Up Close & Personal – Kevin Stanford

Up Close & Personal – Kevin Stanford

Kevin Stanford is an academic adviser for undergraduate students in the Kania School of Management at the University of Scranton. He is passionate about chameleons, which he breeds and sells. He has been featured in podcasts on chameleonbreeder.com, and his chameleons were featured in a National Geographic video “Beautiful Footage: Chameleons Are Amazing.” A graduate of Western Wayne High School, Stanford earned a degree in business from Penn State University and plans to receive his master’s degree in business administration from U of S this spring. He lives in Scranton with his boyfriend, Brian.

Meet Kevin Stanford…

What is working with dozens of undergraduate students every day like?
I love it. It definitely felt like I found my niche when I found this job. I’ve known I wanted to get into higher education for quite a few years, but I didn’t know specifically what job, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What is your favorite part about being an academic adviser?
Seeing someone come in as a freshman and then completely changing into a grown-up and how much they mature and everything that they’ve done, then watching them walk across the stage at graduation.

What about chameleons interests you?
Just how different they are. I love the fact that they change color and they have long tongues and they have oven mitt-looking hands and their eyes look in different directions at once, so they’re not just the typical reptile.

Why did you get into chameleon breeding?
Specifically chameleons was about 15 years ago. I had lots of snakes, lizards, frogs and all sorts of things growing up, which was kind of a mixture of my parents because my mom kept fuzzy animals and my dad brought home stuff like snakes. I liked the challenge of chameleons, because they’re a lot harder to keep and breed than other groups of reptiles.

What are some challenges that make chameleons difficult to breed?
The eggs can take up to a year to hatch. Some of them require cooling, so I may need to hibernate the eggs after a month and a half at room temperature. I’ll lower the temperature to 50 degrees for the next month and a half, then back to room temperature. Once the hatchlings come out of the eggs, just raising them can be a challenge, too. One of the most frustrating things, and it used to happen a lot, was realizing that there wasn’t enough vitamin A in the parents for the Carpet Chameleons, so the babies would incubate for the entire 12 months and the eggs would be ready to hatch, but instead of breaking open, the baby would die full-term inside. It took me a couple years, with about a 10-percent success rate, to figure out that was what I was missing. That was really frustrating, especially when you wait a year to see something and there was nothing you could do at that point.

What is the breeding process like?
Once I have an adult pair, you test the female for being receptive. When they are, they’ll get mellow colors. After breeding, you separate them immediately because they don’t like each other. The female is usually pregnant for about a month. Once she’s around her due date, you can either see or feel the eggs in her abdomen. You put her in a garbage can or bucket with about eight inches of moist sand, and she’ll dig a tunnel and lay her eggs, then cover them up. Then you dig up the eggs and put them in something called vermiculite. Most of the species I have lay between 10 to 20 eggs at one time. I put the eggs in a vermiculite and spring-water mixture and put them in deli cups to incubate them for nine to 12 months.

What is something you want people to know about chameleons?
As far as pets go, if you’re going to get one, do a lot of research beforehand, because they’re more high-maintenance than other animals. I have automated misting systems that go off six times a day and require drainage. I have ultrasonic humidifiers in the cages that go off for three hours at night and in the morning. I have expensive ultraviolet lights that come from overseas. The insects (chameleons eat) need to be fed the proper stuff before you feed it to the chameleon; they call it gutloading. A lot of this overlaps with other animals, but chameleons are less-forgiving of mistakes.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Being successful at something that is a challenge, (and) when you do well in areas that maybe a lot of people don’t. I spend a lot of time in the room with chameleons just watching them. It’s sort of like my Zen garden and relaxing.

Why do chameleons change color?
It’s a popular thought that the reason chameleons change color is to match their surroundings, but that’s not the case. They change for different physiological and psychological reasons. If a female is not receptive to a male, she’ll get really bright colors and patterns. She might lighten her colors to show that she is receptive. Males will do the same thing when they’re fighting with other males. Also, if it’s really hot, they’ll get really light colored, just like if you would wear light-colored clothing to reflect the heat in a warm climate. If they’re cold, they could get really dark to absorb the heat from the sun.

What are your hobbies outside of breeding chameleons?
I like the gym, and I love the outdoors. Ever since I was little, my dad took me hiking. I was in eighth grade when I saw my first rattlesnake, and I was super excited. That kind of got me hooked, so I like to be outdoors as much as I can.

For more on Kevin Stanford’s chameleons check out his Facebook page Kevin Stanford Chameleons

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Danielle Fleming

Up Close & Personal – Danielle Fleming

Danielle Fleming co-owns NOTE Fragrances, 401 Spruce St., Scranton, and recently opened the shop’s second location at 312 S. State St., Clarks Summit. Her pink peony fragrance has been featured by Ipsy, a nationally distributed, monthly cosmetic subscription service, and she has been featured in Elle and Cosmopolitan magazines and on MSNBC. Fleming graduated from Abington Heights High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Moravian College in Bethlehem and master’s degrees in mental health counseling and instructional leadership from Marywood University. She lives in Dunmore with her husband and co-owner of NOTE, Mark Bonfiglio.

Meet Danielle Fleming…

What is NOTE Fragrances?
NOTE Fragrances is a boutique perfumery and a custom perfume studio. A boutique perfumery means we are a small-scale, artisan-batch perfumery. We do everything in small batches; everything is handmade and hand-produced. We’ve used machines for some things, but “boutique” really means the scale. You’re not going to find our brand at Macy’s. It’s more of a niche perfume brand.

What is a “note”?
“Note” is another way to say “a scent.” When you build a fragrance, notes are the building blocks. There are top, middle and base notes. We categorize them based on their molecular structure and weight. Building a fragrance is combining the notes, and that’s how NOTE became the brand name as well.

What was your business experience prior to NOTE Fragrances?
I had a company called Danielle & Co. that I ran from when I was 22 up until NOTE in 2013. We re-branded Danielle & Co. into NOTE because we wanted to focus on the custom perfume studio experience and the connection of the psychology of scent and getting people to connect with aromas.

What led you to opening a second location in Clarks Summit?
Danielle & Co. was originally based in Clarks Summit, and when we moved into Scranton, we saw some fallout from customers in (Clarks Summit). So as we were approaching this past holiday season, we said let’s do a pop-up (shop) and get our Clarks Summit customers to know this new brand, NOTE Fragrances. So we decided to pop up. We were just a pop-up, but the feedback was so wonderful, and people really wanted us to stay. It beat our projections, and all the signs said stay.

What is it like to be back in your hometown?
There is always a sense of home. I spent my childhood and high school years here, and I also built my first business here. So it was coming home on a business level and a personal level, so it feels really good.

How did studying psychology, mental health counseling and instructional leadership lead you to opening a perfume studio?
I started studying the psychology of scent. I was interning at the University of Scranton’s counseling center. I noticed that the students I was working with needed something else besides talking. I wanted to create something that wasn’t seen as medication. I originally just wanted to be a psychologist, but I was so fascinated by the powerful effects of aromas and how we connect to them and how they enhance our memory, alter our mood and can make us feel happy or whatever it is we are looking for. I’ve been studying that for a long time and realized that what connects to one person doesn’t necessarily connect to the next person. The purpose behind creating the studio was to get people to create something that they connect to.

Can you describe the custom perfume studio experience?
We try to talk to the customer first before we start sniffing to get a good sense of what they’re comfortable with. That helps them get used to the process, but it also helps us to better design for them. Then there’s a 10-minute demonstration where we talk about working with the perfumer’s organ; this is where they will sniff different notes, (and) we explain what scent families mean and how they work together. We also explain the note classifications. Then they will dip blotters into the different scented oils and put their blend together. We really want the customer to control the process and to be the designer of it.

Why is working with the sense of smell significant?
People connect to it. We’ve had people make fragrances to connect to loved ones who passed away or for a loved one. We’ve had brides create their own fragrance to wear on their wedding day, and what’s more special than to have your own signature scent on your wedding day? I did it for myself, and every time I wear the fragrance, I go back to the island I got married on. That is the powerful effect of aroma and how it works with our brain. It’s fascinating to watch and see people. Some have been brought to tears going through the experience.

What inspires your ideas for scents?
I get inspired a lot by the environment, so a lot of my creations are based off of trips I’ve taken. Santal Woods is based off a walk I took on the coast of Maine. Orchid Noir is based off of our honeymoon in St. Lucia. At night, you could smell all the night’s blooming flowers and spices of the kitchen. A lot of times when I’m in a certain environment, I get inspired and say, “How can I translate that and what I experienced into a fragrance?”

What are some of your interests outside of the business?
I like to travel. My husband and I really love the Finger Lakes Region of New York, so we go up there quite a bit. We lived there for a year when we had a shop there. During that experience, I got into wine. I had the chance to become friends with a lot of wine-makers, so I watched them, and we actually developed a line of candles based off of those relationships.

What is something, personally or professionally, being a business owner has taught you?
What I’ve learned about myself is we can always handle more than we think. I’ve also learned that what you think is a really big deal, whether it’s good or bad, six months down the road, it’s just a blip on the radar. I’ve learned to become a better businessperson by not allowing perfection to hinder my progress.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Kari Johnson

Up Close & Personal – Kari Johnson

Kari Johnson owns AOS Metals, 527 Bogart Place, Scranton, where she designs and sells handmade jewelry. She describes her products as “simple and classic, but something that will last forever and stay in style.” A graduate of Tunkhannock Area High School, she attended Keystone College and lived in Jackson, Wyoming, for 12 years, where she studied at University of Wyoming. She lives in Clarks Summit with her dog, Milo.

Meet Kari Johnson…

How did you get into jewelry making?
It first started when I was living out in Jackson, Wyoming. I was just looking for a creative outlet to do during the winter since it’s nine months of winter. Jackson is a huge arts town, so it was really great to be able to try different things. I did some pottery, I did some metal-smithing, and I really loved it. Being able to melt metal and hammer metal was a great outlet.

What led to your hobby becoming a business?
When I really started to take it seriously as a hobby, it got very expensive. The tools aren’t cheap; the metal isn’t cheap. I went to a farmer’s market in Jackson thinking, I” should try to sell some of this stuff to support my habit,” and it went really well, so I kind of just took it from there.

How do you choose the specific materials you use?
Everything I pick, I hand-pick. The blues and greens are turquoise, from people out in Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. They mine it themselves. They’re lapidary artists, so they’re bringing it back to their studio and cutting it how they see the colors. It’s another way to support the arts instead of buying from overseas where it’s mass-produced. That way I get to actually pick what I’m receiving.

Your logo is an iconic feather. How did it come to be?
I think there’s a stance with feathers that is special to so many people. I know a lot of people think that when they find a feather, a loved one who passed away is thinking of them. I think they just symbolize so many beautiful things to so many people. It’s fun to help them have that memory.

Can you describe some of the processes and techniques you use?
We’ll go back to the feathers. It’s very time-consuming. Each feather starts completely as a sheet of metal. I trace the feather and go in with a tiny jeweler’s saw and cut it out. Then you fire them; I have to solder the spine on and cut the wire. When it’s fired, each one comes out differently (colored). I try to pair them up so they have a similar color palette. 

You recently started teaching jewelry-making classes. What can people expect if they sign up for a class?
They’re a lot of fun. They’re BYOB, so that always helps. You get a bar, and you can learn how to stamp using all the different designs and learn about the pressure of the hammer and how you’re indenting. I talk about some of the different metals we use and what effect the stamp has on that metal.

Have you gotten any interesting custom requests?
Sometimes I stamp something, and I don’t know what it means. Then a client will tell me it has to do with a pet they’ve lost or a child they’ve lost. It’s just these moments that you’re able to create for someone as a memory, and it tugs at my heartstrings, and to be a part of something that special and to make something for someone that they’re going to hold that close to their heart.

How can people find your products outside of the storefront?
We do a lot of shows. We usually travel every weekend, especially in the summer and fall up until Christmas. We try to keep it local. We do the Montage festivals, wine festivals in Tunkhannock, and ScrantonMade is a fantastic festival. We have satellite stores as well — Hallmark in Tunkhannock, NOTE Fragrances in Clarks Summit, and we’re getting ready to move into On&On (in Scranton). We are on Facebook and Instagram at AOSmetals, and we have a website, so you can order from all of those.

What is in the future for AOS Metals?
We love this location and there’s a lot that’s going to be happening here. One of my goals is to help other artists. As an artist, you’re putting something out there that’s very personal, and you put your time and thought into it, and it’s a representation of yourself. It’s very intimidating, so I want to have a safe place for artists to display their work without having to invest too much money. They can put their work up (in AOS Metals), and if they sell something, it’s without having to put any money up front.

What are your hobbies outside of the business?
I like hanging out with my family. I’ll visit my parents. It’s nice to see everybody, and they’ve got a lot of land, so Milo really loves it.

If you weren’t running AOS Metals as a career, what would you be doing?
When I lived in Jackson, I was a nanny for two incredible families. I helped raise the girls, and I just went to visit them a few weeks ago, and they’re still my girls. I love kids. Everyone told me I should be a kindergarten or elementary school art teacher, so it probably would have been something along that line.

What separates you from other stores that sell handmade jewelry in Scranton?
There are tons of stores in Scranton that are great at supporting artists. I was wondering, “How is my store going to be different?” I think it’s my metal work. The fact that you can walk in the store and get something personalized and leave with it five minutes later, or the fact that customers are able to design something themselves. They’re dealing with the actual artist and not just a store owner.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Mike LaBella

Up Close & Personal – Mike LaBella

Singer, songwriter, and guitar and ukelele player Mike LaBella writes songs based on his travels and adventures, many of which include Scranton. He graduated from The University of Scranton in 2017 with degrees in philosophy and communication and will play in Scranton throughout the spring and summer. His next show will take place Saturday, April 21, at 8:30 p.m. in Back Breakers Lounge at Back Breakers Training Center, 1008 N. Washington Ave., Scranton.
Meet Mike LaBella…

Much of your original music and lyrics are inspired by your time in Scranton. What specifically inspires you?
The first time I became acquainted with Scranton was coming here for school at the University of Scranton. In the four years that I spent here, I really fell in love with this place. I came to Scranton at a time in my life when I was really growing as a songwriter and I was looking for inspiration in different places, and I found a lot of that in Scranton, in the people I met here, in the character of the town and in the community within the university.

What do you mean by the “character of the town”?
The thing that I love about the city is the on-the-surface bleakness and the starkness, but juxtaposed to the warmth and kindness that I’ve found here. Wherever you go, you can be surprised by the kindness of people and the welcoming nature, but it’s especially surprising here just because it’s not what you’d expect if you just look at the surface.

You have a series of music based on Scranton called “Steamtown Tapes.” Can you explain some of your inspiration for that?
That was a project I did my senior year. I was trying to put some songs together that I wrote about Scranton. There’s a song called “Honey Whiskey,” which is the favorite drink of a person who I became very close with and showed me that despite being here for three years, I didn’t know as much about Scranton as I thought I did. Another one, “Love Your Enemy,” was written in my house on Linden Street. I’ve taken those songs with me, and I’m currently working on an EP called “The Pennsylvania EP” that will include those songs and all the songs living in this state has inspired.

What was your music experience prior to Scranton?
I played in a cover band in high school. We had gigged a bit and won high school battle of the bands, but that was the biggest thing up to that point. I continued to play throughout my time in Scranton. What changed in Scranton was meeting Tim Poole; he plays alongside me whenever he can, and he’s one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever met. We played in a lot of different groups together, but now it’s pretty much just me and him, and I’m really happy where we’re at together.

Describe the contrast between being in a cover band, playing solo and performing as a group of two.
I love the opportunity to play original music even if it is for smaller crowds and not for money, because, to me, I’ve always wanted to tell a new story with music. Playing original music with Tim has afforded me the opportunity to sing the songs that I want and sing to audiences who are there to listen and are open to new experiences. The time I spent playing covers — I’ve been playing in bars since I was 16 — taught me what I had to do to play in front of a crowd and how to work a crowd. I think that was important, but I’m happy to be where I am now and be able to play songs that I’ve written over the past couple years.

Who are your musical influences?
It changes for me a lot, but over the past few years, it’s been Trevor Hall. He’s like folk, indie and reggae, but his songs are very spiritual and founded in deep spiritual journey. More recently, Foy Vance; I just think that guy is a powerhouse of a songwriter.

What are your interests outside of music?
Philosophy. I had an amazing experience with philosophy at (University of) Scranton, and the department is great. It helped me develop as a person and helped me understand what character meant and what kind of morality I wanted to move forward in life with and what kind of spirituality I wanted to embrace and how to live that.

As someone who studies philosophy, what is your personal philosophy, or some wisdom you’ve learned that you try to live by?
Be there for people because nobody, even if they pretend to, has their life figured out, and that can cause a great amount of suffering and confusion and loneliness, and we need to be there for each other.

Do you have one particularly meaningful lyric you’ve written?
I might never answer this twice the same way, but I’d have to say it’s from the song called “Love Your Enemy.” The lyric is, “I don’t want a reason to be kind.” What that gets back to is the uncertainty and the fallibility of a lot of our convictions about life and truth and what is real. There is a lot of uncertainty, but I don’t think that is an excuse to not be good to other people.

Are you involved in any other activities or volunteer organizations?
My dad runs a foundation called the Trinity Help Foundation. He does a lot of local work in soup kitchens. He also does work in Haiti. I’ve been looking for a way to contribute. I have a day job outside of music, so I have the opportunity to give the money I make from music, whether it’s from ticket sales or getting the cut of a bar tab at the end of a show, and donate it to my dad’s foundation. I always consider music a gift. My attraction to music didn’t have to happen, so I see it as a service and look at what it can do for other people.

To listen to more of Mike’s music, visit his website: mikelabellamusic.com, YouTube Channel and find him on Instagram: mikelabellamusic

photos by Emma Black 

Up Close & Personal – Lisa DeNardo

Up Close & Personal – Lisa DeNardo

Lisa DeNardo is professional photographer and owns and operates Lisa DeNardo Photography, which specializes in weddings. A native of Downingtown, she studied graphic design at Moore College of Art & Design and fine arts at West Chester University. She has five children, Kayla, 17; Bella, 13; Hawthorn, 11; Lake, 8; and Sorrel, 5. They live in Dickson City.
Meet Lisa DeNardo…

How did you first end up in the photography business?
I’ve always loved taking pictures. I had my first camera when I was 10 or 11. It was this bright pink and yellow neon Polaroid. As far as starting my business, I shot my first wedding 15 years ago on film. But it was just for a friend. I officially started my business in 2014. That was the first year I started doing weddings.

What is it that you enjoy the most about photography?
I just like capturing emotions. And I like capturing pieces of time that people can look at forever. There are so many things that are always happening that we’re missing, because we’re so busy. And so it’s like this little piece that you can control, when you capture something, especially during a wedding. There’s so many pictures that get taken that the bride and groom had no idea happened.

What’s your favorite picture that you’ve ever taken?

It’s probably this picture of my kids. We were getting ready to move and most everything was packed away, except for a box of dress-up clothes. I’m inside, getting things cleaned up and packing things, and I look out the window, and there was this field behind the house, with this rock wall, and they’re all up there in these crazy dress-up outfits. It was like, “Bam! I’ve got to get my camera and capture this.” It’s a pretty cool picture. I think it defines who they are and who we are as a family.

Submitted photo, Lisa DeNardo

What do you like to do in your free time?
I do CrossFit at CrossFit Vertex in Olyphant. It has helped me grow tremendously and is a huge part of my everyday life. I’m usually there five days a week, and I like to compete locally, for fun. I also travel. That’s a big part of my business that’s kind of evolved. I started my business, based out of Scranton, in 2014. In 2016, I went to visit a friend in New Mexico, and I just fell in love with it. When I came back, I was brainstorming on ideas of how to bring the two together and get me back out there and be able to travel more. I started advertising out of Santa Fe, and I booked three weddings for 2017, and I already have four for 2018. I’m always thinking of ways to kind of blend work and play.

Favorite music?
Right now, I’d say my favorites are Modest Mouse and Matt and Kim. Also the Lumineers, Two Door Cinema Club, Milky Chance. I also really love the indie folk revival and older alternative music. I grew up listening to bands like Weezer, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins.

Favorite city?
Taos, New Mexico.

Favorite vacation spot?
I’m a wanderer, so I can’t say I have a favorite place to go. If I go somewhere, most likely, I’ll want to go somewhere different next time.

How did you end up in NEPA?
To farm. I moved up here from the suburbs of Philadelphia because there’s more open space and more farmland. I actually moved to Wayne County first, before I moved here, to farm.

Do you still farm?
No. Not in Dickson City. (Laughs)

You’ve been here for six years. What do you like the most about the area?
The trees and mountains and rivers. There’s so much more wild space to explore up here than down in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I love being outside and hiking, so having easy access to state parks and new trails is a definite plus to living here.

All-time favorite movie?
“Little Miss Sunshine.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Office.”

Favorite holiday?
Not so much a holiday, but I like the fall.

Favorite food?
Eggs.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people don’t pick up their dog’s poop.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“‘We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people? I  played the piano for seven years, growing up, and I played drums for two years.

Have you had a defining personal moment in your life or time in your life?
Probably going through a divorce and being separated. That just really forced me to redefine who I was as an individual and just start forging the path that I’m on right now. I started my business, I started traveling more, I started CrossFit. I feel like everything, as to where I’m at right now, and how it’s unfolded over the past three or four years, came from that.

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 – Maria Santomauro

Up Close & Personal – Maria Santomauro

Maria Santomauro is director of strategic initiatives at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple. She is a native of West Scranton and is a graduate of Scranton Central High School and Marywood University, where she earned a degree in communications, public relations and advertising. She has three children: Joseph, Janette and Julianna. She lives in the Hill Section of Scranton with Bernie McGurl.
Meet Maria Santomauro…

Tell us a little about your work at the cultural center.
My title is a weird title, as I have a lot of job responsibilities. What it really means is that we’ve worked a whole lot of different job responsibilities together and I’ve assumed those responsibilities. We’re a nonprofit organization, so we rely on all different kinds of revenue-generating streams and resources, from grants to sponsorships to our leader donors. I reach out to our corporate sponsors and work with them on all of our programming. They’re all important, but that’s one of the very important things that I do.

What’s it like to work in such an historic building every day?
It’s amazing. And I love this building not just because I work here, but I’ve been connected to it since I was 4 years old. I studied dance for 20 years. I studied tap, dance and ballet, and I have pictures of me when I was about 7 years old, backstage, right in the ballroom.

You recently launched a new music series, “Underground Microphone,” which happens every Tuesday. It’s hosted by Lily Mao, and the music runs from 6 to 8 p.m. What else can you tell us about it?
It was actually the brainchild of Jason Helman, our business office manager and box office manager. The idea came up at a staff meeting, and as a team, we really liked the concept. Lily also helps with the booking, and we’ve been working together on finding acts. And what’s really nice about it is that it’s attracting an audience that we would not normally get. And it’s all different types of music. If you’re an artist and you’d like to perform, there’s really no rules. But it’s not an open mic. The artists are scheduled in advance, so we know who’s going to be performing a few weeks down the road.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to go and check out musicians. Concerts, gigs … whenever I can get turned on to some new music, I’m there.

Who are some of your all-time favorite artists?
Steely Dan and David Bowie. I also like Supertramp, the Beatles and Mark Knopfler.

Do you follow sports?
New York Giants. My dad actually had a tryout with the Giants.

Favorite city?
New York. My daughter lives there.

Favorite vacation spot?
Cape May. It’s so beautiful, and the history is just incredible.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people are wonderful. For everything that’s wrong with this area, there’s so much more that we fail to recognize as right and good. There’s a lot of good. And there are so many good people. And you see it when someone needs help. Everyone bands together and that sense of community kicks in. I also like the change of seasons.

Favorite food?
I love Italian and I love Asian, but if had to pick one, it would be seafood.

Favorite holiday?
The entire season from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Terms of Endearment” and “The Godfather.”

Favorite TV show?
“Masterpiece Theater” on PBS.

Any pets?
A cat, Roxy.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people take credit for other people’s work.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.” — Friedrich Nietzsche.

Favorite book or author?
Mitch Albom. I like his approach with storytelling.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I’m known to have a big personality and to be able to walk into a room and not appear shy. I appear confident, and I’m always engaging and I do love to meet people. I used to say that my No. 1 goal was to meet everyone in the whole entire world. But really and truly, deep down inside, I’m shy. I like my quiet time, and I’m kind of private, even though I’m not.

Have you had a time in your life, or a person in your life, or a moment in your life, that’s really helped shape you into the person you are today?
For me, it’s been anyone that I’ve spent a good amount of time with. Whether it was my parents, my siblings, having been married, my children — all of that does mold who we are. And the takeaway is the experiences gained and the lessons learned.

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 – Michelle Cadden Hayes

Up Close & Personal – Michelle Cadden Hayes

Michelle Cadden Hayes is the owner and operator of The Electric City Bakehouse, which opened last week on Penn Avenue in Scranton. She is a graduate of Scranton High School and Keystone College, where she earned a degree in culinary arts. She has two children: Wilkie, 4, and Bailee, who will turn three in March. They live in Clarks Summit.
Meet Michelle Cadden Hayes …

What inspired you to want to open your own bakehouse?
I studied culinary arts, but I’m self-taught with the cakes. While I was going to culinary school, I rented out a small private commercial kitchen, and I was doing cakes out of there, and that kind of helped put me through culinary school. I did it for a couple of years, but I stopped doing it while I was having babies. (Laughs) Once they got a little bit older, and I felt it was manageable to open something, I wanted to get back into it. And recently, the trends with the drip cakes are what inspired me. They really allow for a more creative outlet, rather than having someone show me a picture of something and wanting something exactly like that. A lot of times I have somewhat of a creative freedom to create them, and that’s really what I love doing.

You’re a brand new business. What are your expectations?
I’m hoping that the community embraces the idea of a modern cakery, rather than a traditional bakery, and that I’m able to introduce some new things to the area. I also want to get involved in special events. For First Friday, we’re going to do some special events, and we’re going to be offering different cooking and decorating classes. And I’m just hoping that the community embraces all of that.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to cook, I love to entertain, and I love doing things with my children. We’re always looking for different things to do and we’re at the park all the time in the summer. And I love to travel.

Favorite music?
The Dave Matthews Band. O.A.R. Elton John. Frank Sinatra. I really like all genres of music. Right now what I’m listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran.

Do you follow sports?
Philly everything. I love the Eagles and the Phillies. We’re excited for baseball, and we just won the Super Bowl, so it’s looking good.

You mentioned that you love to travel. What’s your favorite city?
Portland, Oregon. Big foodie town, really hipster and lots of unique places to go. I love the vibe there, and they have the best food that I’ve ever had in any city.

Favorite vacation spot?
My favorite place that I’ve travelled to is Sicily. And I like Charleston. But if we’re talking more local, I love taking the kids to Cape May.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I like the change of seasons, though I wish the winter was a little bit shorter. And I really like the community. It’s a small town vibe, but with a little bit of a larger population. Everybody kind of knows everyone, and if you say your last name, more than likely, someone knows your family.

All-time favorite movie?
I like everything from romantic comedies to government conspiracy films and everything in between, but if I really had to pick, I guess it would be “Marley & Me.”

Favorite TV show?
“Grey’s Anatomy,” “This Is Us,” “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” and “Chopped.”

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Favorite food?
Thai food. It’s my favorite to cook and eat.

Biggest pet peeve?
When you’re driving and you let people cross the street and the don’t say, “Thank you.”

Any pets?
A basset hound named Levi. I’m a big dog lover.

Guilty pleasure?
Sometimes I like to watch reality television, just because at the end of the day, when I can’t think anymore, it takes the least amount of brain cells. (Laughs)

Favorite book or author?
I used to like Nicholas Sparks, but now, I really love “Gone Girl.” And I like anything about government conspiracy. I’m not really into conspiracy, but I just find it interesting.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I went skydiving. Now that I’m a Mom, I value my own life more, but if I didn’t have kids I would do it again. (Laughs)

Have you had a moment in your life or a time in your life that has really helped shape you as a person?
My dad died when I was 13. He was an entrepreneur and a hard worker, and I think that kind of shaped the idea of what I had for this business. You try to include motherhood or parenthood with a small business, and there are sacrifices on their part and sacrifices on my part. But when I think back, it kind of shaped my work ethic and a lot of who I am — just seeing him work so much. We were there, when we were seven or eight, ringing up customers and setting up pricing on displays, and those are memories that I’m fond of. When I feel bad about my kids being here, and I think back on that, it’s all positive.

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 – Tony Frable

Up Close & Personal – Tony Frable

Tony Frable is the owner and operator of Morgan’Z Pub & Eatery in Scranton. He also works with the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General. Morgan’Z Pub & Eatery was first opened by his family in 2009, and he has been the principal operator since 2012. He is a native of West Scranton and is a graduate of West Scranton High School and Marywood University, where he earned a degree in accounting. He lives in Scranton.
Meet Tony Frable …

Tell us a little about Morgan’Z Pub & Eatery.
We’re in the Green Ridge section, and we have a pretty large patio, and one of the few patios in Scranton, so our summers are incredibly busy. We have two bars outside and about 10 TVs. It was very unique for a while, but now more and more bars are starting to put on patios. We took over in 2009 and gave it a new name, but we’ve traced the history of the bar back to the early 1950s.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
All of the people I meet. All the connections I’ve made. I’ve made a lot of close friends. We’ve been doing it for nine years, so as you’d imagine, we’ve met a lot of people in that time, so really, it’s all of the great people I’ve met and all of the friends that I’ve made.

You’re also pretty involved in the community and with fundraisers and benefits, correct?
It’s the most rewarding part of having the business. We do a benefit every year in memory of Kelcey Hallinan, a young girl from Dunmore who passed from Lymphoma, and we donate the proceeds to a children’s hospital or Make-A-Wish. We were also just one of the stops for the Jackson Vee fundraiser.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m really interested in racing and race cars. One of the things I’m involved with this year is bringing back a motorsports expo to Scranton. The last one was in 1998, at the old Grossman’s building, and I came up with this idea to bring it back. I partnered with a few guys, we formed a company, and we started securing sponsors. And at the end of March, on the 24th and 25th, we’re going to have the car show again at The Icebox, which ironically, is right across the street from where Grossman’s used to be. And really, all of my free time has gone to that. But it doesn’t feel like work, because it’s kind of fun.

Favorite music?
The Talking Heads. The Police. I enjoy live music.

Do you follow sports?
Oakland Raiders.

Favorite vacation spot or place you’ve visited?
I went to Phoenix a few years ago, for a Notre Dame game, and it was funny, but everybody knew we weren’t from there. Not because of the way we talked or anything, but because we were “underdressed” for the 80 degree weather. It was November, and when we left, it was 20 or 30 degrees, but it was 80 degrees there. So we had shorts on, and T-shirts, and they said, “We can tell you’re not from here, because it’s cold.” To them, 80 was cold. (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
We absolutely have the best food. Pizza, wings … I’m always amazed that chain restaurants try to come in here, because we already have the best.

Favorite food?
My brother and I have this wing sauce. It’s a spicy Italian. We just made it up a few weeks ago, and it’s really good on chicken wings. The people that we rolled it out to really like it.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. It’s the best meal. And it’s just really simple and laid back, and you just appreciate your time with your friends and family.

Any pets?
No pets, but I have a cactus. Somebody gave it to me as a housewarming gift about four years ago. It’s very low maintenance. I have to water it about every three weeks. And I haven’t killed it yet. It’s still with me. (Laughs)

All-time favorite movie?
“Me, Myself & Irene.”

Favorite TV show?
I’ve always liked comedies and cartoons … things to laugh at and not take too seriously. I also like the History Channel.

Biggest pet peeve?
People that complain too much on Facebook.

Guilty pleasure?
Red Bull Zero.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
Probably not, because I’m usually really, really open. But once in a while I’ll meet someone that says. “I can’t believe that you like race cars.” They seem to think I’m not the type of person that would want to get my hands dirty. But I do a little bit of everything.

Who, if anyone, has the greatest impact and influence on you and your life?
It was just my Mom and I until I was about five, and we were really, probably, kind of poor. But I never knew. I was only a little kid, but I never knew I was poor, even until I was much older. And so I give a lot of credit to my mom. I think she did a pretty good job of raising me.

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 – Jamie Smith

Up Close & Personal – Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith is the co-founder and operator of Social Fabric Collective in Wyoming. He opened the business with his wife, Jenni. He is a native of California, a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, and has lived in Northeast Pennsylvania for the past five years. He and Jenni have two children; Eva, 6, and Charlotte, 4. They live in Wyoming.
Meet Jamie Smith ….

Tell us a little about Social Fabric Collective and the work that you do. 
I can tell you our mission statement: “We’re a nonprofit organization that provides professional photography equipment, education and inspiration to high school students who are as diverse as they are dynamic. Through teaching high schoolers’ the art and discipline of digital photography, we inspire young people to take hold of their ability to transform themselves and the world.” We’re about personal growth and personal transformation in the individual, and how to use photography as a tool to help them grow. It’s also about self-awareness, and helping them realize how they can improve their community.

What is the criteria for a student to go through one of your programs?
We have a need-based scholarship, regardless of your ability to pay. Essentially, we figured out that the average income for a family of four in this area is $35,000 or less, so if your family makes that, it’s a full scholarship. Between $35,000 and $75,000, it’s a mid-level scholarship, which is $250. And $75,000 and up, it’s $500. They’re all working with the exact same camera and the exact same equipment. The program is for about four months, once a week, and within that there are a bunch of optional things, such as field trips and photoshoots.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Woodturning. I work on a lathe. I like to create.

Favorite music?
Jazz and reggae.

Favorite city?
New York. I worked there. I lived there. My daughter was born there. My mom was born there.

Favorite vacation spot?
California beaches.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The river.

All-time favorite movie?
“Field of Dreams.”

All-time favorite TV show?
“Cheers”

Favorite food?
Mexican.

Favorite holiday?
Valentine’s Day.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“It’s not enough for an artist to see. They have to make others see.” — Edgar Degas

Biggest pet peeve?
There’s a lot of pressure for people to be specialized, and so there’s less a chance for people to be interested in a variety of things.

Favorite book or author?
“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi.

Have you had someone in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My grandmother. She passed away in 1995, when I was a freshman in college, but up until that point, she lived by herself. My grandfather died before I was born, so I didn’t know him. But we’d come out every summer and stay with her. She lived by herself, she still cooked on a coal stove, she still drove herself. We had chickens. We went to church bazaars. We had chores. But we were also given a lot of freedom. She had a big influence.

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 – Chris Mullineaux

Up Close & Personal – Chris Mullineaux

Chris Mullineaux is a professional musician and is the lead vocalist and guitarist with the group Fuzzy Mudd. He is a native of Baltimore and has spent much of his life in New York City. He has lived in Northeast Pennsylvania for the past year. He and his wife, Penni, live in Tompkinsville.
Meet Chris Mullineaux …

Tell us a little about your music and how you got involved in the NEPA music scene.
We moved here last March. I worked a regular job and played a bit. That first month, I went from two gigs to four gigs, and I now play 20-25 times a month. Between solo/acoustic and with the band, l play six days straight. And the band is pretty incredible. I lucked out. I played with a few different people when I got here. You put feelers out. And I wound up with Larry Moss on bass, and our drummer is Ryan Fenton. It’s a power-trio, but it’s a lot of Bowie. We play a lot of b-sides. We don’t play a lot of the big hits. If we play something from “U2,” it’s “Bad.” Because nobody does. Even with Bowie, it’s “Moonage Daydream,” or “Stay,” or something off of “Low,” because it’s different. And I also have a lot of original stuff. We’re going to try and do some recording this year.

Who are some of your all-time favorite artists?
I’m a big David Bowie fan. I’m a big Jimi Hendrix fan and a big Beatles fan. And I’m a big Radiohead fan. I’d put them on par with the Beatles. I really do. All through their career, they’ve reinvented themselves. I think that’s why I dig them and Bowie so much. I also like TV On The Radio. And there’s a really cool new band called Autolux that I’m into. And The Flaming Lips. And funk.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Watching television. Watching movies. I watch a lot of true crime, because truth is stranger than fiction. And my wife is a salvager, and so we go exploring and looking for stuff. Whether it’s stores or weird places, we get in the car and just go. That’s a big hobby of ours, just going and looking at stuff. And I record music at home. That’s really my main passion — recording music.

Do you follow sports?
I watch football, but I don’t follow anybody. When I was a kid in Baltimore, we had the Colts, and they left, and we stopped following football all together. They later had the new team (the Ravens), and it’s fine, but it had really put a bitter taste in my mouth. And I felt horrible for the city (Cleveland) from which we took the team. We did the same thing. With baseball, I’m an Oriole fan.

Favorite city?
Manhattan. There’s nothing like it.

Favorite vacation spot?
We used to go camping. Now, I’m too old to deal with just a tent and a case of beer. (Laughs) I’m not 20. So now, we’ll get a cabin along the Shenandoah River. Skyline Drive. The Appalachian Trail. That kind of stuff.

What brought you to NEPA?
My wife knew a few people here, and we drove out one day on a lark, just to come and check out Scranton. And we were driving up further up, towards Lake Winola, and it was really pretty. And we like the outside stuff. We like the outdoors. And it’s extremely convenient to everything — Baltimore, Philly, D.C., New York.

Favorite food?
Italian.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. Though it gets a little sad sometimes, because you think about the people that are gone, and that it will never be like it was. I love all of my friends and family, and my wife — I cherish her — but you’re lonely sometimes, for those times … for a feeling. But it’s still Christmas. (Laughs)

All-time favorite movie?
“Goodfellas” is such a perfect movie, and I’m a big fan of “Star Wars.” When I was a kid, it was the greatest thing ever. But my favorite filmmaker is probably Stanley Kubrick. I really like “2001: A Space Odyssey.” That still blows me away how they did that … how they filmed that, when they did. It’s pretty incredible. It’s spotless. And with “The Shining,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Full Metal Jacket” — it’s a wide variety. And I dig that.

All-time favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld.”

Favorite book or author?
“The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people slide their feet when they walk. Also, open-mouth gum chewing.

Any pets?
A beagle. Lux.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m really introverted. I should speak more on stage, even when I play acoustic. Once I play a place once, I’m cool. But it usually takes me one or two gigs. With the band, it’s a lot easier. But I’m pretty shy. In my personal life, I’m a bit of a recluse or a hermit. Once I’m home, I’m home.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that has really helped shape your or define you as a person?
I had a recording opportunity once — an audition with Universal Records — that fell apart due to poor planning and relying on people that I shouldn’t have. And it did change who I am, because that was it — after 10 or 15 years — I never dealt with them again, and I decided to go out in my own. And though it took a lot took some perseverance to get to where I’m at, it’s now what I do full-time. It wasn’t a good thing (initially), but I learned a positive from a negative.

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 – Katie Blake

Up Close & Personal – Katie Blake

Katie Blake is a business analyst with TMG Health and the lead vocalist with the band Light Weight. She is a native of Archbald and a graduate of Valley View High School. She also studied at Marywood University and Pace University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. She and her boyfriend, Matt, live in Scranton.
Meet Katie Blake …

Tell us a little about your work with TMG Health.
We’re a business process outsourcing company. With my job, as a business analyst, we implement new clients, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. My focus is on Medicaid. When we implement a new client and somebody wants to do their outsourcing with us, I’m mainly focused in enrollment of new members. We meet with clients and discuss their expectations. And a lot of the work that I do is quoting the requirements for these transitions to take place and helping them be implemented through our IT services, to make sure the client is delivered what they expect.

You’ve also been singing with Light Weight for about four years. Can you talk a little about your work with the band? Have you always been a singer?
It’s a second job and takes up a lot of time, but I wouldn’t have it if I didn’t love it. I’ve always enjoyed singing. It’s something I’ve always loved to do. I was greatly inspired by my dad, who played guitar and sang, and let me listen to some of the most well-known classic musicians of that time that are still world renowned. In high school I got into musicals, and that was exciting for me. And I was also in an original band, writing music. I always had a bit of a stigma towards cover bands. “You guys play other people’s music? How difficult could it be? And now that I’m in one, I’m really astounded as to why I even thought that. I loved writing songs and performing at shows with other talented acts in the area, but this is a business, and it’s a great balance for how much I actually love performing and entertaining people. It means a lot to me that something that I’m doing is making other people happy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time to relax?
Taking baths. Listening to music, which is obviously a big part of my life. I’m also a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s a part of my life that I really enjoy, and spending time with my Little Sister does help me relax.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
Queen. Sara Bareilles. Billy Joel. And I’ve really gotten into Birdtalker.

Do you follow sports?
Steelers. I went to a game in Pittsburgh and it was the best time, ever. I love that city and I love the people there.

Is that your favorite city?
I really do love Pittsburgh. And New York became a second home. I have strong ties there, too, going back to college.

Favorite vacation spot, or places to visit?
Jim Thorpe, Bethlehem, Philadelphia … and I’d love to spend forever in Ireland. That would be wonderful. I’ve been there twice.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. When I traveled and got outside of the area, and when I went to New York City to go to school, it was obviously a culture shock and incredibly different than home. But what I expected was something much different, and what I learned was something much different. I was expecting to have these new types of experiences that were so grand, and meet many new types of people, and have the world opened up to me — to make Scranton feel small — and understand a much bigger picture. And that did happen. But at the same time, what happened was I realized that the ties that I have and the friendships that I’ve formed in this area, with the people here, are different and are like a second family. And I realized how lucky I was.

All-time favorite movie?
The “Lord of The Rings” and “Harry Potter” films.

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

Favorite food?
Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
I put puns in everything. And I say “That’s what she said” all the time.

Favorite book or author?
Stephen King.

Biggest pet peeve?
Ignorance, rudeness and impatience.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I don’t think a lot of people know that I’m a Big Sister, and so whenever I speak about my “Little Sister,” people that have known me all of my life say, “You don’t have a little sister.” (Laughs) But that’s a big part of my life.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
Two years ago, I was in a pretty intense accident. I was driving back from visiting a friend in Ohio. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I had a great night’s rest. I wasn’t tired. And I don’t really know exactly what happened, but I started going off the road, and then came back, and went off again, and I ended up rolling my car four or five times. I was going on 80 West and I landed on 80 East. And there was traffic coming both ways. And yet somehow, during that moment, when it happened, nobody else was affected at all. There must have been 35 miracles that took place that day. I don’t’ remember anything about the accident itself, but it really changed me. I think, my whole life, I’ve been trying to find the gratitude that I think I should have, and I strived for that, but it was not until that moment happened to me, that I feel I achieved those things. I was able to understand that you really can lose everything in a second. It was a miracle. And I’m so grateful. It just changed my perspective on everything. And it inspires a lot of things inside me and in my 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

Up Close & Personal – Sharon Yanik-Craig

Up Close & Personal – Sharon Yanik-Craig

Sharon Yanik-Craig is the director of the Lackawanna College Environmental Education Center. She is a native of Scranton and is a graduate of Scranton High School and Pennsylvania State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in park management. She also earned a master’s degree in ecological teaching and learning from Lesley University, near Boston. She and her husband, Brian, have a son, Grayson, 4. They live in Roaring Brook Twp.
Meet Sharon Yanik-Craig …

Tell us a little about your work with the college?
I’ve been there since 2008, so I’m coming up on 10 years. We focus on community education and environmental education, and we offer programs to the community from Pre-K all the way up to senior citizens, and everything in between. Those are public programs. And we also offer programs and college credit courses to our college students at a higher level. And we offer certificate programs.

What do you enjoy about it?
It’s a very fulfilling job. My passion is environmental advocacy, and it’s nice to know I’m making a difference and an impact in our region. With the type of programs that we do, I work with thousands of individuals every year. We have a couple of thousand students that come in from regional schools, for their school field trips, we do pre-school programs with our local community, and our park ranger program is probably one of my largest accomplishments to date. We just graduated our first cohort of Conservation and Outdoor Resource students, which is a certificate program. Students come to us and take five undergraduate-level environmental courses: dendrology, ornithology, fresh water ecosystems, park management and wild life management. And those five courses help prepare them to be park rangers, as they are required by the Civil Service Commission in order to take the DCNR ranger trainee test. So we’re fulfilling that need in the community.

You’ve also been pretty involved in some community projects. Can you tell us a little about that?
Before our son was born, I was on the board and had served as vice president with the LRCA (Lackawanna River Conservation Association) for a number of years. They’re a nonprofit and their mission is conserving the Lackawanna River. The health of the Lackawanna River and the whole eco system is extremely important to me, and the work that the organization does, with the small staff that they have, is invaluable to our region.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Hiking. Hiking and exploring new places with my family and with my pup.

Favorite music?
I’m a lover of many genres, but my all-time favorite has to be Neil Young. His music resonates with my soul.

Favorite city?
Of all of the places I’ve been, it has to be Rome. You’re talking about a city that’s 3,000 years old. The culture, visiting the Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps – it brings you back to another time.

Favorite place to vacation?
During our Northeast winter? Somewhere south. (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The four seasons and the fall foliage. There’s not a lot of places on Earth that get the vibrant climate that we do, because of our climate and our species of trees. And also, we have so many creative individuals in the area, from music to the visual and performing arts. There’s always something going on and there’s always something to do.

Favorite food?
I love Japanese, I love Thai, I love Indian … but if I had to pick one, I’d say Thai.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. It brings warmth to the cold winters. And I love Christmas music. It’s nostalgic for me.

Favorite book or author?
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

Favorite movie?
“The Usual Suspects” and “The Big Lebowski.”

Favorite TV show?
“Stranger Things,” “The Walking Dead” and “The OA.”

Guilty pleasure?
Probably binge watching “The Walking Dead.”

You mentioned your pup. What type of dog is he?
He’s a yellow Lab, named Blue. He’s six years old and he’s beautiful.

Biggest pet peeve?
Wastefulness. Because that’s an environmental problem.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, or a person on your life, that has really helped shape you and define you as a person?
Coleen O’Connell, the director for my master’s degree program. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was a compassionate soul and a fierce environmental advocate. She challenged me quite a bit, she rounded me out as a person, and expanded my mind.

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 – Heather Davis

Up Close & Personal – Heather Davis

Heather Davis is the director of marketing and communications with the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. She is a native of Dunmore and is a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School and Hofstra University, where she studied film and production. She also received an MFA from Wilkes University in creative writing. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Heather Davis …

Tell us a little about your work at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. That seems like a great job.
It is. I love working with students, and we have really great students at the med school. As the director of marketing and communications, I do a lot of things. I deal with the website, social media, publications, photography, video … I get to do a lot of fun things, and I enjoy it. I like to say that marketing is as creative as you can get and still have a 9 to 5 job. That’s why I kind of gravitated towards it, after I got my degree in film. I also like to write. And I like working in higher education, just because I love working with students.

You’re also, in your free time, very active in the community. What programs are you involved with?
I’m a board member and group project advisor with Leadership Lackawanna. It’s our 35th anniversary year, which is really exciting. I was also on the board for First Friday for a long time. I like to support local artists, local musicians and local venues. And I serve as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I try to get out and actually do things in the community that have an immediate impact.

Where do you think that comes from? Some people walk through life with their head down, while others look around more, heads up, at what’s happening in their community. Obviously, you’re an “heads up around” person.
I always like to say, “Only boring people are bored.” I went to film school, so a lot of my friends live in L.A. and New York, and it’s not that I never thought about going to those places and pursuing different things, but I love this area. I love the people. I have a lot of good friends here. My family is here. I think that if something is disappointing you, where you live, you should work towards making it better, instead of just complaining about it. That’s why I try to get out there and do as much as I can.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a runner. This past year I did my third half-marathon, and I’m contemplating doing a marathon. I also enjoy reading and screen-writing.

Favorite music?
I love singer/songwriters. Glen Hansard is probably my favorite. Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams … Langhorne Slim is one that I started enjoying recently. I go to a lot of shows and concerts.

Favorite city?
Galway, Ireland. I’ve been there twice. Two years ago, I went alone and stayed for a week and it was just amazing. Last year I went, and I stayed in Dublin, but I took a day trip with a friend to Galway, because I loved it so much. It has a lot a character and I love the live music scene. And it’s right by the sea, so the views are amazing.

Favorite vacation spot?
I love travelling, so that’s a hard one, but I’m in New York City a lot, because I have a lot of friends there, and I do enjoy going on a lot of long weekend trips to New York. That’s where I see most of the concerts that I go to.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
Mostly, it’s the people. My friends here are smart, funny and kind. Not that you can’t find that elsewhere, but here it’s a very specific type of people looking after you and caring about you.

Favorite movie?
“McCabe & Mrs. Miller.” I’m a big Robert Altman fan.

Favorite TV show?
“Mad Men.” I work in the marketing world, so it’s fun to see how it’s evolved since the ‘50s and ‘60s. And the character development is outstanding.

Favorite food?
Burritos.

Favorite holiday?
Anything that happens in the fall. Halloween is a big one, which bumps up against my birthday, so it’s usually a big celebration.

Favorite book?
Recently, it was “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. And my favorite author of all-time is probably Jane Austin. “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my favorites. I just love her wit.

Biggest pet peeve?
People that complain about something but then don’t try to help the situation or offer solutions. They just complain to complain.

Any pets?
A have an eight year old Corgi mix. He’s named “The Doctor” after Doctor Who. He’s my little buddy.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I once co-wrote a screenplay that was made into a film. I wrote the first draft, and got a “story by” credit, because it was edited after I wrote it. It’s called “Completely Normal,” and it’s a feature-length dark comedy. It was produced and directed by a good friend of mine from film school, Rob Vornkahl, and it’s about a schizophrenic woman who falls in love with her stalker. Half the time she thinks it’s her boyfriend and half the time she doesn’t know who it is. I tend to write dark comedy type stuff, and it was my first foray into feature length writing. It’s available on Amazon Prime.

Have you had a defining personal moment, or someone, or something, in your life that has really helped shape you as a person?
I’ve had a lot of really amazing teachers that have inspired me. That’s why I like to work in higher education. I’m also adjunct faculty at Johnson College, where I teach humanities. In high school, I had Mr. Chapla. He was my English teacher, and he also taught a film lit course, which solidified my love of film. And even going into undergrad and grad school, I had really great mentors who made me, constantly, love learning more and wanting to do more. Without those mentors in my life, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.

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 – 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