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Leader of the Year The Leader • Saturday, December 29, 2018 • Page 1B

Food, smiles, hospitality at Hartz Crispy Chicken

By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com Do what’s in your capacity. That simple motto of Hartz Crispy Chicken on Pinemont restaurant manager Naro Mak, though poignant, likely cannot do justice to what he and his staff have given to our local communities. Mak, who briefly came to Houston in the early 80s before his family moved to California for much of his life, returned just a few short years ago after spending some time away from the family restaurant business. But a conversation with his uncle a few years ago brought him back in 2016 – and he hasn’t looked in the rearview. “I realized I was passionate, not just about food, but what food does for people. I sit back and listen to the conversations that go on and watch people eat – it’s pretty amazing. I watch the kids come in and their eyes light up when they see tenders, it’s incredible,” Mak said. “I’ve met some pretty amazing people over here. This transcends the physicality of foods and goes basically to the spiritual aspect of things. That’s what I’m passionate about, and that’s what the restaurant has enabled me to do.” Mak has been selected as our 2018 Leader of the Year for providing hospitality on a platter at Hartz and giving back to a community he says embraced him from the moment he returned to Houston and kept business flowing for the duration of construction near the intersection on Pinemont and Ella Boulevard that wreaked havoc on business. “Whatever we can do to help the neighborhood, we’re going to make happen – because the neighborhood helped us stay the course. It was like having a bad day at work for almost two years, but they got us through it,” he said. “…I’m a firm believer

Photo by Jean Dukate Though he gets the accolades, Mak is quick to credit his staff at Hartz for playing a crucial role in every endeavor he undertakes.

of doing unto others and letting the universe take care of itself. It was just one project at a time, doing this or that to keep my mind off what was happening internally – then I started to see the turnaround coming from that.” One such endeavor has been offering his restaurant on Pinemont as a drop-off and pickup zone during the holidays, after reports in past years of grinches pilfering packages from stoops and doorsteps. It’s not the norm for a business – but Mak is not your typical restaurant manager. “Do what’s in your capacity. Don’t focus on things being too much or being too little,” he said. “As long as you focus on doing what you can [for others], I think the world will be a better place.” There are also several personal causes close to Mak’s

heart, that in turn reach beyond the walls of any building A Marines veteran, Mak serves the Second Vice Commander at the Garden Oaks American Legion. As the father of a son with autism, he also harbors a passion for aiding organizations helping to create growth and opportunities. He has offered food, assistance, and love to organizations such as Summerhouse’s Heights campus, personally delivering lunch on numerous occasions. “There’s a lot of hurt in the world, and you can’t help everybody – so I try to find and focus on things that are closest to me,” he said. Summerhouse is a local non-profit that creates personal growth opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities. “While we always enjoy the

Photo by Jean Dukate Though known as “The Chicken Man,” Naro Mak has served our local neighborhoods with more than just the fried delicacy.

delicious feast, we are more touched by the time [Naro] takes to get to know each one of our members and value our organization,” Summerhouse Assistant President Hannah White said. “He is a treasure to our community and a caring leader worth following!” However, Mak was quick on the draw to credit a network family, friends, and staff at the restaurant and acknowledge the crucial role they play in the endeavors credited to his name – such as the package delivery/drop-off, donations to schools/organizations, and feeding about 1,500 residents, first responders, and volunteers during Hurricane Harvey last year. “My staff really are the ones who should get all the credit – I’m the amplifier, but these folks work so hard. All the money for [serving food] was raised by my family and friends – I didn’t know what I could do. I just put it out there to the universe, and we raised thousands,” he said. “My staff did that – they’re the ones who came in when Harvey was going on, to help us feed our neighbors. We sold two days’ worth of goods in an afternoon.” He’s gotten coverage and accolades for many of his endeavors; but in his mind, Mak is simply returning to the community in full what they’ve given him. “You realize ‘If I can help this person, that helps the other person help someone else,’ and so on.’ That’s where I want to be. I want to look my kid in the eye and say – even if I can’t dunk a basketball or run into the end zone – I was able to help a lot of people,” he said. “You see all this stuff happening, and it’s amazing to realize we just played a part. Do what’s in your capacity. I think if everyone focused on that, the world would be a better place.”

Omni Houston Hotel unveils $30 million upgrade By Zarah Parker zarah@theleadernews.com The Omni Houston Hotel has reopened its doors after undergoing a 15-month, $30 million renovation, which was prompted by Hurricane Harvey’s stay at the hotel over a year ago. Guests are welcome to come and experience the upgrades to the hotel. The urban resort located at 4 Riverway took this renovation as an opportunity to implement Houston’s natural surroundings throughout the interior of the hotel, as well as give credence to the city’s rich history. “Each space is a testament to Omni’s ‘local flavor’ and you’ll see various colors, materials, textures, and patterns

highlighting this throughout the newly designed hotel,” said Laura McKoy, vice president of interior design and creative director for Omni Hotels & Resorts. This embrace of Houston’s culture begins on the first floor, with touches of leather, bronze, brass and lush green complemented with open spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows that bring in plenty of natural light. The artwork that was chosen to hang in the hotel all connect to a piece of the city’s history. In one area three large paintings hang, two of astronauts and one of an astronaut’s helmet, which if you look into closely enough will reveal a monkey’s face. On another wall is a mural of Hous-

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tonians through the ages, from cowboys to a modern woman listening to music. A wall of live moss is featured behind three copper reception desks in the lobby, setting a welcoming contrast of color. Another live moss wall is featured in the lobby with a few binoculars set in as if looking through a hedge. When looking through each pair of binoculars, you’re met with various historical houses in Houston. The Omni offers use of a few public spaces on its first floor, including La Reserve Whiskey Lounge, which is set in dim lighting with orange, brown and black accents that gives the lounge a cozy atmosphere. Two walls in the lounge are covered in black

and white photographs of different times in Houston’s history. The lounge serves premium blends and Texas tapas. Next to reception is COMMONCOLOR, a high-end retail venue showcasing goods from What Goes Around Comes Around, vintage handbags and jewelry from Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and more. What’s dubbed as the lobby “library,” features plush sofas, leather armchairs, a bookshelf wall and fireplace, giving the lobby an inviting and communal feel. Taking inspiration from Memorial Park’s lavish green scenery, the hotel’s new Birdies Cafe & Bar gives visitors See Omni P. 2B

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Omni from P. 1B view of the outdoor landscape through the large windows that line the space. The restaurant takes its name from former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, for her impact on the outdoor beautification movement and wildflowers throughout the state. The hotel’s iconic nightclub, Black Swan, also makes a comeback with modern designs that bring luxury and energy together. To give homage to its name, the club’s walls are covered in a custom wallpaper

of black swans. Soft, whitewashed woods and green walls make up the new aesthetic of Mokara Spa & Salon inside the hotel. Guests are treated to earthy elements of raw wood, stone and pebble accents to merge the spa with the natural outdoors for a serene experience. On the first and second floors, meeting spaces were redesigned to include extra space for flexible meeting areas. The hotel now offers two new conference areas with

boardrooms and breakout space. “Our new renovation allows us to amplify the excellent guest service we are known for,” said Allan Codore, general manager of Omni Houston Hotel. Experience the Omni’s Black Swan Night Club this New Year’s Eve as it celebrates the end of 2018 with Mix 96.5 and 95.7 The Spot, or catch brunch on New Year’s Day at Birdies Cafe & Bar from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

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Local poet group puts the passion in poetry By Zarah Parker zarah@theleadernews.com When two local poets wanted to put passion back into poetry they formed a group that would become Houston Hot Poets, creating a space where writers could share their work in a safe environment. The group began when cofounder Kelly Ann Ellis had an idea to do an anthology of passionate poetry and call it “Is It Hot Enough for You?” When she mentioned the idea to Tina Cardona, who is the second co-founder, Cardona suggested they just throw a writing party with the theme of heat. “We had the first party and we realized that not everyone is comfortable writing sultry poetry, so we said the theme is always going to be heat and you can talk about weather, passions, politics or food,” Ellis said. They didn’t call the group Houston Hot Poets for a long time, but when Ellis was asked to do a fundraiser for a branch of Public Poetry, she decided for the fundraiser to do poetry with a jazz band and called it “Hot Poets and All That Jazz,” which ended up being the first Hot Poets event. The event gave writers a chance to share a poem while a jazz band played behind them. And though Ellis and Cardona didn’t begin using the name right away, the rest of the creative community began recognizing them as the Hot Poets. From then on Ellis and Cardona have thrown a poetry party every summer solstice and the winter solstice, always with the theme of heat. They also love bringing in other art

forms into the mix. “We’ve done movement, where we do yoga and meditation with poetry,” Cardona said. “We’re always looking for how we can bring in other art forms as well. Whether it’s visual, whether it’s movement, we’re always thinking about how we can bring a wider approach.” During a party, poets will put a copy of their poem in a basket without their name attached, as well as multiple other copies because at the end of the night the group puts together an “instant anthology” of all the attendees’ poems. During the winter solstice the group gathers around a fire. One by one, a group member will take a poem from the basket, read it, and then everyone has to guess whose poem it was. First one to guess correctly picks the next poem from the basket to read. This winter solstice they incorporated a painting into the writing process. Poets were encouraged to draw inspiration from the painting and create a poem from it. The painting that was chosen was by the artist Holli May Thomas, and the piece is called, “Fueling the Fire.” Though the inspiration doesn’t have to come from only this painting, writers can also choose to look at all her work or to stick with the theme without the art. “The concept for ‘Fueling the Fire’ arrived while writing and doodling in my morning journal after a night of dancing to Brazilian jazz music,” Thomas said. “I used crushed auto glass on this piece to symbolize little idea embers and was pleased with the results. She glints and glimmers as you walk by her in my living

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room.” When Ellis saw Thomas’ work she knew the elements of her art would blend perfectly with the Hot Poets theme, giving her the idea to use it as inspiration for the group. “We used to do a radio show at an art gallery and so I had an event I came up with called ‘Spontaneous Combustion,’ where people would write to the art and just read it right there,” Ellis said. Taking from that event, Cardona suggested putting the art up on Facebook and having them write to the art and then come read their poems at the party. Ellis’ and Cardona’s next step with Houston Hot Poets is to turn it into a nonprofit. The last six-plus years with the group has been a labor of love, with all the expenses coming out of pocket for the duo. As a nonprofit they’ll be able to grow and become a better group. “We’ll have a place for poets, to celebrate poets,” Cardona said.

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New Year’s Resolutions Your Pet Can Benefit From good health.

Strive For a Healthy Diet and Exercise

Much like most Americans’ resolutions, the biggest thing you can do to make sure that Fido starts the new year healthy is to consider his diet and exercise habits. These days, grain-free is the biggest buzzword in pet food. The truth is, the canine digestive system is still pretty primitive. Dogs have little natural digestive support for breaking down and metabolizing complex carbohydrates and cereal grains. These difficult-to-digest fibers and grains remain undigested, with the body relying mainly on fermentation to break them down, and well, you know how that smells. Over a long period of time, this can damage the lining of the digestive system, resulting in bowel inflammation disorders, food sensitivities, food allergies, leaky gut and obesity. So, finding a pet food that is as high-quality as your budget allows is a great idea for the New Year. Big or small, young or old,

Dear Tabby, I have some New Year’s resolutions in mind for myself, but I was thinking about ways that I can improve the life of my dog in 2019 as well. Any tips on how to make sure that the new year is my pup’s best year yet? Healthy resolutions in The Heights Dear Mindful, While humans all over the world are spending time considering their past failures and dreaming of future success, it is a good idea to keep Fido in mind when planning for a fruitful year of happiness and

dogs need to exercise daily. While some breeds have special needs that have to be taken into account, and dogs do slow down as they age, they still need to take part in some form of daily physical activity. Without activity, your dog will become bored, frustrated and unhealthy. Exercise tones the muscles, helps the body and metabolic system to function properly, and engages the mind. Anyone who has had a dog that suffers from lack of physical activity and mental stimulation will tell you that they will often turn to destructive behaviors -- behaviors that magically disappear once the dog is getting out everyday. Physically, dogs will also become obese if they are not allowed to burn off the calories they take in during the day. This is especially true if they are being given a lot of treats in compensation for lack of attention.

Don’t Put Off That Vet Visit Any Longer

While you might also be considering a visit to your doctor to get that strange mole finally

checked out, think back to the last time Fido was at the vet. Vets suggest that dogs between the ages of 1-10 years see a vet once a year for a “tail to nose” check up. For elderly pets, vets recommend twice yearly check ups. During these visits, your vet can guide you in vaccinating your dog for the appropriate diseases as will address any concerns you might have.

Bella Trevino and sister Ava Trevino. Troop 24987’s Abby O’Guynn, Keegan Cook, Mattea Rodgers, Morgan Yaege and Sophia Malone. Girl Scouts Addison Perry and Kinsey Rodgers. Friends Bianca Juarez, Kate Winston and Christopher Figueroa.

Spend Fun, Quality Time With Your Pets

Aside from these pet resolutions, if you’ve never taken Fido to a dog park, this might be the year to do it. Socialization can be fun for some dogs and it’s certainly fun when humans find a new friend at the park as well. With a few lifestyle enhancements, and checking off some pet-related vet visits off of your list, both you and Fido can enjoy a healthy 2019.friends and enjoy our fair city.

Neighbors: Timbergrove shows its Holiday spirit

Do you have a question for Tabby? If so, email her at dear tabbyquestions@gmail.com

By Elizabeth Villarreal elizasgarden@outlook.com

It was an exciting day for Girl Scout Cadette Isabella Trevino, Troop 24987, as she earned her Silver Award. She guided 11 kids, grades 4-8, in cutting and sewing almost 60 pediatric surgical caps to be donated to Harris Health Systems (HHS). Isabella’s organization made it possible for the group to complete so many caps in 2 hours. HHS was there with their media department filming the process and will post the “how to” video on their website. This will allow others to learn the process and continue Isabella’s service. A big thank you to Garden Oaks neighbor Susan Kostelecky for introducing Isabella to the idea and for the use of her sewing machines and other accessories for the Silver Award. Have you noticed there are significantly more - and brighter! - Christmas lights

Pet of the Week Meet Barney Rubble Barney, a two year old white shepherd/ lab mix, is fresh out of the “joint,” (pound) where he has spent most of his life. Even though he’s only been out on parole for a few days, he’s already showing off how smart and gentle he is. He is learning commands quickly and taking to leash training well too. Barney is ready to shed his “jail bird” persona and get his fresh start in the new year. To learn more about Barney, go to www.k-9angelsrescue.org.

and holiday decorations each year, just the last few years? This year, all of our Leader Country neighborhoods are a sight to behold and the colorful lights and creative decorations have gone a long way towards building good cheer. Thank you, neighbors! Your Timbergrove neighbors went all out and the results of their yearly competition are in; driving through the neighborhood is a must! A big thanks to Timbergrove neighbor Tim Louque for sharing the competition winners with The Leader: Best Original Theme – 6115 Hurst Street; Best Traditional Theme – 6734 Cindy Lane; Best Religious Theme – 1323 Seaspray Court; Favorite Children’s Theme – 6542 Kury Lane; Best Inflatables Display – 2306 Tannehill Drive; Best Overall Use of Lights – 1327 Guese Road; Exceptional Achievement – 6419 Grovewood Lane; Overall Best Block Decorations – 6200 Block of Kury Lane.

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Temple Oaks Baptist Church property sold for retail By Betsy Denson betsy@theleadernews.com When the sale of the 4-acre Temple Oaks Baptist Church property at 2101 W. 34th St fell through in May 2018, it was back to the drawing board for the Temple Oaks board members and Tommy LeBlanc at Avison Young who was brokering the sale of the church. A new buyer came along in October of 2018 and LeBlanc

said he hoped to have the sale finalized by November. Now commercial real estate company CBRE has signage out announcing a new retail development. CBRE’s Radkey Jolink confirms the sale although he declined to name the new owner. Jolink’s LinkedIn profile notes that he focuses on representing local and national landlords such as Invesco, Trammell Crow, Lionstone, Midway,

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Northwestern Mutual, Gables and others. Jolink did say that a 25,000 square foot retail development was planned but there are no plans yet to build. He says they are looking for retail and restaurant tenants first and that the development will not be residential. “[34th] is a great street,” said Jolink, referring to all the other recent developments by Revive and Crescere Capital. The sale price of the property was not disclosed but is estimated in the neighborhood of $5.7 million, or $32.50 per square foot. Temple Oaks Baptist Church was actually formed as Peoples Baptist Church on December 5, 1950. The name was changed to Temple Oaks Baptist Church on October 13, 1957. The church disbanded in January of 2018. Since the church is a 501(c)(3), the mon-

Photo by Betsy Denson After an initial sale fell through this past May, the Temple Oaks Baptist church property has been sold to an unknown buyer for retail purposes. Plans are for a 25,000-square foot development.

ey from the sale is obligated to go to similar non-profits. Temple Oaks Trustee and Deacon Larry Inman told The

Leader last spring that Iglesia Bautista Mana, the Hispanic church who had services at Temple Oaks, and MANNA,

who had leased space from Temple Oaks for their food pantry, would be two recipients.

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