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Roots Run Deep





SEPT.OCT 2017 I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M




361-592-2661 | 2501 S. Hwy 77, Kingsville

I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M

Texas’ Oldest Dealership 361-592-2661 2501 S. Hwy 77, Kingsville

I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M

Great Food. Great Times. Great Experience. Happy Hour 4-7pm

7 Days a Week

5409 Saratoga Blvd., Corpus Christi 361.992.2333 Sun-Thurs 11am-1am

Fri & Sat 11am-2am I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



@ art the builder

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BUSINESS COACH 12 Who’s Guilty? SPECIAL FEATURES 14 Connect With the Caribbean 16 Stellar Service SPECIAL SPOTLIGHT 18 Build Better Relationhips FEATURES 20 All-American Gem 22 Center Stage 24 The Gift of Service 26 A Whole New Experience 28 Dreams Do Come True LOCAL EATS 42 Fresh Takes and Classic Favorites TRAVEL 48 Staying Ahead TASTE 50 Killer Combination AUTOMOTIVE 52 Know Your Next Vehicle NONPROFIT 54 Three Steps to Success 56 The Place to Be EXPRESSIONS OF INSPIRATION 60 Gone Country








As progressive as he is steadfast, the owner of Interstate All Battery Center and his team help keep the Coastal Bend safe, productive and on the move.

With effort, enthusiasm and a desire to see Corpus Christi fulfill its potential, the vice president of business banking for BBVA Compass Bank is both a professional success and a champion for the Coastal Bend community.

This vibrant, master-planned community is redefining life in the Coastal Bend.




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I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M


MEET THE STAFF More Ga me More Rid s. es More Foo . d MORE FU . N!








EDITOR Erin O’Brien



Make t ex o Y ur N eeting M s s e nt Busin pany Eve r! m e Or Co Rememb o T n e e v t On our E Plan Y day! To

Games Go Karts Mini Golf Bumper Boats Batting Cages Rides, Ropes Course, Bungy Dome and More! Delicious Food Plus Beer & Wine Too!



and request more information 9605 S Padre Island Dr. Corpus Christi

Morgan Bartel

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mandy Ashcraft Colton Bartel Kristen Bily Anne Booher Kim Bridger-Hunt Jessica Dusek Caroline R. Freeman Dr. Ridge Hammons Jeff Lamkin Connie Laughlin Kathleen Naderer Sylvia Slezak Kelly Trevino Sarona Winfrey Dayna Worchel

Dustin Ashcraft Dark Lab Shannon Lafayette MC Studio Workz

ELISA GIORDANO ART DIRECTOR 210.716.5320 For advertising information, please call 361.548.1044 or email For editorial comments and suggestions, please call 479.935.0868 or email





or Visit

Elisa Giordano

MORGAN BARTEL SOCIAL MEDIA morgan@ 620.417.5392



Copyright 2017 © Inspire Coastal Bend Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction without the expressed written permission of the publisher is prohibited.


Why Choose us: Our customers come first. The Stellar Energy Solutions and Hudson Energy support team is made up of people who understand the industry and care deeply about helping you in every way. We are here for you.  Dynamic Pricing: We have several clear advantages over other suppliers, including market experience and purchasing power, which add up to more value for your business.

 Environmentally Sound: We see the big picture. As an industry leader, it's our responsibility to explore green energy product options and offer affordable ways for companies to reduce their environmental impact.

 Energy Advisors: Our team of industry specialists will work with you to create an energy solution that meets all of your company's needs from budget to roll-out and support.

 Fully Integrated Partnership: Stellar Energy Solutions partners with Hudson Energy because our business values align. There is a mutual trust in our white glove approach to serving your business needs.

361.884.8973 |

Local, Family-Owned, Corpus Christi’s Original

We have a wide variety of A/C filters, standard and specialty • Residential and Business • Ceiling & wall grills and registers • Standard and custom sizes • Disposable Panel Filters

• Poly Rolls • Pleated Allergy • Merv11 • 1” 2” 4” 5” 6” Glasfloss Filters

We have the largest selection of Circle E Candles in Corpus Christi and we gift wrap for FREE! We carry all factory scents.

5206 Williams Drive (Behind PetSmart)

Corpus Christi, TX 361-723-0130


“Don’t Forget Your Filters!”

I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M

1620 SPID #180 (@ Greenwood)

Corpus Christi, TX 361-855-1123

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圀䤀吀䠀伀唀吀 吀䠀䔀 吀刀䄀嘀䔀䰀⸀

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䌀愀氀氀 甀猀 琀漀搀愀礀 琀漀 猀挀栀攀搀甀氀攀 愀渀 愀瀀瀀漀椀渀琀洀攀渀琀  琀漀 最攀琀 猀琀愀爀琀攀搀 瀀氀愀渀渀椀渀最 礀漀甀爀 猀瀀攀挀椀愀氀 搀愀礀⸀

I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M 11 ㌀㘀㄀⸀㜀㐀㤀⸀㌀㜀㄀㘀     簀     倀伀刀吀ⴀ刀伀夀䄀䰀⸀䌀伀䴀     簀     㘀㌀㄀㜀 匀吀䄀吀䔀 䠀䤀䜀䠀圀䄀夀 ㌀㘀㄀ ∠ 倀伀刀吀 䄀刀䄀一匀䄀匀Ⰰ 吀䔀堀䄀匀 㜀㠀㌀㜀㌀



I see many leaders caught up in the act of balancing meetings with their CPAs, attorneys, insurance agents, bankers and vendors. Meanwhile, goals to increase profitability aren’t given 100-percent attention because these leaders are too involved in administrative duties and handling management tasks without the appropriate support. This creates ineffective leadership and chaos within the organization, and takes time away from revenue-generating activities. There’s never enough time to address all the items on your to-do list, let alone resolve the issues. As a business owner, how do you know each important aspect, initiative and department in your company is being run efficiently and appropriately? Are you operating in compliance with employment laws? WHAT IS SHOTGUN MANAGEMENT? Shotgun management is a poor business practice. There’s no focus when you’re trying to cover the entire business, rather than rifling in on specific targets with strategic initiatives. Often, business owners feel they have no options due to lack of operating capital, education, time and/or support. If you and your employees aren’t highly trained, certified and attending ongoing coursework in employment law, human resources (HR) training, risk management and safety protocol – how do you know you’re on top of it? WHAT’S AT RISK? One unprecedented suit, claim or judgment can put your assets in harm’s way. Surprisingly, the little things you may not have even thought about can be financial landmines. Landmines involve employees and managers who are not trained appropriately in key areas. Some common issues include:  Use of unsuitable language  Use of inappropriate words in want ads  Old employee handbooks  Lack of safety training  Faulty equipment  Negligent I-9 documentation  Messy terminations


If your Is aren’t dotted and your Ts aren’t crossed, get everything in order immediately. When appropriate HR practices are not in place, you’ll find employee morale is down, along with your production. WHAT ABOUT HIRING PROS? Can you afford them? The certified professional in human resources (PHR) salary range is around $50,688 to $92,620. If you’re contemplating hiring a PHR, keep in mind you must


I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M


be able to fully trust this individual to implement best practices. Make sure no one impedes that person’s implementation strategies. What would you do if a workers’ compensation insurer were going to continue to pay a claim you believed to be fraudulent? Is your safety manual and training up-to-date? The median salary for a risk manager is $55,088 to $141,475, and for a safety manager, it’s $41,568 to $100,821. IS OUTSOURCING AN OPTION? Outsourcing your HR support, safety support program and employment risk management through a professional employer organization’s (PEO’s) packaged service option can be valid option. It’s much tidier than hiring multiple professionals whose salaries could add up to a lot more than you’d pay for the HR package through a reputable PEO. Additionally, PEOs have shared liability, so they’ve got your back, whereas, unfortunately, some employees don’t. You’ll find you now have more control over your liability, employee costs and your experience ratings. A PEO’s HR “bundle” includes:  Payroll administration  Workers’ compensation insurance  Safety programs  HR  Optional benefits If you wish to consider a PEO relationship, first check them out at the National Association of PEOs website: Another good resource is Due diligence says look for those who maintain highest level of certifications and audited financials.

Connie Laughlin is a business consultant for UniqueHR. For more information, visit www. You may also contact Laughlin at 361-852-6392 or


A shotgun approach to running a business


Change Your Life...and Someone Else’s too! Offer ends November 30, 2017 and refers to new loans only. A new loan is deened as one not currently nanced at CCATCU. A disbursed loan of $10,000 or more is required to be eligible for the incentive. Charities must have a 501(c)3 designation. Other restrictions may apply. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Funds Federally Insured by NCUA.

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CONNECT WITH THE CARIBBEAN The Texas State Aquarium’s all-new Caribbean Journey offers guests exciting, educational ways to engage with animals and the sea.


orpus Christi draws visitors from throughout Texas and around the world, and introduces all to the beauty and wonder of the Gulf of Mexico. And now that the 71,000-square-foot Caribbean Journey of the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) is open, Corpus Christi has become a gateway to the Caribbean, as well. TSA’s interactive exhibits feature fun and learning for the whole family. Whether they’re Corpus Christi locals or vacationers just stopping in, visitors are thrilled to walk through an underwater tunnel as sharks swim by through the 400,000-gallon Caribbean Sea habitat. The brand-new Caribbean Journey offers everything from


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coral reefs to tropical forests and coastal lagoons, all full of exotic animals representing the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve, a biodiverse region in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. That’s just the beginning. TSA is dedicated to fulfilling their education mission to engage people with animals and the sea while imparting knowledge to visitors. Historic trade routes come alive as animals take over a reproduction Spanish galleon shipwreck. Flamingos roam and a sloth can be spotted as visitors make their journey through the ecosystem. Every interaction with an exhibit fosters learning and connection with the beautiful world of the Caribbean.



Researchers and experts are dedicated to keeping TSA at the cutting edge of their field. They work to not only create the most engaging experience for visitors, but also ensure that the more than 4,000 animals and 390 species onsite have authentic, safe and lush environments where they can thrive – like the Red-Capped Cardinal chicks that recently hatched in a nest

built by their parents in their exhibit’s live trees! These cardinals are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Program (SSP). TSA works with the program to help species in decline regain genetic diversity and regrow populations. Working with SSP is just one piece of TSA’s dedication to wildlife conservation.

In addition to helping threatened species within the aquarium, TSA has a robust wildlife rehabilitation program. TSA’s Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital accepts injured and ill wildlife, offering medical care and returning the animals to the wild whenever possible. This past summer, Second Chances was privileged to facilitate several releases of animals back into their natural habitats. The first, a sea turtle rescued from an entangled fishing line back in May, was released in conjunction with World Oceans Day. The turtle first arrived at the hospital after the tangle left it unable to breath and with a hook embedded in its neck. After treatment and recovery, the turtle was successfully returned to the ocean! Shortly thereafter, the hospital was able to release six black-bellied whistling ducks back into their natural home in a local wildlife refuge. These ducks came from separate rescues: One group of four ducklings had been separated from their parents without the resources to survive on their own, and the other two had been rescued from a water treatment plant where they could not survive. All six received top-of-the-line medical care before learning to survive on their own in the safe confines of the hospital. As soon as all were able to make it on their own, the group was released back into their natural habitats. What connects these two recent releases is the quick action of civilians to contact TSA, setting in motion the rescues. TSA is proud to be able to inform people about the sea and animals, as well as to serve as a resource for rescue and rehabilitation. At TSA, visitors don’t passively walk through remote exhibits. Here, everyone interacts with the exhibits around them, learning lessons about the worlds they are experiencing. It is a true journey that leads to conservation, action and a commitment to protect all marine and wildlife. Check out TSA and its all-new Caribbean Journey to experience an exciting, educational and memorable adventure through one of North America’s premier aquariums!

Under the Sea Parties


I invite you and your children to my magical party venue. It was created to make your party-planning effortless and your child’s dreams come true. Whether you host a princess or superhero party, I will take care of every detail so you have no need to stress. I can’t wait to see you!


 Whimsical Princess Parties  Magical Superhero Parties  Real-life Characters  Professional Photography 1117 Railroad Ave., Portland, TX (361) 660-3296 Visit Us on Facebook

For more information, visit I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M




Meet the Stellar Employee of the Month, Nasario Pena III, recognized for excellence in service. SPECIAL TO INSPIRE COASTAL BEND



tellar Energy Solutions is growing and now has a new branch office in Weslaco, Texas, serving the Rio Grande Valley. Having opened its doors in February 2017, the branch is flourishing, and for good reason. Tim Clark, president, credits their success to committed employees like Nasario Pena III. Accordingly, Stellar Energy Solutions salutes Pena as the outstanding employee of the month. Clark describes this distinguished individual as “a very dedicated and humble person [who] strives to be a good husband and father.” He adds, “Those are attributes I appreciate. And I look forward to his continued growth and success!” Talk to Pena for a while, and it becomes evident very quickly that while he is “excited to receive this honor,” he is also “humbled.” He says he has always been a “people person,” but when he first joined the team, Pena confesses he was a bit nervous about this new venture. He also expresses his own gratitude for the training and guidance he has received from the

company since he was hired. Now he “loves the opportunity to meet people and sit with customers, showing them the products we offer and the special features that save them money.” Pena will tell you that “many customers call back to thank us for the savings they are enjoying. And now they are customers for life.” He points out that customers are so satisfied that they call him with referrals. What does Pena do between his appointments? He delivers goodies like “happiness sweet cakes” to thank his customers for their business. Sounds like a winning formula: great employees, great products and satisfied customers. It sure is nice to know this company lives up to its brand: “earning your business for the life of your business.” Stellar Energy Solutions: integrity, choice, outstanding service.

For any and all of your electricity pricing needs, please contact Nasario Pena III at


I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M

Where function drives form


I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



BUILD BETTER RELATIONSHIPS Become a BBB accredited business to foster trust and credibility with your customers. By: KELLY TREVINO

INCREASED TRUST BBB helps consumers find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust. Before achieving BBB accreditation, businesses must meet and maintain BBB standards for trust, which include advertising honestly, making a good faith effort to resolve disputes and honoring promises. Seven out of 10 consumers familiar with the accreditation seal have greater confidence to purchase sooner, rather than later, when a business displays the BBB accreditation seal.* Only BBB accredited businesses qualify to use this BBB trademark. ADDED PRESTIGE BBB accreditation is by invitation only. Many businesses are not eligible to join because they do not meet BBB standards. Being accredited puts you in an elite group of businesses, showing people that you are trustworthy and live up to a higher standard of business practices. BBB leads as the No. 1 choice to research trusted businesses and resolve company disputes.* With BBB accreditation, you show the world your commitment to honest and ethical in all business practices. GREATER EXPOSURE BBB supports accredited businesses by establishing a presence in the community, and works closely with the media to denounce substandard marketplace behavior and celebrate trustworthy business. In addition, BBB offers many tools to increase your online exposure. Every BBB ac-

credited business is listed in the online directory and identified with the accreditation seal. Business directory listings also include a link to your BBB business profile and contact information. Photos, videos and social media links are also included in BBB business profiles to help your business connect and engage customers. As a BBB accredited business, you also have access to BBB’s Request-A-Quote program. This program delivers qualified leads from potential customers directly to your inbox. VALUABLE RESOURCES Each BBB accredited business receives personal, ongoing support from a local representative who assists with questions, understanding opportunities and getting the most from accreditation. To help accredited businesses excel, BBB distributes a magazine, provides free professional speakers and hosts monthly webinars on business topics of interest, such as expanding your brand in social media. BBB offers valuable analytics through email and a personalized business login with tools to track your BBB profile’s activity, monitor complaints and more. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION Should you receive a complaint, BBB notifies you immediately. While disagreements are part of doing business, our dispute resolution team works directly with you to help resolve the dispute. BBB also facilitates mediation and arbitration services using unbiased professionals to help BBB accredited businesses and consumers settle disputes. The process helps save money in court costs and attorney fees, and build better customer relationships.


*Sources: Council of Better Business Bureau Research, 2016, and Nielsen Research, 2015 and 2016

For more information on becoming a BBB accredited business, call 361-852-4991 or visit


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etter Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation sets your business apart as a leader in promoting marketplace trust. As a BBB accredited business, you’ll gain access to an exclusive variety of valuable tools that build your business. Here are the many ways BBB accredited business services help your business grow.


start with US

For over 100 years, BBB has helped people make smarter purchasing decisions. Finding trustworthy businesses in your area has never been easier.


Visit to find trustworthy BBB Accredited Businesses in the Coastal Bend such as:


361.884.3511 |

361.444.9090 |

361.882.9669 |

361.991.3252 | I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



ALL-AMERICAN GEM With its unique cuts and color combinations, sunstone has become a favorite gem for conversation pieces. By: COLTON BARTEL

non, but it’s always a treat to find a stone that does have that little extra shine to it. In recent years, sunstone has become an important stone for jewelry design and stone-cutting competitions. The unique cuts, color combinations and phenomenal characteristics make it very appealing to designers looking to produce eye-catching piec-


es that garner lots of attention. Instore, sunstones tend to be great conversation starters because few people know what they are looking at or are sometimes confused with other stones like ruby and tourmalines. If you are looking to buy, it’s best to go to a jeweler who is a gemologist and features more unique and unusual colored stones. Chances are, they will have a wider range of sources and, in turn, will have a better chance of finding the exact stone you want, and at the best price. Not only that, some simulants in the trade are actually glass and have copper platelets called goldstone that is meant to resemble sunstone. A trusted gemologist will be able to confirm that the stone you are purchasing is natural and not a simulant.

Colton Bartel is a GIA graduate gemologist and designer for Susann’s Custom Jewelers. For more information or to set up an appointment, please contact Bartel at 361-991-7565,, online at or on Facebook. You can also visit our store, located at 4226 S. Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas, in the Town and Country Shopping Center.


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hat’s as “all-American” as eating apple pie while watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, but can be seen in a jewelry store? Sunstone! This little-known gem has started to make its way into the jewelry industry in a bigger way due to its origin and its unique look. Though sunstone has been used in jewelry for many years, it was only done so on a very limited basis due to few resources. A huge find in Southern Oregon made the once unheard-of stone become more accessible, and made several other varieties available. Although sunstone can be found in other places around the world, the Oregon mines, Plush and Ponderosa, have really ramped up the commercial production and now account for the majority of stones in the trade. The two mines have also uncovered and started offering other varieties of sunstones that have a relatively wide range of colors. Some of these contain multiple colors or are even color-change! At the top of the price range, the Oregon mines have been producing some deep-green and deep-red stones that are especially appealing to gemstone aficionados. Oregon production is not treated in any way, and because it is such a big source, sunstones have become known as the all-natural, all-American gem. Sunstone is typically an orange, orangy-brown, orangy-red, yellow or red stone that can sometimes have aventurescence, a shimmering or glittery effect cast over the stone. Aventurescence is usually caused by small reflective inclusions and can be found in other types of stones. In sunstone, the aventurescence is caused by hematite, copper or some other type of mineral, but most commonly copper. When the stones are cut, the glitter effect is really shown off and resembles sunlight bouncing off water at sunset! Not all varieties of sunstone display this phenome-

Every business is different. We get that. That’s why we provide unique investment levels, designed to help you right where you are. Don’t just take our word for it.

Research Shows... Consumers are 63% more likely to buy from a business that is a Chamber member. Companies enjoy a 49% increase in consumer favorability rating for being a member of the Chamber.

Membership is valuable & affordable, with investment starting at less than $42 per month

Consumers are 73% more likely to be highly aware of a business if it is a member of the Chamber, and 68% more likely to think positively of its local reputation. 7/10 consumers believe that being actively involved in the Chamber is an effective strategy for enhancing a business’ reputation and for demonstrating that it uses good business practices. Source: Shapiro Group, Atlanta, GA

The United Corpus Christi Chamber is your... PARTNER IN PROMOTION

Increase your visibility, get the word out, gain access to cost-effective and often free advertising for your business.


United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce 602 N. Staples Street, St. 150 Corpus Christi, TX 78401

Looking for leads, networking and business showcase opportunities? You’ve come to the right place.

(361) 881-1800


For more information on Chamber membership contact Efrain Franco,

We are your voice on issues that affect business and we maintain direct contact with leaders in all levels of government. When you need change, we make change happen.




CENTER STAGE Thanks to a variety of community events this fall, La Palmera guests will have lots of ways to learn – and help others.


n addition to being the Coastal Bend’s premier shopping and leisure destination, La Palmera also serves as a frequent location for community events. This fall is no exception. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and La Palmera is once again teaming up with the Ready or Not Foundation and other local organizations to raise awareness – and funds – for all forms of pediatric cancer through Ready. Set. Gold. Gold is the color associated with pediatric cancer, which affects more than 15,000 children under the age of 19 annually, with roughly 2,000 losing their fight to some form of pediatric cancer every year. Throughout September, La Palmera shoppers will see touches of gold through the mall, as well as special events benefitting pediatric cancer research. One of the recurring events is a unique tree standing more than 10 feet tall in Center Court that individuals can fill with “golden” leaves through minimum $1 donations per leaf. Other activities include a special Tide Turners Kids Club event for kids 5 and under on Tuesday, Sept. 5, from 10 a.m. to noon in Center Court near the tree. This event will include children’s activities spotlighting awareness and support for those affected by pediatric cancer. There will be other special children’s events scheduled, as well. La Palmera’s partner in Ready. Set.

Gold. is the Corpus Christi-based Ready or Not Foundation, founded by Barbara Canales following the 2006 diagnosis of her daughter, Jackie’s, brain tumor at age 6. The life-changing ordeal inspired Canales to start the Ready or Not Foundation, which has delivered an unprecedented 100 percent of donations and matching grants — more than $2 million to date — to pediatric brain cancer research. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and La Palmera will commemorate it with a month-long awareness campaign. Shoppers will find the traditional pink elements throughout the mall, including pink ribbon-wrapped palm trees in front of La Palmera, as a reminder of the fight to end breast cancer. Events designed to raise donations as well as awareness will also be scheduled throughout the month, including a Handbags for Hope designer purse bingo event on Thursday, Oct. 5. Organized by the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the event will be held in Center Court from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. In addition to donated designer purses awarded as prizes for each bingo game played, the unique event also includes other upscale donated items such as designer wallets, keychains, sunglasses, jewelry and other items to be awarded to door prize and raffle winners. Proceeds from Making Strides events provide cancer patients assistance with trans-


portation to treatment and lodging, as well as wigs and other services. Shoppers can also support Corpus Christi firefighters in their efforts to help battle cancer through the Corpus Christi Firefighters C.A.R.E. (Cancer Awareness and Relief Efforts) at La Palmera. The group will be onsite Saturday, Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and Oct. 14, selling their signature pink T-shirts with proceeds going to assist local cancer-fighting organizations. The group sells 8,500 to 10,000 shirts a year on average, with many of those being sold at La Palmera. Since 2009, the 501(c)(3) organization has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars locally through the T-shirt sales. “Our goal each year is to help local organizations with these important cancer awareness efforts,” said Fred Walters, vice president and general manager of La Palmera. “We work closely with our partners in the community to create successful events and raise awareness with our more than 650,000 monthly visitors here at La Palmera.” In addition to cancer awareness events, young chess whizzes will also be taking center stage this fall. Saturday, Oct. 14, is National Chess Day, and guests are invited to challenge — and learn from — these young players as they compete throughout the day in the La Palmera Cafes food court. Participants are members of the Optimist Coastal Bend Chess Federation, which promotes the values of learning the game and how it can benefit children.

For more information on La Palmera, call 361-991-3755, go online to or follow us on Facebook.


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I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



THE GIFT OF SERVICE Employees provide 300 combined years of service at By: SYLVIA SLEZAK


s a small business with fewer than 50 employees, expresses gratitude and appreciation to their staff for providing 300 combined years of service since 1984. That is not only impressive, but a testament to dedication and commitment. At, we realize that our employees are our greatest asset. We appreciate and thank them for the part each one plays in maintaining our performance standards and commitment to

Learning and Growing

excellence. We know that achievement and success aren’t by accident. Using a short survey, we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates our employees to provide the differentiating factor that sets us apart from our competition. We asked them to name the most rewarding part about their job. Through rain or shine, what makes it worthwhile for them to come to work, and what aspect of their work role did they enjoy the most? This is what they shared.

Serving Others

 “I love that I get to learn new things about the company, business, market, etc., every day and growing to get better at my job role.”

 “Being able to push forward and do better – to help business owners get their company information out there for the world to see.”

 “Being able to experience everything that is new, learning the craft and mastering the technique. I’m in the early stages of both, but I experience progress every day.”

 “Showing that I care about what I do and how grateful I am for this opportunity. Helping people and serving others and my fellow coworkers daily, and trying my hardest to go above and beyond.”

 “When I learn something new, it makes me feel like I have stepped into a new level in my life and on my career path.”  “Learning new and exciting things about Web design, Photoshop, programming and content that others will enjoy.”

 “As a sales executive, I’m at the front lines of the business, and it’s very rewarding.”  “As a manager, I enjoy helping the employees grow in their skills and confidence.”  “I like that’s website is helping thousands of people all around the United States.”

Creativity and Problem Solving  “The challenge of creating solutions that help the company succeed through both automation and appearance. Working on taking the company to the next level and seeing the progress the company makes each day.”  “Writing a computer script, creating reports and graphs, solving incredibly tough programming problems, when there are no solutions on the Internet.”  “Editing/making new images. I get to create things that I would have never dreamed I could make before. I hope many people enjoy what I have created for their businesses.”  “When I’m explaining how this will help a client and they understand, and the praises received when the client is thankful after they are helped.”

“ The sense of family around our workplace is what I love the most.” 24

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Loving, Family-Oriented Company Culture  “Enjoying the happiness and atmosphere of this workplace, and what I do, loving my job and where I work, that is peaceful and fun. The sense of family around our workplace is what I love the most.”  “Working for a company that actually cares about the well-being of their employees is a blessing. Upper management genuinely cares for employees.”  “Our company loves, respects and truly values its employees and each client on a personal level, which makes the hardest days just as great. One can see and feel this every day!”  “Working in a Christian-based environment and being a part of a company that gives free Bibles and knowing that we contribute to Bible distribution nationwide. I’m blessed to be a part of this team, and look forward to many years here.”  “My relationship with the Doherty family, and the die-hard coworkers who have been here as long as I have and longer. We have seen babies born, watched them grow, get married, so on and so forth. Just being a part of the family is a very special and precious part of my life. Working in such a positive, religious atmosphere where growth is abundant.”

Accomplishment and Appreciation  “I’m recognized and rewarded for doing well, and my boss trusts me to handle business when she is out.”  “The fact that I am fortunate enough to have a job and people to contact daily, along with knowing that I make a difference.”  “I like it when I end the call and the clients are happy, because it makes me feel good about the job I am doing.”

Teamwork and Camaraderie  “Being a part of a team with a purpose, goals and the reality of making them happen! Everyone that works here is great.”  “Love my coworkers. There is never a dull moment. Feels like we are a family of brothers and sisters working together.”  “My primary responsibility involves interacting with employees on all different levels.”  “I like coaching my team through new projects, optimizing procedures, solving problems and planning events to motivate the staff.”

The gift of service can never be over-appreciated. At, we look forward to continuing our services to local businesses, communities and families.

Sylvia Slezak is the director of marketing and social media at For more information on career opportunities with, contact our Corpus Christi Office at 888-785-0500 and visit us online at to find local premier businesses, restaurants, events, attractions and more.

It’s ART Time at Tracy’s Studio of Arts and Crafts!

Where all you need is your imagination! After School Activities Drawing Painting Ceramics Mosaics Clay Crafts Wreaths • Water color and Acrylic Classes • Mixed Media Classes • Weekly Homeschool ART Classes • ART Birthday Parties • Art Parties for all Occasions! • Kid’s Night Out! Second Friday of every month • Walk-ins are always welcome

361-371-5023 5922 Yorktown Blvd. Ste. 110

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1 A WHOLE NEW EXPERIENCE 2 Funtrackers Family Fun Center shares five reasons happy employees lead to business success. SPECIAL TO INSPIRE COASTAL BEND


reating a motivated, enthusiastic team is critical to the success of any business. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to make personal connections with coworkers beyond the typical everyday office experiences. While there are many options for bringing more fun and engagement into your employee experience, adding a fun after-hours event or a business meeting outside of a drab meeting room can transform the morale and energy in your company. Funtrackers Family Fun Center in Corpus Christi has been helping companies by creating team building events, fun meetings and great memories for more than 17 years. With a great collection of games, rides, attractions and food, Funtrackers has something for everyone. While you may have visited Funtrackers with family and kids in the past, visiting the park with coworkers can create a whole new experience. According to Kevin Bell, general manager at Funtrackers, good times and competition make the perfect match for a corpo-

HAPPY EMPLOYEES EQUAL LOWER COSTS. It has been substantiated with research that happy employees are healthier. According to a global health study by Gallup in 2008, unhappy employees take significantly more sick time, staying home on average of 1.25 days more a month, which is equivalent to 15 extra sick days per year. HAPPY EMPLOYEES ARE BETTER AT SEALING THE DEAL. Research shows that happy employees are more likely to perform better on the job, especially when it comes to sales. For example, according to a 2006 study by Kopelman, Rosette and Thompson, employees who expressed more positive emotions prior to negotiating completed their deals more efficiently and successfully than those who expressed neutral/negative feelings.


HAPPY EMPLOYEES PROVIDE BETTER SERVICE When happiness goes up, earnings go up. A recent Gallup poll on employee happiness and service found that retail stores with happy employees reported $21 more earnings per square foot than “normal” workplaces. Moreover, research has found

that employee morale and the bottom line are directly correlated. One study showed that for every 2 percent increase in the “service climate” (for example, how customer-focused and happy the employees were), revenue grew by 1 percent.


HAPPY EMPLOYEES STAY While this might seem a bit obvious, the importance of happy employees cannot be overstated. According to a 2014 global report on HR by Deloitte, “Not only are happiness and contentment key to efficiency and effectiveness ... they are also key retainers of talent for organizations.”


HAPPINESS MAKES YOU MORE PRODUCTIVE Since 2010, there have been many studies to provide empirical evidence that “happy” employees are more productive. These employees tend to work more efficiently and think more creatively. They also approach problems in a constructive manner so that their issues are quickly solved. We could all agree that we tend to get more done when we’re in good spirits. So what this all means is that it’s definitely worth the effort to create a positive and fun workplace. Sure, it’s nice to bring in a box of donuts every once in a while, but planning something a little more special from time to time can really create a sense of camaraderie and excitement in your team. Who knows? That awesome, motivated team you’ve always wanted may appear with a little friendly competition at Funtrackers. Or maybe a business meeting wrapped up with some delicious food and few video games will do the trick. “I think Funtrackers would be a great place to have a teambuilding event,” Bell said. “We exist to provide fun times and great memories, whether it’s a birthday party, family night out or a full company event. So making people happy is what we do.”

To learn more and book your “happiness,” call Funtrackers Family Fun Center at 361-937-9400 or visit


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rate event. “The variety of activities we offer provide great opportunities from batting range competitions, mini golf tournaments, Go Kart races or high-score challenges on games in the arcade.” It seems it doesn’t always have to be about intense competitions. “While team-building events can be a great way to get competitive juices flowing,” Bell continued, “sometimes just coming out to let people play at their own pace works just as well.” When it’s all said and done, the real goal is to create a happier workplace. Here are five benefits of having happy employees:


otive  Cell Pho nes  Cameras   Laptop Alarm Systems  s  Solar  Fla Wheel Chair shlights  Watc h / Key Fob 4903 Ambassador Row Corpus Christi, Texas 361.854.5000 Store Hours: Mon-Fri 7:30am – 6pm, Sat 8:30am – 2:30pm, Sun Closed Instagram@interstatebatteries_cc

Relax this Summer!

3 LOC AT I ON S F OR YOUR CONVE NIE N C E ! NORTH PADRE ISLAND (361) 949-2266 | PORT ARANSAS (361) 749-2266 | ROCKPORT (361) 729-2266 I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



DREAMS DO COME TRUE At the American Bank Center, every season is wedding season. By: KRISTEN BILY


edding season in South Texas is always in bloom, and we recently got a chance to sit down with Cynthia Woods, sales account executive for American Bank Center, to talk about all things weddings and what brides and grooms can expect when they book their best day ever at the American Bank Center. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION TO BOOKING HERE? The biggest misconception is, “It’s the American Bank Center. It will be too expensive for a wedding.” We are indeed very affordable. Whether you’re a DIY bride or want a venue with everything included, we have just the package for you that won’t put a dent in your checkbook. Our SAVOR… The Memories EXCLUSIVE Package offers everything from your venue, catering, decorations – even your wedding cake! At the SMG-managed American Bank Center, it doesn’t take a fortune to have the wedding of your dreams.



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DREAMS OF THEIR SPECIAL DAY ARE MET? Our SAVOR… The Memories EXCLUSIVE Package not only offers our team of experts, but also the city’s leading industry experts. Razzle Dazzle Event Decorating, who has been a staple in the wedding industry for almost 20 years, dedicate their excellence to making our couples’ special day, as well as the brilliant ladies at Let Them Eat


IF YOU HAD TO PICK THE PERFECT TIME OF THE SEASON TO GET MARRIED, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE? The beauty of booking your wedding here is that we feature the most breathtaking scenery both inside and outside of the American Bank Center. Every season is wedding season! Our venue can accommodate a gorgeous ceremony in or outside with the perfect celebration right after. And how can you not love a wedding photo that overlooks our beautiful bay?

“ We have done our best to make the American Bank Center a one-stop shop for couples.”

Cake Cakery. Our teams strive to make each couple’s special day a dream come true. WHAT ARE SOME ELEMENTS THAT AMERICAN BANK CENTER OFFERS THAT GIVE BRIDES THE BEST STRESSFREE EXPERIENCE? We have done our best to make the SMG-managed American Bank Center a one-stop shop for couples. We offer a complimentary tasting with our chief executive chef, Michael Stephans, to assist with one of the most difficult decisions couples are faced with at our venue: the food! Chef Stephans offers a delectable menu from which couples choose. Razzle Dazzle Event Decorating meets one-on-one with the cou-

ples to get to know their color palettes and choice of themes. Let Them Eat Cake Cakery takes it another step forward with a tasting featuring their master baker! These helpful elements can make the bride and groom both breathe with relief. Your special day does not need to be full of any worry. Let us put you at ease. If you would like to learn more about our event spaces for weddings or corporate events, please contact Cynthia Woods at 361826-4111 or Photos were done and coordinated by Skip Entertainment and Kristen Bily of American Bank Center, dresses by Bliss Bridal and tuxedos by Tuxedo Junction.

SMG-managed American Bank Center is Corpus Christi’s premier event center. Follow us online at, americanbankcenter and, as well as on Instagram (@americanbankcenter) and Snapchat (@AmericanBnkCtr).

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From corporate success to a booming small business, J.D. Jones has what it takes to keep Corpus Christi running full-speed ahead. By: CAROLINE R. FREEMAN Photos by: DARK LAB

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have helped Corpus Christi’s businesses and residents get where they need to be. As the owner of Interstate All Battery Center, his journey began at the bottom. Through hard work, drive and willingness to take risks, he forged his own path to the top. Jones was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas, and attended high school in Austin. A proud Aggie, he studied accounting at Texas A&M, College Station, where he met his wife, Melissa. After a summer internship in the accounting department at Interstate Batteries’ corporate office, Jones began working at KPMG Peat Marwick in Houston doing audits upon graduation. He explains that after 18 months, “I wanted to get some sales experience. I had a contact at


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Interstate Batteries’ corporate, and they said, ‘come sell batteries.’ I started at the bottom and worked as a national sales rep.” While his time in sales was formidable, Jones was interested in another path. He says, “For this national company, if you did sales, you traveled. Once we had our daughter, Austin, I wasn’t interested in being gone all the time. I moved on to operations; it was a chance to stay home and help my wife raise Austin.” Jones and his family moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked as the operations manager of a location like the one he owns today. One year later, he was promoted to a regional manager position at the corporate office back in Dallas. The role of regional manager primed Jones well for his future as a business owner. He re-

members, “I flew to different locations all over the U.S. It was a nice time for me to see what worked and what didn’t. That’s helped me a lot. I learned from those business owners and then was on the ground running. Observing what they’ve done to make them successful helped me be successful.” While his time in the corporate offices taught Jones valuable skills, after six years, he was ready for a change. “In Dallas, it was about doing your job, but also about showing how you did your job to the people above you. Here, you just get up and do your job well. I’m really good at doing my job, but in the corporate world, you have to be careful about what you say and what you do. I was a bull in a china closet,” he laughs. “I like this small atmosphere

and being able to positively affect employees and customers.” Jones purchased the Interstate All Battery Center from its previous owner in Corpus Christi almost 17 years ago. “I’m more of a small business guy. What I like about my job is that I can do both. I like sales; I like operations. Well, I really like sales when people say ‘yes!’” he smiles. Jones started with six employees in 2000. The main obstacle he faced was that, “I had to get used to dealing with money flow issues and debt. That’s certainly an obstacle, but once I was in, I was in. I like the challenge.” He says transitioning into a business owner made him grow professionally and personally. “When you’re an owner, you have to rely on other people to help you, and they rely on you for paychecks, insurance, retirement, etc. You grow a lot when you become your own entity. When you go out on your own, and you’re a small businessman, you get to do everything. It’s fun!” So what exactly do they do? Jones explains that nearly every industry requires some kind of battery. Trucks for oil and gas companies, backup power for wind turbines and oil and gas companies, machines for hospitals, golf cart batteries for winter Texans, marine batteries for boaters, cell phone batteries for everybody – batteries are a necessity. Add in the day-to-day battery needs of individual citizens, and he has an incredibly busy business. “We make batteries easy for people,” Jones says. “We specialize in service. We think and wrack our heads to make it easy for people when they have a dead battery, whether it’s with our wholesale accounts making sure they have batteries or servicing end users here. We try to take the pain out of a dead battery.” Jones now employs 19 people and believes in paying well for quality work. “Our guys have been with us a long time. They’re very seasoned. We prefer coaching them and paying them what they’re worth instead of retraining people. We’re extremely blessed with a good group of guys.” Corpus Christi’s Interstate All Battery Center has steadily grown annually except the one year when the oil field slowed down. “In the battery business, you slowly grow by getting more accounts and adding more retail,” Jones explains. “We’re diversified. Nowadays, everything takes a battery. We’re not overly dependent on any industry.” Corpus Christi and Interstate Batteries have a mutually beneficial relationship because the industries that make the Coastal Bend successful are the same ones that use his business and vice versa. Aside from the Coastal Bend being a fruitful region for his business, Jones says that Corpus Christi is home. “I love that Corpus is laidback and naturally beautiful. It’s big enough to get anything you need, but there’s not much traffic. Plus, I love fishing and hunting.” An avid hunter, fisherman and scuba diver, Jones occasionally finds the time to relax. “I’m lucky to have friends and family that include me on their adventures. When I’m in town, I find it hard not to think about selling batteries.” These trips are an opportunity for him to enjoy his much-loved hobbies while giving his mind a break from the nonstop business of batteries. Jones is in the early stages of opening up another retail store in addition to the current location that houses around 10,000 batteries alone. The retail facet of his business has grown enough that they need even more space for customers. Looking forward, he says, “We’ll be continuing heavily in automotive truck and expanding more into solar and wind energy and growing in retail.” Jones’ business is thriving because Jones is as progressive as he is steadfast. He continues to influence and sustain Corpus Christi’s growth both forward and upward. Jones and his team at Interstate All Battery Center are doing their best to keep the Coastal Bend productive, safe and on the move.

For more information, visit or call Interstate Battery, Corpus Christi at 361-854-5000.

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Sam Longoria: a story of professional success and community championship By: Anne Booher Photos by: MC Studio Workz

Wardrobe and accessories provided by Brooks Brothers / Outlets at Corpus Christi Bay. Individually styled by Dennis Hernandez (store manager) and Kim Encinia (sales associate) 34

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SAM LONGORIA’S roots run deep in the Coastal Bend. Currently the vice president of business banking for BBVA Compass Bank, Longoria earned this title with hard work and dedication to achieving the goals he set. He wholeheartedly believes that young people have a responsibility to their community, and he encourages that in his civic engagement endeavors. Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Longoria started his career as a sales associate for Express Men. Following a great deal of success, he transferred to one of the company’s top stores in McAllen, Texas. After enjoying an accomplished first year, he decided for a change in retail to work with Fossil. “I liked the company and their philosophy,” he explains. “They want associates to work with customers, listening to their needs and providing products based off their desires, rather than pushing items the customer might not want and then returns later. I had a chance to run a store in Houston, but decided to finish my bachelor’s degree back in Corpus Christi.” That decision led him to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, where he received his bachelor’s degree in finance. He also holds an associate’s degree in business administration from Del Mar College. Both establishments instilled strong work ethic and helped him better determine his goals and how to reach them. Taking a suggestion from a friend, Longoria applied for a job as a personal banker with Kleberg Bank. The position had already been filled in-house, but he showed up for the interview regardless and was offered a job as a bank teller. Longoria quickly met and exceeded goals set by management, moved up as a personal banker and then was promoted to assistant manager. “I wanted to do whatever I needed to keep growing,” Longoria says. He was then offered an opportunity to take on a challenged store as the branch manager. “I established a great team and working environment. Within a year, we became one of the top-performing in-store branches.” Longoria attributes that achievement to giving time and attention to his employees, teaching them accountability and pointing out their successes. “It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing if you were in my office,” he says. “Every time I would have one-on-ones with employees, we talked about what was working and what wasn’t. The environment was great. Almost all of my team became managers or assistant managers after I left that position.” Longoria was offered a commercial relationship manager position due to his success on the retail side of banking. Longoria worked closely with bank president, Gabriel Guerra, on the commercial banking side. “Gabe was a mentor of mine and taught me the importance of community advocacy and relation-


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Getting our young community involved in our city is essential.”

ship banking,” Longoria says. “I always wanted to be doing what Gabe was doing.” Longoria was then offered a position as the vice president of business banking with BBVA Compass and decided to make the switch. “BBVA is very similar to a community bank, despite having a global presence,” Longoria says. “The U.S. market only makes up 12 percent of BBVA’s global market share. The United States market continues to grow with a significant focus on technology and innovation in banking.” Longoria has an extensive network of community involvement, in addition to his professional achievements. He holds the following positions: • President-elect of Leadership Corpus Christi Alumni Association • President of Young Business Professionals • Board member of the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce and Foundation • Board member of the Corpus Christi Education Foundation Leadership Corpus Christi is close to Longoria’s heart, and is a Chamber Foundation-led program that helps aspiring leaders develop skills that will ultimately enhance their community. Longoria recommends this program to any person starting out who may need motivation to get involved locally. “Leadership CC has been a major part of my life, and the group is extremely loyal,” Longoria says. “I always encourage people to apply.” The professional connections he made in Leadership CC were instrumental in leading him to BBVA, and he now has a network of business leaders to whom he

can turn for assistance. The opportunities for community involvement are abundant with the right attitude. “Communication is an instrumental focus for people starting out. If you get out there and start talking to people, you will find mentors, managers and leaders who are willing to help, but you have to be willing to communicate. You are in control of your experiences in life,” Longoria says. “Young Business Professionals of the Coastal Bend is a great organization open to college students and young professionals of all industries. Our focus is to retain young professionals in the Coastal Bend, so we have core values that assist our mission. Our United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce is always looking for champions to volunteer and serve our community, and nonprofit organizations are always looking for help.” Longoria attributes much of his success to his parents. “My mom and dad taught my brother and me the importance of relationships, accountability and teamwork to thrive in whatever we did,” he says. “In your journey through life, you will meet significant people who want to see you succeed. To name a few: Dr. Ben Blanco – education; Dan Brown – regional CEO, BBVA Compass; Jerry Kane – consultant; Rosie Colin – Port of CC; I could go on with friends and family, of course. I feel blessed to have everyone in my life.” In addition to his personal achievements at BBVA, Longoria married his wife, Veronica, in January 2017, and they have a 14-year-old son. “As your family grows, your responsibilities change from a time-management standpoint. While you’re young, you have time to be involved, so take advantage of that,” Longoria says. “I’m fortunate: I have a lov-

ing wife who understands my passion for community involvement. But getting our young community involved in our city is essential.” Amidst his abundant professional success, Longoria has a sincere desire to see Corpus Christi fulfill its potential, and he encourages the next generation of young leaders to bolster that progress. Undoubtedly with his effort and enthusiasm, that goal won’t be difficult to achieve.

Learn more about Sam Longoria by visiting the BBVA Compass Bank, Downtown Corpus Christi location, at 101 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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ON MUSTANG ISLAND Cinnamon Shore: the Gulf Coast gem with a billion-dollar future

By: Jeff Lamkin Photos by: Shannon Lafayette I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



ocated on Mustang Island, Cinnamon Shore is a pedestrian-friendly property nestled behind 300 feet of protective dunes, and a short distance from Corpus Christi and major metropolitan cities. Every detail of Cinnamon Shore was thoughtfully designed to embrace the beauty of Mustang Island and the Texas Gulf Coast. Activities are abundant year-round at the development, which has the slow-paced charm of a walking neighborhood with amenities ranging from beautifully groomed beaches and deep-sea fishing to stocked lakes, pools and world-class dining.

There’s no shortage of delicious restaurants for tourists and locals to enjoy. 40

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The vibrant, master-planned New Urbanism development in the Coastal Bend combines elegant housing, retail amenities, parks and recreational facilities into one highly livable, walkable, seaside resort community. Easy accessibility by car or airplane makes this quaint, coastal community the perfect place for family getaways and couples, who can enjoy a romantic retreat including catching the Texas sunrise walking down the serene beach. Many Texans will be surprised this oasis is within a three- to five-hour drive from them. Each morning, the iconic striped, cinnamon-coral umbrellas and beach chairs are set up beachside through reservations, and golf carts are available to rent, making the entire beach day planning process completely effortless – especially for those with little ones (beach chairs and golf carts available for rent). The designated concierge keeps things simple and offers homeowners and guests scheduling services for the endless activities available on the island, including linksstyle golfing, shopping, horseback riding on the beach and sailing charters. For the adventure seekers, surfing lessons and parasailing are also available. The entire stay for families is completely customizable to their needs. With activities like sand castle lessons, bonfires on the beach, S’mores roasts on the Great Lawn, yoga on the beach, shrimp boils, live music and movie nights in Town Center, the opportunities to make memories are endless. During the cooler months, this pristine community continues to attract guests from across Texas as lower temperatures and ocean breezes offer a much-needed break after the summer heat. There’s no shortage of delicious restaurants for tourists and locals to enjoy. On-property restaurants include C Bar Café, a poolside eatery serving lunch, dinner and

cocktails, and the acclaimed Lisabella’s, which offers gourmet dishes using locally sourced ingredients for a fresh take on coastal cuisine. The catch of the day, paired with a chilled white wine, makes for the perfect end to a day on the coast. As Cinnamon Shore continues to grow, Five Town Center, the first on-property mixed-use development, will open in spring 2018. Five Town Center will bring exciting new options to the mix and house several distinctive restaurants and retailers, including:

veloper of Cinnamon Shore, recently announced a $1.3 billion, 300-acre expansion featuring distinctive new home designs and a wide array of appealing amenities. The new phase, Cinnamon Shore South, will deliver the Corpus Christi and Port Aransas area a 3,300-foot-wide beachfront, maintained daily – almost three times the size of the beach at Cinnamon Shore North. Eventually, the development will lie on either side of State Highway 361, about a mile south of Cinnamon Shore North, with a golf cart bridge enabling residents and visitors to easily access all property amenities on both sides of the highway. Plans include multiple swimming pools and lakes to provide refuge and enhance the landscape. As key feature of Cinnamon Shore South will be one of the largest on the Texas Gulf Coast, and it will be encircled by a mile-long boardwalk. The development will also feature honeymoon cottages, a spa, town centers for retail within each phase and a boutique hotel opening in 2018. Site work is already underway, and Sea Oats Group expects to begin building homes on the property in mid- to late 2018.

 Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, a contemporary, inventive restaurant that will serve coal-fired New Yorkstyle pizza, fresh Italian pastas, salads, desserts and signature coal-fired chicken wings  The Bottle Shop, a boutique liquor shop featuring specialty liquors, unique wines and mixers  The Market, a small grocery offering fresh fruits, vegetables and specialty items  An ice cream and candy shop where guests can treat themselves to a variety of sweets After seeing bountiful success in Cinnamon Shore North, Sea Oats Group, de-

Jeff Lamkin is the principal and developer of Cinnamon Shore. For more information, visit You may also call Cinnamon Shore Rentals at 361-749-0422, or Cinnamon Shore Realty at 361-749-1851.

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Local Eats




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Rock & Rolls Sushi Lounge offers guests hit flavors, hit tunes and a cool blend of conventional and contemporary.


ne of the first things you notice when you sit down at Rock & Rolls Sushi Lounge is the lifesize Elvis statue rocking a guitar – a fun and fitting tribute to The King – juxtaposing the stylish, upscale decor of the restaurant’s granite tabletops and custom woodwork. Diners here go on a musical journey, listening to classic rock from every decade. The music stations change every hour, ranging from the early works of Elvis to the hard rock hits of Led Zeppelin. Twists on sushi rolls celebrate popular albums, from “Abbey Road” to “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Meanwhile, clever cocktails handcrafted

at the full bar in the heart of the restaurant put their own artistic spin on classic drinks, from The Bad Company Cucumber Martini with its fresh cucumber juice, to The Black Sabbath Bloody Mary with its signature soy sauce and pickled wasabi green beans. These types of playful elements add to the atmosphere carefully crafted by David Lee, the restaurant’s owner. Lee designed Rock & Rolls Sushi Lounge to balance the high-end ambience of traditional sushi restaurants with the more laidback, friendly feeling associated with the Island. Guests at his restaurant can both indulge in luxury and kick back and relax while watching sports on one of 11 televisions. This mesh of conventional and contemporary reflects Rock & Rolls ex-

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tensive menu. Beyond sashimi and sushi rolls, the restaurant offers a wide variety of unique Asian fusion creations that often feature an unexpected mix of styles and flavors such as the Wagyu Flank Tacos and the Stuffed Avocado. Those who have trouble deciding what to order or who want a more adventurous eating experience can order omakase. Omakase, the Japanese practice of chef’s choice, allows Lee and his team to choose and customise complementary dishes for customers until they are full. “Omakase lets me get creative; plus, guests can try something new,” Lee explained. “People can come here two or three times a week and have a different experience each time.” Rock & Rolls has continued to grow in popularity since opening in January 2015, with people visiting from all areas of the Coastal Bend. Lee recommends making reservations, as the restaurant fills up quickly. While Lee and his partners plan to open a second location in Cedar Park in the near future, Lee continues to concentrate his energy on providing the best quality food and service to his community. “We’re not trying to appeal to spring breakers; we’re focused on serving locals,” Lee said. “Our regulars range from families with kids to businessmen meeting with clients to fishermen coming by after work.” Lee emphasizes consistent quality in all his establishments: “Consistency of product is the most important key to success. Businesses fail when they try to expand too fast and lose their consistency.” The 29-year-old restaurateur knows a thing or two about what can make or break a person in his industry. Lee started working at restaurants when he turned 16, and has held every position imaginable in them from dishwasher and busboy to executive chef and general manager. But his passion for good food began even before his first job. Lee’s grandfather, Du Lit Lee, opened one of the first Asian restaurants in Corpus Christi, Chung Mei, and Lee’s mother and father owned Lee Bros, a local gourmet seafood restaurant. Although he never met his grandfather and both restaurants closed before he was old enough to remember them, Lee has always felt a connection to cooking. “I guess cooking is in my blood,” he said. “I’ve had regular customers who knew my grandfa-

ther tell me that they recognize the same talent in my kitchen.” Lee worked in many sushi restaurants and even a few hibachi grills, mastering the arts of cooking and restaurant managing through firsthand experiences rather than culinary or business school. “You can learn from anyone if you have an open mind,” Lee said. “I’ve taken a piece of everywhere I’ve ever been with me, and put it in this big melting pot that is my cooking style.” Lee had spent time as the executive chef of Sushi Bar, so when the space previously occupied by Sushi Bar and Office Lounge was available for sale, he bought the property, knowing his restaurant would fill the void Sushi Bar’s closing left on the Island. Although Office Lounge had expanded and remodeled after Sushi Bar moved out, the area still needed work to become a more cohesive establishment. Lee dedicated himself to shaping the flow and feel of the restaurant to suit his vision. All in all, it took Lee and his partners four months to finish their buildout. One of the most challenging parts was having patience during the slow-moving process. “You’ve got to jump through hoops to get things done,” Lee said. “Opening a new business is not very straightforward.” Lee was determined to stay focused on his goal, however challenging it was. “When Rock & Rolls first opened, I was working about 90 hours a week,” he recalled. “I still eat, sleep and dream restaurant business.” Fortunately, he has not only the support of his partners and staff, but of his family, as well, especially his wife, Deven. Their 1 ½-yearold daughter, Addison, loves visiting the restaurant and helps keep spirits high. “Sometime I wonder about whether I’ll be doing something else later on, years down the road,” Lee said. “But I don’t know what else I would want do.”

Enjoy fresh sushi, classic music and a slice of true Island life at Rock & Rolls Sushi Lounge, open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with a special brunch menu available Sunday. Visit or call 361-949-1110 for more information.


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Registration now open at


OCTOBER 6, 2017

A leader development experience designed to equip you with new perspectives, practical tools and key takeaways. You’ll breathe new life into your leadership during this information-packed day event. Learn from world-class leadership experts in the morning and return to your office ready to implement your new action plan and lead with renewed passion and commitment.


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CCIA gives us a heads-up on some changes the TSA has planned for carry-on screening. By: KIM BRIDGER-HUNT

airports during the weeks and months ahead. What does that mean for travelers at Corpus Christi International Airport (CCIA)? If the new measures are implemented at CCIA, travelers may experience slightly longer wait times at the TSA security checkpoint. These enhanced carry-on procedures are apparently not planned for the TSA PreCheck lanes. At TSA Pre-Check, travelers do not have to remove shoes, jackets or laptops. And that is expected to continue into the future. There are no changes to what travelers can take through the checkpoint with this new initiative. The change will apply mainly to electronics; however, the TSA is also warning that more bag checks will likely occur once this new procedure is started. Travelers will be encouraged to pay attention to how they organize their carry-on bags. Placing electronics where they can be easily removed will help cut down on the time it takes to comply with the rules. While TSA is not officially identifying additional items that may need

to be removed and screened separately in the future, there is certainly the possibility that more items will be added to the list. For the time being, food and liquid items that comply with the 3-1-1 liquid rule, electronics and books continue to be allowed in carry-on bags. But stay tuned. TSA is indicating that more change is coming as the agency works to stay ahead of evolving threats and to keep passengers safe. If it sounds like a great time to avoid these changes and apply for TSA Pre-Check, keep in mind that the application process is quite easy. You can fill out the application online at, set an appointment at a local business to do your fingerprinting, pay the $85 fee and have your Pre-Check known traveler number in four to six weeks. TSA Pre-Check allows officers to focus resources on passengers who may pose a high risk to security while expediting the screening process for those who have been granted the Pre-Check designation and are considered lowrisk, trusted travelers. If you have questions about TSA, visit their website at And as always, we’d love to hear from you anytime. When it’s time to plan your next trip, remember that the more we use the air service we have at CCIA, the better our chances of having more choices in the future.


Kim Bridger-Hunt is the marketing manager at CCIA. For more information, contact her at


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f there’s one thing to be sure of in the world of airports, it’s that change is not only inevitable – it’s constant. Air travel has changed beyond description in the past 20 years. When it comes to security, there is no shortage of new initiatives floating around. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently testing some new screening procedures at 10 airports around the nation. These new procedures have the potential to help TSA officers detect dangerous material hidden in some of the most common items carried by travelers. They also have the potential to slow things down at the TSA security checkpoints. At the test airports, TSA officers are asking travelers to remove all electronics that are larger than a cell phone from their carry-on bags and to place them in bins with nothing on top of the items and nothing below. This is similar to what TSA officers have been doing with laptops for years. Under the new process, small tablets, iPads, e-readers, handheld game consoles and even digital cameras will have to be removed. According to the TSA, removing these items and separating them prior to running them through the X-ray will make it easier to detect any dangerous material that might be hidden inside. In a recent news release, the TSA indicated that if the testing in the pilot airports is successful, the agency will implement these measure at all U.S.

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KILLER COMBINATION Don’t be afraid to experiment with sweet honey mango dessert hummus. By: MANDY ASHCRAFT Photos by: DUSTIN ASHCRAFT

If the thought of “dessert” and “hummus” in the same sentence scares you, it might bring you some relief to know that this one tastes almost exactly like peach cobbler. If you’re looking for a sweet dip for apple slices or pita bread, or for something to eat right out of the bowl when no one’s looking, dessert hummus is for you! This recipe makes about two cups of creamy dip. Ingredients: 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained 2 large mangoes, skin removed, chopped 1 tablespoon natural creamy peanut butter Juice of 1 orange 3 tablespoons honey 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon Extra honey and chopped mango for garnish (optional) Instructions: 1/ Add garbanzo beans, chopped mango, peanut butter, orange juice, honey and cinnamon to food processor. 2/ Process until smooth. 3/ Serve with slices of apple or pita chips, drizzled in honey and chopped mango. Experiment with it: Spread it on a dessert pizza, or add it to a fruit and granola parfait! Don’t be afraid to eat it spooned over more fresh mango pieces. 4/ Refrigerate for a week, covered.


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For more information, visit

Save the Date!

Corpus Christi Black Chamber of Commerce

Cordially Invites You To Join Us At Our Annual

Business & Young Entrepreneur Awards Banquet Honoring African Americans in “S.T.E.M. -featuring Engineers”

Sat., November 18, 2017 6:00pm - 10:00pm

Omni Hotel Corpus Christi 900 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, TX Ticket: $50 Sponsorships Available Purchase F.M.I. 361.877.3634


M Johnny Barnes Retired IBM VP and CTO (Connecticut) (Native Corpus Christian) I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



KNOW YOUR NEXT VEHICLE Presenting the 2017 Ford F-150 Lariat Special Edition FX4, brought to you by Sames Ford Corpus Christi SPECIAL TO INSPIRE COASTAL BEND

 375 horsepower at 5000 rpm  Best-in-class(1) 470 lb.-ft. of torque at 2500 rpm  Maximum trailer towing capability of 12,200 lbs., properly equipped  F‑150 is the revolutionary truck to get the job done  Designed from the ground up to be durable, capable and easy to use  Delivers an impressive combination of power, capability and efficiency, from advanced materials that enhance durability to breakthrough pickup box innovations  State-of-the-art, purpose-built technologies make F‑150 the smartest F‑150 ever built  High-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body and box, and fully boxed high-strength steel frame ensure the F‑150 “Built Ford Tough” reputation for quality, durability and strength   PERFORMANCE/HANDLING  10-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode standard with 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine  Auto start-stop technology now standard with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine  Increased horsepower and torque on the new, second-generation 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine  New, second-generation 3.5‑liter EcoBoost V6 engine produces 375 horsepower and a best-in-class (1) 470 lb.‑ft. of torque, a gain of 10 hp


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and 50 lb.-ft. from previous 3.5‑liter EcoBoost  Auto start-stop technology can help reduce fuel consumption and vehicle emissions during city driving by switching off the engine when the vehicle is stationary or idling SAFETY/​SECURITY  F‑150 SuperCrew offers available inflatable rear safety belts that use airbag technology to help protect rear-seat outboard passengers  Individual tire pressure monitoring displays tire pressure for each wheel, as well as indicates which tire may be underinflated  AdvanceTrac with roll stability control (RSC) and curve control enhance vehicle control in wet or slippery conditions  6 standard airbags: dual-stage front, front-seat side and safety canopy side-curtain COMFORT/​CONVENIENCE  F‑150 offers real-world pickup box functionality, thanks to available features that include BoxLink with premium locking cleats, stowable loading ramps, LED pickup box lighting and remote tailgate release  Offers several innovative technologies, including Pro Trailer Backup Assist and blind spot information system (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert and trailer coverage, and 360-degree camera with split-view display  Available lane-keeping system helps drivers stay in their lane  SYNC 3 system features an easy-to-use design


VEHICLE: 2017 FORD F-150 LARIAT SPECIAL EDITION FX4 Ruby-red color with a 3.5L EcoBoost engine with 10-speed automatic transmission 


5503 SOUTH STAPLES ST. CORPUS CHRISTI, TX 78411 361.991.4967 FAX: 361.991.2361 TOLL FREE: 866.991.4967 WWW.THEFRAMEUPCC.COM

 New available SYNC Connect lets owners access and control a variety of vehicle features and functions from virtually anywhere  Interior features include available multicontour front seats with active motion  Exterior features include an auto-dimming driver-side mirror and LED spotlights on the exterior mirrors QUALITY/​RELIABILITY/​DURABILITY  700 lbs. lighter, compared to the 2014 F‑150 – and building strength to ensure the truck can handle the most rugged terrain  High-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body and bed take F‑150 to a higher level of tough  High-strength, fully boxed steel frame is designed to be the strongest F‑150 frame ever, featuring more high-strength steel than the 2014 F‑150   DESIGN/​STYLING  The F‑150 model lineup includes XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited  Exterior is characterized by a wide “Built Ford Tough” stance that suggests capability  Interior features attention to detail and refinements throughout

For more information, visit

Screen Printing | Embroidery Custom Rhinestones | Promotional Products | Camouflage Apparel Direct to Garment | Koozies | Decals

5301 Everhart Rd., Ste. C, Corpus Christi 361-855-7777 I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



THREE STEPS TO SUCCESS HELP modifies its WoW program to implement House Bill 5 in Gulf Coast schools. By: DR. RIDGE HAMMONS

WELCOME TO THE TEXAS 3 STEP The placement of the Texas 3 Step – Window on the World (WoW), Career Clubs with profes-

sional speakers and visits to important community worksites – is powerful for students, counselors and administrators. The three steps are: 1. Installation 2. Presentation 3. Exploration HELP has already installed its WoW system in all of CCISD’s high schools, having raised some $60,000 from the community to do so. HELP is trying to install its proprietary Texas 3 Step in a number of local school districts, including Calallen, GP and West Oso. Again, HELP’s motto is: “How can you find the job of your dreams if you don’t even know it exists?” We put kids where the action is. We have no lectures, no books and no classes – just the hands-on experience of a job done well by those who do it best, and who are willing to share their expertise with those curious to know more about it. We have taken over 3,000 students on more than 250 trips to over 100 different worksites. We have received numerous endorsements from administrators, counselors and students. HELP takes youth on visits to various worksites around the area to give them hands-on experience in jobs that might spark their interest and give them the desire to stay in school, or to receive the training they need to follow their dream to a career (or to choose an endorsement). HELP has installed 13 WoWs in the Coastal Bend, including CCISD, TM and San Patricio JJC. This approximates a $60,000 investment by HELP and the community, including Best Buy, Kleberg Bank, Kiwanis, Rotarians and the school districts and centers. HELP programming effects some 80,000 students through the schools where we maintain a “window on the world.”

For more information, contact Ridge Hammons at or visit


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ammons Education Leadership Programs’ (HELP’s) Texas 3 Step goes a long way toward the satisfaction of House Bill 5 through sampling multiple careers and being well-aligned with the endorsements. When we showed our program to the governor’s people, their very first question was, “How soon can you take this program statewide?” We said we really wanted to get things figured out countywide first. They went on to claim that they had gotten dozens of calls from districts all over the state asking how they were supposed to satisfy the House Bill 5 mandate that all students must receive significant training in the skilled trades of their choice before leaving high school. To further compound the problem, there are no programs dedicated to giving students hands-on practice in a number of career fields – but our motto is, “How can you find the job of your dreams if you don’t even know it exists?” HELP is not a training program so much as it is a survey course, letting high-schoolers see the wide variety of schooling operations that are available to them out there in the real world. We know kids don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. Some of us don’t know that yet – and we won’t know until we see it! Sure, every school has a career day, but that only gets you a few minutes talking to someone in an artificial environment like the school gym, surrounded by dozens of other kids looking at 20 jobs for five minutes each. So what? Who’s going to learn anything from that?



“The Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a 77 year old organization, hosts all its events at the Ortiz Center. It is such a unique venue to host our events, with an amazing view of the Port, where we always find attentive staff and reliable service. We are happy to have a partner like Spectra!” Teresa Rodriguez Bartlett, President & CEO, CCHCC

GREAT FOR ■ Meetings + Training Seminars ■ Luncheons + Banquets ■ Galas + Special Events ■ Trade Shows ■ Job Fairs With 10 rooms that can accommodate groups of 10 to 850. I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M





f you’re looking for tantalizing food and craft brew combinations to amaze the taste buds, the 22nd Annual KEDT Classic Brew presented by H-E-B is where you want to be. Beer enthusiasts and foodies will unite on Sept. 28 at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The international beer tasting event showcases more than 200 international, domestic, handcrafted and specialty craft brews from Andrews Distributing, L&F Distributors, Ben E. Keith, Lazy Beach Brewing, Lorelei Brewing Co. and Rebel Toad Brewing, available for guests to sample from a commemorative pilsner glass. More than 20 of the area’s best restaurants, caterers and food trucks will offer their best tasting selections to indulge in. Non-alcoholic drink selections are always available, and KEDT encourages attendees to buy a ticket for a designated driver or plan to use a driving service. If the expansive options of grub and brew aren’t enough to heighten the senses, live music will be featured on three stages throughout the evening, including performances by Independent Thieves, a folk/blues duo scheduled in the North Gallery. Additional stages are set for the VIP party and in the Biergarten, an outdoor festival oasis to include food trucks, specialty selections from


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local breweries, the KEDT booth that will offer exciting giveaways and a photo booth all within direct view of the harbor bridge lights. Guests will have a chance to put their bidding to the test with a brew-inspired silent auction featuring collectible beer merchandise donated from participating breweries and distributors, along with packages from Schlitterbahn, Bowlero, Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q, plus much more. It’s the first year for H-E-B to be a presenting sponsor for Classic Brew, and Regina Garcia, public affairs senior manager for the Gulf Coast region, says they couldn’t be happier. “Throughout the years, H-E-B has been part of KEDT’s commitment and supported various events throughout the year, including Challenge, Auction Angels and the Food & Wine Classic,” Garcia says. She gives credit to H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt with helping to establish the station in 1972 and bringing public educational broadcasting to South Texas. “KEDT has become a staple of viewing exceptional programming for several generations,” Garcia says. “Our hope is to continue the work which KEDT has proven to be successful for many families.” The grocery store will have a table at the main Classic Brew event similar to what they have featured at the station’s Food & Wine Classic in the past. “H-E-B will have a few new tasty treats to sample and favorites we know our customers love to have around their table for a special event,” Garcia says. For those craving the ultimate tasting experience, VIP tickets are available. In addition to entry to the main event, VIP tickets allow access to the VIP party upstairs of the museum beginning at 6 p.m. There, VIP guests will be treated to a gourmet pairing of foods and exclusive beers, live music, a special “Star Wars” meet-and-greet with galactic characters, along with an immersive interactive PBS experience. For the second year in a row, Omar Lopez, corporate communications manager of AEP Texas, is the host for the VIP event. The tasting menu for the VIP party is a combination of efforts between the Texas Chefs Association Coastal Bend Association and Lazy Beach Brewing. “We pick out some of the flavors and nuances of the beers which we want to contrast or blend with the food,” says Chef Michael Stephans, president of the Texas Chefs Association


The 2017 KEDT Classic Brew presented by H-E-B promises guests cold brews, tasty food and great company – and all for a great cause. By: DAYNA WORCHEL

Coastal Bend Association, which is part of the American Culinary Federation. Stephans, who is also in charge of Savor, the contract food service of the American Bank Center, will work with fellow Chefs Dean Sprague and Harold Ramos of the Omni

Hotel and Chef Israel Villaneuva, culinary professor at Del Mar College, to develop a select menu for the VIP event. And Cory Mathews, owner of Lazy Beach Brewing, will provide specialty brews just for the occasion. Mathews works with Stephans frequently on beer and food pairing events. “I leave the cooking side up to the chefs, and they leave the brewing side up to me, and we all work together,” Mathews says. He will release one new beer made especially for Classic Brew, and expects to brew four beers to pair with four dishes. It takes about a month to brew one new beer, he says. At 8 p.m., the upstairs space will open to everyone attending the event. While the four-course pairing is exclusive to the VIP ticket holders, after 8 p.m., all guests will have access to other elements of the VIP experience (live music, “Star Wars” photo meet-and-greet and the PBS Pop Up Lounge), including a limited selection of beers brewed by B&J’s Pizza Restaurant. While there will be no shortage of cold brews, delicious food and great company, what’s even better is that it’s all for a good cause. Proceeds benefit KEDT-TV, your community-owned station. Support of KEDT fundraising events such as Classic Brew ensures the continuation of favorite programs viewers expect from public broadcasting like NOVA, Austin City Limits, This Old House and Curious George, as well as radio programs such as “Morning Edition,” “Fresh Air” and “All Things Considered.” KEDT also airs many more original documentaries and programs that focus on education, the arts and entertainment. General admission tickets may be purchased for $60 each in advance at KEDT studios, B&J’s Pizza Restaurants, online at KEDT. org or by calling 361-855-2213. Tickets will be available for purchase at event. VIP tickets are available for $125 each and include entrance to the VIP party and main event, along with a VIP swag bag. Complimentary valet parking is available for all guests.

Visit the KEDT Classic Brew Facebook event page and for updates on participating restaurants, silent auction items and specialty beer selections.

Pescado Saltado with Yellow Fin Tuna

15113 SPID - Padre Island 361-945-8303 Full menu online Sun-Thu 11am-10pm Fri-Sat 11am-Midnight Happy Hour Daily 3pm-7pm

Conchita a la Parmesana I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M


Food.Wine. Full Bar. Music. Come ... Be Social.

FoodBoogie Test Kitchen Tuesdays Pop-up Kitchen Every 3rd Wednesday Singles Mingle Every 3rd Thursday BassMint Party Every 1st Friday Street Brunch Sundays Live Music Thursday-Friday-Saturday

Tues-Thurs: 4-12am • Fri-Sat: 4-2am • Sun: 12-4pm

4102 S Staples St, Corpus Christi, TX 78411


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Musicians from the Coastal Bend talk to Inspire about the importance of supporting local artists and the business of Texas country. By: JESSICA DUSEK

Brewster Street Icehouse


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Jake Ward

Roger Creager

Stoney LaRue



Mark Schaberg

“We probably do six to 10 Texas country shows per year”

“CORPUS has always had a pretty strong country Texas scene,” says local operating manager, Mark Schaberg, of Brewster Street Icehouse. Schaberg’s 15 years of booking talent at the famous Hang em’ High Saloon (later Buffalo Billiards) in Austin contributes his expertise to the Corpus Christi venue. Drawing patrons across Texas, “We probably do six to 10 Texas country shows per year,” he says. “One of the things that’s led to the longevity of these artists and this kind of music is accessibility.” Supporting local “These artists work harder than any other genre,” describes Schaberg of fulltime musicians. “Why people should support (local) is the venues, lifestyle and festivals. Everything they bring to the music scene is a lifestyle.” Local advertising and support of Corpus Christi’s independent radio stations are essential to their success. Country musicians sit down with Inspire to talk music, what’s on the horizon and inspirations from Corpus Christi.

Jake Ward

JAKE WARD was the headliner at Corpus Christi’s famous Texas Throwdown Thursday at Brewster Street Icehouse on Aug. 10. This represented quite a feat for Ward, having attended concerts as a kid at Brewster Street. Playing tunes from his album, “Sound with Intention,” Ward and his band also wove in some songs from his second album – due for release October/November of this year. In 2013, Ward and his bandmates began by frequenting local Corpus spots such as the Executive Surf Club and Sandbar. Playing during intermission for other musicians, “We would just get onstage on breaks – sometimes with permission, sometimes without,” he laughs. Many times they would be invited back. In college, Ward wrote, “Hit the Road,” and received airtime from a local DJ in Corpus Christi. “People started wondering where and when we were going to play,” he says. “It snowballed together, and now here we are.” His second album has developed his talent, themed with Red Dirt/Americana sounds. “I grew up a lot during that process – as an artist, songwriter and as a person.” Dedicated fans meet him in varying cities, including San Antonio and Waco. “Hitting the road and cutting my teeth,” he describes of touring the state. “That’s one thing I love about Texas: peo-

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Roger Creager “I BEGAN PLAYING at a couple of shows in college – it was really me just sitting in the corner of a barbecue restaurant,” laughs Roger Creager, of his early music days. The Corpus Christi native began singing and playing the piano in 1997, while acquiring his agriculture and accounting degrees in College Station at Texas A&M. “They let me play every Sunday afternoon at Buffalo Joes,” he recalls. Growing Sunday crowds would soon build his career as a country music singer. Releasing his song, “Having Fun All Wrong,” caused a large response for fans. “It was something that struck a chord for college kids in Texas,” Creager says. “Having fun all wrong – when you get your heart broken, and all the things you do wrong.” Like most country musicians, Creager dedicated a great deal of time and effort to producing meaningful music. “I worked really hard,” he says. Booking his own gigs and playing music, his path toward music began to pay off pretty quickly. “I count myself lucky in that regard,” he says.

“ That’s one thing I love about Texas: people support local or regional artists.” ple support local or regional artists.” Ward’s Corpus roots and fan base have provided his foundation as an artist.“ Without people coming to shows, it’s impossible to make it,” explains the local artist. Appreciating his “fans from the beginning,” Ward says his parents are also musicians. He gives praise to his bandmates, accompanied by Owen Fitzsimmons (fiddle), Paul Teltschik (guitar), Conner Church (drums) and Mitchel Williams (bass). “I give them full credit,” he states. Studying songwriting in Nashville with songwriter and cousin, Kris


Bergsnes, Ward develops his craft. “Writing with my cousin, Chris, is really eye-opening for me.” Bergsnes is known for writing Tim McGraw’s “Somebody Must be Prayin’ for Me,” among other popular hits. Focusing on uplifting sounds, Ward also draws inspiration from upbeat classics like Elvis, the Bee Gees and folk artists. Inspired to become a fulltime musician? Ward’s advice: “Play as much as you can. Write as often as you can. But value yourself as an artist – and a person. Value yourself, and prove it to the people that don’t think you are [valuable].”

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Country and college fans Playing at neighboring college campuses such as Steven F. Austin, University of Texas and Texas State, Creager has taken those fans with him over the past 20 years to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. In recent years, he has gained popularity in Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York City. He often reunites with loyal fans on the road, many of who are indeed Texans. “They show up in their Shiner Bock T-shirts – it is an absolute blast,” describes Creager with enthusiasm. “People tell me, ‘it’s so cool having you here. I’ve been here for six years, and if feels like I’m back at home.”

“You hope that the more you do it, the better you get at it.”

Nine albums later, Creager ultimately focuses on taking his music to the next level, bringing a piece of Texas on the road. A few of his favorites include “Late Night Case of the Blues,” “Surrender” and “A Little Bit of Them All.” Creager explains of his craft, “You hope that the more you do it, the better you get at it.” Creager’s advice: “The harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed. That applies to an accountant, a salesman – and country singers.” Join Creager at his 2018 South of the Border event with Kevin Fowler. The event will be held in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Stoney LaRue

for a community that could provide a depth he was missing in his home life. Submerged in a subculture called Red Dirt Music, native to Oklahoma’s country music roots, the Red Dirt Music culture offered a type of “sanctuary” for LaRue. Moving to Stillwater in 1993, LaRue grew his talents rooming with other musicians. “We became exposed to a ray of inspiration, including Jason Boland, Cody Canada and Mike McClure from the Great Divide.” With his first gig at the Wormy Dog in Oklahoma, getting to auditions was creative at times, either taking the bus or train. “I didn’t have a car, but I had a girlfriend with a car,” he laughs wittingly. Now, some 19 years later, LaRue has upgraded to his tour bus, also traveling across the globe, from Alaska to Australia. His eight albums have developed his trajectory. “I always felt like there

was something to say,” he explains. “I want to know about different kinds of animals, culture and food – find out the similarities. Beauty is in the smallest things – everything. I’ve taken some time to differentiate, a bee or a flower, watching a kid pick up a rock and throw it. Instead of someone wanting now, now, now.” Authentically connecting with his fans, he explains, “It’s not so topical. It’s more existential.” Releasing his next album, he hopes to share with fans his “monumental piece of work.” LaRue’s advice: “Anybody doing anything involving a gift would do as such: Treat it like a gift,” he says. “Be proactive about it. It’s as perennial as grass.” Above all, he concludes, “Strive to be happy.” Catch LaRue on his 2017 tour!

NOT MANY FOLKS know that Stoney LaRue’s roots began in the Coastal Bend, as he was born just a short trek from Corpus Christi, in Taft, Texas. With some family in the area, “I always feel this overwhelming sense of home there,” he describes of the sparkling view of the Gulf Coast waters. “It evokes an emotion.” Playing for Texas crowds, LaRue maintains a loyal fan base. “They will be the first ones to tell ya that if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else,” he laughs, amused. “Texas protects its culture. It’s their life-blood. I’m really quite blessed.” Singing at 3 years old, LaRue picked up the guitar and harmonica around 10 years old. “My dad was a base player,” he explains of early influences. Country music from the ‘70s and ‘80s inspired the musician. In his teens, LaRue searched I N S P I R E C O A S TA L B E N D M A G . C O M



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Inspire Coastal Bend Business September/October 2017