Up Close & Personal – Jessica Bredbenner

Up Close & Personal – Jessica Bredbenner

Jessica Bredbenner is the owner and founder of Tiddlywinks Boutique, a children’s clothing store in Dunmore, which also offers birthday party services. Her storefront was preceded by a Tiddlywinks camper that has allowed her to take her services to various locations. She was inspired to create the camper after seeing a mobile store parked in front of a mall while she lived in Oregon. Bredbenner is a graduate of West Scranton High School and Marywood University, where she studied marketing. She and her fiance David live in Dallas with their 3-year-old daughter.

Meet Jessica Bredbenner…

Q: Describe Tiddlywinks Boutique and the variety of services it offers.
A:
It started with just the camper. My vision of this was to have something totally unique to the area and give girls this unique experience. At least 75 percent of the business is private parties, so moms will book birthday parties for their daughters. I also do public parties so moms or grandmothers can bring their daughter. We do princess-themed tea parties, and for older girls, we do what we call “makeover balls,” which are themed makeup, hair and a craft. They can dress up in as many costumes as they want, and we do fashion shows.

Q: How did you come up with the name “Tiddlywinks Boutique”?
A:
I wanted something meaningful. I didn’t want to just pick a name. My grandparents were a huge influence on my life. My grandfather, who is almost 90 years old, is everything. I’m his only granddaughter. He helped me remodel the camper. I remember playing the game Tiddlywinks when I was younger. I used to play it a couple times a week when I went to my grandparents’ house. I’ve always been into vintage and old-school, retro stuff. I try to find and collect the game Tiddlywinks now.

Q: Where does your interest in sewing and making come from?
A:
I’ve always been very artistic. I was never into TV and movies. I was always sitting there cutting things out, drawing and coloring as a little girl. I’ve always been the creative type. I started doing craft shows as a teenager. I guess that was the entrepreneur in me too. When I got into high school, I was very into the arts. My senior year of high school, I took a sewing class by mistake. It was a random elective that I got placed into. I just picked it up like that. I was planning to study art and thought I was going to be an art teacher or professor, but I loved making clothes throughout college. I loved the fashion industry. I did an internship for, at the time, a startup fashion magazine in New York City. I got to do Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and I sat next to Betsey Johnson and did her show. It was a lot of fun.

Q: What is your favorite part about making clothes to be worn?
A:
The creative oven and designing the clothes. In college, I always thought, “I don’t want to buy this skirt for $20 when I can make it for $5.” That’s just the bargain-hunting and business part of me. That aspect along with the creative aspect and being able to make something my own and unique.

Q: How does your own daughter inspire your clothing design ideas?
A:
There are so many different styles to children’s clothing. A lot of boutiques have their own style, just like any clothing store. I try to keep things different to other boutiques out there but make them youthful, whimsical and princessey. The first dress I made for my daughter was a vintage, whimsical dress. It had princesses on it and was such a pretty fabric. I put lace and satin on it, but it was also modern so she could wear it to church too. I’m going to put her in a dress until she tells me no.

Q: If you could only make one clothing item for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
A:
A dress. It’s just classic. It’s the time of times since back in the Victorian age. Styles have changed, but today, a lot of girls don’t wear dresses that often. I don’t send my daughter out in dresses everyday, but back in the ’50s, you wouldn’t be caught dead leaving the house with your kid in pants; so, definitely a dress.

Q: What influence do you hope you and your business can have on your daughter?
A:
I want to show her that any of her dreams are possible, but it takes hard work and you have to keep at it. As she gets older, I want her to realize she should follow her dreams and keep her mind to it.

Q: What is the biggest message you hope to give the young girls you interact with?
A:
Girl empowerment is the main thing. Coming in, being creative and feeling special is the mission. I see it so many times where the moms aren’t here and the kids just get so into it. They’re so excited when they get here because it’s something different.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A:
I did a big fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation before I opened this store. The theme was “Enchanted Winter Ball.” There were vendors, and everyone came dressed up. I like to support that organization. I am also a part of the Rising Tide Society. I just became the group leader, which was pretty exciting. There are different chapters throughout the United States. It’s entrepreneurs, business owners (and) people in the creative industry, so photographers, wedding planners and stuff like that. We have monthly meetings. Our vision is community over competition, and it’s a nice group we have.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A:
My family has been my support system with everything. My grandfather helped raise me and watched me every day and has been my backbone and my support system since I was little. Growing up with that has shaped me to be appreciative. I didn’t come from a lot of money, so I was taught to work hard for things if I wanted them.

Up Close & Personal – Tony Mendicino

Up Close & Personal – Tony Mendicino

Tony Mendicino is the executive chef at Slocum Hollow Bar & Restaurant at Montage Mountain Resorts, Scranton. He earned a bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts and business from Keystone College and recently received recognition as Electric City’s “Best Chef 2018.” He lives in Scranton.

Meet Tony Mendicino…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A:
I’m from Scranton, born and raised. I grew up in the restaurant industry. I originally went to school to be a teacher and found out after the first year that it wasn’t for me, so I decided to go to culinary school. I went to Keystone for that; I also got my bachelor’s in business from Keystone.

Q: What led to you becoming the chef at Montage Mountain Resorts?
A:
I started my career at Scranton Country Club. I went from there to Glenmaura; I was their sous-chef. Last year I started here (at Montage Mountain) as the executive chef. I was also around golf courses growing up. This is my first resort; it’s a great experience. It’s a different atmosphere from the country clubs and the golf courses. I worked at a couple cafes. I was at Northern Light in downtown Scranton for a very long time. Then I was at Pine Hills, Scranton Country Club and worked my way here.

Q: What does your job as executive chef entail?
A:
My day-to-day is coming in, doing orders, running all my numbers and cooking — it’s my passion. I’m always back in the kitchen making sure everything is going alright, and I’m back there with my guys supporting them. It’s awesome to be able to be at this level in my career. Being only 27, it’s a really good experience. I grew up on this mountain; being from the area, I’m a skier. I actually used to work here when I was younger in high school, so things came full circle to where I’m back here working as the executive chef.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to make the move from teaching to cooking?
A:
I’ve always been in the restaurant industry, all through high school. My mom was always cooking dinner, and as a child I was always there helping. It was always in me that I wanted to be a cook. I went to Marywood (University) for secondary education to be a history teacher. I did my first year of observations, and I realized that I wanted to proceed with culinary school. The interest was there all along. I had wanted to go to culinary school straight out of high school, but a lot of times, the job is very demanding. I thought maybe being a teacher would be a better choice, but for me it was more about the passion behind it. I wanted to be in the kitchen.

Q: What makes you so passionate about cooking?
A:
A lot of it is based on tradition. With Italian, Asian, it’s all about the cultures. When you’re learning a new style of cooking, you’re not only learning about the food, you’re learning about the culture behind it also. It’s a really cool way to interact with the food and get a background and where it came from.

Q: Who are your favorite chefs?
A:
I do a lot of Asian and Italian style. Everyone can get together over food. One of my role models has always been Anthony Bourdain. The way he cooked, the way he presented himself, was always awesome. Even seeing him in TV shows, it was really cool to watch everything he was doing. Reading his book “Kitchen Confidential” was huge for me in culinary school. It was like my Bible. Another one is David Chang in New York City with Momofuku food chains. He’s a great chef to model after. He does noodles, and he’s centered around his culture, which is awesome.

Q: What is something different you hope you can bring to the food scene in Scranton?
A:
I always try to incorporate something new and sort of get people to go out of their comfort zones. It’s things that people don’t normally see, and I’m trying to bring that to the resort and the restaurant. I’m trying to get people to open themselves up and try new things. The Scranton food scene has definitely been working its way up. Everyone that I know who is opening new restaurants — such as AV, Peculiar Slurp Shop, Bar Pazzo and all of them — it’s really up and coming. The area is definitely growing. I try to stay with fresh products. Our beef is all local. The mountain has been here for years, so I’m trying to keep everything local if I can. For a ski resort, it’s hard because it’s quick service. So I’m trying to do awesome food really fast.

Q: Whether cooked by you, or not, what is your favorite food to eat?
A:
Ramen. I’ll make ramen at my house, I’ll go to Peculiar Slurp Shop, anytime I can I’ll go to New York City to eat at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Ramen is huge for me. I love it. It’s a comfort food. Fresh ramen, not the packs, are great.

Q: What are three kitchen essentials you can’t live without?
A:
Tongs and my knife. They’re like extensions of my hands. Those two I definitely can’t live without. And probably pizza, in all honesty. My two top things are definitely my tongs and knife.

Q: What is your favorite thing to cook?
A:
I enjoy cooking ramen; that’s one of my favorites. As far as traditional Italian things, that’s what I grew up with, making pasta. Nothing beats sitting there, putting everything into making the dough, stretching it and rolling it out. It’s the fruits of labor, so when you’re done making it, you get to eat it and enjoy everything that you just put into it. My favorite thing is to be able to make pasta and be able to enjoy it after.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A:
In the winter, I enjoy skiing. I take trips to Vermont if I can get away. In summer, I like going to baseball games, including Yankees games, and the RailRiders being down the road is awesome. I like to be outside.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A:
I think a lot of my shaping comes from my family. They’ve always supported me and backed me, even when I didn’t want to be a teacher and wanted to go into this profession. Another time was my second year in culinary school. I had awesome teachers, and they really molded who I was and brought out the chef in me. Them pushing me harder and harder to get better really molded me.

Q: Final word?
A:
With us being up in the mountain, it’s hard to come up here and eat, but definitely try to make a venture up here. It’s a cool facility. I’d like to see more people come to the mountain and eat on top of just skiers.

Up Close & Personal – Jami Kali

Up Close & Personal – Jami Kali

Jami Kali is the vocalist, lyricist and synthesizer for Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms. She is a graduate of GAR Memorial Junior-Senior High School, Wilkes-Barre, and Wilkes University, where she double-majored in English and philosophy. She and her band will take their first tour this year when they travel across New England in April. She lives in Wilkes-Barre.

Meet Jami Kali…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A:
I grew up in a heavily musical household. Both my mother and father were musicians, and they really encouraged me to express myself creatively. When my dad saw me playing around on one of his synthesizers, my parents decided to push this for me. They were really supportive of that my whole life. My dad is a guitarist. His jam room was right next to my nursery, so I would be in my crib, and he was going off on the guitar. I always enjoyed it. I started singing at a really young age. I was singing along to my favorite bands and music. My mom was always singing at the house, and she had a really beautiful voice. I started to realize I really enjoyed singing.

Q: Was there a specific time that made you realize you wanted
to be a musician?
A:
There was a jam session that my friend and I had. There was a picture of a girl on the wall. She looked very sad, and she was carrying a basket of flowers. They were joking around and said, “Jami, write lyrics about that girl,” and I did. We were just goofing around, and I started singing it. We thought it sounded really good. We wrote a song called “Black-eyed Susan” because she was picking black-eyed Susan flowers, and that was actually when my first band started with those people.

Q: What groups and musical roles did you have in the past?
A:
The first band began in 2011; it was called Mock Sun. That was like an experimental, dream punk band. That lasted for about six years. I had no idea how to book a show or how to record and release an album. It taught me how to do the whole band thing. That’s how I met my co-writer, Ray. We realized we wanted to collaborate, and that’s how Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms started. I started it as a solo project with a little recorder and my loop station. It then turned into a duo with Ray. We were so like-minded. We put some feelers out and acquired Anthony Shiny Montini, our drummer, and Matthew Chesney, our bass player. Once those guys came into the mix, it turned into something new, and it keeps evolving.

Q: Tell me about Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms.
A:
The four of us get along so well and collaborate so wonderfully. We are so different, too, that we bring so many elements to the practice space. We have so many different musical tastes.

Q: What influences you?
A:
I was a poet before I was a musician. I wrote and read a lot of poetry. The beats really inspired me. I was trying to hone in on the craft of writing poetry, and word play was always one of my favorite past times. The means of writing the poem was always more fun than to have the poem at the end. A lot of my style is heavily poetic and very dreamy. I was influenced by punk, pop and the grunge scene.

Q: How does that come together in the band?
A:
We came up with a genre called neo-psych, space rock. There’s a new movement of psychedelic music. We fit with that a bit, but we’re not exactly a psych band. We’re very spacey, ethereal, dreamy and groove-driven. There’s elements of pop, and we’re very eclectic. One thing many people say to us is there isn’t any other music like us. It’s hard to put us in a category.

Q: Tell me about the self-titled album you released earlier this year.
A:
That album explores a lot of topics relating to growth and evolving as a human, shedding the skin and becoming something new. It explores the cycle of life and the changes that take place. We recorded it all do-it-yourself; we set up a recording studio in our apartment, and we had such a good time recording it.

Q: Talk about your study of philosophy that’s had such an influence on you.
A:
When I started college, I was really into the animal rights movement. My first semester there was a course called the “Philosophy of Animal Rights.” I jumped into that, not having ever delved into philosophy. That blew my mind. I really loved hearing all the arguments, counter-arguments and different perspectives that went into every thought, issue and ethical dilemmas. It really got my wheels turning in a different way, the constant questioning. I’ve always been a deep thinker, but philosophy really changed my perspective on life.

Q: Prior to performing, you were afraid of public speaking. How did you overcome that?
A:
I was the head editor of the school’s magazine, and we would run poetry readings. I had terrifying social anxiety and fear of public speaking. When I ran these poetry readings, I felt like I was going to faint. I was filled with fear, but it seemed like I had this crazy desire to do the things that I feared the most because it’s empowering to tackle that fear of yours. The poetry readings really got me to feel a type of comfort in my voice that I didn’t feel. I remember the first time I stepped up to a microphone to do a poetry reading; I didn’t like the sound of my own voice over a microphone, so I didn’t use one. Now I love it. It’s not that I love the sound so much, but I just love the feeling of your expression coming through.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that’s helped shape who you are today?
A:
I had some experiences when I traveled across the country that really changed who I was. I remember being in the desert for the first time, and in the Badlands. There’s some type of silent beauty that’s really hard to put into words. You have to be there to feel it. That put me at a type of peace and understanding with the world. Being out west was a really incredible learning experience and really grounded me.

Photos by Emma Black. Thanks to Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms members: Ray Novitski, Anthony “Shiny” Montini and Matthew Chesney for joining in.

Up Close & Personal – Gretchen Kohut

Up Close & Personal – Gretchen Kohut

Gretchen Kohut dedicates her time around the holidays to making them special for others. Christmas is her favorite time of year, and she now spends her downtime in the winter giving back, performing as her self-invented character, Gretchen the Elf. She is an independent support living coach at St. Joseph’s Center and an activity coordinator for Allied Services. A graduate of Sacred Heart High School in Carbondale, Kohut earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Marywood University. She and her husband David live in Scranton’s East Mountain section with their 9-year-old son, Tyler.

Meet Gretchen Kohut…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A:
I was born and raised in Carbondale. I have a degree in restaurant and hotel management from Marywood University. I did my degree for many years, and when I was pregnant with my son I realized I wanted more of a part-time job so I could spend more time with the family. The Elf on a Shelf was getting so big, and nobody in the area did anything like this. I started calling day cares and schools to see if they would be interested in a visit by the elf. I created the concept of (how), at the end, the kids whisper in my elf ear what they want for Christmas, and I fly back to the North Pole and report to Santa. The nursing homes and assisted livings heard about it by word of mouth. This is my sixth year, and it’s gotten bigger each year.

Q: What led up to Elf on the Shelf?
A:
I managed Cooper’s (Seafood House) for almost 10 years, and I developed and ran kids’ birthday parties there. Right out of college, I started working at Perkins, and managed Perkins and Ruby Tuesday’s. I never thought I would leave Cooper’s. They treated me like family. I loved it so much. I had to make a decision (when I had my son) as to if I could work nights, weekends and holidays, and I didn’t think I could.

Q: Describe the work you do as Gretchen the Elf.
A:
I do singing, dancing, story time and talk about experiences from the North Pole with kids. I take snowshoes from the North Pole, and I teach the kids how to dance North Pole-style. It’s stomping around in your snowshoes and jumping over a ski mountain; I created it. Then I report back to Santa and tell him what the children want for Christmas and if they’re good or bad. When I go to nursing homes and assisted livings, they don’t know the concept of Elf on the Shelf since that’s for children. I am just Gretchen the Elf, and I do sing-alongs and spread my Christmas cheer. My son still believes in the elf. I still have fun hiding the elves, and I have to pretend that I fly back to the North Pole a couple times a week, so I make sure that I bring something back from the North Pole each time. I have a special ringtone on my phone from Santa to carry on with my son.

Q: You mentioned Christmas is your favorite time of year. What makes it such a special time for you?
A:
My family has always been very big on holidays, including birthdays. Christmas is just one of my favorites, and my birthday is in December. I used to get my Christmas money and go to Mermelstein’s, in Carbondale and decorate my room from top to bottom in Christmas spirit. I never thought I would be an elf, but I just love Christmas so much. After I had my son, it made Christmas even more of a happier time because I got to celebrate with a child. Now he’s picked up my trait of decorating his room for Christmas. I love to give; I love to buy gifts for other people, and I love to go to the nursing homes to sing.

Q: Since you created a character who dresses up and sings, do you have any background or previous interest in performance?
A:
When I developed and ran kids’ birthday parties at Cooper’s, I found a calling and a desire to work with children. I love to make them happy. I was trying to think of another way to have fun with children, and that’s when the elf came about.

Q: What is your favorite part about the interactions you have?
A:
With the residents, I try to be very cautious, because for some people, Christmas is not a happy time. Some people don’t have family, and some have lost a loved one. I am very cautious that I don’t make them feel worse. Being a people person is part of my job, and I can read people very well. It’s all about a connection I make with them and being able to read them, and if they don’t want to be involved, I don’t continue to push.

Q: What activities do you enjoy doing with your son?
A:
Every afternoon, my son and I walk Lake Scranton. He’s been doing that since he can walk. We like nature and go on a lot of nature hikes. I love to be involved with him. I pick him up from school every day. I never miss a day picking him up, so he can tell me about his day. He is also a skier — I am not — but during the winter when I am busier, my husband takes him skiing.

Q: What other hobbies do you have?
A:
I don’t have many hobbies, but I love to exercise and be healthy. I love swimming and the summer. I love hiking and biking and bike every morning. Nature and being healthy are my biggest hobbies.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A:
I can’t sit still. Even my husband will say I don’t sit down until seven o’clock at night. I’m so high energy that I have a hard time sitting.

Q: Talk about your work as an individual support living coach.
A:
I have four individuals with special needs, and I coach them to live independently in the community. They all live on their own. It’s like having four adult children of your own. I have a compassion for people with special needs. I was looking for a part-time job. I heard about this, and when I started out, I thought it wasn’t my cup of tea. I only planned to do it until my son went to school, but I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s amazing and very rewarding.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A:
I didn’t want to go to college. My father pretty much forced me to go to college. I wanted to drop out, and I didn’t think it was for me. I think my father is my big inspiration. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my father persuading me to go to school and get my degree.

Up Close & Personal – Devon O’Keefe

Up Close & Personal – Devon O’Keefe

Devon O’Keefe makes his living as a full-time artist, and while he loves art, music is his full-time hobby. He works as a tattoo artist at Glass Heart Tattooing & Arts in Plains Twp. but also is an illustrator who has given his talents to many children’s books and does commissioned paintings, too. He studied voice and piano at Baptist Bible College (now Clarks Summit University) and graduated with a degree in graphic design and illustration from Marywood University. He and his wife, Danielle, have two daughters, Story, 3, and Ivy, 2.

Meet Devon O’Keefe…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I grew up in a church setting. My parents were heavy into faith, and my whole family still is. When I graduated, I worked at a church for seven years as the worship and art director. I met my wife at the youth group at Grace Bible (Church) in Dunmore.

Q: Tell me about your background in art.
A:
I started drawing when I was little. I drew animals all the time. I decided I wanted to be an illustrator, so I took a class at Marywood, as well as a graphic design class. At first, I got a lot of work in graphic design working with small businesses on logos and signs. I’ve been in contact with authors and worked on different books. One of them was my sister; she wrote a book, and I illustrated it. I’ve done book projects, and I started getting into the gallery scene where I do these big paintings. I do a lot of commissions for people, and I love to do that. When I was working at the church, I would also do a lot of live speed paintings.

Q: Describe your style as an artist.
A:
When I start drawing something, I’ll have a vision in my head, but when it comes out, you can tell it’s mine. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is, but if I had to choose words to describe my work, it would be earthy with spiritual undertones and kind of eclectic. As far as tattooing goes, I’m not a fan of traditional tattoos. My tattoos aren’t traditional at all; they’re more illustrative. I tackle each piece as an individual piece of artwork that my style can flow into, then I tattoo it.

Q: Which came first, the studio art or tattoo art? How did one lead to the other?
A:
I illustrated a book cover, and it was a collection of poems someone wrote. He asked me to do the book cover, which was a watercolor conch shell. He ended up going to Derek Zielinski, who is now the owner of (Glass Heart Tattooing & Arts), to get that tattooed on his arm. He showed it to me after, and I thought it was really cool. I decided I was going to go to him for my next tattoo. He tattooed my hand, and he knew of my art before I came to him. While he was tattooing me, he was secretly interviewing me, and he told me afterwards. He called me a week later and asked if I wanted to be his apprentice and tattoo with him. I fell in love with it. Coming into it was a totally different way from the normal way of getting into tattooing.

Q: What is your favorite medium?
A:
There is something special about each one. There are certain things that I can do with one that I can’t do with another. I like tattooing my artwork because it’s a permanent thing, and it’s not going anywhere. I love that aspect, and the process of tattooing and the conversations we have. I also love creating giant paintings. I’d say my favorite art is this style of watercolor. I did a series, and each one is big with a decorative Victorian frame. I pack in a lot of symbolism. One of my favorite things is when they’re in art galleries, watching people look at them for a while and pick things out. The other joy that comes from this style is I love making people think about things they haven’t thought about before in a deeper way.

Q: Tell me about your own tattoos and what they say about you.
A:
A lot of them are spiritual. I have one for Ivy and one for Story. I also love the design on my hand, because when I’m wearing long sleeves, it shows. I have a matching tattoo with my wife. It’s a tree with an open bird cage and two birds flying out of it. That was kind of our theme at our wedding too. My entire family, my four siblings and my parents, got our family crest together.

Q: What is a tattoo design that you are most proud of?
A:
One of my favorite tattoos that I’ve done is a series of watercolor and ink that was an animal with some kind of fantasy element to it. For example, there was a rabbit with flowers coming out of his ears. A client of mine wanted something from the series, maybe an alligator or crocodile. I thought it would be cool to do a crocodile head with crystals coming out of it instead of the bumps on its head. That one was awesome and so much fun.

Q: You switch between using large and small canvases and people skin as your surface. What is the transition like?
A:
My first tattoo on a person was myself. I’m so glad I did that, because it looks terrible. Everybody’s skin is a different canvas; it’s got different consistency, different skin tones and, of top of it, the place (on their body) they get the tattoo. I love it, and the challenges are great.

Q: What other hobbies do you have?
A:
Music is a big part of my life, just as much as art. Me, my sister and my brother-in-law have played music together (for) years. My brother-in-law and I have been playing together for 10 years. The day we met, we became best friends. Then he married my sister, and I was all for that. That was awesome because we could still hang out. We played together at the church every Sunday for years. We recently went to audition for “America’s Got Talent” in New York City. Good things are coming, and we’re still blown away by it. My daughters like to sing along; they know all my songs by heart. We like dancing and singing together. I love being outside. My buddy and I … do rock climbing. I love bringing the girls on hikes too. They love every second of that.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A:
The first thing that comes to mind is having kids. They’ve taught me so many lessons in life. I’ve also been a spiritual person trying to practice the presence of God in every day, but these girls have taught me unconditional love and lessons of just existing. These girls are everything to me.

Up Close & Personal – Zack Graham

Up Close & Personal – Zack Graham

Zack Graham co-owns and manages the Haberdashery, a men’s clothing store in Forty Fort, which won the Times-Tribune 2018 Readers’ Choice Award for best men’s clothing store and also received the same honor in Electric City’s 2017 Best Of awards. When he is not keeping up on the latest fashion trends, he can be found performing as a solo musician or with his band, the Groove Berries. He is a 2012 graduate of Abington Heights High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in business management and leadership from Marywood University. He also is employed by Bold Gold Media and lives in Clarks Summit.

Meet Zack Graham…

Q: What is your musical background?  
A:
I started when I was 7 or 8 years old with guitar. Originally, I didn’t love it and wanted to quit because I thought it was hard. I stuck with guitar and singing. I like to at least have a handle on a bunch of different things. So, I started playing the drums, then keyboard and now I play bass.

Q: Describe your personal musical style.
A:
I’ve really gotten into taking covers and revamping them. I try to make things fit me as a musician. Anything melodic is what catches me in songs. Whether it’s on keyboard, guitar or vocals, I’ve always liked that.

Q: The Groove Berries is your most recent project. Describe its style.
A:
We’re a fusion mix of jazz, rock, funk and blues. We’re just a group of guys who have been playing together for more than 10 years. It’s myself, Matt Montella and Matt Domenico. We’ve been playing together since Little Matt (as I call him, Matt Domenico) was 12. As the years went on, we stayed really close. One night, we thought we should play it out sometime. We had no idea how it was going to go. We played at a First Friday, and people loved it. We wanted to keep rolling with it. We know each other so well, so our chemistry as musicians is great. We’re all best friends, and we hang out way more than people would think. If I go two days without seeing either one of them, it’s like a reunion when I see them.


Q: Who are your musical inspirations?
A:
Led Zepplin for sure, AC/DC, Frank Sinatra and the band Cream. I love them. It’s a trio, and they’re very rock and roll, bluesy, but have that psychedelic twist. They’re really diverse.

Q: What led you to opening the Haberdashery? 
A:
I started in the radio world in college. I also really liked TV and did Marywood’s TV station. I was the anchor, and I absolutely loved it. I thought I wanted to be on MTV or something goofy, and that was what I was going to pursue. As time went on, it pulled me away from that. I was in grad school, and my (now) business partner was there. I was wearing a suit because I had just come from work. He said he liked my pocket square. I complemented his outfit, because he was and was always well-dressed. We just clicked and became friends. He worked for a clothing store in Dunmore which was closing, but he wanted to open up a men’s clothing store. I always used to look up to designers and people, so it was something I wanted to do. It was just the right time and place.

Q: Where does your interest in upscale clothing come from?
A:
I’ve always loved clothing. Anyone from high school or Marywood can probably tell you that you’ll always see me in something that you won’t see anywhere else. At Marywood, I was known as the Yeti. I wore a big fur coat, I carried a cane, and I wore big dressy boots. Years later, there was a page, and it would say “spotted again,” and it was pictures of me, like a Bigfoot sighting. When I was in grade school, I was really anxious and always wanted to fit in. One day in high school, it hit me like a sack of bricks, and I didn’t want to fit in anymore. I decided I’m just going to do my own thing. I didn’t care if people liked it or didn’t like it; I’m just going to be a good person.

Q: Describe some other elements that go into running your business.
A:
There’s so much that goes into it. Right now, we do all of our buying in New York City. We go to Fashion Week twice a year. People think it’s just clothes, but there are 600 to 700 or more vendors. You have to look at the cuts, fabrics and swatches then go to showrooms and do the buying. You buy a year in advance, so in January of 2019, I’ll be buying for January 2020. I see the trends before they’re out, but my business partner and I have to be smart enough to predict what people are going to buy in a year. In showrooms, they give you Champagne and show you swatch books; it’s very elegant. It’s very rigorous, but it’s amazing.

Q: What other hobbies or interests do you have?
A:
I am a Freemason member of Lodge 597. We get together for meetings once a month and plan charity events. It’s a great organization that not a lot of people know much about. I’m also a part of the Wilkes-Barre Power Group. It’s young professionals getting together to talk business and network. I love the gym and working out. I also enjoy just walking. I used to always need to be around people, but now in my free time, I like to decompress and go on walks. And, of course, music is a hobby. I always look forward to shows. I also love Netflix, TV and the show “Friends.” I love watches, I collect them, and I love cars, but I can’t afford to collect them. I love spending time with family too.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A:
I’m very close with my family. We’re all very Italian, and in the Italian family structure, the maternal figure is everything. What my grandma says is gold. I have so many conversations with her, and I noticed that a lot of her conversations start with, “We almost did this, but we didn’t, and I wish we did.” I realized I don’t ever want to regret anything. I’m just going to go for it.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Aubrey McClintock

Up Close & Personal – Aubrey McClintock

Aubrey McClintock, a Hudson Valley, New York native, is a former middle school math and science teacher. She has a degree in elementary education from Marywood University and a master’s degree in library science from Clarion University. She now runs A Daily Obsession, through which she makes and sells fascinators. She and her husband, Lee, have two children, Kaylee, 9, and Jack, 7. They live in Old Forge.

Meet Aubrey McClintock…

Q: For those who may not be familiar, tell me about fascinators and their background?
A: Fascinators are miniature hats, for the most part. The styles that I do kind of have a hod to 1940-style hat, but with more modern, kitschy or ridiculous themes. Philip Treacy is one of the famous milliners. He’s in England, and he kind of introduced the idea and brought back the term fascinator and turned it into ridiculousness. A lot of people don’t (know) the term fascinator, so I usually say I make hats or miniature hats.

Q: Describe your design style.
A: I like to have fun with it, and I entertain myself with my colors. I’ve always dressed different, and that has always been a way to express myself. In high school, I was just a straight-up nerd. I did not do anything remotely artistic. But I expressed myself through clothing. I had a pair of powder blue, big, polyester bell bottoms that I wore, not as a joke. I always had fun with clothing. It’s more fun and colorful, and it makes people smile.

Q: Talk about the design and construction part.
A: Sometimes I start with a problem to solve, such as, “How can I put a martini on your head?” Other things I just kind of collect little bits and bobs and pieces. I’m the one at an estate sale who buys a box of ornaments that are odds and ends and I repurpose them. I’ll start with a general idea, but there’s a lot of playing with it, holding things up; it kind of has to evolve.

Q: Why on your head?
A: I know, right? I don’t have a good reason exactly. It just evolved that way. It’s so unexpected and ridiculous and makes people smile. People will look at me like I’m nuts and think there’s no way I’m putting that on my head. … I am inspired, too. There is a guy in Chicago; Bess Ben was the name of the millinery shop, and he, back in the ’40s, was making ridiculous stuff. He was putting lobsters and little toys and mice from doll houses and all sorts of crazy stuff on there.

Q: Tell me about your upcoming trip to Las Vegas.
A: I’ve been asked to do a trade show. So, I’ve never done a trade show before, and I’m a little nervous but super excited. It’s for London Edge, and they work with a lot of designers and retailers who have a retro, funky (style), like Modcloth and other shops that have that retro nod but with a more modern approach. They have a makers and designers section, which I’m going to be in, and we’ll what happens. I’ll have to curate a collection for it, because so many of my things are one-of-a-kind, and that won’t work for a trade show.

Q: What is the most unusual custom request you’ve received?
A: I did do a set of two flamingoes, one like a bride and the other a groom with a top hat and everything. I gave them a champagne bottle, and that hat went to Japan, I think, or somewhere overseas, and they sent me pictures. So that’s one of the more odd ones.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: I am a huge reader. I love to read; I’m a big book nerd. Lately I’m reading a lot of nonfiction. I like a good, cozy mystery, not too gory. I like to read things that make me feel nice. I enjoy a lot of British literature, young adult stuff, partially because I have to screen what my daughter reads.

Q: What activities do you enjoy doing with your kids?
A: We read together. My son likes to read to me; my daughter is more independent. They’re both very athletic, and we spend a lot of time at sporting events. We just finished football and cheer; now we’re into basketball, and the spring will bring Little League. They’re very good at estate sales and thrifting. They have pretty rich little lives.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: I tell people and they don’t believe it, but in high school and college, art classes brought down my overall GPA. It hurt my nerdy average, so it’s kind of amazing that I do this now.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped who you are today?
A: It would be, I guess, feeling truly comfortable in my own skin, and I think that came from having a healthy relationship. So I would like to attribute that to my husband, but to be totally comfortable with all your weirdness and not trying to fit in anymore. Just being OK with not being everyone’s cup of tea has really helped me leave teaching when it was the right time and not feel like I had (an) identify as a teacher. I don’t just identify as a mom or anything else, so it gives validity to all of your different quirks.

For more information on Aubrey McClintock and to purchase her products, visit adailyobsession.com 

Photos taken at Eclectic City Studio in Scranton.

 

Up Close & Personal – Rachel Lucille Woodworth

Up Close & Personal – Rachel Lucille Woodworth

Rachel Lucille Woodworth has always been interested in music. After graduating from North Pocono High School and studying at Pratt Institute and New York Film Academy, she went abroad to study acting at the Theater of Changes and guitar, harmony and theory under the guidance of guitarist Yiorgos Argyropoulos at Musical Praxis Conservatory, both in Athens, Greece. When a medical condition forced her to return home to Northeast Pennsylvania, she pursued a music career. She is now a singer, songwriter, composer and guitarist who leads LittleStarRun.

Meet Rachel Lucille Woodworth…

Q: What is your music background?
A: I’m influenced by shoe gaze music and a lot of indie rock and some punk elements. I definitely grew up listening to that type of music. Also, I was really passionate about jazz from a young age, and my first instrument was the clarinet. I have a jazz and classical background. Ultimately, I have been influenced by that as well, perhaps in the way I approach my compositions.

Q: What is LittleStarRun?

A: LittleStarRun is music project I started around 2009. I had a few incarnations of my project LittleStarRun with other band members, but I really had trouble keeping it together. I tried to put together a band for a long time, but it’s very difficult to find the right chemistry and people whose schedules align. I’ve found two musicians that I really enjoy playing with, Justin Padro and Chelsea Taylor. I call (our music) indie dream folk, but it actually has maybe a lot more elements to it.

Q: How did you come up with the name LittleStarRun?
A: A friend of mine in Athens started calling me “Little Star,” and it sort of just became this weird, iconic name. The LittleStarRun came about a strange way; it was influenced by (a) song (by) the Velvet Underground and the lyrics “run, run, run.”

Q: Talk about your experience in Greece. What led you there?
A: I went on tour with a circus theater company. While I was performing there, I was much more interested in Athens and Greece in general than what I was doing with the circus theater company. I had planned to do acrobatics in Greece, but there isn’t much of a scene there. Now there’s actually a thriving scene, but I wasn’t able to get jobs, and it just wasn’t working. Then I saw an ad for a theater school that was putting on an international theater festival, and I decided to try it out. I was a participant in the festival, and I really enjoyed all of the workshops. I decided to enroll. This was probably two years into my time in Greece. When I was in theater school, that’s when all of the musical stuff started to happen for me.

Q: Describe yourself as a songwriter.

A: I think my theatrical background definitely affects the way I write songs, the way I put words together, the way I see images; and songs, to me, are all about images. It’s like I’m watching these scenes that flow through me, then I’m kind of describing what I’m experiencing in that imaginary realm. I don’t ever really set out to write about something specific. When I’m writing for a job or something like that and I have to produce something specific, then I can. But when I’m just doing my own music for my own project, I don’t choose subjects to write about.

Q: Can you compare and contrast the music scene here and the music scene in Greece?
A: There is actually a good English-language indie rock scene in Athens. A lot of bands from all over come through and play shows, so it’s a really eclectic and thriving music scene. I got to experience a lot of world music as well, also Greek traditional music, Italian traditional music and a lot of other types of music (that) I really (hadn’t) been exposed to in that depth. Also, that’s where I really got exposed to shoe gaze music from the United Kingdom.

Q: Talk about the album you’re working on.
A: The album is really about the emotions I experienced when I had to leave Greece and move back to the United States. The songs are a combination (of) those two countries and also just the chaos that ensued when I had to move back. It’s been a very interesting return, and I’ve been dealing with a lot. I’ve been processing a lot and put all of that into my music.

Q: What brought you back to the United States?
A: I got a really severe injury in my ankle, and it wouldn’t heal. I was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called CRPS/RSD. It can affect the whole body and can spread onto the nerves. I had to come back to the United States for treatment. I try to raise awareness because it’s not something people understand or know a lot about even within the medical community. It’s something that can happen to anyone, no one is immune, and it completely changed my world view. I had to slow my life down in a way that I never expected. It’s definitely made me more compassionate and understanding to anyone who is experiencing any kind of suffering. Also, how fragile life can be, how quickly things change. If I had been doing acrobatics when it happened, it probably would’ve devastated me even more, but in a way, it’s good that I was a musician because I could still play.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: I’m really into film. I like writing. I am actually in a theatrical (playwrights) group. We’re working on some pieces for theater. Songwriting is a huge part of my existence. Over the last two years, I started working with some writers in other countries and in other places to do collaborations and to write for film and television.

Q: After working with many international artists, you immersed yourself in the NEPA music community quickly. What’s it like to be a part of that?
A: I love our music scene and have collaborated with a lot of people around here. I was part of the band Brian TV for a while, which is an indie-psychedelic rock band. We released a short album over the summer called “Animal Worship.” We have so much talent in this area, and there’s a really good community.

Q: What is a fun fact about you?

A: I’m really into genealogy. When I first got (diagnosed with) my illness, I had to spend a lot of time at home in bed. I did extensive genealogy research on my family. I can get really into nerdy stuff like that.

Q: We’ve talked about many things that were life-changing for you, but can you pinpoint a specific time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: There was a time in New York City where I lived and worked at a small jazz club in the West Village. I got to experience being next to amazing, world-class musicians every night. It was a really inspiring time for me. I think that really changed me in a lot of ways.

Photos taken at Adezzo

 

An Up Close & Personal Gift Guide

An Up Close & Personal Gift Guide

I consider myself lucky to write the Up Close & Personal feature for Electric City. The people I meet open my eyes to incredible talent and kindness here in NEPA, and I make many friends in the process. I have witnessed first-hand skilled artisans pour their heart and soul into what they do. I looked through past Up Close & Personal articles and put together a guide to help you find the perfect gift for all the important people in your life. This holiday season, know that when you buy from any of the people below, each product is made with exceptional love and care.

Accessorizor. Give a piece of personalized jewelry to a special someone. AOS Metals, 527 Bogart Place, Scranton, features handmade and custom-made jewelry that can be personalized on the spot. Whether you want a name, sports team or other sentimental word stamped on, owner and metalsmith Kari Johnson will help you come up with the perfect piece.
“Sometimes … 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,” said Johnson during an interview in March.

Scent lover. Do you know someone who loves perfume, but is picky about the perfect scent? Give a custom perfume experience and let that person design his or her own perfume. NOTE Fragrances, located at 401 Spruce St., Scranton, and at 312 S. State St., Clarks Summit, features owner, Danielle Fleming’s own creations of body butters, candles, lip balms and perfumes, but she is also there to help customers create a special scent that is unique and personal.
“We’ve had people make fragrances to connect to loved ones who passed away or for a loved one. That is the powerful effect of aroma and how it works with our brain. Some have been brought to tears going through the experience,” said Fleming during an interview in April.

Up-and-coming musician. Give the gift of music lessons. Tyler Dempsey is a professional drummer and drum instructor who teaches out of his home and at private studios in Wilkes-Barre and Moscow. For drum lessons with Tyler Dempsey, visit tylerdempseymusic.com.
A professional musician and DJ, Neil Nicastro has been teaching guitar for more than 20 years. He teaches at Neil Nicastro Music, Entertainment and Instruction in Dunmore. Visit nnusic.com.

Practical person. For that someone who loves functionality, try a personalized, hand-crafted wood item. Don Fisch Jr., owner of DF Custom Concepts, builds household items such as step stools, business card holders and children’s growth rulers to track your child’s height, as well as made-to-order items. Fisch cuts each piece of wood and works with each customer to add a special touch, whether it be a silhouette of their favorite character or their name, on every piece. Visit dfcustomconcepts.com.

The light of your life. Give a gift that will brighten someone’s day. Mechanical Concepts owner, Shawn Jennings combines his love for cars and art to create unique lamps using scrap metal, particularly old car parts. The mechanic takes pride in the artistic aspect of exemplifying shadows casted by light and the ambience it gives off.
“All of my work is original where I don’t duplicate anything,” said Jennings in an interview in November. “I’ll have the same concept, but everything is a little different about each piece. They’re signed, numbered and dated, and I keep a catalog record of them all, so it adds a little extra specialness to each person’s piece.” Jennings’ products are available at On&On, 1138 Capouse Ave., Scranton.

Scrantonian. Show off your NEPA pride by giving a Valerie Kiser Design home and lifestyle item. Hoping to spread positivity with her brand, Valerie Kiser Design features stylish, high-quality clothing, home decor and more, all of which feature Kiser’s hand-printing and sewing, including her line featuring the iconic Electric City sign.
“I love Scranton and feel good about it. There are so many naysayers in our area, and it gets a bad rep … If somebody gets very negative about Scranton, I try to shut that down,” said Kiser in an interview in August. Share a symbol of Scranton with someone who also loves this city or take a piece of Scranton and give it to friends and family from out of town. Kiser’s collection is available at Lavish Body and Home, 600 Linden St., Scranton and valeriekiserdesign.com.

Wine enthusiast. Share a bottle of wine that will have everybody laughing. Located at 134 N. Main Ave., Scranton, Lucchi Family Wine Cellars offers both sweet and dry wines. With names such as “PMS” (Pineapple Mango Sangria) and “Sexy Sisters,” give a bottle that will tell your loved ones how you really feel about them.

This holiday season, support these local crafters who are working tirelessly to make sure you get the best. Enjoy the shopping season.

— Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Glynis M. Johns

Up Close & Personal – Glynis M. Johns

Twenty-five-year-old Glynis M. Johns is a Scranton native working to give local people of color a voice through the Black Scranton Project. She is a 2011 graduate of Scranton High School and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from St. John’s University in Queens, New York. She is now giving back to the schools that gave her so much, working as a substitute teacher in Scranton School District and as an adjunct professor of sociology at St. John’s.

Meet Glynis M. Johns…

Q: What interested you in sociology and led you to study it?
A: When I got to college, I was undecided. I took a sociology course in high school and then I went to the department and the faculty was so inviting. I fell in love from there. I really love researching and learning about particular communities and people. I’m most interested in race and critical race theories and equality. I consider myself a socio-historian.

Q: Describe what a socio-historian is.
A: A socio-historian looks at particular aspects of history through a sociological lens. I’m looking at the black community here and black history. I’m trying to provide a narrative and story about the black community based on census data and all of the things I’ve found. I’m giving them a voice and putting them in a sociological perspective.

Q: Tell me more about the Black Scranton Project.  
A: My mission is to share and provide cultural engagement and enrichment for the black and brown community here. I just want to give a voice and platform to under represented groups in Scranton. Hopefully this project can be a stepping stone for other communities. That way we can make this a bigger project so people have cultural archives, and I think that’s important especially from a city that really boasts cultural diversity. I’m trying to look for a team and get the community involved. I’m looking for artists, educators, student involvement and institutions to get involved. I want it to be bigger than myself.

Q: You recently organized “Shoutout Black Art Exhibition.” What was that?
A: I wanted to create an event that was unapologetic. I feel like a lot of times people are afraid to call things what they are. Even though I said blackness is not a monolith, these are black artists with black expressions. Why can’t we have a room full of that and ask people to come? I’m black, I’m here and I want to see black art, so why not do it? I think people were afraid it might be exclusive. Seeing an exhibit on the First Friday map that says “Shoutout Black Art Exhibition,” maybe some people thought they can’t go because they’re not black, they can’t be in a room full of black art. If the roles were reversed, if you’re a person of color and you’re always in white spaces, we don’t do that because we wouldn’t be anywhere. It was a celebration and a lot of the artists had exposure.

Q: You are also an artist yourself. What got you interested in art?
A: I grew up in a very artistic family. My mom is an artist; she used to paint and do so many different types of art. That trickled down to her children. Myself and my brothers, we’re very artistic. I’m interested in photography, but I dabble in other things. I was into jewelry making for some time. I’m a DIY kind of person, so anything I want and I can make it, I’m going to make it. I love doing those projects and making things on my own. I enjoy portrait photography. I also enjoy still-life and experimental photography, such as the light drawings done with long exposures. I love the bare bones of photography. I used to be in the dark room every day.

Q: You go back and forth between working with college students and children ages 5 through 18. How do you make that transition?
A: The language that you use for college students is obviously going to be different than when you’re talking to a fifth-grader. But there is also this common ground of understanding when you’re talking about topics. I can talk about something to a fifth-grader and they’ll understand it, and I can talk about the same thing to a college student and they’ll both understand on the same intellectual level. I love sitting in a room of 5-year-olds one day and a room of college students the next. It keeps me on my toes.

Q: Being so young, what is it like teaching people close to you in age?
A: What I find to be the most interesting particularly at St. John’s, it is a diverse school, but there is a disparity between the diversity in students and diversity in faculty. I’m coming from a different perspective because I was a student there, and now I’m faculty. My students come up to me and they’re like, “Wow, you’re the first black professor I’ve ever had.” When I was in college, I had the same experience. I’m so very young, but they’re coming to me for support that they’re not seeking from other faculty members. I have a responsibility and care for my students because I want them to have something I didn’t have.

Q: What is something your students have taught you?
A: I learned how hungry students actually are to learn. I’m always amazed by how smart my students are. Sometimes I underestimate them or think something is going to be too much, but they out-do me every time, which also inspires me to be better.

Q: What other hobbies or interests do you have?
A: I am leading the Complete Count Committee. It’s for the 2020 census with the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s up to local communities to make sure everyone is counted once and in the right place. Our area — Lackawanna County, but Scranton in particular — has been severely undercounted. We are trying to make sure that people are being counted, because there is $675 billion in federal funding that gets distributed to local municipalities depending on the response. That means we can get more funding for schools, Head Start and public programs. It’s a big project, but it’s something that I really like.

Q: Have you had a moment that helped shape who you are today?
A: My dad passed away in 2015 right before I was about to graduate. I knew he was the most excited for me to graduate, so I knew I had to finish school and do it for him. The underlying support and strength that I find is through my dad and how proud he is of me.

Up Close & Personal – Shawn Jennings

Up Close & Personal – Shawn Jennings

You may have seen Shawn Jennings in downtown Scranton sporting his top hat at events. He is a 1930s, ’40s and ’50s enthusiast who found a way to combine his love for cars with his passion for art. Jennings attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and earned a degree in graphic art from Somerset Technical Institute. He owns Jennings Turnpike Garage and Mechanical Concepts and lives in Dunmore.

Meet Shawn Jennings…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I restore classic cars and build hot rods in Dunmore at Jennings Turnpike Garage. That’s also my art studio for my lamps and home decor. I tie the two together, and they cross paths because some of the parts I use are automotive parts. I’ve been into cars ever since I had my driver’s license. I’ve worked at shops fixing cars then branched off on my own and started my own business, Jennings Turnpike Garage. That’s like a form of metal art in itself. The car restoration, hot rods and customs turned into making these lamps and home decor for my friends as unique gifts.

Q: What made the “light bulb go off” for the concept of Mechanical Concepts?
A: One of the things I like with the lights is the artistic side of the shadows that they cast and the ambiance. A lot of the lights have old-style Edison bulbs, which give off a nice, soft tone with a warm glow. When you combine that with the mechanical objects, which are kind of cold and harsh, it blends together. I want people to be able to look at it and be able to tell it’s mine.

Q: Can you describe what gives your pieces that “signature touch”?
A: Automotive and steampunk-inspired industrial home decor. I like the steampunk aspect of it, which I kind of embellish on. I dress that way when I do shows. The Victorian-based era of steam-powered, mechanical things mixed with science-fiction. All of my work is original where I don’t duplicate anything. I’ll have the same concept, but everything is a little different about each piece. They’re signed, numbered and dated, and I keep a catalog record of them all, so it adds a little extra specialness to each person’s piece.

Q: Tell me about Mechanical Concepts.
A: A lot of the parts are from my shop of scrap metal. The parts may not be of value to a car, but it gives a new life and adds to it. As far as the local mechanics, my friends, I go through their piles of stuff, or they’ll put gears, pulleys and interesting mechanical items to the side for me. I guess I got my style to a point where people know what I would want and they save it for me. Also, the fun of hunting at flea markets and garage sales for unique items.

Q: What goes into the construction aspect?
A: A lot of it was self-taught as well as watching others who were trained in the fields. A lot was trial and error. A lot of it is basic wiring. I like to try and make my pieces unique as far as how to turn them on. Instead of an obvious switch, I’ll incorporate an item on the piece that doesn’t look like it’s the switch; for example, a small gear, but there’s actually a hidden switch underneath it. Visually, it looks like it’s part of the artwork, but it actually serves a function. I took the basics of wiring concepts and added my little artistic touch to it. I just start grabbing stuff that I think will work together and assemble it into a mock-up of what it can be. People say “go make me something,” but it doesn’t work like that. I have to be inspired by my surroundings and what I see and what I’m feeling at the moment.

Q: What is the most memorable backstory to a piece you’ve created?
A: One I am working on right now. It’s a camping lantern, and it belonged to her father. They’re not going to use a lantern in their house, and they don’t go camping anymore. It’s a remembrance to her father; she wants to have it to look at. I’m going to turn it into a lamp so she can have it in her house and look at it and remember those days of camping. That one is pretty special.

Q: What has been the most gratifying part of the business?
A: Seeing the people’s responses. I like going to the shows and interacting with people. Whether they buy something or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s interacting, conversing and seeing their response to my work. It’s very rewarding on that part, but then when they actually buy something and want to display something in their home, something that I created from components that weren’t looked at to have any artistic value, now they’re displaying it in their home. To see their enjoyment in having a unique piece is very satisfying.

Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of the business?
A: A lot of my life is geared toward classic cars, the hot rod culture. I like the past, so the antiques, the era of 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, really appeals to me. I try to live somewhat in those times. I try to dress the part. That’s more of my art side, and to make a statement and my scene with my business and lights. I would dress like this more often if my job and society allowed it more. If I’m at the shop restoring a car and welding, I’m not as dressed up, but I like to go to events with ’40s or ’50s-based themes.

Q: Have you had a time or moment in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: Probably when I decided to start my own business as far as the cars and having my own shop, 25 years ago. I was working for other people, and I was limited to what I could do. I realized that the only way I was going to continue evolving was to go out on my own, so that was the turning point for me. I started my own business, and it turned into my art. It’s finally come full-circle where I went to school to be an artist and, based on the timing and the age of computers, I was a little behind the times, so I took my other passion of cars and went with that. As time allowed, I combined the two, and I’m hoping that I can switch back to making art a majority of my business.

Photos taken by Emma Black at On&On, 1138 Capouse Ave., Scranton, where Jennings’ products are available

Up Close & Personal – Edward Chesek

Up Close & Personal – Edward Chesek

Edward Chesek’s eye for detail led him down a special path. While he works as a graphic artist at Kevin’s World Wide, his love for vintage and his background in design brought him to start a side business, Your Treasured Junk. He graduated from West Scranton High School and Marywood University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. He recently got engaged to his partner, Kyle, whom he met one night when he was out and asked to try on his 1960s-style glasses. They bonded over their style and now live in Hanover Twp.

Meet Edward Chesek…

Q: Can you describe Your Treasured Junk?
A: My primary points of interest are estate sales, garage sales, word of mouth. When people know you’ve been doing something like this for such a while, they’ll come to you knowing what your specific needs and wants are. I’ll look at their items and evaluate them. I’m not a certified appraiser by any means, so I can’t put a true value on it for them, but I can offer them a price to take it. You have to hunt for the right items. I’ll only find items that have a high level of quality to them. Sometimes I will refurbish. I enjoy sharing the experience with other people.

Q: How did you start Your Treasured Junk?
A: Your Treasured Junk was developed because, through my artistic eye and my love for the display of items, I wanted to incorporate both detail and design from the vintage realm and showcase it in a way that entices people. My artistic nature, in general, is what brought me to enjoying a passion for quality vintage items. I find that a lot of them have more durability. The alluring effects of some of the items from a past day is phenomenal.

Q: Where does your fascination with vintage items come from?
A: I grew up in a home where my mother inherited furniture from the Depression Era from her aunt who had passed away. I fell in love with that furniture. I always had interest in the quality of it and the intricacy in the detail work. Back then, furniture was made a lot differently and wasn’t as mass-produced as it is now. She had such a passion for it and taught me a lot about it. She would explain to me about the chandelier in the room and how it tied in with the set itself. Later down the line, she purchased a parlor set that went with the dining set. I knew right then and there that I just loved things from the past. It was an aspect of life that I wanted to immerse myself in. I remember vividly just having that gravitational pull toward that furniture.

Q: Being that you buy items from other people, have you come across any that have a unique backstory?
A: Interestingly enough, the hats and purses that I have scattered around, Kyle’s coworker had come across them. Two wealthy sisters had many hats and clothes. (The coworker) brought them in and asked if he might like to keep them. There were probably 100 hats. It’s interesting to know that someone is wearing a part of the past, and they’re carrying a purse or a pocketbook or something from that era. The memory lives on. Another one is in the popcorn art. You see the Tweedys, they’re made with melted plastic using rippling effects and formed into shapes. I remember as a child going to Chapman Lake in the summer with my grandparents. Every summer, we would hang popcorn art on the fence outside the kitchen window. I fell in love with popcorn art, and any time I come across popcorn art, I remember my childhood and the time I spent at the lake. Every time I sell popcorn art, I wonder what the person will do with it; maybe they will hang it on a fence. It’s a happy memory of childhood.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of the business and work?
A: I like to garden. I like cars. I like automobiles and automobile-related items. Not just vintage, but I like to go to car shows and collect brochures and magazine ads. Vintage-wise, I love radios; that’s one of my big collections. I also collect watches. They don’t have to be vintage, but they have to be bizarre. Collecting is probably how Your Treasured Junk started.

Q: You alluded to a few of the things you collect. 
A: I started collecting watches when I was in high school. I developed a passion for the intricacy of watches. They were reasonably enough priced that I was able to go out and get one when I wanted one. I started wearing and displaying them. I also collected Matchbox cars when I was younger. After the Matchbox cars, I got into collecting real cars. I attached memories to certain items. I’d buy a new car, and rather than trade it, I’d hold onto it. I also got into collecting all sorts of car-related things. As I got into more of the ’50’s and ’60s, mid-century items, radios started clicking for me. It was the best combination of the design of cars from the ’50s and ’60s, which I couldn’t afford, and my love for intricacy of clocks and watches. Just looking at a vintage radio, the knobs, the way the face is laid out, the detailed aspects, such as if it’s chrome or what makes it catching to the eye, really drive me. Not only that, but the fact that it produces sound is great. It has a functionality and is aesthetically pleasing. I have probably 75 and have been really pursuing this collection for the last year and a half or so.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: My mom is an extreme influence on me. She helped developed my creativity, being that she is an artist herself. She always wanted me to pursue my passions and do what I enjoyed. I remember her explaining to me about a chandelier from the Depression Era that we have in our dining room. She had broken one of the shades to it, and she was upset. I remember feeling that same great upsetness over it. It was like a part of history broke. I remember knowing at that point that I had the ability and passion for preservation.

Photos by Emma Black at On & On 1130 Capouse Ave., Scranton, where Your Treasured Junk is based. 

Up Close & Personal – Ed Cuozzo

Up Close & Personal – Ed Cuozzo

Ed Cuozzo is the guitarist and vocalist of University Drive. He has been a member of several bands over the years and also performs as a solo musician. He is self-employed as a construction worker and lives in Throop.

Meet Ed Cuozzo…

Q: What is your music background?
A: In the beginning, the first band I was ever in was called Melded. It wasn’t good; we sounded really, really awful, but that band was really fun and a good learning experience. I met my friend Dan Rosler and my now-fiancee, Chelsea Collins, and I joined a band called A Fire with Friends for a little while. I met some other people, and I started a band called the Social State, and I played with them for probably seven or eight years. We put out an EP and two full-length records. That band fell apart, and I took some time off to focus on home life and writing music on my own. Then I decided I was going to make a record on my own, so I started University Drive.

Q: What first got you interested in playing music? 
A: When I was really little, we had a next-door neighbor to my grandparents. He had an acoustic guitar, and I asked him for some lessons. A couple years later, I went to Gallucci Music, which is no longer there. Then I moved to Scott Twp., and a friend introduced me to Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and it was world-shattering. That’s what really got me into music. I was around age 14 or 15.

Q: Describe University Drive’s sound.
A: The band has been working really hard recording a record at JL Studios. The vibe is definitely super aggressive, but at the same time it can be really slow and beautiful. The basis for everything is melodic. We’re all products of Nirvana’s “In Utero” and the first Foo Fighter’s record, but we like moody stuff, too. It’s like if you took Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Weezer and maybe Nada Surf and you pulled something from the middle, we’d exist.

Q: What can people expect on your upcoming album?
A: We’re all in the studio recording things together. I wanted to make it a point to track everything live. We’re not time-correcting everything, or turning every vocal or making sure everything is smooth and slick. There are some songs that have a bit more of a slick production but the bulk of them have more of a, I don’t want to say raw, but a bit more of an edge. It’s funny how you can hear the difference of us tracking it live in the room together as opposed to just layering things one by one.

Q: Does the album have a theme or message?
A: Back in January, my mother passed away unexpectedly. She was my biggest supporter in everything I did. Nobody else ever had that much belief in what I was doing. She wanted to see me do what I loved to do. It’s emotionally heavy and super dark at times. It’s my kind of way to pay tribute to somebody who had such a big impact in my life. There are a lot of sad moments on it. I don’t know how else to be expressive and honest. It was a horrible circumstance, but I’m happy something beautiful came of it.

Q: What is your favorite music venue to play at?
A: I have to say the Keys. I love playing at the Keys, and that’s not to put down any other venue. The Keys, and Jenn the owner, in specific, have been like family away from family. They actually threw a three-day festival in honor of my mother. It was called “A Weekend for Doreen.” All the bands played in honor of her.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a musician in NEPA?
A: There are questions like, “What if I play a song in front of people and they don’t like it?” or “Am I too old to be doing this?” I think that all that stuff is so intrusive. We have a tendency to get in our own way as people and as artists. I urge anybody, young or old, who feels like they want to be involved in the music scene to go to any open mic and start doing it. We have a great scene, and there are a lot of great people. Half of the battle is just shaking off the nerves.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
A: I’ve been doing this for a really long time locally. A lot of younger musicians have said really nice things. I don’t expect it or necessarily agree with what they’re saying. There are super talented and super driven people. When someone says to me, “Hey, that song really spoke to me and helped me a lot,” that’s 100 percent of the reason I do this. I let my dream of rock and roll fame go a few years ago. I do it more because I feel connected to something bigger than me, and if it helps other people in other ways, I feel like that’s a good reason to do it.

Q: If you could perform with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: My favorite would be Kurt Cobain. He changed the direction of my life. I would do so much to have a chance to bring him back and just be able to sing harmonies on a song with him. He is amazing.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music? 
A: I don’t really have a lot of hobbies, but I love my dog, and I love my fiancee. (My fiance and I) do a lot of stuff together and write silly songs. When we get the chance to make music together, we write really funny things. I also like my dog Wilco; he’s named after the band Wilco. He’s a western Pomeranian mix, and we got him from Griffin Pond Animal Shelter a couple years ago. He is our best friend.

Q: What is something about you that would surprise most people?
A: Probably that I did martial arts. My friends know that, but I don’t think most people know. I did it for five or six years, and before music, that was music.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: Recently, on Facebook, I just posted a song that my mom used to play for me. She’d force me to dance with her around the kitchen to the song “In My Life” by the Beatles. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand it, and I hated the Beatles. When I started to get into music, I realized how complex and beautiful that song is. The moments I really think of as “defining moments” all involve her. She was a huge music fan, and she taught me a lot about compassion and trying to go in with good intent with people. Anything good that anyone has to say about me, I owe entirely to her.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Marissa Gable

Up Close & Personal – Marissa Gable

Marissa Gable gives photography a new twist. The photographer has taken the art to another level by creating “kaleidoscopic images” using her photographs and prints. A graduate of Riverside Junior-Senior High School, Gable earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Keystone College, where she studied visual art. She lives in Taylor and works for Kentrel Corp.

Meet Marissa Gable…

Q: How did you first get interested in photography?
A: I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was 6. The first thing I was running around photographing was the Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Aerosmith Super Bowl. I was trying to take pictures of it, and I was using a no-flash camera that my mom had. It didn’t work out well. The next thing was my disposable camera. I started to get into digital photography in high school. I thought it was the one thing I was really good at. It was the one thing I wanted to make a career out of. I wanted to create instead of just working a 9-to-5 job, and that led me to Keystone.

Q: What do you like most about photography?
A: Capturing. I’ve always loved capturing moments in life, whether it’s historical, street photography or portraits, you’re really capturing something when you take a photo.

Q: Who are some of the photographers you look up to?
A: Annie Leibovitz is my main. She’s a celebrity portrait photographer. She does all of the Vanity Fair covers. She did the infamous Miley Cyrus one. I really, really look up to her. There are so many others. Sally Mann is another big one.

Still I Rise. Submitted photo by Marissa Gable

Q: Can you describe a kaleidoscopic image?
A: Most recently, I’ve been working with home interiors and portraits. I take a picture of someone’s house, process it and edit the single picture. On Photoshop, I create them into my own kaleidoscope designs using mirror-image effects. I flip them, rotate them and all that. It’s one image flipped, mirrored against itself and mirrored down. It’s almost like one of those old picture-find books with optical illusions.

Q: What led you to come up with this concept?
A: I was in my digital project class one day. The program I was using allowed me to bring images up side-by-side. I had taken photos of my grandmother’s room, and she had this awesome ’70s wallpaper. The wallpaper just went together so smoothly. My professor walked by, and she said, “Do that.” I was just doing home interiors at the time, and I didn’t think it would lead me to doing these kaleidoscopic images. It was right after my grandmother had passed away, so I was in her room taking pictures and just capturing the room.

Q: Why go beyond typical photography?
A: In college, my professor Sally Tosti really taught me to really appreciate the process of things. That’s what she was really big about, especially with print making. She wanted to see a lot of prints of everything. It’s kind of like seeing a photograph in a new light. I always like to look at everything, not just one aspect.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of photography?
A: I really like going outdoors and also hanging out with my friends. I also enjoy board games and card games and any type of games, other than video games. This is silly, but I really like WWE wrestling; I’m a total nerd about that. Listening to music is also something I love. I love people watching. To go along with the whole capturing thing, people watching.

Q: What do you hope to do with art in the future? 
A: I don’t know how realistic this sounds or is, but I would absolutely love to be a full-time artist with people buying my artwork and me living off that. Eventually I’d like to move away, and one day I hope to write on my taxes “full-time artist.” I would really like to get into designing textiles with my art on them. I want to do curtains, carpets and all that. It would be brand-new for me.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: I was trying to figure out why I chose to do the interiors for my senior show, and it went back to the story about my grandmother and how I was trying to capture her room and all of her possessions. I think it was my grandmother dying that started it. She was the first person close to me who died, and that really affected me. The photo of her room was the first photograph I ever thought about flipping.

Q: Final word?
A: Don’t let anyone ever talk down to you or tell you that you don’t do something. I definitely used to listen to people too much. So over the years, I’ve just taught myself that peoples’ opinions don’t matter, and you really just need to walk your own path.

For more of Gable’s art and photography, follow her on Instagram @marissa_gable_images or visit her website marissagable.com/

Photos by Emma Black and submitted photos by Marissa Gable

Up Close & Personal – Adam Farley

Up Close & Personal – Adam Farley

Adam Farley is a Scranton-based musician who recently released his first EP, “All the Right Reasons.” A graduate of Scranton High School and University of Scranton, where he majored in communication, he works for ADP as a district manager. He lives in West Scranton with his wife, Mindy, and children, Hailey, 4, and Karson, 1.

Meet Adam Farley…

Q: What first got you interested in music?
A: I grew up a huge N*SYNC fan. From then on, I was really into singing and dancing. I was also a big New Kids on the Block fan. My chorus teacher at the time told me I should enter the talent show as a singer. I did a song called “Please Don’t Go Girl” by New Kids on the Block. After that, the rest was history. People started coming up to me and said they loved it. In ninth grade (some friends and I) formed a band called Evaloution.

Q: Describe your style as a musician.
A: It’s very pop rock. I say that because I have some Justin Timberlake-type of music. I also have upbeat, rock-type of songs that are a little bit more alternative. I wouldn’t use the alternative title; it’s more pop rock.

Q: Describe your new EP, “All the Right Reasons”
A: The songs that I wanted to put together are kind of like chapters, and they tell a story. Two tracks on the EP are an homage to my boy-band days. The other three tell a story of where I am today. I’m married and have two kids. The song “Never Let Go” pays homage to when I first started dating my now-wife to “Hold on Blue Eyes,” which is a cover of a song we did from an old ’80s film that we got license for to cover, to “Here to Stay,” which is a song I wrote for my wife for our wedding. It kind of tells a story of the me from then and the me now. I call it the chapters of the EP and say the first book is now done. After being in a band for so long, you wonder what you can do on your own.

Q: What can people expect on your new album?
A:People can expect a really fun, uplifting album with a little bit of everything. It’s got a little love, spunk, fun and dance. It’s just a good, creative mix of storytelling.

Q: Why is the title “All the Right Reasons” so meaningful?
A: For the longest time, I never wanted to put myself out there, but I felt this was the time. So I thought this was the “right reason” to do it. It’s a story that tells itself; it’s got chapters, and if there’s any time to do it, it’s now. “All the Right Reasons” was born.

Q: What message do you hope to share through music? 
A: You’re never too old to do something. A lot of people don’t realize that there are a ton of musicians in Scranton performing every day. Take the time to really sit and regroup and don’t give up hope that you can’t put out an EP or album. You can be successful in this area, regardless of what genre you do. Go out there and follow your dreams. You’re never too old to do something. I hope this EP gives light that if a 34-year-old dude from Scranton can drop an EP, you can do it, too.

Q: What is your favorite song on the EP, and why?
A: “Here to Stay.” I’m that fun, spontaneous type of guy. If I say I want to do something, I’m going to do it; that’s just how I am. Forty-eight hours before I got married, I got this idea to write a song. I’ve written plenty of songs for my wife in the past, but I really wanted to write a song that had meaning and would be fun to perform at the wedding. I had an idea for a track, put some things together and wrote the lyrics in 24 hours and performed it at the wedding. When I was working on the EP, I really wanted to record the track, because it had such meaning. I really wanted to pay homage to my wife, who has been an incredible wife and mother. I wanted to put the song together the way I envisioned it the first time. It’s catchy, and people can relate to it. It’s a really special song.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?
A: One of my hobbies is definitely break dancing, popping and locking, whatever you want to call it these days. It’s been something I’ve done since I was a kid. I also like to read, and I think it’s very important. Whether it’s a novel or a magazine, I’m always reading something. I’m into horror films and love horror. My other hobbies are spending time with my kids and wife; that’s always the thing I most look forward to.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: I’m a really big Harry Potter fan. People know a lot about me, but they know me for singing or dancing. I’m a Harry Potter geek.

Q:Have you had a time or moment in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: When I was in middle school, I had a friend who got into an accident and passed away. She was a huge fan of N*SYNC and Justin Timberlake. I had no idea who N*SYNC or Justin Timberlake was. My friend E.J. and I would make music videos when we were kids. We made videos for (N*SYNC songs) “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “Drive Myself Crazy.” We did those videos, then I realized that was the Justin Timberlake she was always talking about. I told her I’d make a VHS copy of our Justin Timberlake video for her. I always felt like if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have a clue or be as passionate as I was about N*SYNC. I always felt like that was the breaking point for me to be a huge N*SYNC fan. I have no shame in my game. N*SYNC is the best band ever. That was a moment that I realized I was a boy-band guy and N*SYNC guy, and that’s the type of music I still do today.

To listen to Adam Farley’s EP, find him on Spotify here

Photos by Emma Black and submitted photo