biofield Tuning.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Biofield Tuning, using tuning forks, is based on the principle that everything in the universe is made of vibration. When a body is out of sync or dis-ease, this methodology assumes the body has lost its rhythm. Tuning forks can be used to assist the nervous system and help stimulate the body to heal itself. By addressing the body on a cellular level, it is believed that a combination of sound and energy waves can help heal areas being addressed. Utilizing sound waves, tuning forks produce sound and vibration which engage the nervous system to help revert the effects of stress and increase energy.

“I wasn’t looking for a career, and I don’t [need] to work,” said Tammy. “It just has evolved into something I’ve developed a passion about. It’s something I’ve become so passionate about it’s not work. It’s about being a light for somebody who is trying to make it through their own journey.”

Explaining further, she amplified her belief in her work and the modalities she espouses. “The traditional healthcare model works beautifully for emergencies and treating ‘symptoms,’ but does little for overall continued well being,” Tammy said. “Energy therapies like Reiki and Biofield Tuning work at treating the whole person body, mind, and emotions.  People are starting to think outside of the pillbox – they are sick and tired of being sick and tired and are finding relief and results outside of the traditional model.  I am passionate about helping client’s bodies to remember its own potential for healing itself naturally,” she said. 

In the end, Tammy’s ongoing personal and professional journey toward wholeness and wellness continues to flourish and grow.

“I can’t imagine being without this [work] now,” she concludes.

 Tammy Schoolcraft , Reiki for Wellness, 325 Matthews Mint Hill Road, Matthews.


Dion Lovallo: A Partner for Recovery

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

In Room 103 at 1320 Matthews Mint Hill Road, at least one dozen men and women are discussing their feelings and emotions – everything from finding purpose and a place in life to self-love and emotional stability. This might be a support group for any number of possible ailments, vices or afflictions, however, the 12-step program on the wall provides a clue. This is the Carolina Center for Recovery and these participants are in substance abuse recovery.

On this day, leader, Jim, is using gentle humor with pointed observations and comments focusing on those individuals who appear to need the most support and guidance. It is a comfortable group clearly aware that there is safety and security in knowing that others are going through (and have gone through) similar struggles. However many other facets this institution might provide, the single most important goal is to help participants find sobriety and remain sober.

This is the lifeblood of co-owner, Matthews resident, Dion Lovallo, 28. Dion, along with three others (his father, his sponsor, and his best friend) opened this center just under a year ago. Recovery is a topic Dion knows well – having struggled with substance abuse, himself from the ages of 13 to 22, been in and out of treatment, and then hired as an admissions coordinator at his last treatment center.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

“I found that this is something that I enjoyed,” he said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.” Among his 24/7 duties include handling emergencies, new admissions, and general problems either with staff or clients. He sees his program as “more family oriented – giving them a purpose.” Dion goes to the gym with the group, offers outside activities like barbecues and attends church with interested members. “Helping others helps me stay sober,” he says matter-of-factly.

At this moment, approximately two dozen people are enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program. Having been assigned a specific counselor, they attend several support groups/week and are encouraged to use the Brace Y to work out daily. “Something to get them out of their comfort zone,” says Dion. Prior to entering the program, at least 50% of the participants require detox.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

“Everyone knows somebody who is struggling [with substances],” said Dion, mentioning the ongoing funerals he attends of those whose lives have ended tragically or far too soon.

To Dion, success is “somebody who stays sober.”

“Somebody gave me a chance,” he said. “I just like to give people a chance.”  As a chance was given to him, it is also Dion’s future goal to hire some of his clients-in-recovery to assist him at the facility.

Helping others helps me stay sober

Trevor Cochran: Better Living Through Better Broth

Photos courtesy Bethany Cochran Art

Photos courtesy Bethany Cochran Art

Trevor Cochran, 30, is a Type-A. He was a football walk-on in college (but dropped football after one semester, choosing to focus on his just-under 4.0-grade average). Having graduated college by age 20, he immediately began climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder to achieve maximum success.

His 40-hour work-weeks became 40++. Instead of coming home to sleep, he occasionally slept in at work. He often worked on weekends. He moved uptown to get to work quickly.

As a credit and collections person on the “business-to-business level,” he told himself that the constant pace and ongoing dedication would reap more success and achievement in his life. He would, as he said, always find ways to “fix things” but never get rewarded for his achievements.

Within that period, he developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), acid reflux and excessive daytime tiredness. He also gained 50 pounds.

By age 25, he knew that something was wrong –the medication for the acid reflux made his acne, IBS, and hypersomnia worse while the acne meds exacerbated his headaches. His cholesterol levels were rising, and despite working out and running long miles, he could not reduce his symptoms nor lose weight. (His Hispanic relatives all struggle with some form of diabetes.)

And, so began his journey to find wellness.

When the head of his running group suggested the work of Mark Sisson (Paleo Diet), he immediately closeted himself off one weekend and read everything he could find. He was hooked. Within a year, he lost the weight and nearly all of his symptoms. He was on the verge of changing his entire life.

During this same time, he met his girlfriend (the daughter of a chef); his journey toward good health merged with the exquisite palette of his then future-wife and the necessity to please her. He got “good at cooking,” as he said, and at making spices.

He continued his voracious reading and learned more about clean eating, healthful spices, and the harmful nuances in foodstuff.

He recognized that he had severe leaky gut issues and that drinking bone broth would plug the holes. He looked around and found some bone broths, but found none he enjoyed.

At age 28, he began his last stretch in the business world as a contract employee training his replacements in the business of collections as his employer began outsourcing. His job was intended to end in spring of 2018.

Over the years, he had squirreled away his monies. When he married his wife, they began to squirrel it away, together. Both knew they “didn’t want to be in middle management for the rest of [their] lives.” He knew he had “way too much entrepreneurial spirit.”

He perfected his bone broth and soon perfected his spices. He found and rented a commercial kitchen dedicating the required 48-72 hours to make his broth. When digital pressure cookers hit the market, he changed that time to just under 10 hours. He began educating people about the benefits of his products.

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He began his company, Pure Old World, Inc., full time that same spring of 2018 - launching at the Matthews Farmer’s Market. “Matthews has been just great,” he said.

Today, less than one year in business, he can “cover his costs” and is now in multiple stores with plans for expansion. He’s also done many “pop-up” events in the region, trying to spread awareness for his products.

Currently, he purchases bones from two local NC/SC farmers who are using sustainable agriculture and keeping an eye on environmental concerns. After confirming all the necessary qualifications, he inspects and walks the farms thoroughly before he chooses them. He’s looking not only for free-range and organically fed but for chickens using non-GMO feed; he must also be able to “walk with them in pasture.” He is currently negotiating with four more local farmers.

In the next handful of years, Trevor’s goal is to branch out into small regional companies – in other directions – clothing, shoes and, especially, eyewear. He says he has no interest in doing work on a national or international level. “Everything we like to do is about freedom, and not just by us but for others,” he said. “Understanding the trade network – where the goods come from. Focus on employing people locally.”

When he purchases a commercial kitchen, he’d like to host events and branch out into producing “cooking fats.” He also wants to sell bone broth in local coffee shops since customers drink it “like coffee and tea.”

...lives can get better through the foods [you] eat. If you can change your diet and lifestyle, it can change your life.

He proudly regales the stories of customers who say his bone broth and spices have helped heal various ailments. “You feel better about [this] work,” he says, in relation to the previous professional work he did.

“I want people to understand where the bones for their bone broth comes from – that it matters,” said Trevor. “That the food they are buying impacts their local environment and for people to understand that if they (also) have an autoimmune condition, their lives can get better through the foods they eat. …If you can change your diet and lifestyle,” he added, “it can change your life.”

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

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.

Seela Salon: Opening Doors to All

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When clients come to the Seela Salon in Matthews, they are often stepping into a veritable United Nations with a decidedly Middle Eastern slant. Although known as the only Matthews salon which caters to Middle Easterners, owner Abeer Badran’s clients come from all over (with some from as far as Virginia) and represent a host of countries, regions, and locales.

Abeer, 46, of Waxhaw, is the mother of 10-year-old twin boys and a 22-year-old daughter (the salon’s name is her daughter’s nickname). During the course of any day, she often mentions her husband and/or children or takes phone calls from them, prompting discussions about various family situations.

To that, most women clients look up in amusement, clearly understanding the trials and tribulations of family life which trump any particular ethnicity or origin.

The Road to Matthews

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

For Abeer, coming to the Charlotte area/US in 1993 to marry her husband, is another indicator of how much family and tradition are intertwined in her life. Her Palestinian-born, now American-citizen husband and his extended family have been here since the 1950s.

“I love Matthews myself,” she said. “It’s in the middle of everywhere. I love Matthews people. (They) are so open-minded, they are family-minded people,” said Abeer.

“(Here) nobody can tell me what to do; I’m my own boss,” she says with a smile, proudly adding that it’s not just hair services, but nail and skincare which encompass her business. The Middle Eastern applications are foot and hand baths, and threading.

The Seela Experience

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Now in Seela’s fourth year in Matthews, for the Jordanian-born Abeer the interior design, and the entire operation are something she is enormously proud of. Inside the salon, instead of just listening to popular American music, clients are often entertained by the sounds of Radio Jordan (from the country of Jordan). Instead of just talking amongst themselves, they are often amused by Abeer spontaneously doing a watered-down version of the belly dance – “shaking and exercising,” as she calls it.

She takes pride in the salon décor she’s carefully chosen – a mixture of Middle Eastern lamps and furniture with signs and whimsical designs. She says the look reflects her personal style and can also be found in her own home. “This is the nice thing…a lot of the time, people say it’s so homey. They’re comfortable here,” she says with deep satisfaction.

Many clients know nothing about the Middle East. This is a subject I can talk a lot about. We talk about Hijabs (head coverings), for example, and why I’m not wearing one. It helps a lot for people to understand more about Middle Easterners and not be scared.
— Abeer Badran
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Sharing Cultures

While most clients are more than accepting of Abeer’s heritage and homeland, over the years, she’s seen a few who appear not to be comfortable, and have chosen not to return. Any conversations which might become personal, religious or political, she says she gently turns the conversations into teachable moments regarding various facets of her culture.

“Many clients know nothing about the Middle East,” she says. “This is a subject I can talk a lot about – clients get educated….We talk about Hijabs (head coverings), for example, and why I’m not wearing one. It helps a lot for people to understand more about Middle Easterners and not be scared.”

Ultimately, her salon is her home; and in that way, she has opened the doors to all.

“(I like) the comfort level that clients have. They’re comfortable,” said Abeer. “This is what I wanted to do. This is what I’m meant to do.”

Brakeman's Coffee: A Sharing Space

(L to R) Mark Moore, David Johnson, & Dave Braysden  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

(L to R) Mark Moore, David Johnson, & Dave Braysden Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Last winter, in an overture of friendship and community, the owners of Brakeman’s (David Johnson, Mark Moore, and Dave Baysden) placed an enormous menorah in the front of the building, loaned by the group at ZABS. “The foundation was friendship and trust,” said David.

“I was into the power(ful) story of Chanukah,” said Mark. “It was an opportunity for the Christian community to understand the power of the story.” They also hosted an opening lighting ceremony with ZABS folks providing narrative to the lighting.

We wanted a space that was life-giving...How do we make sure that this space is embraced by everybody?
— David Johnson
brakemans outside.jpg

“We wanted a place that was ecumenical in its approach,” said David, explaining the vision for Brakeman’s. “We wanted a space that was life-giving. We’re not rooted in making money. How do we make sure that this space is embraced by everybody?”

“This is a place where people can share their story, tell their stories – whether it’s religious, personal or otherwise,” he said. “Those are the things we (try to support).”

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!

Matthews Meets the European Food Scene

Two transplants to Matthews are forging their way into the food scene and are bringing a slice of their heritage and roots with them.

Both Marci Dagenhardt’s Marci’s European Sweets and StrudelTeig, a food truck bakery owed by Marvin and Cora Adcock, are using recipes and recipe books provided by their grandparents. They represent the latest wave of ethnic food-vendors who are changing the palette and cultural landscape in and around Matthews. Both have been in business for approximately one year.  

Marci, originally from the Czech Republic, started baking when she was very young – especially Christmas cookies – a time-worn annual family tradition. Originally schooled in hospitality, Marci moved to the US to be a nanny.  After marrying, she turned to baking as a way to remain connected to her homeland. It also brought her enormous comfort.

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When Marci’s beloved 93-year-old grandmother sent her 1947 recipe book last Christmas, she took it as a “sign” and began baking in earnest for others. She and her husband recently built their 4800 square foot home in Matthews, complete with a separate kitchen intended for her growing business. Not only does she now bake for a living, but the actual preparation and being in the separate kitchen space provide a way to relieve stress daily.

She fondly speaks of using marzipan as an ingredient, has baked many new European-style goods to find the perfect fit for her business, and constantly searches for new Czech recipes to add to her growing offerings. Recently, her cousin in the Czech Republic sent her a new fudge recipe – it’s all a way to remain connected to her family. Of her grandmother’s feelings?  “She loves it,” Marci said. “She’s so proud.”

And, now, it’s a new way to connect with others.

“I try to bring (food) to people to open their mind,” said Marci, noting that many people stop in to tell her about their grandparents who come from Europe. “I (sometimes) say, ‘Wow, I’m not here by myself!’ “

Moravian gingerbread, Linzer cookies, honey cake, poppy seed cookies, Bohemian and Moravian kolache, rugelach, and marshmallow fondant cake are just a few of her specialties. This is not just about business, she insists, but about “bringing people joy. …and experience something new… Sweet can be sweet, but not sugary-sweet (like in America). I want to help American people know the culture.  I want people to experience that there are (foods) different than what’s here." To get an authentic flavor, she imports some ingredients from the Czech Republic. She also ships her baked goods across the US.

Marvin Adcock brought together his desire to work for himself with the culture and cuisine of his Austrian-born wife, Cora (with a nod to some German and Swiss-cuisine specialties, and incorporating the cuisine of other  European/Eastern European countries). “My passion was to cook for people and use the recipes from her background,” he said. Last year, they purchased a food truck. “There are no European food trucks” around here, said Cora, who has drawn from country-favorites and used some recipes from her grandfather’s restaurant in Austria.

The couple takes pride in their all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients.

Their truck offers a way to be mobile and cater to many different crowds. They use their food truck for “foods that take less time to prepare” which include pretzels, Viennese Apple strudel, and Bavarian pretzel melt (grilled cheese), to name a few. They’ve also started a separate catering business which is quickly growing to include things like Speckknödel, Schweinebraten, Viennese Gulasch, Hungarian Krautstrudel, and Käsespätzle.

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They, too, say that international travelers and fellow Austrians/Europeans come up to the truck in search of authentic foods they can’t find elsewhere.

While both companies have a strong online presence (for ordering), in the future, both groups would like to own small European cafés. For Marvin, that would be intended to serve breakfast foods; Marci would like a European coffee shop (adding on her husband’s passion for coffee) with two separate areas – one for people who wish to have quiet and the other side for “moms with kids.” “Every woman from my family goes to the coffee shop on Thursday…we talk….and the kids can play together. They serve small sandwiches, sweet stuff and have peace,” she said with a smile, noting that she is now the mother of a newborn.

For both entities, the opportunity to share their respective cultures here is not lost, nor taken for granted. “It’s not just food,” said Cora, adding that she also posts photos of Austria, on their site, to give a broader overview of the beauty of the country. “I think that the greatest part of America is the ability to live your culture (freely) here,” said Marvin.