Up Close & Personal – Justin Bradley

Up Close & Personal – Justin Bradley

Justin Bradley is a business account executive with Verizon, where he oversees health care-related businesses and nonprofits. He also is a property manager for his company, JWB Property Group LLC. He is a native of Susquehanna County and a graduate of Blue Ridge High School and Keystone College, where he earned a degree in corporate communications. He and his wife, Rae, have two children, Jackson, 5, and Vivian, 3. They live in Archbald.

Meet Justin Bradley…

Tell us a little about your work at Verizon.
I’ve been there almost 14 years. I work with health care-related businesses on any technology project that is going to help with efficiency, cellular connectivity and mobilizing their staff, employees, home health organizations and, now, even their landline business phones. As long as it involves technology, I can most likely point them in the right direction.

And what about your work as a property investor and property manager?
That’s a real passion of mine. It takes up a lot of my spare time, in that I love the thrill of the hunt. Whether it’s a distressed property, or maybe someone that’s maybe had some down luck and they need to get rid of their property fairly quickly, I can help and take it over. Or, obviously, with a distressed property from a bank foreclosure, sheriff’s sale or tax sale, you can find a property fairly cheap and, with a few bucks, turn it around and maybe make a few bucks. For me, I like the rentals. I like renting the properties, whether it’s a duplex or a single-family home. I was recently told that the neighbors must love me, where I’m buying properties, because they’re not low-end properties. They’re kind of mid-range. And in a way, to some degree, it’s revitalizing Scranton. I would never want to be a slum lord. Investing a few bucks into these properties and then having a quality rental that’s going to last a long time is what I’m looking to do. 

At left, a submitted photo by Bradley shows the property in its very early stages of renovation. At right, the property is about a month away from completion.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
A few years back, I took part in a boot-camp type of CrossFit program, and I learned a lot. I lost 50 pounds, stuck with it and joined CrossFit Vertex in Olyphant. Great community. Great owners. It’s one of those things where the camaraderie and the folks that are there kind of keep you accountable to keep coming back. And CrossFit is one of those things that keeps me coming. Going to a local gym and working out on your own, you don’t necessarily have that same motivation and drive to keep going back and working harder. This has a little bit of a different environment, which is appealing to me. The other thing that I like to do in my spare time, obviously, is to spend time with my kids and use my GoPro. My Instagram is “gopro_hero_dad,” which is just daily activities of me being a dad. It’s all of the cool things that I do with my family and kids, from a dad’s perspective. And my other account is “gopro.hero.wods.” And “wods” stands for workout of the day, which I use for CrossFit.

Any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Giants memorabilia. I love New York Giants football, and my basement consists of signed jerseys and special moments that I remember as a Giants fan. Everything is signed, authenticated and framed.

Favorite music?
I grew up on Breaking Benjamin. I’ve been a longtime fan. The day I turned 21 … I went out to Tink’s and saw them play, and a lot of the members of the current band are now friends of mine. I also like Motionless In White.

Favorite city?
I frequent Philadelphia, primarily because of work. So I’ve gotten to know the city fairly well. And I’m an old skateboarder at heart, and some of the concrete parks there are places I frequent. Even as an adult, I’ve taken my skateboard. Love Park is a place that I’ve visited, and I’ll just skate around the block and try to take it in, because they’re all monuments, as far as skateboarding history is concerned.

Favorite place to vacation?
Ocean City, Maryland. Every other year, my wife’s family has always gone to Ocean City. I never really went anywhere as a kid like that as a family, and so to marry into a family that likes to stay close-knit is nice. Now we take our kids, and it’s definitely enjoyable as a dad.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
All of my friends and family are here. I went to school here. There are lots of great things to like about Scranton. The La Festa Italiana is one of my favorite things. Parade Day was one of my favorite things to do in my 20s. There’s always something going on. And the people are hard-working, the people are artistic, and the people are passionate about what they do. And that’s something I can always appreciate.

Favorite food?
Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
These days, with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, it’s got to be Christmas.

Favorite movie?
“Boiler Room.”

Favorite TV show?
“Sons of Anarchy.”

Favorite book?
“Property Management for Dummies.” (Laughs)

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” I actually have it tattooed on my leg.

Biggest pet peeve?
Quitters.

Guilty pleasure?
Watching “Teen Mom.”

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I had a tough period, growing up. I was in foster care when I was in middle school, around sixth and seventh grade. I was also run over by a lawnmower when I was 14 months old. I lost a finger, and I had numerous surgeries throughout elementary school through high school. To this day, I have a big scar and a plate with four screws in my forearm. So I’m at a disadvantage at the CrossFit gym. (Laughs) But again, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

Have you had a defining personal moment, or something that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
Because of struggles that I had as a child, and the way I grew up, what’s defined me as a person is knowing what I don’t want to be as a parent, or as an adult. I want a better life for my kids. I don’t want to see them struggle through life. That’s something that’s important to me.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Neil Nicastro

Up Close & Personal – Neil Nicastro

Neil Nicastro is a professional musician who recently released his second solo
album, “For Escaping.” Previously, he played in local bands such as the Collective and the Five Percent.
He also gives music lessons at Neil Nicastro Music, Entertainment and Instruction in Dunmore
and offers DJ services for weddings and special events. Nicastro is a native of Dunmore and graduated
from Dunmore High School. He later studied at Penn State University and East Stroudsburg University, where he earned a degree in physiology. He and his wife, Erin, have two children, Santino, 9, and Paloma, 7. They live in Dunmore. Meet Neil Nicastro…

Tell us a little about your new album.

I hadn’t put anything out in a while, and just listening to the Jason Isbell stuff and the new Frank Turner stuff really inspired me and reminded me that that’s really my favorite thing to do, is write songs. And I just felt that I really needed to do it again. And my wife was really encouraging about it,
too. I’ve always been a professional musician, and once I got into the process, I got way into it, and ended up recording about 20 songs again, which I always do. I wrote about a lot of different experiences, played a lot of different instruments on the album and had some fun. After all of this time, I feel like I can finally create the music that I’m hearing in my head.

You’ve also been teaching music for about 20 years. What do you enjoy about it?
I think I have a good mix of adults and kids, and I teach from the perspective of “enjoyment first.” My biggest goal is for somebody that comes to me later in life, even after they’ve taken lessons, and they say that they still play, and that they enjoy playing. That’s the best. If you can pick up an instrument, and just zone out and be creative, it’s such a huge escape. You can be much more in touch, rather than just listening to your favorite
music. That’s my philosophy for teaching: that I still love it playing, after all of this time and after all of these hours that I’ve put in, and that if I can just pass on a little of that excitement to other people —I think that’s a pretty cool thing.

And what about your DJ work?
“That’s kind of what I morphed into after the Five Percent. I was trying to get a wedding band going, and I started playing at the Pocono resorts quite a bit. I was doing some ceremony music, but the demand for the wedding band was always pushed aside by the DJ. It’s the same thing as playing, where you read the crowd, so I started getting into that, too. It’s kind of my favorite thing to do, because it feels like it’s important. When you’re
a part of somebody’s wedding, you can put your stamp on it. I’ll play during the cocktail hour, and then DJ the rest of the night. And you can put your heart into it. I’ll learn whatever song they want me to learn. It’s great. And people enjoy it.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I love to run. If I could play guitar and run in a day, I’m a happy guy. That’s all I really want to do. (Laughs)

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Damian Rice. I love him. And right now, I think the new Jason Isbell record is as good as it gets. It’s as good as music can be. I also really like Frank Turner and Ben Holiday. I’m not nostalgic about
music. I grew up loving Live. “Mental Jewelry” is one of my desert island discs, but I don’t go back and listen to it, because I feel like I’ve consumed it. I loved Blind Melon, but I don’t often go back and listen. I’m looking for new stuff.

Favorite city?
Denver. I like the healthy lifestyle, and I was really turned on to how active it was. Also, the Five Percent went around the country a couple of times, and when we were in Denver, we decided to spring on a hotel. Most of the time, we were camping, so that might have tainted my perception, because we actually stayed in a room (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I think, especially after being around the country, that the music scene is awesome. Even though it’s morphed and there’s not as many bands, and there’s more solo and duo gigs, I still think the music scene is great. I never complain. There’s still young bands putting out great albums. I lived in Philly for a little while, and in the Poconos for a little while, and I don’t think I would be as happy a musician if I was somewhere else.  

All-time favorite movie?
“Billy Elliot.”

Favorite food?
Broccoli. I put peanut butter on it.

Do you follow sports?
I did when I was younger, but now I like to watch what I can do. My son’s playing soccer, so we watch soccer. I follow running and cycling, because I do it.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. The kids are so excited.

Favorite book or author?
Malcolm Gladwell. I’m around music all day long, and so when I run, I usually listen to audio books.

Biggest pet peeve?
Probably laziness. And negative behavior. What’s the point? If you smile, everything’s a little bit easier.

Guilty pleasure?
French fries. Although I only have them a couple of times a year.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people? 
I’ve been to 42 of the 50 states. I collected dirt from all of them and have it in a jar. It’s in my office. People ask why I don’t keep it separate, and the reason is that it was already separate. Now, it’s together. (Laughs)

Have you had an experience in your life, or a moment in your life, that’s really helped shape you or define you as a person?
I probably can’t say what it is, because it’s kind of a negative thing. And I’m always working at being a positive person, whether it comes across or not. All of my career choices, and everything, are geared towards that. And
I like to think that, as a musician, it’s important what I’m doing, in trying to make people happy, making music.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Karen Williams

Up Close & Personal – Karen Williams

Karen Williams owns and operates River Oils, which sells handmade beauty products in Wyoming, where she also manages Reruns Consignment Shop. She is a native of Forty Fort and a graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School and Star Beauty Academy. She has a daughter, Autumn River, 4. They live in Forty Fort.

Meet Karen Williams…

River Oils has been open in Wyoming since in May. Can you tell us a little about how the business got started?
I started it at my house a little over two years ago. I actually started selling the essential beauty oils at the house. I’ve also always made my own beauty products, and people would ask, “Can you make me this?” or “Can you make me that?” And so I started doing it at home, and it kind of got too big for my house. Initially, I didn’t want a storefront or anything like that. I just wanted a place to make the products and just have a pick-up spot, instead of at my house. But this opportunity came along, and it was really cute, and I ended up having a little display area. It ended up becoming more.

Tell us a little about the products. They’re all skin-care products. Bath bombs, body butters, soaps … and I have a whole face-care and skin-care line. Everything is natural and organic as possible. My skin-care line is something I do that’s reoccurring. I always have that on hand. But everything else is always different. I’m constantly making different stuff. And I try to buy everything local.

What do you enjoy about it?
I like finding different things and using different products, like chocolate and coffee, in my products. I just love it.

And what about your work at Reruns Consignment Shop?
I really like seeing all of the fashion that comes in. We have a lot of designer stuff. And I love the people. We have lot of repeat customers at both River Oils and the consignment shop, and they keep me busy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
We like to spend a lot of time outside, no matter what it is. We’ll just go up to the lake, or hiking, or country rides. I try to keep my daughter outside.

Any hobbies?
It’s a little silly, but I collect rocks. And when my daughter was born, she started doing the same thing — rocks and seashells and things that we can find in nature. And we actually make really pretty things out of them.

Favorite music?
I like country music. But I always find myself listening to vintage music, like Sinatra.

Do you follow sports?
I’m a hockey fan — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Pittsburgh.

Favorite city?
New York. And Park City, Utah. It’s just beautiful there, everywhere you look.

Favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere there’s a beach.

Favorite thing about NEPA? 
My family is here. And I like the change of seasons.

All-time favorite movie?
My daughter tells me it’s “Wreck-It Ralph.” And she’s kind of right. (Laughs)

Favorite TV show?
“Once Upon a Time.”

Favorite food?
Sushi. But I like steak, I like pizza. … There’s very little food that I don’t love.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Favorite book or author?
Anne Rice.

Biggest pet peeve?
Unfinished projects.

Guilty pleasure?
Binge watching “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
Over the past year, I’ve been working with my uncle, doing side jobs, and he’s taught me everything from electrical to plumbing. I could probably rewire your whole house. And do all of the pluming. (Laughs)

Have you had a moment in your life that really helped shape you or define you as a person?
I can’t really remember my life before my daughter. I feel like I didn’t even really start really living until she was born. I just looked at the world differently. And she’s a “miracle baby,” in that I wasn’t supposed to have her. I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant, because of some health issues that I’ve had. And then I was so high-risk, there was only a 30-percent chance of a successful birth. It was a tough ride … but look what I got. (Smiles)

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Jeannine Lesante

Up Close & Personal – Jeannine Lesante

Jeannine Lesante is the co-host of SSPTV’s “The Girls” and also vice president of marketing for Sam-Son Productions, which her family owns and operates. Lesante also founded the nonprofit Making a Difference, teaches public speaking at King’s College and is a public relations/social media specialist with Eagle Rock Resorts. A native of Conyngham, she graduated from Bishop Hafey High School and King’s College, where she earned a degree in mass communications. She has two children, Alyssa, 14, and Mason, 12. She lives in Conyngham.

Meet Jeannine Lesante…

You’ve been co-hosting “The Girls” with your mom on SSPTV for the past six years. It’s seen on both Comcast and Service Electric Cable TV all throughout NEPA and can also be seen on the SSPTV phone app. For those that haven’t seen it, can you tell us a little about the show?
It’s a mother/daughter duo, and we’ll do any topic. It’s not just about hair and beauty and makeup. It has to do with anything that girls talk about, including serious issues. We just did something with a cancer survivor. Or it could be me getting a tattoo live on the show. Any spectrum, we do, which is fun. You never know what to expect. We’ll dress up for Halloween and act like silly girls, or we’ll go to the Bloomsburg Fair and go on the rides and sample the food, or we can have a sit-down interview in the studio on domestic violence. We tackle serious topics, but we also like to have fun. It’s a fun dynamic.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
I come from a really close family — and I’ve been in this business since I was in high school — and the thing that people always say to me is, “It must be tough working for your family.” And I always say, “We work with each other. And we respect each other’s positions and departments.” My parents (Sam and Debbie) started this company from nothing, and my brother (Sam Jr.) and I have also been integral. My brother is in production. We’re twins, and we both went into mass communications. I wanted to be an on-air personality/journalist/producer. He went more into the technical side. We’re very, very close. And I just think that we’re fortunate that we all get along and respect each other, and so it works. We have great brainstorming sessions as a family, because there’s none of that politicking at the table.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I don’t have a lot, but when I’m not working, I like to do activities with the kids. I also like to read motivational quotes and books and business journals. I’m very goal-oriented. I also like to travel. I’m a believer of experiences. I like to offer my children and myself experiences.

Favorite music?
I love Billy Joel. It’s a tradition with my best friend and I; (we) to go to a show every year, usually at Madison Square Garden.

Favorite city?
I did my first major production work on my own — where I produced and directed something — in New York City, so that would have to be my favorite. I also love Broadway.

Favorite place to vacation? 
I’ve been to a lot of places … Hawaii, Jamaica, Aruba, Brahmas, Trinidad, Canada, Spain … but my favorite is anywhere that has clear water and is warm. (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. The people are genuine, down-to-earth, hard-working, loyal and very giving.

All-time favorite movie?
“Titanic” and “Dirty Dancing.” And I always watch “Mary Poppins” and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” with my kids.

Favorite TV show?
Since I work in TV, I really don’t watch a lot of other programming. But when I was growing up, I watched “Who’s the Boss?” I actually named my daughter after Alyssa Milano.

Favorite food?
Seafood. I love crab meat and scallops. I could live off of fish.

Favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July. I love this country. And it’s just a time when everyone can just hang out and a relax. And I’m a griller. I loved grilled food. And normally, all day, because of my job, I’m in full makeup and dressed like I’m going to a wedding. So when I’m off, I like to be very casual. The Fourth of July lasts about a week at my house. It’s party, party, party.

Guilty pleasure?
I love to shop. My national holiday is Black Friday. (Laughs)

Biggest pet peeve?
When people leave that little skinny piece of paper on the toilet paper roll and don’t change it. I hate that. Why can’t you just change the roll?

Any pets?
My son is allergic to dogs, so we can’t have one, even though they want one. But we have two pet beta fish. And I’m proud to say they’ve both been alive for most of my children’s lives. They’ve lived forever.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you’re right.” — Henry Ford.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I have my own 501c3 charitable organization. I co-founded it with a friend, Craig Lukatch. It’s called Making a Difference. It’s set up through the Luzerne Foundation, and over the years, we’ve been able to raise thousands of dollars through different events. We did some work with the American Red Cross after the flooding in the Wyoming Valley in 2011. We’ve done wok with the American Cancer Society. We did work with the Hazleton Blind Association. I also co-created the Miss Greater Hazleton Scholarship Program, which is a part of the Miss America pageant. The most rewarding thing is to give back to our community, and I’m happy I have the resources to do it.

Have you had a moment in your life that has really helped define you, or has helped shape you into the person you are today?
The moment I became a mother. When I was pregnant, my parents said, “We’re so happy for you. Your life will never be the same.” I really fully didn’t know what they meant until you have a child and you’re responsible for another human being for the rest of your life. It’s actions over words. And I know that my actions are what my children are seeing and doing. Your children do shape your life.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

In addition to Jeannine Lesante, featured in photos is her Ssptv family including her brother, Sam Lesante Jr., Lisa Schugardt, John Poli, Tim Novotney, Tom Novotney and Ken Cara. Visit Ssptv’s Facebook Page to learn more.

Up Close & Personal – Jay Notartomaso

Up Close & Personal – Jay Notartomaso

Jay Notartomaso owns and operates Musical Energi, Wilkes-Barre, which specializes in new and used vinyl, CDs, cassettes, rock memorabilia, incense, posters, and new and vintage stereo gear. Notartomaso is a native of Clarks Summit and graduated from Abington Heights High School and Penn State University, where he earned a degree in biology and psychology. He has a daughter, Ariana, 19, and lives in West Wyoming.

Meet Jay Notartomaso…

What first inspired you to get into the record business?
I grew up with records. My father loved music, so there was always music being played in the house. Of course he listened to opera and classical, and I liked rock, but I have a picture of me when I was about 4 years old with my first record player. Most little kids have a blanket and a teddy bear, and I have this record player, and my hand is on it affectionately. I’ve been obsessed with records and record players my entire life. In the ’80s, I was living at Penn State, and there was a guy that used to come around to the malls and go from mall to mall with his little portable record store, and I guess he was talking to my mom and my dad — they were shopping in the mall, and my dad used to buy records from him — and he told them how he wanted to get out of it. He had a retail store in Boston and wanted to sell the kiosk. My mom took his number, gave me a call, and that was it. Coincidentally, that’s when the Wyoming Valley Mall opened permanent kiosks that you could lease. So I signed a lease with the mall. I didn’t have to drive around in a van with records. And I was there for four years.

Since then, for 27 years, you’ve been in downtown Wilkes-Barre. What do you enjoy about your work the most?
Listening to the music. I could live three lifetimes and not hear all of the music there is to hear. And it just keeps coming out. Trying to keep up with all of the new stuff and all of the things I never heard before — obviously that’s my passion and what brought me into the business. And I learn a lot from my customers from what they like. If they ask me if I have something, and I never heard of it, I’m like, “Whoa. What’s that?” I also like turning customers onto things, and I like working with the product, especially cleaning and pricing albums. It might sound mundane, and I’ve probably done millions over the years, but I just love handling the records, cleaning them, pricing them, grading them and getting them ready for customers. And now, for maybe the past five years or six years, I’ve also been fixing record players. And I find it rewarding to find a record player that doesn’t work and degrease it, lube it up and get all of the parts working again. That obsession that I have with records and record players is still the thing that I am most passionate about.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists? 
Currently — and I recently went to Philadelphia to see them — I’ve been listening to a band called Diane Coffee. And I’d recommend that everyone listen to their album, “Everybody’s a Good Dog,” The music is Motown-psych. Imagine David Bowie meets the Supremes meets Pink Floyd meets “Sgt. Pepper’s.” And they somehow pull it off. It’s the most brilliant album that I have ever heard. I also like My Morning Jacket. And of course the classics … the Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I go to the gym a lot. Almost every day. And I like taking naps. (Laughs)

Favorite city?  
New York City.

Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t usually go to the same place twice. I like to try new places. I was just in Costa Rica this summer. That was a blast. And I do camping a lot. I just like to get out in the middle of nowhere away from everything and just decompress.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
My entire family still lives in the area, between Stroudsburg and State College. I have two sisters and a brother, and my parents are older but still with us, and I have lots of nieces and nephews. This is home, and everybody is still here. And when we get together around the holidays, it’s such a great feeling. I also love being in a climate where there are four seasons. It’s just a beautiful state. I love Pennsylvania.

All-time favorite movie?
“Lord of the Rings” and all of the “Harry Potter” movies.

Favorite TV show?
“Criminal Minds.”

Favorite food?
Italian.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Guilty pleasure?
Right now, it’s listening to old country music. I can’t believe I now like country, but I like the real old-timers. And red wine. That’s another guilty pleasure.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Our life is our art.” — John Lennon

Biggest pet peeve? 
People that deny scientific facts.

Favorite book or author?
Anything by Sam Harris.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I really have no idea what the top-40 songs in the country are. You would think that a record store owner would be up on the “current music,” but I don’t really know the top-40, which is kind of funny. I listen to a lot of new music, but not the top-40. It’s all just mass-produced.

Have you had a defining personal moment or something that has really shaped you into the person you are today?
Definitely my daughter being born. She’s 19 now, and I still learn from her every day. As a parent, you think that you’ll teach your children, but I think parents can learn just as much. By helping them become who they want to be, and following their lead, and helping them do what they want to do with their life — that really helped me grow as a person. My daughter is my hero.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

 

Photos by Emma Black and submitted photo

Up Close & Personal – Jessica Colvin

Up Close & Personal – Jessica Colvin

Jessica Colvin owns and operates Pure Suds Co. in Clarks Summit. The business, which opened in 2009, offers fine, handmade body goods, specialty bathing items and pure ingredients. Colvin is a native of Ransom Twp. and is a graduate of Abington Heights High School. Prior to opening her shop, she worked in the field of veterinary medicine and also operated Decoverly, a private breeding and exporting service of Ryman Irish setters. She lives in Ransom Twp.
Meet Jessica Colvin…

Can you tell us a little about the Pure Suds Co.? 
We hand-make all of our goods using the finest raw ingredients. Most of them are organic kosher food grade, so ideally, it’s like food for your skin. It’s interesting, because we have what we call our “Raw Room,” so it’s basically an apothecary room where we sell nine different categories of goods that I use to formulate everything. We have clays, cosmetic additives, power botanicals, dried herbs, salts, sugars, exfoliates and butters. And we sell all of these goods to the public.

What first inspired you to open such a business?
I started making soap as a hobby in the summer of 2009, and I really enjoyed it. I started making larger batches, and it was somewhat therapeutic. I began gifting it to people, and at Christmastime, friends and family were ordering and wanting custom orders, which kind of let me play in different directions, learn from new suppliers, read books and — because (of) those custom orders — get a little more experience in areas that I wasn’t able to before.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
I still really love creating and the creation process. And at this point, we have a really great religious clientele, and I also have a really, really great team of employees. There are five people helping me right now, and I ended up creating custom positions for each of them, so they each have delegated responsibilities, and they’re all just so phenomenal. Our clients love them.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I visit my horse, Percy, at the barn he stays at in Clarks Summit. Lonestar Persuasion is his show name. And I like anything outdoors — hiking, being out in nature. … It really helps to enhance my creative end, with the company. I just let myself go, in a way, and even though I never completely detach from what’s going on, it’s nice to get outside and just live a little bit and just get out and let go. I also really love traveling.

Favorite city?
Boulder, Colorado — the people there, the overall mentality, and the outdoor activities are endless.

Favorite place that you have vacationed?
Auckland, New Zealand.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I love the diversity that the area has to offer, and the people here are truly amazing. I love connecting with the people here. I think our area has faced a lot of ups and downs, but we can really overcome anything as a community. And we’ve proven so. In my business in particular, since we focus on overall health and well-being, I seem to find that a lot of our clientele and people that I deal with on an intellectual basis are heading in the direction of being overall healthy. It’s almost more of a holistic and homeopathic option, and being open-minded to that. And that comes back to the diversity.

Favorite music?
I’ve never really been into country music, but I recently got a Chris Stapleton CD, and I’m really into it.

Favorite movie?
“Eat Pray Love” with Julia Roberts.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite food?
Everything Italian.

Favorite quote of catchphrase?
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anais Nin

Biggest pet peeve?
When people don’t say “please” and “thank you.”

Guilty pleasure?
I can eat a half a tray of Revello’s (pizza) in one sitting. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I will really try anything once. I love road trips. I would be open to jumping in the car and pretty much going anywhere at any time, especially in a western direction.

Have you had a moment in your life that’s really helped shape you into the person you are today?
I think who I am today is an accumulation of events, and not necessarily one thing. It’s all been life experiences. Travel has certainly affected the way that I think and how I perceive things on a more open and broad spectrum. I also have a group of mentors that influence me in certain directions, and without them being in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am or be able to network and connect the way I do.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Jennifer Rushton

Up Close & Personal – Jennifer Rushton

Jennifer Rushton co-owns and -operates the Dress Lounge, Kingston, which opened 14 months ago and specializes in bridal and prom dresses. Rushton is a native of Nanticoke and is a graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School and the Wilma Boyd Career School in Pittsburgh, where she studied travel and tourism. She has been involved in the wedding planning business for 15 years. She lives in Swoyersville.
Meet Jennifer Rushton…

You’ve worked in the catering and hospitality business for many years at places such as Nichols Village, Genetti’s, Bentley’s and the Westmoreland Club. What led to the opening of the Dress Lounge?
I owned a boutique on Market Street in Kingston, about 10 years ago, called Panache. It was a trendy women’s clothing boutique, and I loved it. I had it for five and a half years, but I outgrew that environment, because I started doing special events while I had the shop. I eventually helped start MCR (Magic Carpet Ride), which was our own specialty business for designing weddings and special events, and for which I still do the event planning and wedding planning. The next chapter of wedding planning and design was having a bridal shop. So I now wedding plan, full-time, and have the shop.

What do you enjoy the most about running the shop?
It’s rewarding when they find their dress. It’s really exciting. I’m up for a good challenge. On the wedding planning side, it’s really nice to make their vision come to life, and when you open the doors for the first time, they get to see what the room looks like, and they’re star struck, and it looks just how they wanted it. And the flipside of that coin is when they find that dress and they just feel amazing in it. And it’s the same with bridesmaids. It’s a challenge to find all of the different shapes and styles to coordinate with the bride and with the moms. You’re working with all different personalities. And dresses come to life on people, and they really love them. That’s the most rewarding thing. I have a great customer base and a great team that works here. We love finding dresses for girls, and we like making girls happy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I really enjoy going to the gym. It’s very therapeutic. I don’t have to talk. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to check emails. I don’t have to do anything connected to social media. And I’m a morning person. I really love the mornings. I have three golden retrievers, and I love to spend time with them outside, whether it’s playing ball or going to the park or just hanging out in my back yard. I embrace the mornings with them.

Favorite music?
I love Adele. I love Bruno Mars. I’m into Post Malone and Donell Jones. I love old-school R&B. I like everything. Luke Bryan. I was never a country fan, and suddenly I like his music.

Do you follow sports?
I’m a Notre Dame fan.

Favorite city?
My folks live in Philadelphia, so I do like to go there. There’s a lot of things to do, and I’m a big foodie. I love to try new restaurants.

Favorite vacation spot?
I really enjoyed Aruba the last time I was there, but I also love Mexico. Every time I plan a vacation, I say I’m going to go somewhere different, because I want to see everything, but I have such a soft spot in my heart for Mexico. But Europe is on the bucket list. Italy and Greece are hopefully in the plans for next summer.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I do like the change of the seasons. I’m not a winter person, per se. I like it when it’s about 70 degrees, but I do like the change. I like the fall foliage, and I like it when it’s really hot in the summertime. And I love the local community. I’ve met a lot of great people and am involved with a lot of different things and organizations.

All-time favorite movie? 
“Pretty Woman” and “Dirty Dancing.”

Favorite food?
Sushi. Japanese is my favorite.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Guilty pleasure?
Ice cream. All kinds. (Laughs)

Biggest pet peeve?
I find it very important to thank people. I just think that kindness goes a long way, and that the world is a little bit on the rude side, sometimes, and that we need to take a step back. Just saying “Hello,” or “Good morning” to someone goes a lot further than just brushing past them. I think those things are important.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I’ve worked so much all of my life, but I recently found a love of being outside and being in nature. Walks, hikes, spending time with my dogs … I never really went that route before, but I just went horseback riding, and I want to go kayaking. I’m really starting to embrace nature.

Have you had a defining personal moment, or an event in your life, or a time in your life, that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
I recently went through a divorce, and it changed me as a person. I’ve always been independent, but you learn to become very independent. Simple things like changing things in your house and learning to live by yourself and heal from the process … it’s just been a very big eye-opener to me, in how important my parents are and what a great friends-base I have and what lengths people will go to comfort you and help you and show you that there’s really so much more ahead for you.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

 

Photos by Emma Black and submitted photos

Up Close & Personal – Sean Manley

Up Close & Personal – Sean Manley

Sean Manley is a co-founder of Fight4Vets, a community group focused on helping local veterans, and a controller at Tobyhanna Army Depot. A native of Scranton, he enlisted in the Army after graduating from West Scranton High School, serving in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. He later graduated from Marywood University, where he majored in history and religion and minored in art. He lives in Scranton.
Meet Sean Manley…

Tell us a little about Fight4Vets. 
We try to be the stop-gap for when the system may fail a veteran in need. We like to fill that hole. For example, we helped out a veteran that had gotten in a motorcycle accident with some of his medical bills. Two years ago, we gave a $10,000 in-kind donation to the Gino J. Merli Veterans’ Center to update all of their AV equipment. We also donated to the ongoing effort to put a Veterans Memorial Park near (Scranton) High School, and as recently as last month, we donated $5,000 to Susquehanna Service Dogs to pair a veteran in need with a service dog. And on Nov. 18, we’re putting on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the veterans at St. Francis Commons.

How do you go about raising money for such efforts?
We put on amateur boxing matches. We just did one on Labor Day at the Hilton (Scranton and Conference Center), and our promoter told us that we probably broke the Pennsylvania state record for attendance, as far as amateur events go. We try to only do one boxing match per year, but this year, we were also the beneficiary of The Times-Tribune Golf Tournament. We’ve been around for about three years, and this year, we received our 501(c)3 to make us a legitimate nonprofit.

Was the time that you spent in the service a part of your inspiration for helping found Fight4Vets?
Of course. All through my life, I kind of came from a military background. Veterans and country have always been paramount for us.

What is it that you enjoy the most about the work that you do?
When you’re making large donations to Gino Merli or Susquehanna Service Dogs, it doesn’t get much better than that. The only time is gets better, for me, is when you help someone on a smaller scale, but who doesn’t know where to turn. When you can say, “I got you. I can pick you up.” It’s when you can help someone where the need isn’t so great that the government wouldn’t even bother with them, but they still need a pick-me-up. I like that aspect of it the most.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Mostly watching sports and hanging out with my friends.

Who are some of your favorite teams?
Notre Dame. And I’m a Red Sox and Steelers fan.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists? 
I love Boyz II Men. (Laughs) It’s a very deep-rooted thing for me. When I was a kid, my parents got me a Walkman for Christmas, and obviously they wanted to get me a tape to go with it, and they got me Boyz II Men. So that was the only thing I had to listen to. They were the first concert I ever saw. I guess I was kind of indoctrinated, but I’m OK with that.

Favorite city?
Austin, Texas. There’s just so much to do, and everything is so relaxed and laid back. And they have a great music scene. I also love going down to Philly.

Favorite vacation spot?
It used to be Mexico. I love the beach setting, but I hate the actual beach. I hate going out on the sand. But me and a few friends used to rent a house on the Outer Banks, and that was just the greatest thing. I just enjoyed myself so much there.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I was always the guy in high school that said, “I’m getting out of here.” And then when I joined the Army, all I could do was talk about how great Scranton was and how much I wanted to go back. There’s a lot to do around here, but mostly I’ve always just been lucky with the people that I have surrounded myself with in my life. Scranton people and Northeastern Pennsylvania people are just kind of a different breed of people. I’ve lived in Texas and Georgia, and I’ve been to a bunch of different places around the country, and people here are just different. And in a good way.

All-time favorite movie?
“Braveheart.”

Favorite TV show?
“Game of Thrones” and “The Office.”

Favorite food?
Maroni’s Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July.

Biggest pet peeve?
Spelling and grammar. The misuse of things like their/there/they’re. It drives me bananas.

Any pets?
A boxer named Ally.

Favorite author?
Kahlil Gibran.

Guilty pleasure?
I love beer.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
Around my friends, in social settings, I’m approachable and I’ll approach others. But with groups, especially in front of groups, when I have to speak to people, like with Fight4Vets, it’s downright frightening for me. And everybody is usually like, “You? You’re afraid of public speaking?” Because I’m outgoing. But there’s just something about when I get in front of an audience, I just get really clammed up.

Who, if anyone, has had the greatest impact on your life? Is there anyone that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
Definitely my parents. And especially my father. If I did not have him in my life, I don’t think I would know how to conduct myself as a proper man. And both of my parents really instilled in me the idea that you’re never too important to be nice to someone, and that you should always give back, because sooner or later, you’re going to need it. That taught me that you get what you give. You get back what you put into life. Without them, who knows where I’d be?

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Up Close & Personal – Rob Husty

Up Close & Personal – Rob Husty

Rob Husty is a professional musician and lead guitarist with the band Three Imaginary Boys. He also is a guitar instructor with Andrea Bogusko Music Co. and works full-time in the accounting department with Guard Insurance, both in Wilkes-Barre. Husty, a Wilkes-Barre native, graduated from Bishop Hoban High School and Wilkes University, where he earned a degree in accounting. He lives in Wilkes-Barre.

Meet Rob Husty…

You’re only 30 years old, but you’re considered one of the best guitarists in NEPA. When did you first discover the instrument?
My dad always played. He used to play in bands back in the ’70s, before I was born, so when I came along, there were always guitars and things like that around the house. I picked it up really early. His story is that I was humming Yardbirds songs before I could even talk, and he was pretty happy about that. (Laughs) I started taking lessons, seriously, when I was about 7 at Bogusko’s, and 23 years later, I’m still there, teaching. It just snowballed from there. My guitar teacher from there just had his 82nd birthday, and he was into all of this old county music like Merle Haggard … so I was listening to that. And then I’d come home, and my dad was teaching me the Beatles and the Stones and Hendrix, so I was kind of getting hit at a very early age with everything.

Your brother, Tim, plays with you in Three Imaginary Boys, and you’ve released three albums. What’s next for the band?
We’re writing some new stuff right now, and we’re really excited about it. In the past, it was me and Tim doing a lot of the writing, and now, with Mike Wintermute in the band, he is such a great musician that it’s taken on a whole new direction. We’re really excited about it. We didn’t start recording yet, but we have a bunch of demos done.

You play with quite a few other artists as well. You play with 40-Lb. Head and, from what I’ve heard, you’re also working with Eddie Appnel on his next record.
Yeah, I get random phone calls all the time (like), “Hey, are you free tonight? Can you sit in with us?” (Laughs) That happens a lot.

You’re also a big part of the weekly open-mic jams at Tony’s Wine Cellar in Pittston. Those seem like really fun shows.
It’s just a fantastic experience. I get to play with all of these people that are fantastic. And it’s catching on, where people just want to hear live music, and they just come because they don’t know what they’re going to see or what to expect. It’s just grown, every week. Initially, there were just five or six people there, and now it’s hard to get a seat.

Who are some of your all-time favorite
artists?
Jeff Beck. And early Eric Clapton, from the Cream days. And Jimmy Page. Paul Kossoff is another big one, from Free. And now, Joe Bonamassa. He’s probably my top guy that’s out now.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love hiking. Every Sunday, that’s what I’m doing, and I’m always trying to find new places. My life is so loud, being around music, that I love just going out to the middle of nowhere and not hearing anything. It’s nice. And when I’m not playing music, I’m learning it and trying to absorb whatever I can.

All-time favorite movie?
“They Live” and the original “Night of the Living Dead.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Walking Dead.”

Favorite city?
New York City is great. They have everything. Food, entertainment — they’ve got it all.

Favorite vacation spot?
My favorite vacation was last year, when I went to the country of Georgia. It was just the most mind-blowing experience I’ve ever had. I went with two friends, one of whom is from there, and she lives in the mountains. There’s no electricity. There’s nothing. We rode horses for two days to get to the village that she’s from on top of these mountains, higher than the clouds. We camped in tents. It was pretty cool.

Favorite food? 
Mexican.

Favorite books?
“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite things about NEPA?
The music scene is fantastic. There’s talent everywhere. And there’s just so many people that are so welcoming. In other areas, it’s a competition, and you don’t find that around here very much. That’s another thing that I like about Tony’s. Everybody just gets together and just has a good time. I love that. And I love the scenery of this area. Again, I love hiking, and I love the outdoors. I was in Scouts my whole life — I’m an Eagle Scout — so I like the camping part of it. And the food is pretty good.

Favorite quote or catch phrase?
“What goes around comes around.”

Biggest pet peeve?
Arrogant people. People that put themselves on a pedestal. I’m not a fan of that.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
One thing that people don’t seem to realize until they get to know me is that I have two different colored eyes. I have a brown and a blue eye.

Have you had an event in your life, or a person in your life, that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
My dad introducing me to music and the guitar at such an early age. I have no idea what I’d be doing without music. Ninety percent of my day is devoted to music.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Up Close & Personal – Cathleen Rivera

Up Close & Personal – Cathleen Rivera

Cathleen Rivera owns and operates Loose Leaf Pages Inc., an independent bookstore and tea bar in Honesdale. The store highlights local authors and independent publishers. Rivera is a native of Honesdale and graduated from Honesdale High School and Kutztown University, where she earned a degree in English literature. She and her husband, Travis, live in Honesdale.

Meet Cathleen Rivera…

What was your inspiration for first opening Loose Leaf Pages Inc.?
The more I got to know the area, I saw how much talent was right here, and I really wanted to highlight that. I didn’t just want a “throw-them-a-bone” small little local authors section in the store. I really wanted that to be the main reason for the store. And then, once I was doing some research for publishing works of my own, I saw how intense large publishing can be, and I found really amazing small publishing companies that cared a lot about what the author had to say. And so the rest of the store — even if they’re books from across the country — they’re from companies that maybe only two or three people work at and that really cherish the works of literature that they’re producing. And just because it’s not published by a large publishing company doesn’t mean it’s not a really superb work of literature.

Is the tea also a key component to the business?
The tea is a big part. It’s all organic, and all of the blends are our own original blends, which is a fun and creative avenue. And there are certainly people that come in and just want a cup of tea and to talk to their friends and relax. And we can certainly accommodate that. But I’ve had a really good response from the community so far in regards to the books, so there’s a nice balancing act. I always love a good cup of tea with my book, and I was kind of hoping when I opened that other people did, too.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really like to either read or watch Netflix. And I like to go running.

Favorite musical artists?
Moon Taxi, Broken Bells and the Oh Hellos.

All-time favorite movie?
“An Education.” The screenplay was written by one of my favorite authors, Nick Horby.

Favorite TV show?
I’m really looking forward to “Stranger Things 2.” And my all-time favorite is probably “Parks and Recreation.”

Favorite city?
Philadelphia.

Favorite vacation spot?
I really like the beach. Anytime I go anywhere with sand, I get super happy.

Favorite thing about NEPA? 
I absolutely love the sense of community. I’ve lived in Honesdale for such a long time, and I’ve seen it grow. I worked in Scranton and have seen an awesome community there. I really feel it’s a place that takes care of itself and the other communities around it.

Favorite food?
I’m really digging Indian vegetable curry right now.

Favorite holiday?
Halloween. I love going all-out for costumes, so it gives me a reason to dress as crazy as I would like to every other day.

Favorite book or author?
Angela Carter. It’s really hard to nail down a specific book, but she has a bunch of short stories, some of which play on modern fairy tales. She wrote her stuff in the 1960s, and that blows my mind — just how forward-thinking her work was, especially for that time. When I first read her works, there was just a fire ignited in me that doesn’t come along with every book you read.

Guilty pleasure?
A nice glass of white wine.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people don’t follow through with what they said they were going to do. They say “I’ll see you at 8,” and they’re not there until 8:20. Or they’ll say they’ll do a job for you, and the next day I find out it’s not done.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m not involved with the troupe anymore, but I was a part of an improv comedy troupe. It was really fun, and I don’t think people expect that from me, because typically, in everyday life, I’m more on the quiet side.

Have you had a defining personal moment, or someone, or something, that has really helped shape you as a person?
Both of my parents have had such a positive impact on my life. I’ve made countless decisions to get to where I am today, and they’ve supported me and encouraged me to follow my heart in every choice that I’ve made. Even with the ones that might not have made sense to an outsider at the time — they’ve been there to help me rise and there to catch me if I fall.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Alexandra MacNamara

Up Close & Personal – Alexandra MacNamara

Alexandra MacNamara is the theater manager and performing arts marketing director at Wyoming Seminary and the coordinator of Northeastern Pennsylvania Film Festival. A native of Waverly Twp. and a graduate of Wyoming Seminary and the School of Visual Arts in New York, she received her master’s degree in art business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York. She lives in Clarks Summit.
Meet Alexandra MacNamara…

You began your position at Wyoming Seminary in January of this year. Ten months in, what do you enjoy about it the most?
I love seeing our kids. I love our community. And I love making our community more special than it already is, if that’s even possible. I really love booking outside acts. We’ve had some amazing acts this year. We just had the Limon Dance Company, which is a world-famous modern-dance company, coming in from New York. They’re actually the only modern-dance company to ever dance at the White House. And we have Leslie Odom Jr. coming, who was in “Hamilton.” I love maximizing the utilization of that gorgeous theater. It was built in 2014, and it’s really state-of-the-art. We could practically have a Broadway show there. That’s how advanced it is. And it’s so nice to see our kids and our faculty use it. It furthers the very professional attitude that’s taken on by our students.

 

Can you tell us a little about the Northeastern Pennsylvania Film Festival? 
It’s happening in three locations from Oct. 20 to 22. Opening night is at the Waverly Community House. On Saturday, there will be films from 1 p.m. until around 9 p.m. at the Iron Horse Movie Bistro in Scranton. And we’re going to have a screening at Wyoming Seminary on Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. It’s an international film festival. We have films from Iran and Australia and as close as Scranton and Kingston. We really have a wide range of independent filmmakers and films from all over the world. There’s something for everyone. We’ll have everything from documentaries to animations to comedies, horror and dramas. You really get a lot out of your experience.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I love to be with my friends and spending time with my family. And I love to be outdoors. I love to kayak. I love to hike. And I love to go to local events. There’s so much to do every weekend; I really like to take advantage of it.

Any hobbies?
I’m a ceramic artist. I haven’t had time to do it lately, but I’m a hobbyist potter.

Favorite music?
Radiohead.

Favorite city?
New York. I have so many friends there, and I love the art scene there and going out (to) galleries and museums. Having access to so much culture, so close, is a great part of living here. Outside of the U.S., I love Barcelona, Paris and Milan. But Milan and New York are probably my favorites, just for the amount of art and fashion.

Favorite place to vacation?
Anywhere in Northern California.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I have so many favorite things, but I think it all comes down to the people that are here. Our changing demographics. And our newfound ability to embrace change and progress and grow. And that all really comes back to the people that are here and that are making these things happen. The people are improving this area for everyone else — their children, their parents — they’re my favorites.

All-time favorite movies? 
“Hiroshima Mon Amour” and “Natural Born Killers.”

Favorite TV show?
“Stranger Things.”

Favorite food?
Any kind of French cuisine.

Favorite holiday?
Valentine’s Day.

Favorite book or author?
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.

Guilty pleasure?
Cheese.

Biggest pet peeve?
Poor manners. Rudeness.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m an open book with my friends and like to tell stories, so everyone knows everything about me. (Laughs)

Have you had an event in your life, or a person in your life, that has helped shape you or define you as a person?
My school art teacher, Dan Kruger. He was at Sem when I was a student, and he’s still there. And I don’t think, if I hadn’t taken his art classes, that I would have pursued a career in art. He made me and all of his students feel that we could absolutely pursue careers in the arts. Either as artists, or arts in administration, or art therapy, or whatever. … He really opened my view to all of the possibilities in the art world and finding a niche in there.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Tommy Lin

Up Close & Personal – Tommy Lin

Tommy Lin is the bar manager of Cooper’s Seafood House, Scranton, and a drummer and songwriter with the band Existentialism. A native of Taiwan, Lin has lived in Northeast Pennsylvania since 1982 and graduated from Scranton High School and University of Scranton. He lives in Dunmore.

Meet Tommy Lin…

You’ve been at Cooper’s for 18 years, and you’ve been the bar manager for nine years. What do you enjoy about it?

The people. These people come in, and I’m an entertainer. And there’s nothing like seeing the regulars. They’ll come in, and I’ll be like, “How was Miami?” or “How was your son’s first baseball game?” They literally become extended members of my family. Customers text me and ask me if I’m working. And it’s also the people that work here. The reason we’re good and we’re an established place is because of the people within. And it’s family-owned, and the owners obviously play an integral part. They treat me very well, and they give us the tools to succeed.

Tell us a little about your music. 
Music is a love and a hobby. I find it to be an outlet and a passion and nothing more. I’ve probably recorded 10 albums, but I stopped playing out in 2006. I played in the Scranton hard-core scene in the ’90s and was with Burial Ground for nine years, but I got desensitized by music. I became a recluse. There’s people that like music, and then there’s people that like music, and I find that most people don’t like music the way that I like music. I have more than 1,600 CDs. I’ve attended more than 600 concerts. And I listen to all underground metal. Nothing commercial. I’m a thrash drummer. I grew up in the ’80s with a lot of thrash bands, and I enjoyed thrash, and I later branched out into death metal and black metal. Most of the music I listen to is from Scandinavia. And I still play every day. But I just play music because I love it. It’s an extension of myself.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
Music. I’m constantly going to concerts. And I enjoy shopping for music. I like the digital age, but I also like holding a CD. I’m also an avid Transformer collector. And I spend about 40 to 60 days snowboarding every year. I also enjoy waterfall hunting. I search for waterfalls that are huge and grand and out of the way. I also enjoy doing things with my best friend, Susie. She attends concerts with me and does everything with me, and she means the world to me. I’m never idle. I’m up and I’m out.

Who are some of your favorite bands?
Overkill. Iron Maiden. Right now I’m listening to Samael, Borknagar, Vintersorg and Amorphis.

All-time favorite movie? 
“Fight Club.”

Favorite TV show?
“Dateline NBC.” And, growing up, “Wings” and “Mister Ed.”

Favorite city?
Philly. For sports events and concerts, I go to Philly.

Do you follow sports?
Phillies, Eagles and Flyers. But sports will always be secondary. Music will always be first. If Iron Maiden was playing at the Wells Fargo Center and the Phillies were going to game seven of the World Series, I’m going to go see Iron Maiden. But I’ve been to 122 games at Citizens Bank Park. Sports, to me, is entertainment.

Favorite place to vacation?
Okemo, Vermont, for snowboarding.

Favorite food?
Taiwan. A dish called Ba-wan.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Let’s just say God works too slow.” It’s from the “X-Men.”

Any nicknames?
“Tyrant.”

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
No, because I always throw it out there. Working here, I always feel that you should be honest and extend yourself.

Have you had a moment in your life, or an event in your life, that has helped shape you or define you as a person?
I lost my sister to cancer in 2013. We grew up together. We were immigrants, and my parents were busy working two jobs. We actually didn’t come here for a “better opportunity.” We actually had a good opportunity (in Taiwan). I always find that people that leave their birthplace do it for a better opportunity or a better family environment. Ours was the latter. It was better for us to leave. And so my sister and I grew up together. My parents started working overseas again, and she pretty much raised me. The last four years have been trying … and the grieving process for everyone is different. Mine has been spread out. And I haven’t felt like myself for four years. I was just doing things just to pass the days since she died. Even though I was snowboarding, waterfall hunting and going to concerts, it was just something so that I didn’t have to think about her passing. And now I’m coming out of that, and I enjoy waterfall hunting and going to concerts again. I enjoy playing music again. I am slowly recovering who I was, or who I think she’d be proud of.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

 

Up Close & Personal – Dave Senecal

Up Close & Personal – Dave Senecal

David Senecal is the bassist with the band Clever Clever. He is a native of Scranton and graduated from Western Wayne High School. In addition to his work with music, he also is an auto body paint technician with Kelly’s Collision. He lives in Scranton.

Meet David Senecal…

Tell us a little about your career in music, prior to forming Clever Clever.
The drummer and I have been in bands together since high school. One group, Razeland, was post hard-core type stuff, and we had some really good shows. We got to play at the original CBGB in New York City, which was awesome — to be on that stage that so many different musicians were on and even just to be in some of the back rooms where the bands hung out. It was really cool. And we also played at the Trocadero in Philly at a “Battle of the Bands.”

Clever Clever formed three years ago. Tell us a little about that project.
We wanted to break away from the heavier genre and possibly do something more rock and more punk. A lot of heavier music — if you think of it as a formula — always has that moment with a heavy breakdown. With this project, we wanted to break away from that and kind of just flow with it and be a little bit less aggressive and see where that went. It’s more thrash/punk. Some of the songs are even a little poppy. We’re currently going through some transitions with band members, but we plan to move forward with our music.

How long have you played bass?
I actually learned how to play bass playing the upright bass, reading sheet music and playing in the orchestra of the Scranton Intermediate School. They had an awesome music program. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I played violin. And then when I got to middle school, I was already in an advanced class, and they asked us what string instrument we’d like to play. I saw the big one in the back and said “I want that one.” (Laughs) For the next three years, I was in the string orchestra playing the stand-up bass.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Deftones and Queens of the Stone Age.

How did you first get into auto body work?
I’ve been in the automotive industry since high school. As a kid, I’d always take things apart and put them back together. That was always a part of my personality. I was always interested in the way things work. My stepfather and my father were both jacks-of-all-trades. They were both always doing things with their hands, and so I also got into that at an early age. I’d always work on my own bicycles and try to build cool bikes. Later, in high school, I worked at a car wash detailing cars, and my mother told me about an opening at a body shop. And that was the start of my auto body career as a profession.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like going the gym, putting on the headphones and listening to music.

Any hobbies?
Motorcycles. I have three. And I like to work on them. I have a small garage at home. It’s something I like to do over the course of the winter to keep me busy. I’ll end up ripping one of my bikes apart or picking up a project bike. Or, some of my friends might want some custom paint, upgrades or repairs.

All-time favorite movie?
“Reservoir Dogs”

Favorite city?
Philadelphia. They have lots of really good food there, the shopping districts are really cool, and there’s a lot of music venues.

Favorite vacation spot?
Down south. Virginia. Outer Banks.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
Having so many things to do in one small area. In the winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding, sleigh-riding and tubing. In the summer, there’s lakes and rivers and hiking trails. There’s something to do around every corner. You can’t get bored in this area.

Favorite food? 
Chicken.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Do you follow sports?
Philadelphia Eagles.

Guilty pleasure?
Certain pop songs. They’re so catchy. They just know how to grab your ear. (Laughs) There’s a Bruno Mars song that I like.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
It’s my own: “I was never good with a Rubik’s Cube, but I’m great with Legos.”

Biggest pet peeve?
Slow, non-signaling drivers.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’ve never been on an airplane. I’ve been up and down the East Coast quite a bit, but the opportunity to fly just never really came. Yet.

Have you had a defining personal moment? Something that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My mother passed away from cancer when I was 21. After that, I tried taking a lot of what her and my father had taught me and really applying it to my life. When she passed, I realized that a lot of the things that she taught me growing up had stuck with me, and I tried applying a lot of it to my life, towards my drive. My mother took care of me and three sisters on her own for a while. She was a tough woman. And though it took a lot of tough love, I try to live my life the way my parents would want me to.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at
alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close and & Personal – Maria Wheatley

Up Close and & Personal – Maria Wheatley

Maria Wheatley is a pharmaceutical representative, specializing in oncology medications, with Pharmacyclics and a certified yoga instructor with Nearme Yoga, Moosic and Peckville, who also has volunteered at River Front Yoga, Wilkes-Barre. She is a native of Old Forge and a graduate of Bishop Hannon High School and Wilkes University, where she earned a degree in biology. She and her husband, Bob, live in Moosic.
Meet Maria Wheatley…

Earlier this year, you received your RYT 200 yoga certification and are now a certified instructor. When did you first develop an interest in yoga? 
I started practicing yoga a few years ago and then decided to enter into the teacher-training (program). I fell in love with it for the physical aspects — as most students of yoga do — but through the practice of yoga, I found the benefits to be not only physical but (also) mental. I enjoy having a quiet mind for a few hours and controlling your body with your breath. I entered into the teacher training in July of 2016 and graduated in January.

Do you enjoy teaching yoga?
I love it. I love seeing how the students that come to my class develop after having class with me. And, having not taught very long, I love seeing my own transition and development in teaching.

You’ve been in pharmaceutical sales for 25 years and have specialized in oncology products for 15 years. What do you enjoy about it?
I like having conversations with physicians about specific patients who could benefit from what I sell, which is a targeted therapy or supported care. And I like that those conversations aren’t broad, as if we were talking about all of their patients. They’re very specific to particular patients and how they can benefit from the medications. And I like having follow-up conversations with physicians about patients who are on my medications and are doing well.

What do you do in your free time to relax?
Working two jobs, when is my free time? (Laughs) When I’m not teaching yoga, I literally try to practice yoga every day. And my husband and I like to travel. We go to London every December for a week. And we’ve been to Alaska and around the United States as well as several European countries. But we also enjoy just going to the Minooka Pub and watching Notre Dame. My family also lives close by, so I like to hang out with them as well as friends.

Favorite music?
I like all kinds of music, though my very favorite is Beyonce. I also love Steely Dan. I’m all over the board. I listen to pop. My husband loves jazz, so we also listen to that a lot.

Do you follow sports?
Mostly college football. I love Notre Dame football, and my husband loves Notre Dame football. He’s also a big Cowboys fan and has been since he was little, so we watch the Cowboys every Sunday. And we watch college basketball during March Madness. We’ve actually gone to Las Vegas to watch March Madness.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Sound of Music.”

Favorite TV show?
Currently it’s “The Real Housewives” of anywhere. (Laughs)

Favorite city?
London.

Favorite vacation spot?
Also London. We’ve been there a dozen times, so when we go there, it’s not as if we have to run to Westminster Abbey and go see Big Ben. We literally live in London for a week and go to local pubs and walk to different neighborhoods.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The fact that all of my friends and family are here. I guess most people would say the seasons, but I would just like summer to be its own year-round reason. (Laughs) But this is where I’m from. It’s where home is. And there’s something really lovely about the community here.

Favorite food?
Pizza. I’m from Old Forge, and my grandparents had one of the original pizza places in Old Forge. What’s now Café Rinadli used to be a Lettieri’s.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Guilty pleasure?
Beer.

Biggest pet peeve?
Grammatical errors. And people that don’t say “thank you” when you let them pull out in front of you. I drive about 1,000 miles a week, so I have a lot of time to observe people’s road manners, or lack thereof.

Favorite book or author?
Jennifer Weiner.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
I say it all the time in my classes, and I say it all the time to myself: “Take a moment to say something nice to yourself.” I think, in our heads, we’re very critical of ourselves. We’re very quick to say, “That looks terrible on me” or “My hair looks bad.” But in moments like that, when you’re sitting in traffic and you find yourself getting angry, just take a moment to say something nice to yourself.

Have you had a defining moment in your life, or someone in your life, that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
I think I’m a pretty good combination of both of my parents. The older I get, I see a lot of my own self in them and a lot of them in me. Overall, I’m cut directly from the Lettieri cloth. As for a moment, a couple of years ago, we were renovating our home, and the builder went to jail. And we were left, literally, with nothing but studs and mess of the home that we had lived in for 10 years. This was someone that was willing to take our money and leave our house half-done. And so we lived with my brother and his family, in his basement, for 10 months. And for all of the bad that was happening in our lives with our house and the builder, people were genuinely kind about it. My brother and his wife went out of their way to allow us to live there, and even their neighbors — who became our neighbors during that time — never missed an opportunity to ask how things were going. And our neighbors, when we would stop back to our house, always came over to offer to help in any way that they could. That was a moment in time that showed us the goodness
of people.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Stephen Murphy

Up Close & Personal – Stephen Murphy

Stephen Murphy is the lead vocalist and keyboardist with the band Black Tie Stereo, which will release its second EP on Friday, Sept. 29, with a party at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, Scranton. Murphy also is a freelance composer and accompanist who has composed music for theatrical productions. He also served as music director for Arts Alive for the past 10 years. A graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a degree in music composition with a minors in piano performance, conducting and accompanying, he lives in Scranton.
Meet Stephen Murphy…

Let’s talk about the new music from Black Tie Stereo. What would you say is the biggest difference between this EP and the first EP?
The first album was sort of a compilation of songs that I had written, some with the other band members, and some on my own. With this one, the four of us in the band actually sat down and fleshed out all of the ideas that we had and picked the five songs that we liked the best and that our producer liked the best. It’s the first one where the songs actually have all four of our styles and incorporate all of our writing. It’s really the first time we went through everything with a fine-toothed comb and said, “This is how we want to present ourselves.”

Who have been some of your major musical influences? I hear some Maroon 5.
Personally, I grew up playing classical music and playing Billy Joel. We share a birthday, which is really cool, and I can really relate to him as a singer/pianist. He’s a huge influence on me, just because he’s so good. I also love film scores from people like Hans Zimmer and John Williams, and that goes into my compositional work, and that bleeds over into the stuff with the band. Vocally, I really like guys like Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco and Freddie Mercury. All of those things come together, and I like to pick out different aspects from each one and blend them all together.

What usually inspires you to write?
Everyone goes through their own journeys and has their own problems and their own ups and downs, and what I try to do is find the scenario that I or one of our bandmates or one of my friends or someone that I saw on the street is going through. And I try to put myself in that mindset. Even if it’s not something that I’m feeling at the time, I make it what I’m feeling at the time. That’s what I try to do. Even though the songs that we do with the band come through my voice, sometimes it’s a different narrator each time. In the song “Run Jamie Run,” I’m talking to someone that I noticed might be in a relationship that they shouldn’t have been, and I’m trying to sing to them. With “Miss Romance,” I’m noticing that in today’s culture, someone that might be looking for a long-term partner, rather than a Tinder match, has a hard time dating. We try to relate to people in each of the songs while still remaining true to our voice.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Going out and hearing other bands, grabbing a craft beer, playing video games. And we do a lot of hanging out as a band.

Do you follow sports?
Red Sox and Cowboys.

All-time favorite movie?
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

Favorite TV show?
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Favorite city?
I had the best time in New Orleans. But San Diego is also really good.

Favorite place to vacation?
I haven’t been there in a while, but I really like Ocean City, Maryland. It’s the beach, but it’s also always busy with a lot happening. I like that better than just a peaceful beach.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
It’s a very close-knit community. It’s always nice to see people from here, because they’re always very unique, and you can always relate, because there’s a lot of like-minded opinions. At least in the circles that I run in.

Favorite food?
Hot wings.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Favorite book or author?
“Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton.

Guilty pleasure?
Video games. I play whenever I can.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
In high school, I was in all of the plays, and now, I’m on stage all the time. But I’m far more comfortable in an orchestra pit. If I’m playing a keyboard in an orchestra pit and conducting, I actually feel more engaged with the audience than if I’m acting or performing on stage.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that really helped shape you into the person you are today?
My grandmother would watch my sister and I while my parents were at work. When I’d come home from school in first or second grade, she’d say, “OK, you can do your homework, you can help me in the yard, or you can practice piano.” And I would always choose to practice piano. Half of it was because I loved piano, but a lot of it was because I didn’t want to do yard work or homework. (Laughs) But I didn’t like to practice, so that sort of developed into her saying, “OK, if you’re not going to practice, at least just play.” And so I had to sit at the piano and just play music for a half hour or an hour, and that led to me improvising and composing. And that evolved into sitting at the piano for hours every day. Sometimes I’d practice, and then I’d write and improvise, and it just really developed not only a love for music but (also) all of the different skills that I have as a musician.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

Photos by Emma Black