North Valley Magazine June/July 2020

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JUNE 2020/JULY 2020 · $3.99



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Financial risk spectrum

Financial risk spectrum

When you’re a financial there is no “best” product. there are that When creating you’re creating a financialplan, plan, there is no one one “best” product. But there But are products thatproducts can be can be aa better order to meet helpyour meet your goals forwhether retirement, whether you’re experienced better fitfit in in order to help goals for retirement, you’re experienced or just getting or just getting started. started. index annuities (FIAs)are areinsurance insurance products that areare quickly becoming a household term as aterm new as a new FixedFixed index annuities (FIAs) products that quickly becoming a household generation of savers are drawn to growth potential and protection from market downturns. Take a look generation of savers are drawn to growth potential and protection from market downturns. Takeata look where FIAs fit with otherat products lightfitofwith risk. other products in light of risk. where in FIAs Stocks Mutual funds


Variable annuities

Principal/premium not protected; can lose value

Bonds Fixed index annuities

Principal/premium protected Fixed annuities

FIAs ensure your premium is protected from market downturns, which puts them below the line on the chart.

CDs Bank money market accounts Cash The above chart is meant to serve as a general guide of where FIAs may fall in the financial services spectrum of common products. It is not a guarantee of performance individually or performance correlation or safety of the above listed vehicles.

Agent Name

Number Contact us to discuss how adding Phone a fixed indexed annuity to your Ask your financial professional how adding Email Address financial plan to can stability in your overall portfolio. a fixed index annuity yourhelp financialcreate plan

can help create stability in your portfolio.

Address City, State ZIP 480-448-6270 contact us at

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URA Group AZ, 14300 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 122 Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Fixed index annuities are not a direct investment in the stock market. They are long term insurance products with guarantees backed by the issuing company. They provide the potential for interest Investment by the Delta Investment Management, LLC - A orRegistered Investment Advisory to be credited based in part on theAdvisory performanceServices of specific Provided indices, without risk of loss of premium due to market downturns fluctuation. Although fixed index annuities guarantee no loss of premium due to market downturns, deductions from your accumulation value for additional optional benefit riders could under certain scenarios exceed interest credited to the accumulation Fixed index value, annuities are not a directresult investment thepremium. stock market. They are not long term insurance products guarantees backed by the They provide the potential for interest be credited based in part on the performance which would in lossinof They may be appropriate for allwith clients. Interest credits toissuing a fixedcompany. index annuity will not mirror the actualtoperformance of the relevant index. The of specific indices, without the risk of loss of premium due to market downturns or fluctuation. Although fixed index annuities guarantee no loss of premium due to market downturns, deductions from your accumulation value for additional optional benefit riders could term financial professional is not intended to imply engagement in an advisory business in which compensation is not related to sales. Financial professionals that are insurance licensed will be paid under certain scenarios exceed interest credited to the accumulation value, which would result in loss of premium. They may not be appropriate for all clients. Interest credits to a fixed index annuity will not mirror the actual performance of the relevant index. a commission on the sale of an insurance product. The term financial professional is not intended to imply engagement in an advisory business in which compensation is not related to sales. Financial professionals that are insurance licensed will be paid a commission on the sale of an insurance product. 26272Y-P -Agent ID #

Des Moines, IA | Investment AdvisoryWest Services Provided Delta Investment Management, LLC – A Registered Investment Advisory

REV 2-20



8 27 25



Eyeing Success Kailee Morgue explores genres on ‘Bedroom’


Smart Decision


North Valley mom takes education into her own hands




7 Her Story

14 Gotta Have Heart

31 Made with Love

Local singer Janelle Loes shares her life through song

The Breyers thrive on helping their clients and community

Scottsdale is enamored with Agapi Pita grill

8 Legend Resurrected

17 Gaxiola Law Group

Keith Haring painting resurfaces after 34 years

Clients are ‘blown away’ by his work ethic

David Najor brings the flavors of Michigan to Scottsdale

9 ‘The Last Patrol’

Lerner and Rowe recreate philanthropic model during pandemic

Army veteran Travis Miller pens graphic novel about conflict

18 Paying it Forward

33 Detroit Proud

BETTER 36 A Glimpse into the Future

10 Class Act


Educator Janet Anderson says all teachers deserve award

29 Shredding Boring Design

12 Top Students

Toyota Avalon TRD serves up solid value and fun driving


30 The Storied Sisters of St. Joseph

Alexis and Mark Breyer photographed by Pablo Robles

Cactus Shadows names valedictorian and salutatorian

The nuns’ arrival in Tucson was a miracle 2


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Her Story Local singer Janelle Loes shares her life through song By Laura Latzko


or North Phoenix singer/songwriter Janelle Loes, the joy of music starts with crafting a song lyric by lyric and note by note. Singing to her audiences about her experiences and connecting with them on a more personal level drives her to keep writing and performing. She’s doing this through her latest effort, “Stranger,” which spawned the single, “Criminal.” “The new single is about trying to rise above criticism, judgment and stereotypes,” she says. “The album just covers a lot of topics about resilience and trying to discover yourself through tough times.” The collection took six years to write. “We took a lot of time with the recording,” Loes says. “It was fun, not having to be in a rush, but I’m excited to finally put it out. Each song has its own individual story.” Loes’ stories have earned her several awards. She won the 2010 Chicks with Picks female songwriter competition and the 2016 Tucson Folk Festival songwriting competition; was a finalist in Alice Cooper’s Proof is in the Pudding competition and was in the top 10 in the 2017 Rocky Mountain Music Festival’s songwriting competition. She was featured at the 2010 Anthem Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. When the world isn’t quarantining, Loes performs at venues throughout the Valley, including the Queen Creek Olive Mill, Garage-East, Fuego Bistro, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, the Desert Botanical Garden, Orpheum Theatre, Crescent Ballroom, Grapeables Wine Bar and Last Exit Live. The Flagstaff native who graduated from Horizon High School has built a following by playing in different spaces in front of varied crowds. She was interested in music from the time she was a child, starting with the piano and then guitar and violin in elementary school. She says the guitar has always been her favorite

instrument because of her passion for songwriting. “I love guitar because it is such a great vessel for songwriting,” Loes says. She comes from a musical family. Her two sisters, Jaspar Lepak and Gina Loes, are also musicians. Loes is self-taught, but she was inspired by and learned from her sisters. “It was amazing having sisters that played, too, and could help,” Loes says. Growing up, she listened to ’70s artists such as Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell, as well as contemporary artists such as Anna Nalick, Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple. Ani DiFranco and Rachael Yamagata inspired her to play guitar and write, respectively. “That kind of songwriting that’s really just super vulnerable, I love songwriters like that. It just made me want to write music,” Loes says. At age 12, Loes began playing open mics, followed by formal shows at 16. Loes thrives on playing jazz, pop and adult contemporary music. During live performances, she often plays a mixture of originals and covers by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Allen Stone, James Bay, The Beatles,The Outfield,The Beach Boys and Adele. “It’s fun to play songs that people recognize and surprise people by playing songs from different decades.There are so many great songwriters out there. It’s fun to play a little bit of everything,” Loes says. Through her own music, she is able to express herself in a more personal way. “I love getting to be vulnerable, and I think the special thing about songwriting is you get to say exactly what you want to say, even if you don’t get to say it in the moment. With songwriting, it’s really amazing to be able to share really personal experiences and then have somebody hear that song and connect it to their own life,” Loes says. Loes has always loved songwriting, but it is a

skill that she has honed over the years. “The more you write, the more you learn and develop your own craft,” Loes says. “For me, it’s a very therapeutic thing. I feel like I’m pretty introspective. As a person, I love to look back and analyze.” Her music has made an impact on listeners, including bringing a mother and daughter closer after a divorce. “You never know what your songs can mean to somebody else. It’s really special when you can write a song and share your personal experience, and that can take on a new life for somebody else and hopefully bring something positive,” Loes says. Over the years, writing songs has begun to take longer because she is more critical of her music. She often finds herself up late at night, writing in a fit of inspiration. She released her debut album “Here and Now” in 2011. Part of her prize from her Chicks with Picks win was recording a demo. She still plays songs from that album, such as “You,” but she views them in a different way now. “That’s always been fun to take songs I wrote almost a decade ago and be able to apply them to things that are going on right now,” Loes says. To learn more about the singer, go to Christina Fuoco-Karasinski contributed to this story. NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020



Legend Resurrected Keith Haring painting resurfaces after 34 years By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


eith Haring’s bright, graffiti-like art is well known around the world. But a local woman tossed a Haring painting aside, saying it wasn’t her taste, when it was given to her. She put it in storage and left it there for more than four decades. Recently, she emptied her storage unit and researched the artist who signed the orange, red and black painting. Now, EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale will auction the painting at noon Friday, June 19. “We’re excited to say the least,” says EJ’s owner Erik Hoyer, who lives with his wife, Naomi, in Cave Creek. “The consigner was friends with a gentleman who was gifted the painting in the 1980s from Keith Haring when he came to visit Phoenix. She didn’t care for it. After a while, she thought she would look up the artist. She didn’t realize it could be worth some money.” EJ’s will open for a public preview at 9 a.m. on auction day. A starting bid of $50,000 must be met for bidding to begin, and bidders are required to pre-register at “The auction will be online,” he says. “We’ll be live in our auction house as well— COVID-19 permitting. We’re going to see what happens. We’ll have all the social distancing in place to keep everybody safe and sound.” The image measures 35.75 inches by 25.5 inches and it is signed on the bottom right with a personalized note on the back of the canvas, along with a second signature. “He was a prolific artist,” Hoyer says. “He signed everything—skateboards, tennis shoes, shirts—early on. I watched a video of him on the subway sneaking around signing boards. I think there’s a video of him getting arrested for doing it. He was a pretty interesting guy.” EJ’s Auction & Appraisal retained the services of Bart Baggett, a renowned forensic 8


Erik Hoyer, owner of EJ’s Auction & Appraisal, holds a painting by Keith Haring that will be auctioned on Friday, June 19. (Photo courtesy EJ’s Auction & Appraisal)

Keith Haring signed his painting and gave it to a man named Chris when he visited Phoenix in 1986. (Photo courtesy EJ’s Auction & Appraisal)

document examiner and an experienced expert witness, to examine the handwriting. On March 25, Baggett provided EJ’s with his professional expert written opinion that the handwriting was Haring’s hand. “When it came in, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no way to authenticate it,’” Hoyer recalls. “The Keith Haring Foundation disbanded. They no longer could authenticate any of his work. “Being that it has such a nice writeup on the back of the painting, I decided to go with the foremost expert in forensic handwriting—Bart Baggett. He did his magic, went through it, compared it and his analysis came back it’s a Keith Haring.”

Bidders can inspect the opinion letter and the painting by contacting EJ’s Auction & Appraisal. Video and photos can be found on EJ’s website,, and EJ’s will schedule private viewings of the painting at its Glendale auction house through Thursday, June 18. Haring visited Phoenix for a week-long visit that included a drawing workshop at the Phoenix Art Museum, lectures and, most notably, a collaborative project with 60 South Mountain High School students that produced a bold, colorful 125-foot mural on an abandoned building in Downtown Phoenix. Haring’s charismatic life was cut short when he died of AIDS-related complications in 1990. He was 31 years old. EJ’s Auction & Appraisal has had Haring works before, but not a painting. “We’ve had some signed letters come through before, but nothing of this magnitude,” Hoyer says. “It’s definitely a rarity. It’s a neat, neat piece.” EJ’s Auction & Appraisal 5880 W. Bell Road, Glendale 623-878-2003,


‘The Last Patrol’

Travis Miller of North Phoenix is an award-winning writer and illustrator. This graphic novel, “The Last Patrol,” is due to hit shelves in the fall. (Photo courtesy Travis Miller)

Army veteran Travis Miller pens graphic novel about conflict By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


hen Travis Miller returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom, he felt he had a story that needed to be told. The result is the graphic novel “The Last Patrol,” which is slated to hit shelves in the fall. “The Last Patrol” tells the story of 18 American infantrymen who must survive an ambush while on a routine patrol near Ba’qubah, Iraq. “In a nutshell, it’s a story of an actual event I was part of in Iraq in 2006,” says Miller, a North Phoenix resident. “There were 18 soldiers who faced an ambush and had to survive on their own for quite a bit while reinforcements came. I lost track of time, but I think it was about 18 hours. It was one of the least pleasant experiences of my life.” He and his fellow soldiers weren’t special forces or “cool guy rangers. You know, the guys they make movies about,” he says. “We were just typical guys. A lot of us were really young. I was 24 at the time, but our platoon leader was 23 or 24. We were just regular guys trying to earn money for college or for our families. It wasn’t something we ever planned for. The way everyone worked together and persevered was a story that needed to be told.”

There’s one bit that’s missing from the story, though—Miller. “It’s not about me,” he says. “It’s about the team, the guys I was with. I wrote myself out of it. I wanted to tell their story, rather than my personal story.” Miller raised money for his book through IndieGoGo. His goal was $500. Backers—282 of them—raised $10,515. Miller, an ADDY and TELLY award, is joined in the project by artists Scott McDaniel (“Batman,” “Nightwing,” “Daredevil”), Derek Fisher (“Green Goblin”) and Rick Parker (“Beavis and Butt-Head,” “Spider-Man”). Miller has long been passionate about graphic novels and comic books. Growing up the son of a nuclear engineer, Miller moved frequently. Graphic novels and comic books eased his mind.

“Things would change all the time, but comic books wouldn’t,” he says. “I love G.I. Joe. That really inspired me as a kid. I think that’s what made me join the Army.” Miller spent 15 years in the Army, from ages 18 to 33. He originally signed on for three years in the Army, just after 9/11. “It was the best job I ever had,” Miller says. “I medically retired after brain surgery. There were certain things I couldn’t do that the Army requires, like wear a helmet because part of my skull is missing. I learned to write and draw comic books.” “The Last Patrol” isn’t Miller’s first graphic novel. He worked on a Department of Defense graphic novel honoring the 68th anniversary of the Korean War. “That was a really neat thing,” Miller says. “They faced budget cuts, so the guy who put it all together published it himself. I also spent time developing short comic books for movie production studios to pitch ideas in a visual format, as opposed to just having a script. I would put together an eight- to 10-page comic book so producers could pass it around and show off their ideas in a visual format. It worked out well.” NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020


FRESH • SCHOOLS Janet Anderson, left, celebrates her CCUSD Teacher of the Year win with Dr. Jana Miller, the district’s associate superintendent for teaching and learning. (Photo courtesy CCUSD)

Class Act Educator Janet Anderson says all teachers deserve award By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


CUSD Teacher of the Year 2020 Janet Anderson says all educators deserve her award in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There were no teachers who didn’t deserve that award this year,” says Anderson, an honor pre-ap and IB biology teacher at Cactus Shadows High School. “It should be shared with every teacher in this district. We’re all facing challenges and going into uncomfortable spots with this virtual platform we have to go through. I might have won the award, but every teacher earned it. It might have my name on it, but it belongs to everyone at the district. It was done out of absolute pure love.” Anderson was awarded $3,000 and will complete her application for the 2020 10


Janet Anderson says this school year has been difficult for all involved, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy CCUSD)

Arizona Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the Year program. Also recognized were honorees Kristi Frederiksen, first-grade Chinese immersion teacher at Horseshoe Trails Elementary School and Lisa Tibbits, second-grade Spanish immersion teacher at Desert Willow Elementary School. Frederiksen and Tibbits received $1,000.

The Gunderson family financially supported the program. Born in the Philippines, Anderson grew up an “Air Force brat,” with the family traveling around the world. Her father met her mother when she was 17 in Germany and were married for 60 years. “We moved every 18 months or so, mostly over in Europe,” she says. “When my dad retired, we moved to Arizona because my grandfather lived here. “My dad started working for the city of Phoenix police department and then my mom was hired for this brand-new field— evidence technician, processing crime scenes.” After graduating college, Anderson worked for Revlon as an analytical chemist and microbiologist. She then applied to work at her mother’s crime lab and their careers overlapped for about three years. “I worked the first shift,” she says. “For about two hours each day, our shifts overlapped a little bit.” Anderson was a forensic science for about 20 years, at the Phoenix crime lab, and in Ventura, California, and Rochester, New York. “I was always teaching for police departments on how to process crime scenes and the correct way of doing evidence,” the Glendale resident says. “I started teaching at the college level around 1994. Then I was starting to see there just weren’t any science teachers out there.” Noticing that deficit, Anderson returned to Arizona to teach at the college level. She teaches at Paradise Valley Community College at night, and during the day at Cactus Shadows High School, where she’s the science department chairwoman. “This is my way of giving back,” she says. “I was really lucky to have good teachers. “This year is especially hard. For me, I have seniors graduating this year who I had for three years. I feel their whole experience of high school was ruined. They missed out on prom and graduation. The kids who were really thriving at school have been struggling since we switched over to this virtual format. They were having motivation issues and trying to set up schedules. There’s very, very little we could do to keep them on track and happy. It’s been a rough year.”


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Top Students Cactus Shadows names valedictorian and salutatorian By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


actus Shadows High School named its valedictorian and salutatorian, as Billy Mullenmeister and Elizabet Cave, respectively, for the Class of 2020. Attending Cave Creek Unified School District since kindergarten, Mullenmeister went to Desert Willow Elementary and Sonoran Trails Middle schools. He’ll go on to ASU’s Barrett,The Honors College, to study biochemistry with the hopes of perhaps being an optometrist. “I don’t know what my career choice is, but one potential career option for me is an eye doctor or an optometrist,” he says. “In my first four years, I have to take general science classes and I wanted a strong foundation in biology and chemistry.” The key to becoming the valedictorian was putting forth a consistent effort throughout high school. “A big part of it, too, was not putting too much stress on myself,” says Mullenmeister, who ran track and cross country in school. “You’re not perfect. My freshman and sophomore year, I think I was too intense. I needed to scale it back, then school went more smoothly. You just have to remember, you’re a student. You’re not perfect. Mistakes happen.” Cave has been attending CCUSD since the fifth grade, having gone to Black Mountain Elementary and Sonoran Trails Middle schools. She’ll study biology and minor in business through ASU’s Barrett,The Honors College. “I really want to attend med school and become an anesthesiologist,” she says. “The majority of my life, I’ve been surrounded by people in the medical field and I’ve seen what medicine can do.” This fall, she’s planning on rushing sororities because they’re an “amazing way to get involved in what’s going on at ASU. I have a few friends who have gotten involved in it and they love it.They’ve met amazing people and made really good connections.” While in CCUSD schools, Cave played 12


Elizabet Cave and Billy Mullenmeister. (Photo courtesy Elizabet Cave)

Elizabet Cave is Cactus Shadows High School’s salutatorian. (Photo courtesy Elizabet Cave)

The top 3% of volleyball for nine years, the Class of 2020 as well as National Honor are Kendall Fender, Society and science club. Bryce Brown, Emma “In those nine years Petronella and playing volleyball, I learned Michelle Uddin. teamwork is important,” Top 5% of the Class Cave says. “You can’t get a of 2020 are Hailey hit without a set and you Steenhoek, Abigail can’t get a set without a Nosan, Veronica Boyle, pass. Volleyball is a team Drew Seiser, Trenton Billy Mullenmeister is headed to sport. You have to learn Dianovich, Georgina ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, after graduating as the valedictorian at to work with each other. Kartsonis, John Stevens Cactus Shadows High School. (Photo Once you work together, and Suman Zahir. courtesy Billy Mullenmeister) that’s where the real Top 10% of the Class magic happens.” of 2020 are Holly Beck, Cave’s key to success in CCUSD was to Tyler Fair, Russell Liberman, Annalysse not see her classes as a chore, but as a way of Bacon, Serena Sabbara, Brittany Whalen, expanding her scope of learning. Antonio Cartin Ferradino, Megan Schreiber, “I enjoy what I’m learning and get into Alison Tobin, Sydney Perry, Lucas Sample, it,” Cave says. “That’s really helped me over Romi Takamura, Hannah Dicksion, Karrine the years. I wasn’t part of the IB program, Arenz, Maximus Rigler, Emilie Leazier, but I took IB biology for two years. In that Gabriela Marchica, Kelsea Clays, Katelyn class, we did amazing experiences. I had the Mizera, Reece Toso, Jaclyn Kennedy and opportunities to dissect a sheep brain, a sheep Alexandra DePinto. heart and a sheep kidney.” “Congratulations to all of these student Rounding out the top 2% of the Class of exemplars of Falcon excellence,” said 2020 are Taylor Rotenberg, Ryan Hildebrand, Superintendent Dr. Debbi Burdick. “We are Colin McConnon, Olivia Cordes, Megan so proud of them and look forward to hearing Mathews, Lauren Jankowski and Jacob about their continued success in their future LaRue. endeavors.”

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Mark and Alexis Breyer founded the HEART Campaign to help ailing restaurants. (Photos by Pablo Robles)



Gotta Have

HEART The Breyers thrive on helping their clients and community By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

o Mark and Alexis Breyer, owning one of the Valley’s most successful personal injury law firms is not only about obtaining the best result for clients while delivering an exceptional experience: It is also about giving back to the community. Breyer Law Offices, also known as “The Husband and Wife Law Team,” stands by the community as well— through good and bad. During the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, “The Husband and Wife Law Team” hosted the HEART Campaign— helping excellent Arizona restaurants together. Acknowledging restaurant workers and owners were hit hard, the duo came together to raise up to $4,000 in one day for a local eatery. “The HEART Campaign drew in thousands of nominations for different restaurants,” Mark says. “We asked people to name some restaurants that were struggling because of COVID. We were flooded with nominations. We chose about three of them a week and paid for 50% of every takeout and delivery order from that day from anyone in the public. “We were able to work with the public and drive a huge amount of revenue to businesses that were struggling.” More than that, the Breyers helped people who can’t afford restaurant food to get takeout.

David Najor, of Detroit Coney Grill, one of the beneficiaries, applauds the Breyers for their efforts. “It was our busiest Monday we’ve had,” he says. “We more than doubled our business on a normal Monday. They covered up to $4,000 in sales. “What wonderful people to do something like this. They’re not just helping the restaurant; they’re helping the community. It’s a win-win situation. It’s unprecedented. They’re pumping money back into the economy. They really deserve a big shoutout.” Mark says the HEART campaign goes beyond making money. The funds can be funneled to the workers’ salaries and to cover rent. “We’re helping restaurants stay in business,” Mark says. “It was exciting and rewarding. We kept it going past the time of the shutdown, though, just to help make up for some lost revenue.” Throughout the pandemic, Breyer Law Offices also honored its peers through the Arizona BizGives awards. To achieve that goal, the firm promoted all winners with a day on approximately 65 billboards on Arizona highways, social media posts and, in some cases, radio and TV commercials. “It’s innate for us to want to help people,” Alexis says. “Mark comes from a family of teachers. My family members are entrepreneurs. It’s embedded in the soul of who we are. Obviously, we can’t help everybody, but we try our best.

“At first, with the HEART Campaign, Mark wanted to have everybody order takeout and we would deliver it. I told him that wasn’t possible. It was obvious when the pandemic hit, the restaurant and small-business industries were hit hard. We were really happy to see how much we were able to work with the community to help restaurants.”

Strong work ethic

A native of Southfield, Michigan, Mark was born with a strong Midwest work ethic. When he was 11, he delivered The Detroit News with his sister, and then moved on to a hometown Dairy Queen. He studied at Michigan State University and then Syracuse University College of Law School, where he met Alexis. “I left Michigan to study law at Syracuse with a clear goal to come back single,” he says with a laugh. Quickly, Alexis retorts, “He asked me why I was in law school. I said to get my MRS degree. He thought it was a joint degree program.” That said, Mark set her straight on the first date. “Every six hours for the first year, I said she would never be my girlfriend,” Mark recalls. “She said if I wasn’t going to be serious, she was going to move on. It went from ‘we’ll maybe never be together’ to ‘let’s be together forever.’” The weather brought the couple to Arizona, and they started their practice in 1996. Honesty and hard work are two things the Breyers believe in. They both have the passion NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020


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HERE FOR OUR COMMUNITY Financial assistance is provided to those in need by our Annual Community Support Campaign and the Kiwanis Club of Carefree.



to fight for their clients to provide the results the clients need. Mark is a “certified specialist” in injury and wrongful death law, a certificate of expertise granted by the State Bar of Arizona that has been earned by less than 1% of lawyers in the Grand Canyon State. Originally from the Boston area, Alexis attended Boston University. The couple embrace their clients like family. Their first client became their babysitter, and they still keep in touch with the family. “We’re invited to clients’ weddings, birthday parties, graduations and plays,” Alexis says. “Mark used to joke we’re getting more holiday gifts from our clients than our families.” That has continued. Alexis Breyer hails from Boston, where The Breyers are she attended Boston accessible, freely giving University. out their cellphone numbers. “Mark texts on providing the perfect the weekend,” Alexis insight into the Breyers’ says. “We are still very career. involved in all the “The kids all know we’re cases. We keep the case trying to help people,” load very low for our Mark says. “The courtroom staff to make sure we gives them a perspective provide really good into why we put in all those A suburban Detroit native, Mark Breyer is a “certified specialist” in injury and communication. Our hours.” wrongful death law. staff is amazing, and The Breyers hope the many have been with us public understands their for over a decade now. passion for achieving the best results and That says a lot. The couple has eight protecting those injured by a third party. children—four boys and four girls, ranging “We are out there on TV to help educate from age 9 to 23. people about personal injury laws and what the “Tonight I could be coaching kids, but public otherwise would not know,” Mark says. tomorrow I’m in a courtroom,” Mark says. “Our message is not about money, but “It’s been an interesting ride. Working rather about how good people who have together, I can work until 2 a.m. and Alexis been hurt by the fault of another party need gets it. She understands why. to have an understanding of their insurance Mark says with a laugh that he “ignores the coverage, legal deadlines and how to protect kids,” but truly, they are just as embedded in themselves. Injury laws are complex, and that their kids and careers. They volunteer in their is why we are always here to help. Not every classrooms, coach teams, etc. case necessitates hiring an injury lawyer, but “The kids have literally grown up in our we encourage everyone to call to get guidance office,” he says. “I think they understand we and always are here to answer questions have to help clients or talk to team members complimentary.” at night or on the weekends. “Sometimes it is very hard to balance. We The Husband and Wife Law Team has are passionate about work, and we have a lot multiple Valley locations serving all of of kids. We have done a pretty good job. It Arizona. For more information, call was definitely a lot harder the first 10 years in 602-267-1280 or visit practice. I had six kids under 7.” They even take their kids to the courtroom,


GAXIOLA LAW GROUP Clients are ‘blown away’ by his work ethic By Sherry Jackson


rom notorious motorcycle club members to adult filmmakers to defendants facing life in prison for murder charges, attorney Richard Gaxiola has the skillset, reputation and experience to achieve tremendous results and he works tirelessly for his clients. Gaxiola focuses his practice on major felony defense and believes everyone charged with a crime deserves to have aggressive representation. “It’s fundamental for those facing serious criminal charges to have an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer with significant trial experience under their belt,” he says. “So often, I take over cases from other lawyers who have handled the cases ineffectively due to their lack of criminal trial experience or legal knowledge required to represent the client successfully.” Gaxiola has been practicing law and helping his clients for nearly 20 years. After graduating in 2000 from the University of Arizona College of Law, Gaxiola worked as a public defender for 22 months handling felony trials for the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office. After that, he spent the next 10 years litigating personal injury cases and continued trying felony criminal cases with a small boutique firm in Phoenix. “I decided to go into law to level the playing field,” he says. “I saw so many discrepancies in the criminal justice system and wanted to make a difference.” In 2009, Gaxiola decided criminal defense was his passion. “I want to help those that I can with the best, aggressive legal representation.” Underneath his suit and tie, Gaxiola is decked out with two full-sleeve arm tattoos. He may not be the typical conservative lawyer for some, but Gaxiola has made a name for himself by taking on the grittiest of defendants and their related crimes. He also doesn’t shy away from complex and high-profile cases. He’s sought out not just by clients, but by news organizations such as the NewYork Times for legal commentary. As such, Gaxiola has built quite a reputation for himself. He’s never advertised

on buses, television or paid billboards. Instead he relies on referrals from other lawyers and word of mouth from prior clients. He defended very notable people charged with white collar crimes. He has also represented several members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, handling about 20 different cases for the organization in Arizona since 2005. Gaxiola served as the attorney for Hells Angels member Mike Koepke, who was involved in an infamous 2010 shootout with a rival motorcycle club, the Vagos, in Chino Valley (north of Prescott). Koepke was facing decades-long prison sentences. After a two-year court battle with theYavapai County Attorney’s Office involving numerous motions and hearings, Gaxiola was finally able to get the charges completely dismissed. According to client Jean Greening, Gaxiola handled a serious criminal case for a family member and the result was even better than expected. “I am in the legal field and had a watchful eye on the case, but Rich exceeded all expectations,” she says. “He took the time to really research the details of the case, interviewing witnesses, working with experts, and combing through mounds of evidence. I was blown away by how much work he put into our case.” Even with the media attention, Gaxiola is very much down-to-earth and says he is an “open book.” While there’s never a “typical” day as an attorney, most days, Gaxiola, who is single, gets up at 5 a.m. every day to take his dogs for a run. After that, it’s morning court and he then heads into the office for the day. In his off time, Gaxiola enjoys international travel, hiking, running and hanging out with friends and family. As a one-man practice, Gaxiola will take on any type of criminal case, whether it’s a violent felony, armed robbery, drug-related, homicide or white-collar crime as long he believes his work contribution can benefit the client. “It’s really where I can help, not necessarily the nature of the charges. If I review the file and don’t think I can offer

any benefit—such as the evidence is overwhelmingly against the client—I’ll turn it down. I won’t take advantage of the client. Each case I accept, I take on the basis that we’re going to do the work in the best interest of the client.” Gaxiola likes being a small, specialized firm and doesn’t have any plans to grow into a volume-based practice. Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Gaxiola remained working on his cases, inclusive of murder, aggravated assault—dangerous and other violent cases. He continued to update his clients, in person at the jails, who had the misfortune of remaining in custody during this crisis. In fact, he was even retained on a few new cases across Arizona. Recently, he managed to secure a compete dismissal on the aggravated assault—dangerous case and resolved a felony case inYavapai County, a case he took over from another firm, with a very favorable outcome. “I want to provide quality representation,” he says. “I don’t want to have to rely on a specific volume of cases to pay salaries and benefits.” Gaxiola Law Group One Renaissance Tower 2 N. Central Avenue, Suite 1800, Phoenix 602-717-0631,




Paying It

FORWARD Lerner and Rowe recreate philanthropic model during pandemic By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


erner and Rowe Injury Attorneys is a full-service injury law firm that has represented tens of thousands of clients and recovered well over a billion dollars. The firm has proudly provided compassionate and aggressive legal representation to Arizonans with personal injury and accident claims since 2005. The dedication and success to serve is reflected by the $112 million recovered just in Arizona out of the over $200 million in total nationwide settlements and verdicts recovered on behalf of those injured last year alone. Lerner and Rowe offers free consultations and does not charge out-ofpocket fees or costs until a person wins compensation for their personal injury case. Plus, the firm can assist the injured to find immediate medical care from a provider that is willing to wait for payment if they don’t want to pay a copay or deductible, or don’t have health insurance. Furthermore, Lerner and Rowe continues to find and create new opportunities to reach and assist those in need. One way the Phoenix-based law firm does this is by opening additional office locations across Maricopa County. Lerner and Rowe’s newest Chandler office just opened, bringing its total Valley offices up to eight—and 11 statewide. Another way the firm assists members of the community is through charitable acts. In 2019 alone, Lerner and Rowe’s efforts combined with its



foundation, Lerner and Rowe Gives Back, proudly gave back over $1 million to those communities the law firm served. Since its 501(c) (3) nonprofit foundation’s largest annual fundraiser, the Lerner and Rowe Gives Back Golf Classic, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the law firm created a Pay it Forward campaign. The premise behind the social campaign was to spread light and love during the quarantine. People were given the opportunity to nominate someone in their lives who could use a helping hand. More than $4,000 a week was given away to help those in need throughout the social outreach campaign. To wrap it up, Lerner and Rowe’s team is dedicated to looking after the overall well-being of neighboring communities inside and out of the legal arena. Learn more about Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys and its philanthropic contributions online at and The law firm also invites social interaction through its Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Kevin Rowe and his partner, Glen Lerner, have assisted tens of thousands of people in their time of grievous need. (Photo courtesy Lerner and Rowe)








LAWYERS When you find yourself in need of a lawyer, knowing where to turn when times get tough is challenging. You want to make sure your money is spent wisely and that you get the legal outcome you deserve. With that in mind, here are some of the top local attorneys for your consideration. Compiled with the help of third-party attorney rating systems, these lawyers specialize in categories ranging from criminal defense, personal injury, estate planning, family law and more.






Gammage & Burnham 40 N. Central Avenue, 20th Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85004


Understanding that good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations, Aaron defends individuals charged with all criminal offenses, vehicular crimes and DUI cases across Arizona. Unlike many large firms that want as many cases as possible, he represents a limited number of clients at any given time. This allows him to provide the personalized service that you expected from a DUI attorney.



World-class counsel. Arizona roots.

Law Office of Aaron Black PLLC 4702 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85018


Criminal defense trial attorneys at Gaxiola Law Group offer every client unyielding loyalty, aggressive representation, nearly 20 years of solid trial experience and a tradition of preparing a thorough, compelling and skillful criminal defense trial strategy for each case.



Gaxiola Law Group 2 N. Central Avenue, Suite 1800, Phoenix, AZ 85004


Michael is a former major crimes prosecutor at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. His practice is solely focused on criminal and DUI defense. He is committed to aggressively defending those who have been accused of committing a crime. Read the reviews online and call for a consultation.






602-682-5270 20


Munoz Law Offices PC 180 S. Ash Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

At Suzuki Law Offices, we are passionate about delivering bold and compassionate legal assistance to clients during the entirety of their case. With decades of combined experience helping residents throughout Arizona from our offices in Phoenix and Tempe, our attorneys understand that each case is different. We take an individualized approach to creating strategic solutions that solve their unique problems. Whether you or someone you love has been injured in a serious car accident, or you are facing criminal allegations, we are ready to fight for you. Contact our firm 24/7 to get started on your case.

Suzuki Law Offices 2929 E. Camelback Road, Suite 224, Phoenix, AZ 85016


Understanding that good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations, Aaron defends individuals charged with all criminal offenses, vehicular crimes and DUI cases across Arizona. Unlike many large firms that want as many cases as possible, he represents a limited number of clients at any given time. This allows him to provide the personalized service that you expected from a DUI attorney.



Law Office of Aaron Black PLLC 4702 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85018




Law Offices of Brian D. Sloan 2 N. Central Avenue, Floor 18, Suite 1929, Phoenix, AZ 85004




HOPE E. FRUCHTMAN 480-209-1918


Technical expertise with a human touch. Providing services in estate planning, business planning, tax planning, and probate.

Ilene L. McCauley Ltd. 9777 N. 91st Street, Suite C-103, Scottsdale, AZ 85258



Attorney Brian Sloan is solely focused on DUI Defense Representation. He is a multi-award-winning lawyer, who has been defending Driving Under the Influence cases for more than 15 years. He has defended more than 3,200 people charged with a DUI offense, and argued at more than 100 trials, with numerous successful results. Sloan created an innovative system called Bifurcated Representation, which ensures clients pay a reasonable flat fee for only the services they need, and not for the services they don’t. Sloan is also a founding member of The Arizona DUI Team.

Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman 14301 N. 87th Street, Suite 211, Scottsdale, AZ 85260

REBECCA L. OWEN 602-264-3309

Hope E. Fruchtman uses her 20-plus years of legal experience to help Arizona families with all of their family law and juvenile law needs.

Rebecca L. Owen has focused only on family law since 1998 and her clients’ satisfaction is always her top priority.

Rebecca L. Owen PLLC 301 E. Bethany Home Road, Suite A-200, Phoenix, AZ 85012






Sheldon & Stoutner 11111 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 245, Scottsdale, AZ 85254







PERSONAL INJURY 602-267-1280



Family law cases are often emotionally and legally complex. Tracey Van Wickler is an experienced family law trial attorney, who also recognizes the psychological importance and financial benefits of settlement. Her boutique law practice is designed to meet her client’s legal needs in a professional manner that exceeds all expectations. Whether through negotiations, private mediation or in the courtroom, her specialized legal expertise and strategized approach to litigation planning will help her clients to achieve their goals.

Van Wickler Law 7377 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Suite 185, Scottsdale, AZ 85258



Nicole provides competent and compassionate legal guidance and representation which gives her clients the peace of mind they deserve as they navigate their family law matter.

Advisers and resources for your real-world legal questions.

Greenberg Traurig 2375 E. Camelback Road, Suite 700, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Bringing a unique combination of legal results and emphasis on providing the highest client service for those who have suffered life-altering injuries. Recognized as one of Arizona’s Top 25 Lawyers by The National Women’s Trial Lawyers Association.

Breyer Law Offices P.C. 3840 E. Ray Road, Phoenix, AZ 85044




Serious injury trial lawyer serving Arizona since 1996. Focused on helping those who have suffered personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence. Injury “Certified Specialist” distinction - earned by less than 1% of Arizona lawyers.

Breyer Law Offices P.C. 3840 E. Ray Road, Phoenix, AZ 85044



BRIAN C. DAULT 602-777-7000


Burg Simpson 2390 E. Camelback Road, Suite 403, Phoenix, AZ 85016

PAUL D. FRIEDMAN 602-777-7000


Brian Dault focuses his practice on personal injury and medical malpractice. Mr. Dault is a member of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association and the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100, a professional organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from across the country who exemplify superior qualifications as civil plaintiff trial lawyers.

KEVIN ROWE 602-977-1900

Paul Friedman is the managing shareholder of Burg Simpson’s Arizona office in Phoenix. His practice includes personal injury, wrongful death, ethics, and professional malpractice. Mr. Friedman is rated AV Preeminent (the highest rating) by Martindale – Hubbell and ranked “Superb” by AVVO. He has also been recognized by Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers and is Board Certified by the State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization in the area of Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation.

Burg Simpson 2390 E. Camelback Road, Suite 403, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Hurt in a wreck? Need a check? Lerner and Rowe has years of experience and knowledge and aggressively fights for their clients to get them all of the money they deserve! Injured people, who are looking for a law firm with proven results that also offers the highest level of attention and the best client service available, can make one call, that’s all to Lerner and Rowe, 24/7, for a free consultation.

Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys 2701 E. Camelback Road, Suite 140, Phoenix, AZ 85016






Burg Simpson 2390 E. Camelback Road, Suite 403, Phoenix, AZ 85016




“Ty” Taber is an Arizona and California licensed attorney who focuses his full-time practice in the areas of personal injury, wrongful death, medical and professional malpractice, and general civil litigation. Mr. Taber is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell and has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and Arizona’s Finest Lawyers. Mr. Taber is also a certified specialist in personal injury and wrongful death litigation by the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization.

Tenacious, caring, award-winning. The Team at Fielding Law, APC are problem solvers and fighters. They have represented thousands of wronged and injured clients throughout multiple states, primarily in Arizona and California. Contact them 24/7 for a free consultation. Raised in Mesa, Founding Principal Clark H. Fielding is a proud graduate of Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The Watermark 410 N. Scottsdale Road, Floor 10, Tempe, AZ 85281 480-542-5454, 1-833-88-SHARK, 1-833-887-4275

The Boardwalk 18575 Jamboree Road, Suite 600, Irvine, CA 92612 949-288-5484

Family matters can be legally complex. We provide advice for the best strategy for you.

Our experience allows us to provide you with the highest quality representation. Our family law practice is comprehensive in nature and includes but is not limited to the following: Divorce Private Mediation Child Custody/Support Parenting Time

Modifications Collaboration Relocations Spousal Maintenance


Pre-Nuptial Agreements Pre-Divorce Consulting Temporary/Emergency Orders Negotiations

Gainey Ranch Financial Center • 7377 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Ste. 185 • Scottsdale, Arizona 85258



Tracey Van Wickler Attorney at Law


Kailee Morgue explores genres on ‘Bedroom’

Success K

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Goldwater High School graduate Kailee Morgue is quarantining in California with her boyfriend, Ricky Anthony. (Photo courtesy Kailee Morgue)

ailee Morgue found the COVID-19 quarantine difficult. In late April, however, she released new music, something she had been hiding away—the EP “Here in Your Bedroom” featuring the single “Knew You.” “I know there isn’t much to look forward to these days,” says Morgue, who grew up in North Phoenix. “I was looking forward to a couple of shows and I know they’re going to get canceled. Concerts probably aren’t even going to come back for, like, another year. So, it’s going to be a weird adjustment. But I’m looking forward to hearing what fans say about the new music.” The collection is a study in genres for Goldwater High School graduate who’s signed to Republic Records. “I was just diving into different genres and seeing what I could really do as an artist and testing myself,” Morgue says. “I wasn’t even sure if this stuff was going to come out. I just wanted to try. I was listening to a lot of stuff that is popular, like Charlie XCX and thinking about how I could take what I was already doing but make it a little more modern.” Her diverse inspirations are rooted in her parents’ taste. Her father enjoys punk and alternative music, while her mom is a little more mellow. “I was really inspired by Sublime and the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” she says. “I know early Sublime stuff is actually really punk. Then we go into Gang of Four and Black Flag and even modern pop-punk stuff like Neck Deep. “Then my mom had me listening to a bunch of random people like the Dixie Chicks. With all of that, I can pull from a lot of different places.” The EP’s name, “Here in Your NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020


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Bedroom,” is an ode to her father’s taste in music. It’s a reference



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to the Goldfinger song of the same name. She’s embracing her diversity and her love life on the new EP. “Knew You” is also a sign that she’s embracing her love life, which pairs her with musician Ricky Anthony, who performs under Ricky Himself. Initially, she admits, she didn’t want to indulge in love songs. But when the relationship came into focus, she needed to. She needed that honesty. “I’ve finally allowed myself to start writing love songs and about relationships,” Morgue says. “I never indulged in this style before. I’d just gotten into a relationship where I was constantly writing about love and that dynamic. I was super playful, but honest. I’m being really open.” The pop genre is weeping with break-up songs. Morgue didn’t find it difficult to steer away from that. “The negative emotions are always going to be easier to write about and it has its uses like a coping mechanism and people can relate to that, too, rather than something where like songs are too happy,” Morgue says. “Writing is a huge part of coping and just communicating something that feels hard to talk about. So, I think talking about happier things is great because you want to live in them more. Before I was mainly writing about the fear of love and heartbreak and those negative emotions feel easier to convey over something like that.” Anthony and Morgue are quarantining in Santa Clarita, California. “I actually just moved back to California the week that the quarantine started,” she says. “I’m living back over here. I just got a new apartment and I’m kind of still in the process of furnishing it and getting all the décor. It’s been a really interesting process because that’s not really a priority when you can’t even get groceries and stuff that often.” Morgue had the option to live in LA, but she wanted a separation between work and home. “I knew I would be doing music sessions in Central LA,” she adds. “I wanted to drive 20 minutes out of LA to get to a quieter area. It feels like Phoenix, to be honest—just the energy. It’s slower paced and quiet.” The quarantine has spawned yet another new single. “Scream,” by Anthony and Morgue, is a sure-fire hit ballad. “He’s been making music for like five, six years now,” she said. “It’s one of the first songs we did together, like when we were just friends still. It’s been really cool watching the process happen.” Morgue, 21, says it’s nice to be with someone who understands her occupation and her dreams. “At first, I was worried about dating a serious musician because I thought maybe it would be too much music,” she says. “I thought it was going to be too much because our job would be so present in our relationship. “It’s really nice because I think there are just some people who just don’t understand that super close connection you can have with music. I’ve definitely dated people who just didn’t get it. It’s really nice to have somebody who puts more of themselves in music than I do.” Kailee Morgue

Sharmi Albrechtsen created Smart Buddies, an education line, and its sister product, SmartGurlz, for consumers. SmartGurlz appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and these award-winning products have been recommended by the Girl Scouts of America and BlackGirlsCode. (Photo by Pablo Robles)

Smart Decision North Valley mom takes education into her own hands By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


harmi Albrechtsen was determined to help her daughter, Nina, conquer math. She tried Mindstorms LEGO, but Nina felt it was boring and complicated. Everything else Albrechtsen found was masculine, which, she says, sent the message to girls that robots and coding weren’t for them. So, the North Scottsdale mom did what anyone would do—she invented her own robots. Smart Buddies are a diverse set of characters on selfbalancing, programmable scooters that kids (girls and boys) can code to zoom, spin, race and dance. Connected via smartphone or tablet, Smart Buddies allows children ages 6 and older to immerse themselves in science, technology, engineering and

Sharmi Albrechtsen pitched her idea for SmartGurlz on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2017. (Photo courtesy Sharmi Albrechtsen)

math (STEM). Smart Buddies is an education line while its sister product, SmartGurlz, is for consumers. SmartGurlz appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and these award-winning products have been recommended by the Girl Scouts of America and BlackGirlsCode. “I saw my own problem with my own daughter,” Albrechtsen says. “There needed to be a girls’ robot on the market. You can also play with technology. We have a full coding program on the app that controls the robot. They can learn to code from the app. “My daughter wasn’t alone. By age 13, 65% of girls lean away from STEM. This is a big problem. My husband’s an engineer. NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020


I was talking to him about it and he said I should make my own product. We put our heads together and we created SmartGurlz and Smart Buddies.” For a limited time, Smart Buddies is offering its robot and free weekly classes for $99 to help ease financial strains during the crisis. “What’s unique about our product line is often time when you’re coding or doing

math, you see applied math—what it’s being used for,” Albrechtsen says. “It’s not only theoretical. It shows how distances, measurements and shapes being used in today’s world. “It’s similar to ‘American Girl.’ All of our characters use coding or computer apps and software and devices to solve problems. It’s really important that kids use these skills and learn how they apply

We are here to help you find the home that Matches We are here to help you find home that Matches “YOUR the LIFESTYLE”


Sandi Hess

Scottsdale Carefree Office 33765 N Scottsdale Rd, Suite A-101 Scottsdale, AZ 85266 Sandi Hess 602-295-9422 Scottsdale Carefree Office 33765 N Scottsdale Rd, Suite A-101 Scottsdale, AZ 85266 602-295-9422



to daily life.” In light of COVID-19, Albrechtsen started the Smart Buddies “Camp in a Box,” which was based on its school program to provide kids ages 6 to 11 a fun way to learn how to code at home. The program includes a Smart Buddies product, two weeks of online camp led by Albrechtsen and Leslie Fagin, a mom of a 7-year-old and a certified Google and Apple educator. “I love the fact that we have a virtual camp,” says Albrechtsen, who appeared on “Shark Tank” with her robots. “Any parent can sign up their children for the camp, although we’re getting full. “Every day, the counselors, through Zoom, meet with campers from all over the country. Kids can make friends with people from another state. If parents allow, the kids can have pen pals. Kids need this from a social perspective.” The camps are held in the morning and afternoon. In the morning, the counselor will offer the learning objectives for the day and show different things the kids can do with coding and the robot. The afternoon is for break-out and brainstorming sessions. Her daughter is much older now, but she appreciates what her mom did for her. “During Christmas, when they were in retail stores, she would show people the product, demo them and teach them how to code,” Albrechtsen says. “She was so proud.” Smart Buddies

WHEELS • HOME The 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD is worth a look—and a spot in the garage. (Photo by Greg Rubenstein)


Boring Design


mong the field of sporty sedans, Toyota’s Avalon isn’t one that typically comes first to mind—and more likely, it doesn’t even register a blip on enthusiasts’ fun-to-drive meter, much less garner meaningful garage-occupying consideration.There are, after all, numerous sedans that offer performance on par with (or even exceeding) purpose-build sports cars. After shouldering the weight of its 25-year

Toyota Avalon TRD serves up solid value and fun driving By Greg Rubenstein

heritage as a staid, nondescript full-size four-door people hauler, the 2020 Avalon TRD (Toyota Racing Development) edition sheds (and shreds) decades of boring design, plodding performance and hyper-isolated driving dynamics. Now five generations beyond its introduction as a 1995 model, the Avalon today is built on a platform shared with its up-market Lexus ES cousin, and boasts a wheelbase 2 inches longer than the previous iteration, while overall width is increased by nearly an inch and ride height is dropped 1 inch. In TRD trim, the Avalon is athletic and aesthetically appealing, sporting an aggressive fascia with a gaping maw piano-black grille framed by dramatic vertical airflow slats. Sharp hood creases; sculpted door handles, which blend into belt-high character lines; plus TRD-exclusive body-kit enhancements, including a front splitter, side aero skirts, trunk lid spoiler and rear diffuser, complete the exterior design—this is definitely not your grandparent’s Avalon. Driver and passengers will appreciate the Avalon’s upgraded interior, which features soft-touch plastics, genuine wood and brushed aluminum trim. Seating surfaces are a mix of leather and perforated Ultrasuede, with contrast stitching and TRD logo-emblazoned

headrests.The interior sports a 9-inch multifunction touchscreen infotainment system, along with a 14-speaker, 1,200-watt, 7.1-channel surround sound stereo featuring a 12-channel amp, four 1-inch freestanding JBL horn tweeters, a 10-inch dual-voice coil subwoofer, 6-inch wide-dispersion rear-door speakers, 8-by-9-inch wide-dispersion frontdoor woofers, five 3-inch wide-dispersion midrange speakers, plus inner-door sealing for more bass punch. Dynamically, the 3,638-pound Avalon TRD is equipped with a 3.5-liter, 301-horsepower V6 engine mated to an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that has sequential-shift mode, as well as steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A four-level drive mode selection— with eco, normal, sport/sport+ and custom— allows the pilot to tune vehicle response, including aural augmentations coming from exhaust baffles, an intake sound generator, as well as active noise control and engine sound enhancement. Standard safety features include Toyota’s Safety Sense suite (TSS-P), offering passive and active systems designed to avoid and minimize collision danger.TSS-P is comprised of a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams. Additional safety features include blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent clearance sonar with rear cross-traffic braking, backup camera, a bird’s-eye-view camera with perimeter scan, 10 airbags, enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, anti-lock braking system and smart-stop technology. The Avalon with V6 engine is available in five trims—XLE, XSE,TRD, Limited and Touring—while the Avalon Hybrid comes in three variants: XLE, XSE and Limited. Pricing for the V6 starts at $36,870, while the hybrid has a base of $37,995. As tested, the Avalon TRD came in at $46,147. EPA fuel economy ratings for the V6 Avalon are 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg in combined driving.The hybrid version is rated at 43 mpg city, highway and combined. The Avalon TRD has come a long way and now offers an impressive blend of style, luxury and even performance. For people needing a full-size sedan, this Toyota serves up solid value and fun driving dynamics. It is definitely worth a look and might just even earn a spot in your garage. NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020



The Storied Sisters of St. Joseph The nuns’ arrival in Tucson was a miracle By Marshall Trimble


n the years following the Mexican War, the French Diocese in St. Louis replaced the Mexican in New Mexico and John Baptiste Lamy was named bishop. In the spring of 1870, seven Catholic Sisters of Carondelet from St. Louis arrived in Tucson following a long and perilous journey. They had traveled by train from St. Louis to San Francisco, and then took a steamer to San Diego. Before them lay some 400 miles of hot, dry, desolate desert to Tucson through lands occupied by hostile Indian tribes. One described it as “the abomination of desolation.” These intrepid women had come to the Old Pueblo to open a school and health care facility. The fact they arrived safely was



The Catholic Sisters of Carondelet opened several schools in Tucson, Yuma, Florence, Prescott and on the Pima Indian Reservation. (Submitted photo)

something of a miracle in itself. The group included sisters Ambrosia Arnichaud, Hyacinth Blane, Emerentia Bounefoy, Monica Corrigan, Maximus Croisat, Martha Peters and Euphrasia Suchet. Sister Monica kept a journal of their ordeal describing days of blistering heat and cold nights. It was some 200 miles from San Diego to Fort Yuma on the Colorado River. On the way, they stopped at a ranch to eat their first hot meal in several days and in the room were several men and no other women. The men warned them of the dangerous trip ahead. Sister Monica wrote, “Some of them proposed marriage to us saying we would do better by accepting their offer than by going to Tucson, for we would all be massacred by the Indians. The simplicity and earnestness with which they spoke put indignation out of the question, as it was evident they meant no insult, but our good…For that afternoon we had amusement enough.” The sisters traveled by buckboard from San Diego to the Colorado River at Fort Yuma. Then took a raft on a precarious trip across the river to Yuma. Traveling up the Gila Trail, Apache warriors had been active in the area, so soldiers from Fort Lowell in Tucson met them at Picacho 40 miles north

Some of them proposed marriage to us saying we would do better by accepting their offer than by going to Tucson, for we would all be massacred by the Indians. The simplicity and earnestness with which they spoke put indignation out of the question, as it was evident they meant no insult, but our good…For that afternoon we had amusement enough. of town and escorted them on the final two days of their journey. The Sisters of Carondelet didn’t waste any time opening the St. Joseph’s Convent and Academy for Females. “We had scarcely time to brush the dust off our habits before opening school,” wrote Sister Monica. Over the next few years, the sisters opened schools at Mission San Xavier del Bac, the Sacred Heart School in Yuma, St. Theresa’s School in Florence and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Prescott. In 1901, they opened the St. John’s Vocational School on the Pima Indian Reservation.


Made with


Ashur and Nikki Zai co-founded Agapi Pita Mediterranean Grill in the Scottsdale Airpark. (Photo by Pablo Robles)

Scottsdale is enamored with Agapi Pita grill By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


shur Zai’s dream was to open a restaurant. So, when he married his wife, Nikki, in May 2018, the two embarked on a culinary journey with The chicken shawarma ($10.50) comes with marinated dark and white chicken, Agapi Pita Mediterranean served with rice, pita bread, tomatoes, Grill in Scottsdale. onions and Tzatziki sauce. Steak can be added for $3.50. (Photo by Pablo Robles) “We love this kind of food and we hope others do as well,” Nikki says. “Ashur always wants to add more to gyros. The chicken shawarma the menu. I have to tell him to slow ($10.50) comes with marinated dark down. He has so many recipes. He and white chicken, served with rice, does it out of love. He loves to cook.” pita bread, tomatoes, onions and The salmon Greek salad is a healthy “Love” is the operative word here, as Tzatziki sauce. Steak can be added alternative. (Photo by Pablo Robles) “agapi” is Greek for “love.” for $3.50. “When you do it from love, The steak plate is marinated beef, everything turns out good,” she says. “I broiled on a vertical skewer, thinly sliced and served think it’s the energy. Every day we’re getting return customers.” with rice, pita bread, tomatoes, onions and Tzatziki sauce for The Glendale couple have won over the Scottsdale Airpark $10.75. Chicken can be added for $3.50. businesses with their steak and chicken shawarma and their Gyros, pork, salmon, steak and hummus, and chicken and NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020


TASTE • DINE hummus plates are available, too, for $10.50 to $12.75. Nikki hails from Chicago, while Ashur, who is Syrian, moved here from Sweden. Nikki’s Windy City influence comes through via pizza puffs ($7 for two). The pastries are filled with pork sausage, mozzarella and pizza sauce. Ashur puts a Mexican spin on hummus by adding cilantro and jalapeno ($5.25, includes two pitas). The hummus is house-blended chickpeas, tahini olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon juice. Traditional hummus is available, too, as is baba ghanouj (eggplant). Lentil soup ($3.50), dolmas ($5.50), vegetarian platter ($10.25) and falafel and hummus ($9.75) round out the appetizers. Salads—Greek, Mediterranean and Caesar—are available with or without protein. Unsure about Mediterranean food? There are chicken tenders, fish and chips and hamburgers on the menu, too. Ashur makes everything from scratch with natural ingredients without MSG or chemicals. He keeps a keen eye on what

The steak and chicken plate is one of the most popular dishes at Agapi Pita Mediterranean Grill. (Photo by Pablo Robles)



The cozy confines of Agapi Pita Mediterranean Grill are part of its charm.

(Photo by Pablo Robles)

customers order and what they toss because, perhaps, they didn’t care for the dish. “I try to find what’s going on,” he says. “I’m very observant with customers.” Food has a heavy hand in both of their lives. Ashur’s family cooked together, while Nikki’s brother owns restaurants around the Valley, including Olive Mediterranean in Phoenix and Pita Heaven in Chandler. He helped the couple start Agapi Pita Mediterranean Grill. “He helped us with the back-end stuff,” says Nikki, whose father cooked in private residences in his home country of Iraq. “All the recipes are my husband’s, though.” The Scottsdale Airpark location was perfect for them, as Nikki’s sister has a salon in the same shopping center. The location is a former hot dog restaurant. Agapi Pita Mediterranean Grill has proven the couple can be successful, but there’s another benefit. “It helps with his English,” Nikki says with a smile. “He speaks pretty good for only moving here in 2016.” Ashur adds, “When I moved here, it was very hard for me. I wanted to find a good wife and family. It’s hard to move to

The vegetarian platter ($10.25) comes with two pitas. (Photo by Pablo Robles)

a new country and start with zero. I was very, very upset with my life when I moved here—then I met Nikki.” The Zais help each other accomplish their dreams. “His dream was to open a restaurant, and when we moved in, we couldn’t believe it was ours,” Nikki says. “It was so surreal. I wanted him to just pinch me. He was very excited, and for both of us it’s been a new adventure.” Agapi Pita Mediterranean Grill 13802 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 130, Scottsdale 480-626-9224,,


Detroit Proud David Najor brings the flavors of Michigan to Scottsdale

David Najor says his faith in God assures he’ll be successful— and he has with Detroit Coney Grill, which recently opened in Scottsdale. (Photo by Pablo Robles)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


hen David Najor moved to Arizona, he brought the feelings, the work ethic and the love he has for Michigan. His new Detroit Coney Grill restaurant in Scottsdale is peppered with Great Lakes State freeway signs and photos of famous

Detroit Coney Grill recently opened in North Scottsdale with a cadre of Michigan products. (Photo by Pablo Robles)

Michiganders, but more importantly there’s the food. The Detroit native lines his shelves with Sanders hot fudge, Better Made chips, Sanders trail mix and Vernors and Faygo pop—not soda here—everything Michiganders have

come to love. Coneys are the top dog here, with chili, mustard and onions piled high. “I noticed the Coneys out here were garbage and a lot of the restaurants out here were not mom-and-pop establishments,” Najor says in between guests’ hugs. “It was all chain after chain after chain. Everyone thought I was going to fail because it’s a new business, new state, new industry, but I just kept it simple.” Najor and his family are in the grocery store business, but by keeping it simple, he has found success with food. “I just treat people the way I would want to be treated,” Najor says. “I offer good food at a fair price. I have God on my side, so I can’t lose—ever.” The extensive menu includes a Detroit Coney ($4.85); the Detroit loose burger ($5.45), seasoned ground beef with chili, mustard and onions; and a “plain” Coney dog NORTHVALLEYMAGAZINE.COM JUNE 2020 | JULY 2020


TASTE • DINE Detroit Coney Grill has Michigan products like Better Made Chips.

Detroit Coney Grill boasts an outdoor patio. (Photo by Pablo Robles)

(Photo by Pablo Robles)

($4.45) with mustard, ketchup, relish, onions and kraut. There are other odes to Michigan, such as the Big Mack “Inaw”—named after the village—that includes four hamburger patties, cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions,Thousand Island dressing on a tri-level bun ($7.95). Boneless Red Wings ($5.95) are boneless tenderloins with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Occasionally he carries Sanders “bumpy cake,” and Superman ice cream, two standards in Michigan. The menu wraps with pitas, salads, appetizers like pretzel bites and buffalo cauliflower, burger sliders and pub sliders. In Scottsdale, he serves breakfast of skillets/ omelets, breakfast burritos and sides like pancakes and turkey sausage. The chili is proprietary, but, Najor says, he starts with National Coney Island chili, and adds his own beef and spices. He’s won awards from the Food Network and Travel Channel. “Travel Channel thinks our burgers are the ninth best in the country,” Najor says. “I beg to differ. We grind our own beef.The hot dogs are all made by hand. We use the same dogs as Tiger Stadium and Lafayette Coney Island.” The new location at Hayden and Indian Bend roads is ideal,

Najor says. He recently added a covered patio, which will be perfect Michigan is represented throughout Detroit Coney for the Spring Training crowds. Grill. (Photo by Pablo Robles) More than 60,000 cars a day pass by the free-standing building, according to Najor. “I fell in love with the corner,” he says. “I fell in love with the traffic and the fact that I had a freestanding building.The fact that I was able to build a patio in Arizona is a plus because everyone eats outside.” The Scottsdale restaurant is the prototype Most of his memorabilia is donated, but he’s for Najor’s restaurants moving forward. He’ll careful about what he accepts. Michiganders have beer, wine and liquor like his new store. love his restaurant, he says. “Customers really appreciate a great burger “I love a lot of Detroiters coming here,” with a good beer,” says Najor, who attended Najor says. “There are more at this location Wayne State University. than the other two locations combined. It used He’s been asked to introduce Detroit-style to be maybe 5% to 7% of my customer base was pizza, but he’s friends with Jet’s Pizza’s owner. in Michigan. Here, it’s double at least. He knows, however, he still has the recipe for “Most of them live out this way or they’re success. willing to come to this location. I love it when “I say this and I mean this: I’ll never lose Detroit customers come in here.They’re the because I have God on my side,” Najor says. ones who are going to post about it on social “What that means is I’m not scared.The fear is media, ‘Hey, you got to go try gone because when you know he’s behind you, Superman ice cream.’” you do the right thing. You bust your tail, you He has a deal with Faygo work hard, you treat your people with respect to have the pop shipped to no matter who it is. You follow God’s ways and his store. you’ll be successful.” “I get mine direct because I’m in the supermarket Detroit Coney Grill business,” Najor says. “I also 6953 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale know the CEO of Faygo very 480-597-4300 well. I call him all the time. I 930 W. Broadway Road,Tempe was trying to get Rock and Rye 80-219-7430 Detroit Coney Grill (a flavor of Faygo) pop slushies 16 W. Adams Street, Phoenix owner David Najor, out here, but I had to buy a 602-253-0292 left, has a laugh with certain machine. I just wasn’t customer Tim Schraser. (Photo by Pablo Robles) really willing to invest in it yet.”



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A Glimpse into the

Future Set your sights on healthy eyes By Dr. Dharmendra (Dave) R. Patel


f the five senses, most people consider sight to be the most precious. But some vision changes are unavoidable as we grow older—even for perfectly healthy people without other medical issues. Many of us first notice vision changes in our 40s.The eye’s lenses harden over time, and as we approach middle age it often becomes difficult to focus on close objects or read fine print. This condition, called presbyopia, is easily corrected with reading eyeglasses or a stronger prescription lens.Today, many surgery options are available as well, including Lasik. Cataracts are also common as we grow older. Affecting many people in their 60s and 70s, cataracts occur as the lenses become cloudy and stiff, blurring both near and distant vision. Left untreated, cataracts can make it difficult to see and navigate our surroundings, causing people to slip and fall and significantly increasing the chances of car accidents. Fortunately, cataract surgery has advanced remarkably.Today, it’s one of the most commonly performed medical procedures worldwide, posing minimal risk. Surgeons can even replace cloudy lenses with advanced technology multifocal implants to restore patients’ youthful vision. 36


In their 70s and 80s, people face a greater risk of macular degeneration. This serious condition is a breakdown of the macula or retina and the light-sensing nerves that line the back of the eyes. Unfortunately, there is no viable treatment. As the disease progresses, patients gradually lose their vision. In the United States, macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness. There is a genetic link associated with macular degeneration and a higher risk among people with light skin. Unlike macular degeneration, glaucoma disproportionately affects people of color. Glaucoma results when the optic nerve is damaged from high pressure inside the eye. As the optic nerve deteriorates, it creates blind spots, which can lead to irreversible vision loss. But with early diagnosis and treatment— such as eye drops, medication or surgery— vision loss can be prevented. A little eye care and good overall habits can help preserve your vision and eye health.To help keep your eyes healthy: • Eat foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids • Don’t smoke—or quit

• • • • •

Wear wraparound sunglasses with UV-A and UV-B protection Maintain a healthy weight Wear safety glasses when working in the wind or hazardous conditions Use eye drops for dry eyes caused by hot, dry weather or computer use Have your vision screened at age 40—and every few years after that.

Some eye conditions are true medical emergencies. Don’t hesitate to see your physician if you feel sudden or severe eye pain, scratch your eye or experience lingering, unexplained redness. Seeing flashes of light or floaters in your vision are also causes for concern.These visual disturbances can be signs of a retinal tear or detached retina and call for immediate medical attention. Take good care of your eyes today so you can see well into the future! Dr. Dharmendra (Dave) R. Patel is an ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic, Phoenix. In practice for over 15 years, he specializes in the surgical and medical management of glaucoma, cataract surgery, corneal transplants and dry eye treatment.


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See your independent Trane Dealer for complete program eligibility, dates, details and restrictions. Special financing offers OR discounts up to $2,000 valid on Qualifying Equipment only. Offers vary by equipment. All sales must be to homeowners in the United States. Void where prohibited. **The Wells Fargo Home Projects credit card is issued by Wells Fargo Bank N.A., an Equal Housing Lender. Special terms apply to qualifying purchases charged with approved credit. The special terms APR will continue to apply until all qualifying purchases are paid in full. The monthly payment for this purchase will be the amount that will pay for the purchase in full in equal payments during the promotional (special terms) period. The APR for Purchases will apply to certain fees such as a late payment fee or if you use the card for other transactions. For new accounts, the APR for Purchases is 28.99%. If you are charged interest in any billing cycle, the minimum interest charge will be $1.00. This information is accurate as of 3/15/2020 and is subject to change. For current information, call us at 1-800-431-5921. Offer expires 5/15/2020. Pertaining to manufacturer’s consumer discount portion only: *Rebate paid in the form of a Trane Visa Prepaid® card. Use your Visa Prepaid card anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted in the United States and U.S. Territories. The card may not be used at any merchant, including internet and mail or telephone order merchants, outside of the United States and U.S. Territories. Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Pay close attention to the expiration date printed on the front of the card. Card is valid through the last day of the month. You will not have access to the funds after expiration.