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Contents Table of

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From a small town girl to South Tampa’s top realtor, Plant City-native Crystal Dukes specializes in the sale of luxury, waterfront, historic homes, high-rises, new construction and acreage. Crystal sat down with FOCUS to talk about her upbringing on the family farm and her success in the real estate market, while sharing details of her million dollar Polo Place listing.

Real estate agents typically serve as the first impression for new residents moving to our community and help current residents find their dream home. Meet Plant City’s Top Realtors as they present available listings in our area, to help citizens of Eastern Hillsborough find their next property.

Owned and operated by Mendy and Morgan Feaster, Fringe Boutique offers a little of everything: women and men’s apparel and accessories, home decor, and more. In Fall 2020, customers will head to historic downtown to shop with “the girls at Fringe” when the boutique relocates to 108 Drane Street.

CRYSTAL DUKES RISING TO REAL ESTATE SUCCESS

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FEATURE: TOP REALTORS

BUSINESS: FRINGE BOUTIQUE


FOCUS PLANT CITY

focusplantcity.com / Issue 19-07 / July 2020

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DINING: HUNGRY HOWIE’S

As restaurants across the state persevere in the face of challenges set by COVID-19 restrictions, Hungry Howie’s of Plant City owner Ali Sobh used the downtime to create tremendous change. Meet this locally owned and operated pizza owner and discover what makes the pizza on Alexander Street unique.

PUBLISHER

Mike Floyd

MANAGING EDITOR

Cierra Craft

ACCOUNT MANAGER

ART DIRECTOR

OFFICE MANAGER

DISTRIBUTION

mikef@floydpublications.com

cierra@floydpublications.com

Chandler Workman

chandler@floydpublications.com

Anthony Sassano

asassano@floydpublications.com

Candy Owens

cowens@floydpublications.com

Tony DeVane

STAFF WRITERS

Angela Ardrey Anthony Bolesta Cheryl Johnston Sherrie Mueller Emily Topper

CONTRIBUTORS

Candy Owens Heather Davis Gil Gott Natalie Sweet

Got a story idea? Looking to advertise in Focus? Contact us for more information. Floyd Publications, Inc. 702 W. Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd.Plant City, FL 33563 Office 813.707.8783 Standards of accuracy: The goal of the writers at FOCUS Magazine is to provide heart-warming stories that are accurate from the start. Being human, however, we sometimes make mistakes. Please forgive us. So if you notice anything that is incorrect, then please do not hesitate to contact the editorial department and inform it about the fact error. To do so, call (813) 7078783 or e-mail editorial@floydpublications.com. The staff will fix the error in a timely manner. FOCUS Magazine is published monthly and is available through local Plant City businesses, restaurants and many local venues. Advertisers warrant and represent the descriptions of their products advertised are true in all respects. Focus Magazine assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. All letters and their contents sent to Focus Magazine become the sole property of Floyd Publications, Inc and may be reproduced thereof. All views expressed in all articles are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Floyd Publications, Inc. Use or duplication of material used in this publication is prohibited without approved written consent from Floyd Publications, Inc.

www.focusplantcity.com

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UBLISHE From The

Publisher We often refer to Plant City as a small town- and in the grand scheme of things, compared to neighboring metropolitan areas, it is small- but, almost 40,000 people live in the greater Plant City area. Our communities are tight knit, whether it’s the Pinedale neighborhood, historic downtown, or subdivisions like Magnolia Green. As our city continues to grow and develop, Plant City still possesses that familiar charm where everyone knows each other. This month, we feature the top real estate agents in our community, who often serve as the first impression for new residents moving to Plant City. If you’re looking to purchase or sell your property, consider hiring one of our local agents, who specialize in all types of properties including historic homes, acreage, and more.

AT HOME

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Plant City-native Crystal Dukes of Sotheby’s International Realty sat down with our editor Cierra Craft, to talk about not only her success in real estate, but also about her childhood growing up on her family’s farm. A special thank you to

Deanna Hurley Photography for not only opening your studio for our cover session, but for also going on location to Dukes’ Polo Place listing, currently on the market for just under $1 million. Be sure to check out her story to learn more about Crystal and this beautiful, custom home. If you live in one of our home delivery neighborhoods (Walden Lake, Pinedale, Dorene Terrace, historic downtown, Magnolia Green, Sam Allen Oaks), your July issue includes a Home Service Guide insert. On the cover, meet Green Life Environmental owner Curtis Browning, who chats about his company’s commitment to customer satisfaction and the key to a beautiful lawn. Other home service professionals are also featured in the insert, including First Response Heating & Cooling and Plant City's premier land management company, Southern Environmental.. Warmest Regards,

Mike Floyd


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Two of the most dedicated, professional realtors I’ve worked with. They are experienced and work hard for their clients! Courtney Paat I have never met a more dedicated and hard working team! Their heart to serve, knowledge of the industry and unique spin on helping you get your home ready make them a MUST for your realty needs! Dawn Lucowitz They know Plant City inside and out. You couldn’t as for better people to work with. Arley Smude

813-763-6043

www.therhodesrealtygroup.com

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Community

FOCUS

CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY

Midtown District Development Bid Selected On July 9, the City of Plant City announced a bid to develop the Midtown district was selected. The selected bid was submitted by DevMar Development. The proposed plans focus on mixed-use space, offering residential, commercial, and restaurant spaces, all centered around the existing Village Green Park. DevMar’s vision includes restaurants on Evers and Renfro streets and multi-story residential spaces along Collins Streeey, between Alabama and Renfro streets. “The City of Plant City is excited to move forward with negotiations with DevMar Development. We will share additional details and information on public meetings as the project moves forward,” said the city in a statement on its official Facebook page.

Ace Hardware brings job growth, economic development to Plant City Ace Hardware Corporation is relocating its Retail Support Center to Plant City, bringing about 200 construction jobs and more than 40 new retail support jobs to the community. The new 710,000-square-foot facility on County Line Road will help Ace supply retailers and customers faster. Construction for the project is expected to begin in October 2020 with a target completion date in November 2021. According to County Line Farms One LLC, the property developer, the expansion will bring in an estimated 200 construction jobs to the community. “We are excited to break ground on our new Plant City Retail Support Center, an important piece in our overall supply chain,” said Lori Bossmann, Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer for Ace Hardware Corporation. “Ace’s continued volume growth has driven our need for a larger facility to accommodate our growing business demands. This relocation will enable faster service for Ace retailers and ultimately our valued customers.” In May, the Plant City Commissioners unanimously voted to grant Ace Hardware an Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption. In exchange, the hardware giant agreed to move from its Tampa warehouse to a larger Plant City location and employ more than 150 full-time employees in Plant City. “On behalf of our City Commission, I would like to welcome Ace Hardware Corporation to Plant City,” said Mayor Rick Lott. “Development activity along County Line Road continues to generate great employment and economic development opportunities for our city, its residents and our neighbors.” PAGE

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Backing the Blue: Residents, Businesses support local LEOs Plant City residents and local business owners have made it their mission to provide pick-me-ups to Plant City’s law enforcement officers. From cupcakes to entrees, Plant City Police Department has been treated with meals as a sign of appreciation for the departments’ commitment to the community. On June 5, Victoria Biscardi delivered donuts to Chief Ed Duncan and his team of officers. “With how the world is right now, I think everyone deserves love and kindness," said Biscardi. "Lots of people have turned against the police department sadly, and I just wanted to remind them that they are appreciated for all that they do." Other private citizens, including some of Plant City's youngest residents gave back to the PCPD. Victoria Brake and her daughters delivered food to the officers. Sergeant Van Duyne and Officer Gregory met with the girls, gave them a tour of the PCPD headquarters and answered questions they had about being an officer. "We appreciate the opportunity to connect with children and make new and hopefully lifelong friends," said Plant City Police Department. rtment. CenterState Bank also gave back to the local law enforcement officers on June 19. The banking institution catered lunch with a tray of Cuban sandwiches, goodie bags, and sweet tea. "Thank you for your service; At CenterState Bank, we honor our community heroes," read the card CenterState's James Redman branch staff signed. On June 22, 1916 Irish Pub and Second Plate Catering provided lunch for the Plant City Police Department. The local businesses, owned and operated by Chuck Jamieson, sent chicken, pasta, steamed broccoli, and salad for the officers to enjoy. “The Plant City Police Department would like to thank Chuck Jamieson, owner of 1916 Irish Pub & Second Plate Catering for the delicious meals that were provided today for the officers,” said Plant City Police Department via Facebook. “A special thank you to Emily who delivered the food along with well wishes for the police department from all of the staff. We at PCPD appreciate you all for the wonderful meals.”


Pop of Color: New Lamppost Banners Popping Up Downtown On Monday, June 29, the Arts Council of Plant City, Plant City Main Street and the City of Plant City held a small program to officially unveil the new downtown lamppost banners. In 2018, the Arts Council of Plant City began the project in collaboration with the City of Plant City, to design, purchase, and install 50 lamppost banners throughout the historic district, welcoming visitors. This year, the organizations teamed up with Plant City Main Street to install 90 banners, replacing the 2018 design. The 2020 lamppost banners feature a kaleidoscope of colors and a simple message: Welcome to Downtown Plant City. The lampposts were given a fresh coat of paint in February by the Downtown Strike Force, now each are outfitted with a brand new banner. At the June 29 program, City Manager Bill McDaniel noted that new banners added a pop of color to the historic district, making it appear more vibrant. Plant City Main Street Executive Director Jerilyn Rumbarger added that she was excited to see this portion of the downtown beautification process complete. Part of the effort to enhance downtown is to include wayfinding signs. These downtown banners will help visitors navigate the historic district and the surrounding areas. Arts Council President Marsha Passmore also announced that the organization plans to bring the J. Seward Johnson statues back to downtown in December 2020. For more information on the Arts Council of Plant City, visit plantcityarts.com or to learn more about Plant City Main Street, visit plantcitymainstreet.com

End of an Era: Walden Lake Clubhouse Demolished

PCHS, Durant Students Elected to Florida FFA Association

A once bustling community gathering place, the Walden Lake Clubhouse held many memories for Plant City residents, but on Tuesday, July 7, crews demolished the clubhouse as the first of many steps towards revitalizing Walden Lake. The clubhouse was in poor condition due to trespassers vandalizing the abandoned building. Walden Lake, LLC acquired the 429 acre property in March 2019. Residents of Walden Lake were asked to complete a development survey to voice their opinion on creating a mixed-use space, consisting of retail on the ground level with townhomes on the upper levels. The demolition of the clubhouse was the first step in Walden Lake’s revitalization. Preliminary plans have been filed with the city as to what will replace the clubhouse, but at the time of publication, plans have not been approved by the city. Residents of Plant City shared mixed reactions on Facebook to the news of the demolition. Many shared that they held memories of events in the clubhouse, including baby showers. Stephanie Eisenbach shared that 16 years ago, her life was changed by a family gathering. “My cousin, Heather Dykstra, threw her mother’s surprise 60th birthday party at the clubhouse 16 years ago,” said Stephanie. “I drove up from Tampa to attend my great-aunt Boochie’s 60th birthday. My cousin had a card up her sleeve I never saw coming: She introduced me to Mike Eisenbach, my now husband… I remember the entire night like it was yesterday.”

On June 26, Emma Poole of Durant High School and Christian Bentovato of Plant City High School were elected to serve in the Florida FFA Association. Poole will serve as State Secretary and Bentovato will serve as Area V State Vice President. “The thing I’m most looking forward to is seeing our whole state,” said Poole. “I’m very rooted in the state of Florida and I’ve seen a lot of our state, but there’s so much more to see! I’ve developed such strong relationships with people all over the state and I can’t wait to give back kindness and love to them with all that I do. I want to make everyone feel loved and appreciated and spread the message that they’re worthy and enough! I’m looking forward to being a mentor, friend, and hopefully, role model.” Due to COVID-19, the state’s FFA convention was held virtually, with Facebook live sessions. On June 26 Sessions 8 Florida FFA Celebration, the students chosen to represent the state’s FFA board were announced. Additionally, Plant City will also be represented by Turkey Creek FFA adviser Buddy Coleman, who will serve on the Florida FFA Association Board of Directors. PAGE

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Community

FOCUS

CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY

Minuteman Press Owners Julie and Mike Arndt Help Local Businesses in Plant City Bounce Back from COVID-19

F

or local Minuteman Press franchise owners Julie and Mike Arndt, there is nothing more important right now than helping their communities recover and rebuild from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Julie, who runs Minuteman Press in Brandon, and Mike, who runs Minuteman Press in Plant City, have remained open since printing is an essential business. During this time, they launched Bounce Back Brandon/Riverview and Bounce Back Plant City, two free community websites connecting local area businesses with people who are looking to support local and shop local. Businesses who submit a completely free listing also receive free COVID-19 awareness and prevention posters as well as window decals and signs that Julie and Mike are providing as well. Julie says, “What Bounce Back means to our communities in Brandon, Riverview, and Plant City can be described in one word: Solidarity. All of the participating businesses who have joined the Bounce Back movement see the value in us working together to support each other and best serve our customers with these special offers.” She continues, “We have over 125 local businesses who we are collaborating with through the Bounce Back Brandon/Riverview and Bounce Back Plant City websites. At first, we used this as a COVID-19 resource to simply let people know that our businesses were open. And when people realized this, it allowed them to take advantage of these special offers while stimulating the local economy.” One of the ways Julie and Mike have been promoting collaboration and solidarity is by distributing free COVID-19 awareness posters to

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all participating businesses and also providing them with window signage and yard signs. “There is so much value in working together with our fellow business owners, and when people see our Bounce Back signage and posters, it is a great reminder that we are all in this together.” They also engaged three local Chambers of Commerce in Brandon, Riverview, and Plant City. “We’ve received such a positive response and working collaboratively with the Chambers of Commerce has also helped raise awareness and support of the Bounce Back program.” Both Minuteman Press centers in Brandon and Plant City have remained open throughout COVID-19 since printing was designated as an essential business. “When the shutdowns and quarantines first hit, we made it a point to let people know we were still here and still open. Once the other essential businesses found out we were open, we were able to help them with all of their printing needs (such as custom printed forms and pads) and keep their production and operations going. It was great for them to see the value of us as a local printing and business services provider, and we gained several new customers as a result.” As more businesses in Florida continue to reopen and rebuild, Julie and Mike Arndt are here to help. “Some of the products and services we offer that are in high demand right now are mailings. We

are able to connect clients who can’t reach their customers personally by introducing them to cost-effective Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), and we can handle everything from design and printing to the mailings themselves.” She adds, “We also have social distancing products such as posters, window signage, and floor decals available and are ready to help all businesses reopen their doors safely.” Julie concludes, “One lesson I think we’ve all learned is that when we work together and support each other, good things happen. That, and goodwill goes a long way.”


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Walden Lake Review BY NATALIE SWEET

W

alden Lake Community Association Board Meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 7:00 at the Walden Lake Community Association office building on Griffin Boulevard in Walden Lake although they are currently being held virtually. The next meeting is scheduled for July 20thand August 17th. Please keep an eye on the announcement boards at all entrances for dates and times of special meetings and events and if the meetings will take place virtually or in person. Jimmy’s Famous Seafood was at the HOA/Sports Complex on June 28th and the feedback from all who purchased food said it was great! The next food truck event is scheduled for July 26th from 11:00–7:00. The HOA is bringing in Umami Smoke Food Truck and Krazy Kup Shaved Ice for all to enjoy. If you have not taken advantage of the delicious offerings, give it a try! Watch for more information from emails from the HOA and on Nextdoor. During the month of June, there were 13 sales in Walden Lake and 1 sale in Walden Lake East. The average sale price was $260,607 an average of 31 days on the market.

The June sales are as follows: Address / Sales Price / Living Area / Pool / Garage 4304 Kipling Avenue / $170,000 / 2152 Sq’ / No / None 103 Capri Court North / $190,000 / 1581 Sq’ / Community / 2 Car 2792 Golf Lake Drive / $207,000 / 1710 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 4111 Thackery Way / $208,000 / 1238 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 4335 Barret Avenue / $239,000 / 1617 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 1922 Horseshoe Drive / $250,000 / 1668 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 3131 Emerson Place / $250,000 / 1836 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 3201 Kilmer Drive / $255,000 / 2032 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 1512 Teakwood Drive / $285,000 / 1992 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 4115 Barret Avenue / $287,500 / 2015 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 3210 Thackery Way / $300,000 / 2216 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 2913 Aston Avenue / $300,000 / 2653 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 2702 Pine Club Drive / $340,000 / 2618 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car 2715 Clubhouse Drive / $365,000 / 2619 Sq’ / Yes / 2 Car There are currently 11 active listings for sale in Walden Lake and 1 listing in Walden Lake East with an average list price of $405,325 and an average of 74 days on the market. Two of the active listings are in Polo Place and when you eliminate those, the average price is $311,400 and 31 days on the market. There are 29 properties Pending Contract in Walden Lake and 2 Pending Contract in Walden Lake East. The average list price of $293,581 and average of 21 days on the market. What this scenario means is that there is less than a month’s inventory available. If you are thinking about selling, this may be the perfect time to put your home on the market. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in talking about the best strategy. During the first half of 2020, there were 75 sales in Walden Lake and 10 sales in Walden Lake East. The lowest sale price was a townhome for $142,500 at 2310 Village Green Boulevard and the highest price was a home on 1703 Charleston Woods Court for $448,000. The average sales price during the six month period was $266,275 with an average of 27 days on the market. Walden Lake LLC has begun to tear down the country club. It is sad to see this icon in Walden Lake being removed as many who have lived in the development for years, enjoyed spending time at the club. To date, I have not heard anything new about their potential development plans that have been filed with the City. You can find information regarding the potential plans on our HOA website, www.WaldenLake. org. You can also check with the City of Plant City for upcoming information. How is COVID-19 affecting real estate? As you can see from the sales data above, we do not see a slowdown of our listings going under contract, providing they are priced correctly and in good condition. We are seeing fewer homes being listed, so The Sweet Team of Keller Williams Realty feels this is a great time to list, as there are buyers out there that are looking for a home. Feel free to contact me about any real estate questions or about this article. NSweet@KW.com or 813-758-9586. PAGE

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“I am a top producer with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Ellie & Associates. I have a great team that will make the process easy, and keep communication open every step of the process. I work hard to get my clients top dollar for their listings and will get your home sold fast! I will market your home with video virtual tours, photography, drone shots and the latest technology in the industry; Matterport 3D capture services to accelerate property sales for your property.�

NICHOLE MOODY nicholemoody@gmail.com / 813.802.3452

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ACTIVE

838 N Ruth Ave., Lakeland, FL 33815

Brand New construction, brought to you by Backbone Construction and Roofing, Inc. You will fall in love with this beautiful 3bd, 2 bathrooms, listed at $224,900, in Lakeland, FL. Open Floor plan, beautiful finishes and many upgrades.

834 N Ruth Ave., Lakeland, FL 33815

Under construction, brought to you by Backbone Construction and Roofing, Inc. 3bd, 2 bathrooms, listed at $224,900, in Lakeland, FL. To be completed at the beginning of September 2020. Now is the perfect time to purchase this home and have the opportunity to make this home semi-custom by picking your own finishes and colors! Identical floor plan to 838 N Ruth Ave., Lakeland, FL 33815.

PENDING

PENDING

2509 Waver St., Plant City, FL 33563

1004 N Wheeler St., Plant City, FL 33563

Under contract with multiple offers on the first day with an above ask offer for my seller.

Under contract with multiple offers on the first day with an above ask offer for my seller.

SOLD

SOLD

3913 Sparky Ln., Plant City, FL 33565

2002 Greenwood Valley Dr., Plant City, FL 33563

Under contract with multiple offers on the first day with an above ask offer for my seller.

Cash offer, quick close and no contingencies, happy seller. PAGE

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Remembering

Morgan Pierce Queen of Our Hearts By Cheryl Johnston

Always desiring to help others, 17-year-old Emily Morgan Pierce was a gracious leader and advocate. During her almost 13-year battle with Neuroblastoma, the daughter of Clint and Emily Pierce received treatment at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She also spoke at an annual fundraising gala in Charleston to benefit the MUSC Children’s Hospital. Sadly, her earthly journey ended too soon on June 25, 2020. But oh, what an impact Morgan made in those cities and her hometown. Remarkably, this compassionate teen used her unique voice and difference-making energy to benefit families with children in cancer treatment. Through efforts such as the Good Cookie Run/Walk, the annual Jensen’s Heart of Gold Gala, and a Family Fun Day in McCall Park, if Morgan desired it, family and friends helped those events succeed. At the Celebration of Life honoring Morgan on July 12, folks gathered at the Strawberry Festival Grimes Agricultural Center to express sympathy and hear memories shared by teachers, friends, and families the Pierces had met through medical treatment trips. They also decorated luminaria bags and signed ribbons that will be crafted into a memorial wreath. According to her parents and sister Allison, “She was a talented artist and an amazing chef… on the path to culinary school. Morgan was a fierce advocate for inclusion and fairness for all, she believed in kindness, and worked to help kids with cancer live normal lives. Morgan was stronger and more resilient than anyone we will ever know. She was proud, outspoken, and unapologetic.” That strength is obvious in the YouTube video interview with Morgan when she was only eight. She noted that kids with cancer have another kind of strong and that strength is on the inside. In her words, “If you’re strong, you can fight through anything.” Emily explained that Morgan wanted simply PAGE

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“to be seen as a teenage girl, who loved creating paintings, trips to Disney, and being with friends. She didn't want people to see her as a 'cancer kid” and felt kids should be viewed for who they are as people, not defined by an illness.” After bonding with the Byrd family of Alabama while their children were hospitalized, the Pierces established the Florida chapter of Jensen’s Heart of Gold, a 501(c)3 non-profit which helps families with children in cancer treatment. The annual gala has always been well attended. After Morgan was crowned Junior Royalty Queen in 2018, her proud mother wrote: “…My girl, who withstood more pain, more fire, more hurdles, more heartache than any child or adult for that matter should ever know, much less endure. She won. And goodness, …she took this blessing with grace, head held high, only hearing kind words and happy thoughts. Honored to be chosen and represent. Excited to share a year with new friends…And she earned it…This year brought many friendships, and many, many happy days representing the festival she has loved all her life. A festival that loves her right back. She has had the opportunity to grow in public speaking, to meet new people, see old friends. She has sister queens for life, special girls who mean the world to us.” On Facebook recently her courageous father thanked family, friends and community for their support. And he praised Morgan’s advocacy for others, despite her pain, writing, “Morgan was simply unstoppable with her fierce spirit. She was full of life and had no intentions of EVER quitting.” To honor Morgan’s determination and desire for kindness to all, Emily wants Plant City to know, “We plan to continue following her lead – pushing forward, spreading awareness, and helping others.”

To assist in this cause, visit sparklyflower.org, jensensheartofgold.com, and cookiesforkidscancer.org.


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Crystal Dukes Rising to Real Estate Success Interview by Cierra Craft Photos by Deanna Hurley Photography

Luxury real estate is a niche that requires a special eye for detail and an understanding of construction, architecture, finishes, and knowledge of the community. Crystal Dukes is the one to callshe specializes in the sale of luxury, waterfront, historic homes, new construction and acreage. This Plant City native and fourthgeneration Hillsborough County resident is an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty’s South Tampa office. While she may sell million dollar homes throughout Tampa Bay, Dukes grew up on her family’s farm, to which she credits for her incredible work ethic and a sense of community. So when the Plant City High School Class of 2000 graduate set off for the world, she chose a career that not only challenged her but also allowed her to play off of her strengths. She transitioned from jury consulting into real estate seven years ago. Her dynamic energy led to a rapid growth in her blooming real estate career and she quickly became a multi-million dollar producer within the first few months of obtaining her license. Crystal Dukes sat down with FOCUS to discuss her love for her hometown, her $1 million dollar Polo Place listing, and shared some tips for readers interested in buying or selling their properties. Whether it’s a historic home with old charm and a wrap around porch or a townhome in an up and coming neighborhood, with Crystal Dukes, clients can consider it sold. PAGE

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Share with me a bit about your experience growing up in Plant City. I attended Cork Elementary School and Plant City High School, where I was a cheerleader all four years, crowned homecoming queen of my senior class and graduated in 2000. I grew up on my family’s farm and it was an incredible experience. I helped on the farm as a child and it taught me the value of a dollar and how hard work is so instrumental in everything that I do. Anyone who knows me will say that I am extremely hard working and loyal and I learned that from my late father, Steve Dukes. His daily example taught me the importance of individual responsibility, the value of hard work and respect for others. The future was mine to determine so make it happen. His extra effort was a constant that inspired me and those he touched; he lived by the Golden Rule. My Nanny (Grandmother), Elinor Dickey was and still is an exceptionally strong support system who shaped my path in ways I can never repay. Growing up in Plant City taught me the importance of community, loyalty and taking care of those closest to you. I loved growing up in Plant City and still have close relationships with the friends I grew up with 20+ years ago, their parents and now their little and not so little ones. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have grown up in such a close-knit community. What are your favorite memories of Plant City? Our hometown traditions are very special to me, especially the Strawberry Festival celebrating our status as the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World” is an annual pilgrimage. I really enjoyed the parades, being involved in countless pageants, pasture parties and cheering at Friday night football games. If I had to pick one favorite memory, it probably would involve my friends. The memories we created will forever be some of my absolute favorite times. Before real estate, you worked as a trial consultant for a jury consulting firm. What was that experience like? It was a fascinating experience as there are so many factors to be considered when picking a jury. The work was essentially applied Sociology -- my Major at the University of Tampa. We would help lawyers understand their case from a juror’s perspective. I met so many diverse people who helped us prepare our clients for jury trials. Our small-group research using jury-eligible subjects complimented the highly specialized work of lawyers by providing invaluable insight to assist in case prep. Help them put “their best foot forward” in their quest for justice. Make sure their theory of a case, their message, was understood by others and effectively communicated at trial. In many ways it was pure market research. We were there to support the attorneys from jury selection and opening arguments through closings. Understanding one’s audience is just as important in lawyering as it is in real estate. I worked on high profile cases in the industry and learned so much about law which has served me well in my real estate career. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It was a very professional environment and I learned a lot. Where did your interest in Real Estate begin? What were the early years of your career like? A friend suggested that I enter the profession and after some research, I decided to launch my real estate career. I obtained my license and later joined Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in 2014. I have always been a people-person, liked the idea of being my own boss

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so to speak, aggressive, competitive, legally-minded with the ability to bring my own unique style to the game. Real estate combined those elements for me. It’s an attractive path for many as the barriers for entry are not severe. But it is far from an easy path and can be quite humbling. I was blessed in my early years to understand this business, much like farming, is about grinding -- not letting up or giving in to inevitable failures. A hard freeze can wipe out your entire crop in just one night and it’s all gone, everything. Real estate and all the multifaceted things that affect it (stock market, interest rates, government shutdowns, flood insurance, hurricanes, etc.) is no different. You must get back up and rise above defeat, always! The early years in real estate were difficult, I literally started from the bottom and worked my way up. I knew what I was capable of but real estate is an industry you don’t just ‘walk into.’ It takes hard work, determination and a tremendous amount of time and energy. Nobody is knocking down your door to sell their million dollar home when starting out in real estate just like nobody is knocking down your door to try their million dollar case when you're fresh out of law school. It took years to get to where I am but I am proud of the blood, sweat and toil of those early years. What sets you apart from other agents? I feel that I can leverage my work ethic, personality, listening skills, legal experience and familiarity in several territories to offer a unique experience to a wide variety of customers. Ultimately, I just want to do a good job. I am fiercely loyal and protective of those who are close to me and place their trust in me. I think people find comfort in my commitment. I just do my best and will stop at nothing to get my customers what they deserve. Customers grow to trust me quickly due to my transparency. I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear or agree with everything you say and nod my head just to get or keep your business and I think that is something nearly every client of mine will attest to. I dig in deep with current market analysis, numbers, market conditions, strategy, marketing platform, etc. as it is my job to educate and provide my customers the necessary tools to understand appropriate lists or offer prices in any given market. I don’t do real estate part time, I do it day in and day out, seven days a week and have a pulse on the market that I am tuned in to daily to obtain the best possible outcome for my customers. Can you share with readers a bit about Sotheby's and what attracted you to work for them? Sotheby’s International Realty is a global luxury brand that is unique in the real estate world. We’re committed to delivering an exceptional real estate experience at different price points. Our digital marketing platform, our association with the Sotheby’s Auction House and the ability to network with other Sotheby’s agents worldwide give our listings tremendous exposure. The prestige that comes with the Sotheby’s brand and heritage is truly unique and it’s an honor to be affiliated with it. What makes the Plant City market unique compared to the other areas such as Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater? As a Plant City native, I truly understand the variety of unique living experiences that are offered. The properties have more acreage and appeal to homeowners whose interests include farming, agriculture, equestrian, estate and historic properties. Plant City is a quaint beautiful gem nestled off along the I-4 corridor conveniently located


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between Tampa and Orlando with easy access to the most vibrant parts of Florida. To the west is Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater – forming a major center of trade (Port of Tampa) and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. To the east is Orlando, one of the most-visited cities in the world fueled by tourism, major events, and conventions. Lot’s happening here!

Photo Courtesy of Febre Frameworks

At the time of publication, you have a listing in Walden Lake’s Polo Place. Can you share with readers some information on this 4 bed, 5 bath property? 3213 Polo Place is a custom built estate located in a private gated community quietly nestled at the end of a secluded, double lot, cul-de-sac situated on more than three acres. Back of the home overlooks a pristine pool, spa, and serene private pond that backs up to undevelopable lush greenery. A private detached in-law suite currently used as a game room with kitchenette and half bath also overlooks the private pond. Speaking of the Polo Place listing, is there a type of property buyer that you’re marketing this home to? How can buyers learn more about this home? The property includes a developable lot that could be used to build on in the future or to keep asis for additional privacy. In addition to four bedrooms this home includes a bonus loft currently used as a gym, office/library, laundry/utility room, walk in storage room and a private detached in law suite. A video tour, matterport, photos and property details are available to view at crystaldukes.premiersothebysrealty.com

What's the most rewarding part of your career? Building relationships and earning the trust of all my customers. My client book is built solely on referrals and repeat business. I do not advertise or buy leads. Earlier this year I was nominated and won Best Real Estate Agent 2020 by South Tampa Magazine, Best of South Tampa 2020. To win this distinction solely by way of my customers, colleagues and peers voting for me was exceptionally rewarding! Buying a home will oftentimes be the biggest investment many people make in their lives. And to play a small part in that lifetime event brings me great joy. What's the biggest mistake people make when trying to sell their home? Pricing a property too aggressively will prevent a timely sale of a property. It’s important to realistically price a home based on current market conditions in order to attract an interested pool of buyers. How can a buyer make their offer stand out? A cash offer is very attractive to a Seller. If a Buyer is financing the purchase, an offer is made stronger if it’s accompanied by a preapproval letter for the Buyer’s loan. Higher earnest money deposits also make offers stand out, tightening and/or removing contingencies.

Do you have other listings currently available in the greater Plant City area? Care to share with readers information on those properties? I have a beautiful developable property listed at 2750 Shadywood Place in Lakeland. A custom built ranch style home that sits secluded on 60+/- acres with two gorgeous natural springs, trees, pastures, wildlife and two private gated entrances. 36+/- acres zoned RL-1 and RL-2 with opportunity for residential development of 54 homes. A video tour, matterport, photos and property details are available to view at crystaldukes.premiersothebysrealty.com

How important is social media in the real estate industry today? We live in a digital world, and the use of social media is crucial to a successful real estate practice. It’s become even more important to be creative during the current pandemic. We conduct virtual showings and virtual open houses using social media platforms. At Sotheby’s, prior to Covid-19, we were already equipped and set up for virtual real estate. We live in a state where people from all over the world may want a second home or retirement home and will not be flying in from another country to preview the property in person. It’s crucial to have professional photography and every Sotheby’s associate has professional photos taken on each and every listing they represent. Additionally, for many properties we also use professional video, Matterport, where prospective customers can literally walk through the entire property virtually step by step, drone and twilight shots. With Sotheby’s digital platform you can be anywhere in the world and visually understand the intricacies of a property during the day, night, inside, outside, high in the sky through still shot and/or video.

3212 Polo Place | Walden Lake 4bd, 5ba, 5,422 sq. ft. $999,999

What are the Dos and Don'ts of Home Staging? Every home will have different staging needs. It’s important for the interior of a home to be uncluttered, clean and bright. Consider hiring a professional stager. Don’t forget about the exterior of the home. The grass and shrubbery should be maintained and minor exterior repairs should be made.

To learn more about this property, contact Crystal Dukes at 813.928.9795

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FOCUS Magazine's

TOP REALTORS At the time of publication, there are 105 residential properties on the market, per the MLS.

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MaggieBeard

JackieBrazil

I have been a highly effective and successful RealtorÂŽ since 1996, and I am a proud 3rd Generation Florida RealtorÂŽ. My business motto is "Providing Significant Service." I am NOT a high volume mega selling agent. Rather, you will receive your absolutely deserved EXPERIENCED, individualized service and attention for the most important financial transaction your family or business will ever have. You will always be in contact with ME personally, I do not delegate my responsibility to an assistant or partner. I do not take on so much business that you are lost in the shuffle. YOU are important to me!

Jackie moved from Hawaii to Plant City at the Age of 4. She lives in Walden Lake where she is raising her children and specializes in listings in the plant city area, including Walden lake. She began her real estate career in 2015 with better homes and gardens.

Signature Realty Associates 813-299-7155 / maggieb.realestate@gmail.com

Better Homes And Gardens 813-484-9499 / jackiebrazil87@icloud.com

HeatherCampbell Whether buying or selling, Heather Campbell loves the excitement of seeing her customers at the closing table. She strives to meet them at a personal level and provides outstanding service and communication. From contract to close she makes sure everything runs as smooth as possible. Heather was born and raised in Plant City and is extremely knowledgeable of the area. She is very active in the Plant City community and enjoys sharing all that her community has to offer with home buyers. Heather had over 4 Million in sales last year and is highly motivated and ready to work for you! McGrath Poppell & Company 813-478-0296 \ HeatherC@JustSoldbyHeather.com PAGE

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The commercial property with the highest asking price is 503 N Palmer Street, with an asking pricing of $7,750,000. This location is the former First Baptist Church of Plant City campus. The realtor for this property is Jimmie Robinson of Coldwell Banker Realty.


BUYING OR SELLING? EXPERIENCE COUNTS! PROVIDING “SIGNIFICANT SERVICE” SINCE 1996! MAGGIE BEARD , REALTOR ®

A PROUD 3RD GENERATION FLORIDA REALTOR®

813-299-7155 MaggieB.RealEstate@gmail.com SIGNATURE REALTY ASSOCIATES CHECK OUT MY LISTINGS! YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS COULD BE IN MY NEXT AD! CALL ME! COMING SOON, IN PLANT CITY LIMITS, 23 CUSTOM HOMES, 12 FLOOR PLANS CALL ME FOR CURRENT INFO AND TO BE PLACED ON INTEREST LIST!! 813-299-7155

9.81 ACRES OF “HORSE HEAVEN” WITH 14 STALL STABLES! 5BR 2 FULL BATH 2 1/2 BATH BLOCK CONSTRUCTION POOL HOME . UPDATED KITCHEN. MASTER SUITE 1ST FLOOR. PLUS 2 STORY 37 X 38 WORKSHOP WITH ITS OWN ELECTRIC, SEPTIC AND ROAD ENTRY . HORSE BOARDING INCOME POSSIBLE NET $2000+ PER MONTH! ADD SOLAR AND LIVE OFF THE GRID! 6109 W KNIGHTS GRIFFIN RD PLANT CITY MLS # T3170220

SO RARE! ALMOST ON THE BAY! DIRECTLY ON LITTLE MANTEE RIVER. NO HOA OR CDD! NEWER SEAWALL PUBLIC WATER/SEWER SO NO SEPTIC “HUMP” OR WORRIES RE WELL SALT WATER INTRUSION. READY TO BUILD. BUILD DOCK NOW AND HOME LATER! JANIE ST RUSKIN .28 ACRE VACANT LAND MLS # T3236485

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AshleyCarlisle I have been a highly effective and successful Realtor® since 1996, and I am a proud 3rd Generation Florida Realtor®. My business motto is "Providing Significant Service." I am NOT a high volume mega selling agent. Rather, you will receive your absolutely deserved EXPERIENCED, individualized service and attention for the most important financial transaction your family or business will ever have. You will always be in contact with ME personally, I do not delegate my responsibility to an assistant or partner. I do not take on so much business that you are lost in the shuffle. YOU are important to me! McGrath Poppell & Company / Realtor® m: 813-523-5959 | e:ashleysellsproperties@gmail.com w: buyandsellwithashley.com

MelissaPippin Connell Melissa has been serving Central Florida for over 16 years. Her experience, grit, and passion for the industry has allowed her to be an expert in her craft. She prides herself on keeping up to date on market trends and changes, changes and updates in lending, and the importance of knowing what to look for in a property to protect both seller and buyer. Melissa specializes in residential, commercial, and vacant land transactions. She has crafted a method that has proven successful in both listing properties for sale and helping buyers find their dream properties. She has developed professional relationships and surrounds herself with top-notch industry leaders in other facets of the real estate industry such as title, lending, appraising, and home inspection services. Sparrow Key Realty Direct Cell: (813) 478-3180 / Direct Email: myfloridahomefinder@gmail.com PAGE

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PatComstock Ask Pat why she doesn’t retire after 29 years & her answer is that she constantly has past clients contact her for help and she just can’t say no! She loves helping people and her clients become life long friends. If you need to sell or buy, give her a call and experience for yourself why her clients keep coming back.

Sparrow Key Realty Direct or Text 813-763-5524 – patcomstock@msn.com

The residential property with the highest asking price within city limits is 3213 Polo Place. This property is represented by Crystal Dukes of Sotheby’s International Realty. The property is 5,422 square feet on more than three acres. The asking price is $999,999.


3017 James L Redman Pkwy Plant City, FL 33566 Office: 813-379-7777 Email- Sparrowkeyrealty@gmail.com Website-www.sparrowkeyrealty.com

We have an entire team of experienced Central Florida agents waiting to assist you with all of your real estate needs! We take extra care with our buyers and sellers because we understand that this will be one of the largest transactions you will ever make, and we take that very seriously. We provide free initial consultation to set your expectations and inform you of exactly what to expect in this very fluid market. We do not limit our amount of time or dedication to your transaction as we know that individual care is paramount to a smooth transaction. We want to make sure that you are confident in your decision when buying or selling your property. Let our extensive real estate experience make this the easiest real estate transaction you have ever been a part of! Part of what sets us apart from the rest is that we take great pride in offering more services than the average brokerage.

Serving the Real Estate Industry for over 15 years, Jim has masterfully navigated sales in Residential, Commercial, and Vacant Land throughout Central Florida.

James Brown

Broker/Owner Phone: 863-409-9961 Jimbhd@aol.com thegodfatherofsold.com

Jim was a great help to me during the buying of my home. He got everything done quickly, plowed through many unusual road blocks, and was kind and patient with me from start to finish. Jim I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. - Penny Wells I would HIGHLY recommend James Brown!! He was very knowledgeable and always kept us informed of what was happening. James Brown will always have my business - Richard Merritt

Melissa Connell

Broker/Owner Phone: 813-478-3180 Myfloridahomefinder@gmail.com myconnellrealestate.com

#TurningDreamsIntoReality #OneKeyAtATime #BuyAndSellWithMELISSA #SellingCentralFlorida #TheSparrowIsKEY #KeepAnEyeOnTheSparrow

Pat Comstock is the most trustworthy, honest, and courteous realtor we have ever worked with. Pat will walk you through the process and will honestly tell you what she thinks. She does not give up and will work until the property is sold. Her experience is invaluable. Her recommendations are always in your best interest. She stays actively involved every step of the way and keeps you informed. She is a wonderful person. Easy to talk to and sets your mind at ease when things are not going smoothly. She knows how to get the best offer. If you use Pat Comstock as your realtor you will have the best experience possible. Pat is not only your selling partner she will become your friend in the process. - Charlie & Carol Potts

Pat Comstock

Phone: 813-763-5524 Patcomstock@msn.com patsperfecthomes.com

There’s simply no one I would use for all of my real estate needs other than Pat. I have known her over the years and count her as one of my closest friends. Every purchase and sales transaction I’ve ever done, she’s been a part of. Her integrity, honesty and knowledge are second to none. She truly is in a class all by herself. Need a realtor. There’s no one I would recommend more than Pat Comstock - Eric Sanders

From the very first phone conversation, Melissa made selling our home and buying a new one as easy as possible. She treated my husband, toddler, and I like we were her own family. While we were in awe at the appearances of certain homes, Melissa always looked for anything that may have given us trouble down the road (structural issues, property taxes, ridiculous HOAs, etc.) and saved us numerous times from making a decision that we might have regretted. Even when it seemed like we wouldn’t find a home that I loved in the time frame we needed, Melissa constantly encouraged me and told me to not settle for anything I didn’t absolutely love even though my husband was ready to put an offer in. Never once did she make us feel like a burden for asking a million questions, calling her at all hours of the day and night, or for doing at least a dozen walk throughs. From the beginning, our goal was to sell and buy in 45 days. We closed on both houses in less than 30 days and just in time for Christmas! There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we would use Melissa again. She’s the best, hands down. The absolute best realtor there is! She will get you sold and find you your dream home all in one. We sold and bought a new house in less than 30 days! - Allison and Tyler Williams

April Taylor

Phone: 813-478-2181 April@sparrowkeyrealty.com taylorsunlimited.com

April entered the real estate industry with 19 years of paralegal experience leading her to specialize in many of the more complex transactions within our industry such as divorce, estate sales, probate properties, and more! Her years of expertise in these areas have proven to greatly benefit the needs of her customers. April has a drive and passion that goes above and beyond paired with the knowledge she has gained; April is truly one of a kind. Serving Central Florida, she is ready to help you navigate any transaction.

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ReneeCorzine

JohnHaney

“For almost 19 years, Renee has been marketing, listing and selling Residential Homes, Luxury Homes, Horse Properties, Kennel Properties, Waterfront Homes, Vacant Lots, Acreage, Homes with Acreage, Commercial Properties, Investment Properties, Foreclosures, Short Sales and New Construction. Whether working with first-time homebuyers or families upsizing or downsizing, Renee uses her skills and experience to help clients achieve their real estate goals. As a full-time, full-service realtor, Renee performs above and beyond expectations to facilitate a smooth real estate transaction. Whatever your real estate needs, Renee is ready to apply her real estate knowledge to make your dreams a reality!”

John is the President and Managing Broker of ACE Realty & Auction, LLC based right here in historic downtown Plant City. During his 19+ year career, he has sold real estate in almost every county in Florida, 41 states and 3 foreign countries. He is particularly skilled in commercial real estate sales and leasing but handles all types of property, both locally and abroad. John is also heavily involved in numerous civic organizations. He is a board member of the Plant City Rotary Club, a board member of Plant City Main Street, and a member of the Plant City Economic Development Corporation. A lifelong resident of Plant City, he is married to Amy, his wife of 19 years and they have a son Ryan. Together they own and operate a 100 acre cattle ranch just northeast of town.

Keller Williams 813-716-6007 / rcorzine@tampabay.rr.com

Ace Realty & Auction LLC 813-716-5108 \ jhaney@acebid.com

MikeGriffin Mike Griffin is a lifelong residence of Plant City and has extensive knowledge of Plant City and surrounding areas. He is the Broker/ Owner of Griffin Executive Realty, a firm that specializes in Residential, Commercial, Multi-family, Vacant Land and Investment Properties. As an experienced Realtor® who thinks outside the box, Mike knows how to avoid the ugly pitfalls while delivering a seamless real estate transaction and negotiating the best deal for his clients.

Broker-Owner office (813)754-2012 / cell (813)967-3607 / mikeg@griffinexecutiverealty.com PAGE

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The total price of all available residential, commercial, income, vacant land, and rental properties in the greater Plant City area is $129 million.


111 South Palmer Street Plant City, Florida 33563 Office: (813) 567-7198 John L. Haney, Lic Real Estate Broker AceBid.Com/Realty

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TammyJenkins

ArdenWhite Kingen

Tammy Jenkins was born and raised in the Plant City area. Her grandparents and parents owned and operated family-owned businesses that served the Plant City area for over 50 years, thus teaching Tammy the importance of “being good at what you do” and “wanting to take care of your customers.” As a Plant City High student she began to be a hairstylist and was a very successful hair dresser for over 16 years. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and made a career change to become a real estate professional, applying the same personal principles. Tammy has become a consistent top producer with Keller Williams Realty of Plant City, and gladly serves the Central Florida Market. Tammy strives to treat her clients with Honesty, Integrity, and Compassion.

Arden White, born and raised in Plant City, is a 3rd generation licensed Realtor with McGrath Poppell & Company, Inc. During the last 3 years, Arden has helped many buyers and sellers while obtaining her Bachelor’s & Master's degrees from the University of Tampa. Arden is excited to continue her real estate career, upholding her reputation as a Realtor who ensures she gets the best deal for her clients while making the process smooth and exciting.

Keller-Williams Realty 813-478-9885 \ tjenkins68@hotmail.com

McGrath Poppell & Company Cell: (813) 957-0534 / Office: (813) 754-8888

CathyMartin Cathy, a native Floridian, has lived in the Plant City area her entire life. She is married to Greg and together they share four children. Cathy earned a Bachelors in Finance at USF and held several licenses for securities trading while working in the Financial Services industry for several years. Having been in real estate for 15 years, she has endured the full market cycle and recognizes that hard work and integrity are the key components to a successful business and strives for excellence with each customer.

Signature Realty Associates cmartin4re@gmail.com / 813-376-0891 PAGE

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The largest property for sales in Plant City is 4402 Charlie Taylor Road which is 49.25 acres. The largest residential property is 5812 Bruton Road, sitting on 10 acres with an asking price of $1.45 million. The realtor for this property is Mac McGrath of McGrathPoppell & Company.


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CarterMetts

NicholeMoody

Carter is a licensed real estate agent with Ace Realty & Auction. Prior to Joining the team at ACE, he spent 18 years in the insurance field. While he is not from Plant City; Carter is quick to say he got here as fast as he could. He is active in the community as a former chamber ambassador and a volunteer at the Pig Jam every year. Carter enjoys working with new residential construction as well as commercial property sales and leases.

Nichole Moody is a real estate professional for Better Homes and Gardens . Licensed in Real Estate since 2006, Nichole offers her clients an outstanding level of service. Her personal experience purchasing, renovating, owning and selling property, allows Nichole to excel at every level of the real estate transaction. Prior to earning her real estate license, and after studying to get her paralegal degree, Nichole worked for many years as a Paralegal with firms whose focus was in the areas of Real Estate and Corporate Law. Nichole has extensive knowledge in all aspects of the foreclosure process, short sales, reviewing and summarizing title commitments, surveys and commercial and residential real estate transactions. Combining her strong work ethic with her extensive background as a paralegal and her dedication to continued education in her field, Nichole provides an unsurpassed choice for anyone ready to buy or sell a home.

carter@acebid.com / Direct (813) 732-7814

Better Homes and Garden Realty nicholemoody@gmail.com

Jeremy&LisaRhodes There’s a lot that goes into the decision to buy or sell a home. That’s why we believe your experience with The Rhodes Group is about building a relationship - not executing a real estate transaction. We think the best way to build that relationship is to listen to your needs, work tirelessly on your behalf, and provide successful results. That’s why we focus on getting you through the maze of buying or selling your home smoothly. The way that we do that is with our unmatched tools, market knowledge, experience, and customer service. We draw on years of expertise, an intimate knowledge of the area, and effective, efficient processes to provide you with the best experience anywhere. The Rhodes Group @ Keller Williams 813-763-6043 / Therhodesrealtygroup.com PAGE

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The most expensive home sold over the past 12 months is 516 Holloway Road in April 2020 for $1.1 million. The 4,765 sq ft, 5 bedroom, and 4.5 bath home was sold by Steven Eckhardt of Cornerstone Properties International.


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JimmieRobinson

ShannonSchulte

Jimmie Dan Robinson, Broker/Associate for Coldwell Banker for the past 23 years and being born in Plant City has the trust and values that people expect. Former Corporate Pilot and Marketing Director for a national chain of convenient stores knows the highs and lows of life and business and know that people like dealing with trust and honesty when it comes to a family's largest investment. Dealing in residential, commercial and vacant land has been my specialty in the past and what I enjoy doing.

Shanon Schulte has lived in Plant City her entire life. She has been married to Eric for 24 years and they have 3 children, Erin, Alli, and Zachary. Shanon graduated from PCHS in 1986 and Florida Southern in 1990. Shanon is an active member of First Baptist Church, Plant City, where she enjoys volunteering her time. Whether you are buying or selling a home, Shanon is eager to help you get to the closing table.

Coldwell Banker 813-390-6441 \ jimmiedanrobinson@gmail.com

Signature Realty Associates 813-759-3207/seschulte@verizon.net

PatriciaSmith

EarlWilliams

For 14 years Patricia has had the priviledge of making dreams come true for many people. Whether buying or selling, she is happy to assist and guide you through the process. Being a local girl, she is very familiar with not only Plant City, but all of Hillsborough County as well as Polk & Pasco Counties. The many years of business has given her a wealth of knowledge, the ability to negotiate and the experience needed to be a Top Realtor. She is personable, a go getter and dedicated to her customers. Keeping in close contact with past customers has allowed her to grow her business. She is ready to work for you!

With over 15 years of professional experience and closing transactions in 36 states, Earl Williams has assisted buyers and sellers with real estate needs through various methods including traditional methods,auctions and foreclosures. Being a Plant City native and lifelong resident has made Earl an expert in understanding market conditions in this area. His knowledge in commercial, residential, agricultural and larger land tracts has made him a valuable asset to the ACE Realty & Auction, LLC Team. He also consults on agricultural exemptions and regularly assists with parcel splits to maximize the income and value potential for his clients.

McGrath Poppell & Company 863-738-0593 / ctsmith2@aol.com

ACE Realty & Auction, LLC 813-716-0834 \ Earl@acebid.com


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musicians. Lizzo then posted the video on her page, causing it to receive 27.1 million views. Another time was when I realized my followers desired more than laughter; they also needed encouragement. It happened when I received the following comment, “Mr. Hamilton, can you just tell me that everything is going to be ok?”. From that moment on, I started posting messages of positivity along with my comedy skits. You are now featured on Cameo as a highlevel (famous) TikTok influencer. This is big. Yes, it is incredible. Essentially, Cameo is a social media site where people can request and pay for personalized shout-out messages from celebrities. I have always wanted to make videos for people and get paid for it . . . in any capacity, be it TikTok, YouTube, Cameo, whatever. My biggest dream has always been to be a voice actor.

People of Plant City

Casey Hamilton By Angela Ardrey

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eet Plant City’s rising star, Casey Hamilton, aka Mr. Hamilton of Plant City High School (PCHS), aka @mrhamilton the teacher and comedian on the world’s fastest growing social media app, TikTok. Hamilton is making a positive impact on the community and the world with his big personality, witty humor and words of wisdom. His motto, “Be Weird, Be Different, Keep Them Guessing.” Even though he quickly reached 1.7 million followers on TikTok, Hamilton is a compassionate teacher who is always ready to deliver encouragement and opportunity to the lives that look up to him. I must say, this man’s heart is bigger than his social media success. I understand TikTok is a social media app allowing its users to be video creators from

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their cellphones. What got you started on this app? Honestly, I started using TikTok in order to better relate to my students. As a TV Production teacher, I have my Level 1 students create video projects from their phones. I was recommending other video editing apps, but I wanted to consider what my students were already using. It was TikTok. I started testing the app by posting my own videos. I never dreamed it would become this popular. I talk about this sort of stuff in my class. I teach about copyright, fair use, viral marketing, and advertising on social media. And now, it’s literally happening to me. How is TikTok impacting your life? Making Lizzo laugh with a video I created for her was a huge event. She is one of my favorite

Why did you decide to become a TV Production teacher? I was originally hired to teach 10th grade English. Two weeks before school started though, the principal Mrs. Sullivan asked if I would be interested in teaching the TV Production 1-4 classes instead. Of course, I said yes. I had previously taken all four years of TV Production during high school as a student at PCHS. One thing I can say about my students is that every class period becomes a family by the end of the school year. Next year is going to be tough though, because that will be the first group of students that I will have taught all four years. It will be bittersweet, but it will be good to see them leave the nest. I am proud of my students. You have a big heart for your students. I am also hearing you speak highly of Gen Z. Tell me more about your passion for this younger generation. The Gen Z kids – we don’t give them enough credit for how positive they are. I love this generation. I also love my students. I am purposely equipping my students for success. Short form content and internet content streaming is where the industry is heading. So that is my focus. When the quarantine hit, the students and I switched to YouTube to keep PCHS RTV (Raider Television Network RTV) alive. We successfully created videos that were twice as long as the original shows for two straight months. The students were so eager to make content. Then on June 27th, we decided to put the PCHS TV Production crew on TikTok @ pchsraidertv. The site has already grown to 35.2 thousand followers. I am amazed by the amount of love coming in for my students’ work.


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Did You Know?

The Surge in Broom Corn Popularity and Plant City’s Broom Factory By Plant City Photo Archives & History Center

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t was a different world. Following the tragic first world war, then known as The Great War, Americans woke to a new world in 1919, with new ideas, new commerce, advances in agriculture and a new spirit of inventiveness. Ideas circulating as early as 1915 took on a new life in Florida—a renewed product was emerging as a boon to the farmers, to small manufacturers, and to the ordinary people. It was the growing of broom corn and the production of brooms! The Tampa Tribune carried this story on January 24, 1915: “Dade City is a very lively place at present. A carnival is in full blast, an electrical theatre going nightly, sewer pipe being laid all over the city, electric lights being extended a mile out the Wire Road, and the Dade City Broom Factory in full operation, offering an opportunity for another industry in the raising of broom corn.” Fort Meade was not to be left behind. The Tampa Tribune, August 20, 1916, points out the enthusiasm for the new industry: “It would seem that the publicity which was given a little broom corn patch here a few days ago is going to result in much enterprise. Already a man in North Florida has offered to come here and establish a broom factory, and J. Medora, formerly of Kentucky but now of Orlando, was here yesterday looking over the situation, with a view to bringing his two boys here to operate a broom factory. Who knows but what this little broom corn ball will keep rolling until it becomes a ‘really – truly’ industry.” Crystal Springs farmers were encouraged to join in. The Tampa Times, March 1, 1918, carried this story: “Further evidence that the finest kind of broom corn can be produced in this locality was given the farmers here in a meeting at Colony hall Wednesday evening by O. H. Deming, of Zephyrhills, who, with others there, is promoting the raising of broom corn in Florida and the establishment of a broom factory in Zephyrhills.” And so, it came to Plant City. “Broom Factory to Be Established,” it boasted. “To Have Broom Factory,” it called out. The Tampa Tribune article appearing February 1, 1919, told the story: “A. H. Williams, who came to Plant City recently from Havana, Cuba, with a view to establishing a broom factory here, has purchased a two-story building on South Collins street and is having same put in shape to install the

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machinery which has been ordered. Mr. Williams has also purchased a farm near Dover and will plant some broom corn there, but will have a demonstration field near the factory, where he will be glad to give our local farmers lessons in the culture of broom corn, which is now enormously high. It is hoped the new venture will be successful in all is branches.” The Alvin H. Williams broom factory on South Collins Street put people to work and provided a market for local farmers. Then, too, it supplied high-quality brooms for the 3,700 Plant City residents, who happily put them to use. But not for long. On August 26, 1919, it ended. The headlines in the Tampa Times read, “PLANT CITY HAD BAD FIRE TODAY.” It stated, “Damage Close to $10,000 In Early Morning Blaze.” “Several small frame structures on Collins st. corner of Coronet road, were burned this morning between 5 and 6 o’clock, and several other buildings were damaged.” “The Williams broom factory is a total loss, both building and machinery being destroyed.” What is it about brooms that drove this surge, this popularity? The Tampa Tribune wrote about the broom. Here is part of its article in September 1919: “Whatever happens to men in the world of affairs, the women will be charged with the duty of keeping the home sweet and clean: and this cannot be accomplished without brooms. We have many excellent mops, brushes, vacuum cleaners and other ‘labor saving’ things, but when it comes to the average woman she demands a broom and a broom she will have.” The article lists the commercial activity in Florida: “Tampa has long enjoyed the distinction of having a broom works that makes an article which compares most favorably in quality, appearance and price with any brooms made anywhere; there are small establishments of many years standing in west Florida, where the best grade of brooms is

being made; Jacksonville has an industry of the same sort; Plant City is actively engaged in turning out a fine broom; Moore Haven is going into the business on a large scale, having already begun the manufacture, and now comes Bradentown (sic) with the latest broom factory we have heard of to add to the growing output of Florida.” In conclusion, the writer states this: “The proven ability of Florida to produce a workable and lasting quality of broom corn has attracted many to the state from regions where the growing of this crop has been on a commercial scale for many years….Florida will soon become known as a great broom corn growing state and the state where they make up the raw material into the finished broom.” Sources: newspapers.com; Sanborn maps co., 1919; Quintilla Geer Bruton and David E. Bailey, Jr., Plant City; Its Origin and History; Information provided by Jason Barnes; Plant City Photo Archives & History Center collections.


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Fringe Boutique F BY CIERRA CRAFT

On July 4, Morgan and Mendy Feaster announced Fringe Boutique will be moving to historic downtown, adjacent to The Kandy Shoppe.

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ounded by a mother-daughter duo Mendy and Morgan Feaster in 2013, Fringe Boutique specializes in a mixture of home goods, jewelry and accessories for men and women together, under one roof. The boutique gift shop carries brands such as Bourbon & Boweties, Lilly Pulitzer gifts, and Natural Life. Currently located at Alexander Crossings, the Feasters recently announced the shop, along with their hair salon Studio 3 Salon, will be moving to 108 Drane Street in downtown in the Fall 2020. “The building on Drane Street will be home to Fringe and Studio 3 Salon, as I also co-own the salon with my business partner, Kim Plunk,” said Mendy. “The two businesses compliment each other very well and we all feel that downtown is only going to enhance that. Fringe continues to grow and if you’ve been in lately you know that we are growing out of our current space - which we are thankful for! Morgan and I have always talked about moving downtown eventually, but one of the criteria was that we could purchase a building instead of rent - the new location fell into our laps when we least expected.” The former Dark Horse Music Store, the new location is currently under renovation. Feaster says the Drane Street location will have a whole new look, inside and out. Morgan’s father-in-law is a commercial contractor, her father grew up in a family-owned construction business, and her husband’s background is in finance. “We plan to bring out all of its natural character that dates all the way back to 1920,” said Morgan. “We are finalizing a layout to work for both businesses and then we will start the build out process. You can definitely say this whole process is pretty much a family affair,” said Morgan. Fringe is also excited to welcome new merchandise and brands when the new location opens. With a larger floor plan, the Feasters say guests can expect to see more apparel, more gifts, more home decor. Be sure to follow Fringe on social media, @thegirlsatFringe, for the latest announcements. While many changes are ahead for the gift shops, Morgan confirms one thing will remain true: “The Girls at Fringe” will remain on staff, in addition to a few new girls- and possibly a Boutique Dog. “Connie Coon, Lindsey Livingston, Susan Batley, and Mylie


Every year, Fringe partners with Bourbon + Boweties to unveil a brand new Strawberry Bangle. The 2020 bangle featured red strawberries, with a white banner that red “Plant City, Florida.”

Feaster are known as our ‘Girls at Fringe’ - and they do a wonderful job!” said Morgan. “We do know we will need more hands on deck with a bigger store! Mom and I both work behind the chair at the salon, as well as doing the behind the scenes work in Fringe, but after the move we plan on being in the store more often. Mom even wants to add a Boutique Dog!”

who are already downtown so it’s going to be a lot of fun being able to collaborate with them on downtown events as well.” Additionally, Fringe Boutique participates in the annual Florida Strawberry Festival Fashion Show & Luncheon. Each year, models show off the latest strawberry apparel and accessories in front of a crowd of about 600 people.

Everyday Is A Gift, Treat It As Such

What Customers Are Saying

During the Florida Strawberry Festival season, Fringe Boutique unveiled a new collection of graphic tees, hats, mugs, and the limited edition Bourbon + Boweties Strawberry Bangle. “The Strawberry release started back in 2015 and has really grown into a collection each year,” said Morgan. “Bourbon & Boweties is local to Plant City so it was only fitting that we work together on something for the most wonderful time of the year, the Strawberry Festival! We have a close friendship with the girls at Bourbon & Boweties and they work very hard to provide us with pieces that are exclusive to Fringe.” To kickoff the bangle release, Fringe hosts an annual event, drawing hundreds of shoppers looking to score the latest Strawberry Festival fashions. The Feasters say they look forward to having the larger downtown retail space to welcome guests and host more shopping events throughout the year. “We love the idea of being able to entertain more often - the current location can get quite cramped depending on the event,”said Morgan. “We also have a great relationship with some businesses

Fringe Boutique is renowned for its customer service. From helping clients pick the perfect gift for him, her, or the kids to gift wrapping and tagging, Fringe is there to serve the needs of its customers. Take it from the customers who have shared their experience online: “Such a cute shop with one of a kind gifts for special occasions. They wrap and tag it for you!!” -Susan Harrell “I received my beautiful bracelets! They’re gorgeous and they were packaged so pretty! Love this shop...check it out!” - Jessica Gonzalez “Mindy was awesome. Stayed after closing to help me pick just the right things out!! Will be a definite repeat shopper!! Thank you Fringe!!” -Paul McMichen

601 E Alexander St, | Plant City, FL 33563 | (813) 754-4438 | shopfringeboutique.com Mon-Wed, Fri: 10AM to 6PM | Thurs: 9AM to 7PM | Sat: 10AM to 3PM | Sun: Closed PAGE

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RISING STAR Chloe

Murphy By Taryn Storter Chloe Murphy, a recent graduate of Durant High School, has played soccer since she was three years old. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Murphy moved to Florida when she was ten years old. Growing up with two sisters and one brother, her family was always involved in sports. “this made us competitive, which always made being at home and playing on the field enjoyable,” said Murphy. “Since I can remember I’ve had a ball at my feet.” Murphy played for the West Florida Flames Development Academy (DA) team this past year. During her fifteen years of soccer, she won tournament championships throughout the state of Florida, placed third in the State Presidents Cups, and made it to the Elite 8 round for the State Championship Cup. At Durant, Murphy played one year of soccer before focusing on the DA level. She also was an honors student, involved in the National Honor Society, English National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society. Murphy won two state championships through the National FFA Organization in Citrus Identification and Nursery and Landscape contest and served in multiple FFA officer positions throughout her years in high school. While in FFA, she started her own business for dairy goats, Murphy Manor Farms. Murphy was Miss November 2019 and Miss May 2020 for the Durant Calendar Girl Pageant. Murphy explains that her favorite sport is soccer “because of the environment, energy, and creativity the sport creates. I have learned the importance of grit in order to obtain your goals, which is something I can always improve and work on while playing soccer. The culture surrounding soccer is also what maintains my passion for it. Playing soccer with the freedom of creativity and watching the sport being played by your idols in the Olympics or World Cups brings out my love for soccer because it is a sport like no other.” Captain Elite Training is a “soccer training group to enhance skills on the ball”. In this program, Murphy holds the national record for the longest strike on a bridge strike (a type of shooting). Her longest strike is 45-50 yards, and she is working to reach 55 yards. Murphy expresses that she finds her inspiration through her own failures. She says, “While soccer is my passion, I have had a lot of bumps in the road where I have been faced with injuries, rejections from top club teams, and confidence issues. I have experienced many failures but through training on my own- outside of my club training- as well as strengthening my mentality, I have had the ability to improve greatly from my failures, which motivates me to work harder to reach my goals at the next opportunity.” In the fall, Murphy will attend the University of North Alabama to play Division 1 soccer. She will be studying Biological Engineering in hopes of one day working in the agriculture industry. PAGE

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Team of the Month Drawdy’s Dance School

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rawdy’s Dance School won big at their latest competition. They brought home multiple top ten placings and finished with three platinum awards and three gold awards. During the weekend of July 2, Drawdy’s Dance School attended the Showstopper Dance Competition in Orlando, called “the largest Dance Competition in the country”. At this event, the dancers competed against numerous other dance schools throughout Florida. Drawdy’s students placed 1st overall in Teen Performance Duet/ Trio, 1st overall in the Adult Competitive Duet/ Trio division, and 4th overall in Mini Performance Small category. In the Teen Advanced Solo group, Sophia Karp placed 10th overall with her solo, “Ballroom Blitz.” Amanda Drawdy, owner of Drawdy’s Dance School, has been teaching dance since 2003. Prior to opening her own studio in 2017, she taught at the YMCA, Dixie’s Aurora Music and Performing Arts, and Dance Carousel. Drawdy explains that she enjoys her job. “I love how excited dancers get when they learn something new or accomplish something we’ve been working really hard at,” said Drawdy. Drawdy’s Dance school is open to dancers of all ages. From Mommy and Me classes to Adult

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competition classes, they have it all. “I really enjoy teaching all ages,” said Drawdy. “Little ones bring excitement every day. Our Elementary age dancers, our “littles," are hard workers and love to learn and watch our "bigs" dance. I see the joy and passion growing in them. Middle and high school dancers have so much passion and allow me and our other teachers to get creative with our choreography. We also teach adults! This is always fun and full of laughs!” COVID-19 affected Drawdy’s Dance School, just like it impacted many other local businesses. They closed for two months before reopening in June. During that time, the school hosted Facebook Live classes for its students. Drawdy’s will be able to host its end of year, annual recital on July 25th at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds. With COVID-19 still impacting our society, Drawdy’s Dance School is taking precautions as they open with social distancing guidelines. “We are welcoming dancers in everyday with hand sanitizer! We have marked our floor with social distancing spots so that each dancer has his or her own space. My teachers and I all wear masks,” Drawdy explains. The school is excited and ready to start the new dance season in August.


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Meet the

Maker: Casey Stidham

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By Heather Davis Photos by Cierra Craft

hese past few months have been extremely trying times for most of us. The level of uncertainty and fear that is prevalent can make it difficult to remain positive and hopeful. We have quickly had to adjust to a new normal along with new and inventive ways of doing things. One thing that should be deemed “essential” when it comes to being able to rise above and find light in these trying times are those that provide us with a sense of normalcy. What better balm is there for the soul than live music? Unfortunately it is our local musicians and artists who are perhaps deemed “non essential” that are suffering the most during these challenging moments. Local musician, Casey Stidham, was one such artist who rose to the occasion and provided relief and respite for our weary souls by playing via live streaming each and every week for a couple months. His “Stuck Inside with Stiddy Watch Party”, quickly became a local phenomenon with hundreds of viewers tuning in. For over two hours Stidham would play an acoustic jam session where all kinds of requests were taken. You could hear everything from OutKast, Garth Brooks, and Dave Mathews played back to back. Stidham has been playing the musical circuit full time for the past twenty years. He fell in love with music at a young age from the first time he picked up a guitar and learned his first few chords. He has been extremely fortunate in that he has been able to make a living and provide for his family by sharing with others his passion for music. However everything changed for him in the blink of an eye because of Covid-19. His monthly playing schedule dropped from 18-22 gigs every month to only 2 or 3. Used to being booked solid months in advance his calendar now has empty spaces where there once were scheduled paying events. For a time he was able to make up for the loss by playing the weekly live streams, but in time even that began to run dry. This is the reality for many of our musicians and artists. Now is the time more than ever to find a way to rally behind them and support them in any way possible to let them know how essential they really are. Some of the venues are slowly beginning to open up bit by bit and we are allowed to find ways to safely social distance while enjoying some of our local musicians. Stidham has a few such shows coming up this month and has been able to resume playing at places such as O’Brien’s in Plant City, Duke’s Brewhouse in Plant City, Brandon and Winter Haven, as well as at Keel Farms, Roots Tap Room & Wine Bar, and most recently at The Corner Store. It is so important to keep our local musicians and artists in our hearts and minds during these times. They need our love and support. Thank you, Casey, and artists like you for doing what you do. You are essential and appreciated.

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Leaders in

Faith

Rev. Charles and Beverly Hollowell

Celebrate 50 Years at Victory Baptist Church By Cheryl Johnston

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his past May of 2020 marked a 50-year milestone for Dr. Charles Hollowell as pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Plant City. The social distancing challenge of COVID-19 this year prevented the church from gathering at 2603 S. Baptist Church Road to celebrate that milestone together, but Dr. Hollowell, his wife Beverly and all the family met up for an “OldFashioned Picnic” to commemorate the day. The hospitality-extending Hollowells hope this current crisis lightens up soon so the church can resume Sunday School, Children’s Church on Sunday, and Kids Club on Wednesday nights. Hopefully, their 59th wedding anniversary celebration can happen in October, too. Under their leadership, the church has seen numerous Victory members become pastors, evangelists, lay leaders and missionaries. At one point in time, 11 men “surrendered to God’s call” and practiced their preaching here. Pastor Hollowell led his church in supporting two national missionaries in the Philippines and Mexico. Pastor Hollowell has enjoyed preaching 13 times in Mexico, even all the way south to the Aztec Peninsula. As to future plans, the 80-year-old pastor hopes to continue serving “as long as my health holds and these wonderful people here will have me.”

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How did you begin pastoring at Victory Baptist Church? The church established in the 1950s had only three families ‘holding the doors open’ when I was invited to preach as a prospective pastor. They agreed if it didn’t work out with, they would close the church. At that time, Beverly was serving as a bus captain at a Lakeland church where we were members. I told her to continue with that until she found another willing worker. On the last Sunday of May in 1970 when I accepted the call (and later became Victory’s first full-time pastor), was the first Sunday morning my wife attended because The Lord supplied someone to take her bus route. That day, 19 attended Sunday School and five of those were our family members. As the church grew, we used church busses for Sunday School classrooms. On Easter Sunday in 1975 we had a record 532 in attendance. The buses were our classrooms, with fans placed in the back and blew air forward to cool everyone, while the teachers/bus captains [like Beverly] taught at the front. Folks have asked, ‘How did you make it so many years?’ With the Lord’s help and because of my family. My wife has worked Church routes and sometimes her car to bring children and even brought one gentleman from a Lakeland nursing home to church for 18 months. She also helps our

ladies anyway she can. She loves flower gardening and oil painting, too, but whenever there’s a need, she’s there.” Our oldest daughter, Kim Clemons, started playing piano for the church 44 years ago at age 12. In the mid-‘70s, she and Beverly, along with our other three children – Sandi, John, and Melody – started a singing group. Today that music ministry has grown to include some of our 12 grandchildren and 8 great-grands. We love singing gospel music together. Kim is now the proud owner of Beverly’s Consignment, the shop her mother founded almost 35 years ago to fund missionary support. Sandi and her husband Greg represent our church by helping hungry families or those in physical need. They own Brick City Bricks (the Lego store), too. Together with our grandson Matt Roberts, who co-owns First Response AC, they help at Christmas with gifts for children who may not otherwise receive any. John helps in any way we need, while Melody and her husband Eddie Deese now lead the Victory Baptist Church congregation in Lakeland. After a North Carolina evangelist came to preach for us, he made me realize I’d been blind to my family’s faithfulness. He said, ‘I don’t go to many churches where I can sit in a pew and see the pastor’s sons, daughters, in-laws and grandchildren so involved.’ Now I know how much the Lord has blessed our lives in and through this work. We are so thankful and give God the praise.”


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SPONSORED BY

Candy’s Corner By Candy Owens

N

ot enough hours in the day, we often say. We watch as the business of life allows time to slip away. Before we know it, days turn to months and months into years, “Has it been that long,” we ask. It’s time for the family reunion and a chance to see your loved ones that you don’t want to miss. Webster defines a family reunion as an occasion when many members of an extended family congregate. Sometimes these are held regularly, for example, on the same date every year; an act of reuniting an organized gathering of people who have not been together for a long time. I have always looked forward to gathering with my family for our reunions and enjoy all the fun, fellowship, learning the family history, friends, and food. Oh, the food! My great-great grandparents on my mother’s side: John Isaiah Ergle born in 1857 and Melvina Sylvester Terrell born in 1862 (who were of Russian decent) married back in 1881 and started what my family calls: The Ergle Family Reunion. Their ten children: Ella Clara Ergle Perry ( my great grandmother), Ada Belle Riles (mother of Evalie Riles, a graduate of Plant City High School), Clifford Elmer Ergle (father of Lillian Ergle Boland, a graduate of Plant City High School), Lorena Nancy Ergle Cassels, Zeffie Elizabeth Ergle Carlton (mother of Supreme Court Justice Vasser Carlton and sister-in-law of former Florida Gov. Doyle Carlton), James Corbett Ergle, John Bert Ergle, Clyde LeVelle Ergel, Lester, and Simmie Hoyt Ergle, along with their spouses and children, began holding our family reunions at Lakeland’s Adair Park back in the late 1930’s. Adair Park was located at 1324 Lakeland Hills Blvd. and was the perfect place for families. There were little league fields, restrooms, picnic pavilions, swings, see-saws, and a municipal swimming pool that was built back in 1938, which provided recreation opportunities to the people of Lakeland and surrounding areas for many years. The year 1961 brought a new and wonderful addition to Adair Park. What we kids back then called: “The Big Choo-Choo Train.” The locomotive was built in 1920 in Patterson, N.J., by the American Locomotive Co. for a sugar company in South America, but the deal fell through and the train was eventually sold to the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Co. which had a plant in Nichols, south of Mulberry. The train hauled phosphate for year until it was donated to the city of Lakeland by the company. I can remember back in the 1960s when my sister and I were little, Mother would always have us

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dressed in matching outfits for the reunion. We were made to sit on the cement benches inside the pavilion so we could hug, kiss, greet, meet, shake hands with, and have pictures and movies made with any and all of our relatives arriving at the reunion. Well…I had a problem with that. I was more interested in getting out there on the playground to swing, seesaw, run around, and hop that fence to get up on that “Big Choo-Choo Train.” I was not the least bit interested in sitting “lady-like” on the bench waiting for people to kiss and hug without messing up my hair or getting dirty. Once Mother felt as though enough people had arrived and my sister and I had done enough hugging and kissing, hand shaking, and picture taking, she would release us to go play. Yeah!! But she would always say: “Do not get dirty, stay where I can see you, don’t go near the road, and if I call you then you come!” So off we went! We were on the swings, the seesaw, and over the fence and inside the train, smiling and waving and pretending to drive and shovel coal. We had a wonderful time. Before long, Mother would stand at the edge of the pavilion and yell for us to come see Aunt, Uncle, or Cousin so-andso. My sister would always hide inside the train and act like she couldn’t hear Mother calling. We would always get in trouble for that, but that’s not the only thing I got in trouble for at reunions. Back then people brought pots and pans filled with the most delicious home-cooked foods. There were pots and pots filled with Chicken and Dumplings (rolled and dropped), Chicken and Rice (yellow and white), Fried Chicken, Baked Chicken, Bar-B-Q Chicken, Potato Salad, Baked Hams, Roasts, Scalloped Potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, Conch

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Peas, Black-eyed Peas, Zipper Peas, Creamed Corn, Casseroles, Fresh Fruits, Marshmallow Salads, Jello Salads, Deviled Eggs, Rolls, Bread, Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, and Cookies. Pots and pans and trays and platters filled the tables from one end of the pavilion to the other. It was very tempting. In fact, several times Mother caught me lifting lids off the pots looking for the dumplings, trying to steal a chicken leg, or sticking my finger in somebody’s cake. When it was lunch time, we all gathered inside the pavilion to say the blessing and line up to fill our plates. So much food graced those tables you’d have had to drop out of line before you got to the end, because there was no room on your plate for anything else. And that was not even counting the dessert table! We stayed all day, eating and talking, playing and laughing, telling stories and reminiscing, and having the most wonderful time. The best of times! My sister and I are now in our late-50s and we both agree that if we could go back through those years, we would have spent more time in the pavilion with family. Not just for the dumplings and cake and pies and goodies….Well yes, for more dumplings, cakes, and pies, but for our family: the stories, photos, fellowship and laughter; for the hugs, the kisses, and the time. Yes, more of their hugs, more of their kisses, and mostly…time with them. I will leave you with this prayer. “Father, we thank Thee for the privilege of being together as a family. As the generations grow farther apart, let them be brought together with the memory of the loved ones who were once with us, but now live only in our memories. Strengthen the bond of relationships as we face the future, but always keep with us our ties of the past.”


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Hungry Howie’s Plant City Loves Pizza. BY CIERRA CRAFT

208 N. Alexander Street, Plant City, FL 33563 813-752-6113 Current Hours: Mon to Thurs: 10 AM to 11 PM Fri & Sat: 10AM to 12AM Cash & Credit Cards accepted Dine-In, Delivery and Carry Out available

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lant City loves pizza so much that Hungry Howie's Plant City is consistently one of the top stores in the company. What is it about 208 N. Alexander Street that makes it stand out among the rest? The location is owned and operated by father and son duo, Charlie and Ali Sobh. The young business owner is a standout in the business community, not only for his commitment to serve the best product possible, but for his service to the community. Throughout the COVID-19 Safer-At-Home Order, Sobh made deliveries to other local businesses, including South Florida Baptist Hospital and Winn Dixie, in support of frontline, essential workers. During the Safer-At-Home Order, the Hungry Howie’s dining room was closed. During this downtime, the entire restaurant was renovated with new flooring, new ceiling fans, a brand new black granite countertop and the installation of Charlie and Ali’s Super Buffet Bar. "The new buffet and dining room is comfortable, refreshing, a cleaner look and a welcoming place for everyone," said Sobh.

At Hungry Howie’s Plant City, each pizza is made by hand from kneading the dough to boxing the pizza for delivery.

Fresh Is Best

At Hungry Howie’s Plant City, each pizza made is a labor of love. The staff mixes flour and water, before hand cutting the dough. Tt’s pressed into the pan by hand and sent down the assembly line to have sauce applied. Then, 100% mozzarella cheese is sprinkled and toppings are strategically placed, so the customer can enjoy a bite of protein or veggies with each slice. The pizza passes through a 550 degree oven, before it’s hand sliced and boxed to go. “I go to the market and buy everything, so I cut the lettuce and the salad toppings everyday, the spaghetti sauce is homemade,” said Sobh. “The chicken comes in raw, so it’s cleaned and chopped and cooked fresh PAGE

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With dough made daily to locally grown produce that tops each pizza, Hungry Howie’s Plant City is commitment to creating great food with only the freshest ingredients.


Location owner Ali Sobh renovated the dining room and buffet bar during the COVID-19 Safer-At-Home order. Sobh says the new dining room was intended not only for a cleaner look, but to provide a comfortable space where all are welcome.

daily. Everything is made right here in our kitchen.” Hungry Howie’s Plant City also boasts an impressive buffet bar. On the Charlie & Ali’s Super Buffet Bar, pizzas are consistently restocked. Customers can find everything from traditional pepperoni and veggie varieties to speciality pizzas, such as Barbeque Chicken and Meat Eaters. Want a custom pizza on the buffet bar? No problem. Let any Hungry Howie’s employee know and the fresh, hot pizza will be brought out at no additional charge. Howie Bread, Howie rolls, and dessert options, including chocolate pizza, are also rotated frequently on the buffet bar. Customers can build their own salad with over a dozen toppings and choice of dressing. Vegetable soup, spaghetti and pasta sauce, as well as seasoned green beans and potatoes, which are a crowd favorite on the buffet. The buffet is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m and costs $9 for adults, $7 for kids, ages 3 to 7, with the cost of a drink, guests are looking to spend approximately $10-$12 per person. Guests 21 and up can enjoy Bud Light and Miller Lite, bottled or on draft. The buffet is a favorite for sports teams, birthday parties and family nights.

In Service To Plant City

The Sobhs are known for their generosity in giving back to the community that has supported their family business for 25 years. From local churches to the homeless community, Hungry Howie’s Plant City is always there to help those in need. In doing so, pizza has become a thread that ties this community together. In appreciation for frontline, essential workers during the COVID-19 Safer-At-Home Order, Sobh and his staff delivered pizzas to a My Town Barbershop, Brewington Towing, and Star Distribution, among others. “For a city that has given so much to me, the least I can do is give back to them during this pandemic," said Sobh. On Saturday, June 6, Sobh and his staff organized a free pizza making class for kids. The little chef’s were taught how to work with the dough, add toppings, fold a pizza box, and slice the pizza. The next Kids Pizza Class is scheduled for July 25 at 10:00 a.m. for ages 2 to 12. The kids will make fresh fruit pizzas with a sugar cookie crust. To sign up, please call Hungry Howie’s at 813-752-6113 with the first and last name of the adult bringing the children and the number of kids who will be attending. Registration is on a first come, first serve basis. PAGE

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WELLS MEMORIAL FUNERAL HOME 813-752-1111

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FOCUS Plant City 19-07  

FOCUS Magazine Plant City Edition Issue 19-07 July 2020

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FOCUS Magazine Plant City Edition Issue 19-07 July 2020

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