Bringing the community together through Local Art, Local Food and Music.

The time is now.

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Time for what? Time is spent too much in passing and not in the moment.  Today was a very emotional day, with very real emotions that I have not yet addressed, emotions that I have not become complete with. So tonight I am not going to be sharing about great business in Largo, or how wonderful I think Largo is, because you already know how I feel.  Today, I share something different. I share…. me.

I spend a lot of time pushing up other people, boasting about the incredible talent within our community, the fabulous City of Largo and all it contains; the amazing people that live and work here, the officials and staff that help make this place fit such a label. What I avoid sharing is the negative feelings, the feelings of sadness and disappointment. These feelings are very real and very present, not just for me, but for many.

On February 20,2013, Wandering Star Gallery was born.  This concept was brought to life in Downtown Largo, in my hometown. It was not an easy task by any means, but nonetheless, was proud of what I had accomplished. The endless nights painting, learning how to lay wood floors to cover up the glittery sparkles on the floor, creating a home for artists and a place to bring the community together.  The mission was simple: bring people together through art, music and food with no judgement and only freedom of creativity, while attempting to preserve what was left of our history.

Here is a video that I shot my first day of painting, after running through Downtown.

The opening was fantastic!  People came from all over to celebrate my dream come true, but within a few short months the foot traffic had slowed to a dangerously quiet level. I had been offering some art classes, open mic nights and open studio times, but some days the tumble weeds were dragging me to the ground.  Shortly thereafter, I began offering complimentary cups of locally roasted coffee, because there are no ‘local’ coffee shops anywhere in the direct area besides Starbucks. Many stopped in for the joe, ended up more about the conversation. With the full intention of bringing the fresh./mixed market back to Ulmer Park, I stayed focused on this by starting the sidewalk sale in front of the gallery, preparing for the fall.

The summer months I had a group of pre-teen girls creating art with me all day.  Together, we created the “Hands of Largo” wall, 9 girls who had to paint only one hand, high five another girl and them put their handprints all over the wall surrounding the giant letters LARGO.

Hands on Largo

Hands on Largo

Toward very end of summer, around September, I experienced my first heart tear.  My baby, the gallery, had been broken into. None of the art was touched, the entry was from the back door.  I could not recall if I had actually locked it or not, since the night before I hadn’t left until almost 3am. I felt violated and broken.  The only that had been stolen was a few hand tools I had left on my desk and my cash box that contained all of my rent.  It was due a few days before and the panic out-weighed the anger.  Now unable to pay the rent and only a few weeks to put together an event that I had been building up all year about seemed impossible with the added burden of the financial strain of the shop.  I did what I do best, I picked up and carried on.

October 14, 2013 the Largo 2nd Saturday Market was open for business.  It started with a only few vendors, mostly of which were artists who had artwork in the gallery. It was a one-woman show and could hardly find the time to eat or spend time with my family let alone anything else.  During the breakdown of the market, knowing in just a few days I would have to be out of town for a week or so to care for my mother who was scheduled to have an intense spine surgery, I looked at this as an opportunity to slow down.

I decided to take a bus to see her, all the way from Tampa, Fl to Hutchinson, Kansas.  A long bus ride in deed. I was looking forward to it.  Crusty eyed, only carrying one small bag of clothes and a bag of my art supplies, I boarded the bus ready for 48 hours of isolation for reality.  I could live in this temporary space of controlled chaos and step out of my identity for just a moment.  Somewhere overnight after reboarding in Birmingham, I realized I was going to have to close the shop. My dad had helped me a great deal, and I didn’t want to disappoint him.  After all, I had something to prove…. to myself.  I started to write a list of all the reasons I should stay open, and a list of reasons I should close. The list of reasons to close seemed to make more sense than the irrational reasons to stay open.

The reasons I decided to close (aside from the immediate lack of revenue) was to be IN the community.  It was my mission to make a difference and to bring the community together.  Being inside of a boundary, a building with walls, made it a difficult challenge in a redevelopment area that hadn’t been known for art related stuff.  That is what the market was for.  So on November 5, 2013 I locked Wandering Star Gallery’s doors for the last time. The emotions hadn’t set in, after all, we were still moving things and tired.

Since the closing, I have been able to laser focus on the growth of the market. I have been able to reach out to people I otherwise would not have been able to.  And I am busy. Now unable to pay the rent and only a few weeks to put together an event that I had been building up all year about seemed impossible with the added burden of the financial strain of the shop.

Today I was interviewed by Baynews9, I was nominated for a segment they call “Everyday Hero”.  I couldn’t understand why.  I don’t do anything what I would consider out of the ordinary.  I just see the potential in things and try to help others see that potential, whether it be in themselves, in an art form, in another person, or in a City.  I help pull back the layers of crud.  I do not consider myself a hero, by any means.  But I was ready (sort of) to share my passion about helping others achieve their potential, their greatness, and making space for others to witness that greatness as well.  What I was not ready for was the emotion I had yet to deal with.  The real sadness and heart break it was to close the gallery.  My feet have not touched that sidewalk since the day I closed.  My heart aches every time I drive by.  Today when I was interviewed I was asked about the gallery and I didn’t realize how sad it actually made me to sit across the street and see the vacant darkness.  While I know everything happens for a reason, and whatever it is, is bigger than ourselves.

I love what the market is bringing to Largo.  I am excited to see so many people coming from all over the state to be a part of something so special.  It hurts my heart to be just another closed shop in Downtown Largo.  There is too much potential in this town to let it die.  There are too many before me that weren’t able to make it.
I cannot sit back and do nothing.  Tough on the outside, tender on the inside. While I attempt to suck back the liquid that forms in the eye holes, I can’t. It has bothered me deeply to have closed. There is too much passion and determination in this body of mine to just let it end.

This market is a small extension of that.  So in case you weren’t aware (and some people were still unaware) Wandering Star Gallery closed November 5, 2013.  I am in the community and trying my hardest to do freelance work and to be able to help small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Now what?

Just wait…..


March Madness Market

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Largo 2nd Saturday Market is rapidly approaching and vendor spots are filling up quickly!

Since the market opened in October of 2013, I have been blessed with the amount of talent that has broken from their shells and into the world of sharing their gifts with the world. The market at Ulmer Park in Largo, started with only a few vendors, Healthy Hoops, Blue Gator Photography, Scrubba Dubba, Music Unlimited DJ’s, Tim Cordero Glass Etching, The Wicked Pickle and The Last Ghost Dance.  Now only a few short months later, we are up to over thirty vendors including fabulous food trucks like Pitas on the Run, Taco Shack, Pao Truck, Enjoi Sweets, Chocolate Moonshine, Reenie’s Bread Biz, Tuff Tuggs, Living Sent Crochet, Maravillosa Design, Monkey Grip, Saien’s Shop, Emmie & Ellie, Sheila’s Funnel Cakes, and fresh foods on the rise.

It was my vision to bring local artists, crafters and small businesses together within the community,  to provide a family and pet friendly event that will not only connect our community but stimulate our local economy while supporting the mom and pops!
The Largo 2nd Saturday Market has enables artists and creators to make that first sale, build confidence in their art, create relationships and memories.  The Largo Market has also given locals a vision of hope in what some have called “a dying town”. The mission has been clear from the beginning to provide a sense of ‘revival’ of the quaint-ville that Downtown Largo used to be.

The City of Largo has been more than helpful in assisting the start-up of the market with grant guidance, permit application assistance, vendor referrals and a positive attitude from a majority of the staff. It really makes me proud to be a part of a community such as this one.  Largo has certainly stepped up to the plate with the making this market possible.  Everyone from the Parks & Rec dept, Community Development, Permitting, Planning, Fire & Police departments.  While only a few of the commissioners have been actively involved, those who have deserve the shout out too. Woody, Jamie, Curtis and Michael, thank you.

Now get out, support the market, support the arts, buy local and make it a great day on Sat. March 8th at Ulmer Park in Downtown Largo!

March 8th

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The Scoop on Dolcini's Gelato - Downtown Largo, Florida

The Scoop on Dolcini’s Gelato – Downtown Largo, Florida

Gelato? What’s that? Well, gelato is a dense Italian version of ice cream. Gelato contains far less butterfat and lower fat content than American ice cream and is churned slowly thus, making it less airy and because of this its flavors can be more intense than that of ordinary ice cream. There are some more technical differences as well, such as storage temperatures, which is generally stored and served at a warmer temperature than the traditional ice creams.

Ahiskell Delgado is no stranger to the art of creating perfect and delicious gelato. A retired MRI tech dealing mostly with cancer patients, opened her first gelato shop in Mahwah, NJ almost seven years ago. Offering free samples, an infectious smile, and fresh fruits from local markets, she gained quite a fan following serving up almost 1,000 cups of gelato on any given Friday night. Delgado says despite the success of her existing business in Jersey, she just fell in love with Ulmer Park and decided to relocate to Largo. “I could  imagine families eating gelato in the gazebo in the park, couples on a date enjoying an evening stroll through the downtown area.  I just never thought it would be this empty.” 

Dolcini’s Gelato opened in October 2013 as a family venture.  Ahiskell along with her father, mother, sister and brother, put everything they had into opening their dream location.  They were offered incentives by nearby towns to open their business within their jurisdiction. However, they were excited to be a part of an area that had so much potential for redevelopment; chose 325 West Bay Drive, Downtown Largo.  October 14th they celebrated their official grand opening at the Largo 2nd Saturday Market at Ulmer Park. Since the grand opening, it has been a struggle, even with the approximate 40,000 cars that pass by traveling at speeds on average of 45-50 mph, far too fast for anyone to pay any attention to an area trying to ‘redevelop’ and create their own sense of identity.  With the closing of Thristy Marlin only a few weeks after Dolcini’s opening, they have seen far less foot traffic and that was one of the driving forces to their business.

I met with Ahiskell last week and was saddened to hear the struggles were so great, they were likely unable to remain open through the end of the month.  I was far too familiar with what she was going through. It was enough to worry about the power and water, let alone the rent and materials to make your product to sell.  Ahiskell put everything she had into opening Dolcini’s Gelato in Downtown Largo simply because the vision was clear, the potential is there. Sometimes when you see the potential of something so great, you are willing to sacrifice practically everything you have to make it shine at all cost.
We had conversations about how to work together and help fill the vacancies in the West Bay Village as well as other vacancies along West Bay Drive.  With Tri-City Plaza being redeveloped, there are several merchants who will need to relocate.  What a great opportunity for the existing businesses downtown to show off why Downtown Largo is amazing, to potentially fill the vacancies along West Bay which will add immediate value to the area with tax revenue, in addition to the community value of conveniences the residents wish for. Makes sense, right?

As I took a stroll tonight to go see Ms. Delgado, I stopped into the local hotels in the Downtown corridor and asked what local places they recommended for casual dining, deserts, recreation, a damn good sandwich and a place to get a brew.  I was directed to Clearwater Beach for dinner, Dunedin for beer, St. Pete for a sandwich.  I completely support the cross marketing of the neighbors and fellow businesses, however, when I was directed out of Largo all together, that bothered me.  I asked where I could get ice cream, and I was sent 5 miles out of my way in the wrong direction.  Meanwhile, Dolcini’s was within view.

Businesses need to take responsibility for marketing their product for sure, but we as citizens should open our eyes to what surrounds us.  Let us pay closer attention to the small businesses in our own neighborhoods and patronize these places.  This is what will keep our economy thriving.  It does nothing for our local economy to let these small mom and pop shops go out of business. What do you do when there is nothing left to sacrifice?

It is with sadness that I write tonight’s blog knowing that Dolcini’s Gelato has closed it’s doors.  The lack of foot traffic in the Downtown district was the driving force for the closure. Ahiskell says the City of Largo’s Scavenger Hunt was a great idea to get people in the door, but it didn’t get people buying their product because everyone was speeding through.  She is still hopeful for some kind of miracle, but as of today the doors to Dolcini’s Gelato are closed.  A vision of potential does not cause change, it takes action to cause change.  Largo has some great things to offer, just as St. Pete, Dunedin and Tampa, we should all share the light upon each other in order to shine the brightest.

I apologize this wasn’t the happy story you were likely expecting. It is reality. It is tough for small businesses to thrive here.  Most mom and pop’s don’t always have the financial resources for proper marketing, resources, but most of all the time.  Think about this the next time you are zooming around town, anywhere.  Stop to take a look at what is around you.  Make it a routine to learn about a new local business at least once a week.  You are not only helping our local economy, but you are giving the dreamers a chance to shine!

Dolcini's gelato

As of today….

Closed. :(

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Unity in our community

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Need I say more?  There is no greater feeling than that of bringing a community together. Especially when there is art, music and of course, really good food.

Even with the gloomy forecast the day was beautiful, the rain held off until we were closing down. But no matter how dreary the weather, we had our own personal sunshine.  Many vendors were excited to see customers and friends they hadn’t seen in a while, many greetings of hugs.  Some of us were able to reconnect with old friends that we haven’t seen in over 20 years, and made new friends too. That never gets old!



The greatest reward for me is witnessing a community forming in front of your very eyes. People getting to know each other, sharing stories and laughter is an immeasurable joy.  Those moments are worth every ounce of energy I put into organizing these events.

We had several vendors at our last market this past Saturday.  It was refreshing talking with the owners of the food trucks.  I had set out a couple of weeks ago on a food truck mission as well as fresh foods/produce and found Pita’s On The Run.  Owner/Operator Ramzi was exciting to talk to from the first moment.  We corresponded to confirm the event and time of arrival, you know the usual.  We got to talking about more than the event, but other things that we would love to see and do in our community. Rami’s energy is contagious and definitely makes you want to go hug a stranger, for no apparent reason at all.  And this feeling did not change as I spoke with other food truck owners and vendors alike. It is always a very satisfying feeling to witness very talented artists crack off another piece of their shell, gaining confidence as an artist and in themselves while making a difference with what they do.

So, thank you to all who came out to support this growing community, the community in which is being created together.  Thank you to all who have supported by sharing the word, passing out flyers, telling their friends, listened to me ramble on like a squirrel with ideas.  Thank you everyone.

A very special thank you goes to our sponsors.  Main Street Chiropractic stood up to show his support, along with Mc Gill Plumbing and the Largo Leader.  The contributions made to this movement are appreciated more than you know.  It is the feeling of community that is provided by the connectivity this event enables and that feeling would not be possible without you.  The City of Largo for the many conversations, the assistance with the redevelopment grant, the paperwork and continuous support.

Lastly, a huge thank you must given to John of Music Unlimited DJ’s for the countless hours of music preparation and brainstorming conversations.  I value what you do for this event and look forward to many more events to come.

The Last Ghost Dance. From the moment I heard Kade’s fingers against those strings on the mandolin, I was forever hooked.  The Last Ghost Dance isn’t your typical “band”, or “entertainment”.  The music performed by these incredible young men is something you just have to hear for yourself.  Their family is very supportive, with them and the market.

You guys are more than gracious with the performances you provide to our vendors and patrons.  I look forward to watching you guys grow and hit it where you want it. I know you guys will go far with all that you offer this world. If you haven’t heard these guys yet, you can listen to and purchase their music here.