September 2023 Articles

The Unsung Heroes of Wildlife Rehabilitation

Story by: Marshall Shive

Wildlife rehabilitation is something that’s losing public interest with the ever-expanding industrialization of America. Even in Jacksonville an increasing number of natural habitats are driving animals out of the forests and into more urbanized areas, causing injuries from cars, trappers and waste left behind from the construction sites.  

So, what happens after someone calls animal removal to escort wildlife out of their backyard? That’s where the Wildlife Rescue Coalition of Northeast Florida comes in. Many times, agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission bring injured animals that aren’t too critically injured to non-profits such as this one.

Here, Director of Operations Lisa Rowell and her team of volunteers rehabilitate all kinds of native Florida wildlife. This includes deer, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, foxes, turtles, snakes and more.  

“The Northeast Florida wildlife Rescue was founded in 2003… the reason for starting it was seeing how much the public needed a place to take injured animals in Jacksonville,” said Rowell. 

According to WFSU State News, 15% of Florida is already developed and, if the trends keep moving in the direction they’re going, they could jump to 18% in the next 17 years. That’s an additional million acres of natural habitat lost. The direction Florida is going with mass amounts of people moving in from other states the demand for more housing and infrastructure will be high. This will lead to more animals being forced into densely populated areas.  

Many of the animals on the campus of the wildlife rescue were sick from eating things toxic to them due to human pollution, hit by cars or injured from being captured in snare traps. As this becomes a more normal issue with the loss of their natural habitat, Jacksonville will need wildlife rescues like the Wildlife Rescue Conservation Coalition more than ever.  

The wildlife rescue can use all the help they can get as the need for them continues to rise. Necessities such as supplies for caging, food for the animals, and financial support are all welcome. For more information, visit their website here

Candy Canes: A Quick Rundown

Story by: Katrino Reyes

The candy cane is one of the most popular candies of all time, especially during the Christmas season. But how did it come about and how was it done over the years? Here is a quick rundown of the classic peppermint delight. 

Candy canes are believed to be dated all the way back to 1670 when a German choirmaster gave out bent sugar sticks to his choir singers to keep them quiet and well-behaved, according to  

Another fun fact about the candy cane is that it used to be just plain white, with the candy believed to first appear in the U.S. around 1847. The classic red and white stripes were theorized to be used as a secret code by German and English Christians in the 17th century.  

Another legend suggests that the cane was actually shaped into a “J” shape representing Jesus, with the white stripe representing his purity through birth and the red stripe representing his blood on the cross, according to Time Magazine. With these theories and legends at hand, it’s no wonder why candy canes are associated with Christmas.  

“It keeps the holiday season alive,” said Demetric Nathan, candy maker and kitchen manager for Sweet Pete’s Candy in Jacksonville. “To me, peppermint kind of perks you up and makes you feel happy.” 

In most cases, candy canes are made with the help of automated machines, but hand made candy canes still haven’t gone out of style. Sweet Pete’s Candy holds candy cane-making classes in November and December with Nathan as one of the instructors. The class showcases how to make the candy cane by hand, from putting up the recipe together to rolling, cutting, and shaping.  

“To see people come out and respect the old-school-fashioned way of making candy, it’s rewarding for me,” Nathan said.  

Although the origins of the candy cane are still disputed, it is certain that it is a part of the modern Christmas norm.  

MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation impacts the youth of Jacksonville

Story by: Mauricia Brown 

Growing up, thinking about your future aspirations, and achieving success is constantly on your mind. The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation is an after-school program that helps make your thoughts about achieving your goals become reachable and true. At an early age they help prepare you for the real world. The program is all about serving hope and changing the lives of the youth in Jacksonville, Florida.  

The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation (MWYF) is a non-profit organization in Jacksonville, Florida. The after-school program was founded by the former professional tennis player MaliVai Washington in 1996. The foundation focuses on providing educational and character development and life skills and experiences they will never forget.  

The foundation’s primary mission is to serve hope and change young people in Jacksonville’s lives through educational and life skills programs. It aims to instill values such as discipline, integrity, and hard work. The foundation’s programs often use tennis as a vehicle to teach these life skills. 

MWYF is big on tennis, the sport as a means to engage and teach youth valuable life skills. They provide tennis and opportunities for young people to participate in the sport. The competitive team plays team tennis matches, USTA tournaments and take trips to see professional and college matches.  

In addition to tennis programs, the foundation offers educational support to help students succeed academically. This may include tutoring, mentoring, and other resources to support their educational development. MWYF places a significant focus on development, aiming to build qualities such as leadership, responsibility and resilience in the youth they serve. The program gives the kids mentors and sponsors so they can have more positive people to look up to.  

The foundation is actively involved in the Jacksonville community, collaborating with schools, local organizations and volunteers to expand its reach and impact. 

The cost of weddings in Jacksonville: What does social media have to do with it?

Story by: Kara Scarbrough

Over the past decade, weddings around the country have evolved into a much bigger deal than they used to be. From the largest pieces of the wedding such as the venue, to smaller details such as table decorations, prices are being increased.

“Costs have gone up on food, alcohol and venues,” said Tara Lee, owner of LoveLee Events Jax. “There is a major hardship on finding labor to produce all of these things in Jacksonville.”

Owner of Dairing Events and wedding planner Adair Currie pins the average price of weddings in Jacksonville between $30,000 and $45,000. On a larger scale, the average wedding in Florida last year was $30,000, which is $2,000 more than the average wedding in 2021, according to The Knot’s Annual Real Weddings Study.

From the perspective of a traveling bridal hair and makeup artist, Haley Hiss has seen an increase in what her clients spend.

“I think the world of weddings has grown,” said Hiss. “I attribute that to Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, all of that good stuff.”

The introduction of social media to the industry has had a huge role in what newly engaged couples are exposed to. This adds pressure to spend more to get that perfect day.

“On social media, you see these amazing, beautiful weddings and it’s just not achievable sometimes,” said Emily Santora, a teacher who was married in June of 2022. “Sometimes social media made me feel a little bit sad about my options.”

Bride-to-be Abigail Richard has had similar experiences with her planning process, but does credit social media platforms such as TikTok for helping her find inspiration for her big day.

Both of these brides started out their planning process with a set budget, but soon abandoned them. Richard listed details, such as bridesmaid gifts, as little things she did not expect to be so expensive. Santora always aimed for cheaper options while planning her wedding, but splurged on what was most important to her, such as her florist.

Something both of these brides agree on is the importance of photography to their wedding day. Photography was the first thing Richard booked, while Santora regrets not putting more thought into specific photos she wanted on the day. Carli McGowan, photographer and owner of CRM Photography, believes photography to be integral to couples in her experience.

“You can look at a picture of your first kiss or your first dance,” said McGowan. “And it will evoke a lot of emotion and bring back a lot of memories.”

McGowan also sees couples value photography to utilize on their social media pages.

“People want their Instagram to look really good,” said McGowan. “They’re not going to have their photography not look great on their Instagram.”

Whether or not social media plays so much of a role in a couple’s decision making, at the end of the day, weddings revolve around people.

“Depending on who you have around you,” said Santora. “It can really make or break your wedding date.”

3D Digital’s effect on Jacksonville

Story by: Ian Cork

In the heart of Bay Meadows, there’s a hidden gem called 3D Digital, a marketing and advertising agency that has been making waves in our local business community since its inception in 2001. Their mission? To ignite growth for businesses of all shapes and sizes, but it’s the small businesses they’ve profoundly impacted that truly stand out.

3D Digital’s story began with a visionary named Alan Worley. Alan Worley is the founder and CEO, whose dream was to make a significant difference in our community. He wanted to bring local savings to readers and help local businesses flourish.

As I walked through their office, I was greeted by two dynamic individuals, Julie and her partner, Kevin. They’ve been working side by side for nearly a year, and their energy together was electric.

Listening to their stories, I discovered that 3D Digital often receives referrals from another advertising powerhouse in town, their sister company Money Pages. Money Pages is all about print advertising – magazines, direct mail, and more. On the other hand, 3D Digital specializes in the digital realm. With an in-house studio and a thriving video production company, they help businesses navigate the ever-evolving world of online marketing.

What sets 3D Digital apart is their dedication to guiding smaller businesses. Many of their clients are mom-and-pop shops, where the owners double as operators. These passionate entrepreneurs may lack experience in the digital marketing arena, but 3D Digital steps in to bridge that gap. They help these businesses thrive, generating increased revenue and measurable results.

One heartwarming company they work for is Dreams Come True, a charity that grants wishes to children in the hospital. These kids needed exposure and donors, and 3D Digital was there to help as much as they could. The agency worked closely with the charity, spreading their message far and wide within the community. The impact was tremendous, as the charity was able to reach more children and truly, make dreams come true.

As I wrapped up my visit to 3D Digital, I felt inspired. Their journey, from humble beginnings in 2001 to becoming a support for local businesses and charitable causes, is nothing short of remarkable.

3D Digital, with its tireless team led by Alan Worley, continues to shape the local business landscape. They prove that when passion meets purpose, and marketing is wielded as a force for good, dreams can indeed come true. Jacksonville shines a little brighter with 3D Digital in its midst, a testament to the power of community, collaboration, and a commitment to making the world a better place, one business at a time.

Natural Desires Soap Company: Skincare Starts with a Good Bar of Soap

Story by: Mallory Pace

Taking care of our skin means more than wearing sunscreen and moisturizer — it starts in the shower, and for Nicole Boshell, it means using recognizable ingredients that can be pronounced. Boshell is the sole founder of Natural Desires Soap Company, a local business that hand makes a variety of skincare products specifically curated for different desires.

At her last job, Boshell needed to research and gather ingredients to make bars of soap and bath bombs to teach to a kid’s club. Just a few Google searches led her to an Internet deep dive as she uncovered the long, unnatural lists of ingredients that went into these products, many of which she couldn’t bring to a group of children.

The gears started turning and she wondered if these unusual ingredients used in “natural” products were causing her itchy, eczema-like skin rashes that frequently occurred after a shower. Going further down the rabbit hole, Boshell realized she could make her own batches of soap with just a few ingredients right inside her home. One batch turned into two and two turned into selling bars of soap to friends and family, who immediately saw changes in their skin.

“I ended up making an oatmeal, milk and honey soap that served my skin very, very well,” Boshell said. “I did know that I was passionate about creating something that was healthy for myself, and it grew into a need that everybody else needed more than I thought.”

With the help and support of her husband and family, Boshell launched her online business and the orders started flowing. That was seven years ago, and by March 2022, Natural Desires Soap Company opened its doors at the Avenues Mall.

Boshell crowned herself as “messy soap maker” when she first began her business and discovered she made a much bigger mess than her fellow soap makers. But she embraces that mess and continues to make products in-store. Outside of selling soap, body oils, bath bombs, salt scrubs and more, the store offers soap-making classes each month that are perfect for date nights and group outings.

Boshell and her employees are dedicated to providing their customers with high-quality products and transparency about what’s inside them.

“We don’t just throw something together,” she said. “We always think about it, it always has an intention, and we always listen to what people need.”

Natural Desires was recognized as the winner of the 2023 Best of Bold Cities Specialty Shop Award, which was voted on by the community. Boshell said the feedback, love and support from her customers is what helps her keep going, even when it got stressful. In the beginning, Boshell spent most of her days at home making soap and managing her business. As a social and outgoing person, being alone all day, every day, started to get to her. But she knew it wouldn’t always be that way, which kept her motivated to keep going.

“It got sad at points… but I knew in my heart and soul that this was not always going to be this way,” Boshell said. “I knew one day I would have too many employees and too many customers to deal with, so I just held onto that.”

It might seem like a simple, mundane product, but one good bar of soap can do much more than what meets the eye, of course it helps that each bar is so beautifully designed it makes you want to eat it.

What type of cue stick should you buy?

Story by: Katrino Reyes

Having the best equipment is key when it comes to having the best playing experience with billiards. More specifically, a player’s cue stick is one of the main sources of the pool player’s shooting prowess.

Nowadays, there are different cue sticks to choose from and players can choose them depending on their playing style or their budget. Here are some things to consider while purchasing a cue stick.

Shaft Type:

Every cue stick comes with the shaft, which is the slimmer part of the stick with the tip part that players use to hit the cue ball.

Shafts have differences in durability. Wooden shafts tend to warp or bend over time especially when stored in a car or a high-temperature area. Carbon fiber shafts are considered the most durable as they are less susceptible to damage, and they do not warp when stored in a car.

From a more advanced standpoint, cue shafts can also be classified through their level of cue-ball deflection. Deflection occurs when the cue ball moves away from its intended path due to sidespin.

Standard wooden shafts have the highest deflection, therefore adding sidespin on the cue ball requires more effort in adjusting aim. Low-deflection wooden shafts and carbon fiber shafts have the lowest deflection, therefore there’s much less effort needed when trying to compensate for sidespin while aiming.


Weight is another thing to consider while buying any type of cue. The recommended weight for playing cues is between 17 to 19 ounces while breaking cues is recommended at around 20 ounces or higher.

Some players just opt for a heavier cue to shoot better finesse shots and add more spin action on the cue ball while some opt for lighter ones to reduce arm strain. 

According to pool player Thomas Doughman, cue stick weight depends on the shooter’s preference, more specifically on how they stroke the cue ball.

“Some people like more of a pendulum motion so they buy something that’s a little bit heavier because they rely on the weight to carry their stroke,” Doughman said. “


Cue sticks come in different prices from affordable ones to premium, expensive ones. In stores like the Billiard Factory in Jacksonville, their cue prices range from around $100 to around $2,000. 

To have the best possible experience, the finest cues that the store has to offer are the best possible choice. Sticks that are cheap or mid-range are recommended for those who are starting to play, but it would not hurt to buy a premium-priced one either.

“You can start at the lower end until you feel comfortable that you’re going to stick with it and play and devote some time to it,” said Gary Newman, sales representative for the Billiard Factory.

Every pool player has a playing cue that resonates with their playing style and identity, which is why purchasing one should be done meticulously. Playing pool can be much more enjoyable if players play at their best, and what better way to accompany that than having equipment they’re comfortable using?

Parlor Doughnuts: Doughnuts on a Roll in Jax 

Story by: Theresa Hardman

Coffee and doughnut shop Parlor Doughnuts first began in Evansville, Indiana in 2019 as a WW1 themed location to indulge in their signature delicious, layered donuts. The company made the decision to expand their brand and made their way down to Jacksonville, and with the help of local owner Israel (Izzy) Guibas introduced the 904 to their product and found how to fit parlors into the local community. 

With the Jacksonville area not only being the largest U.S city land wise, but it is also a city heavily occupied with pre-existing large chains, so breaking in as an out-of-town small chain is no easy feat in such a busy but established area. The creators and owners of Parlor know that they have a good and interesting product that they wanted to share with Jacksonville residents, and through hard work they have established themself perfectly in the area, to the extent of extending their span in the city. This would take dedication to grow loyalty to the brand from scratch. 

Jacksonville currently has 4 Parlor Locations, with a 5th on the way, being the city with the most locations that the company has expanded to thus far. Guibas first got involved with the company after owning his own coffee business in the Evansville area, and when the opportunity to expand Parlor came about, Izzy decided to take charge as the owner of the Jacksonville based locations. 

“You have a lot of people with different social and economic backgrounds, so I think it’s a perfect fit for us,” Guibas said. “As we’re expanding into more locations, one of the fun things is people from the North side or West side of Jacksonville, or even St.Augustine where we have a lot of tourists. We feel like we have a product and a brand everybody can be attracted to. We think we have great product in our doughnuts.”

Guibas is aided in his running of the north Florida locations by his wife, two daughters and son, taking great pride in keeping that close-knit, hands-on ownership to keep each location connected with its neighborhood. In breaking a new company into a city, you need to build community, and this ownership style keeps a deep sense of connection and camaraderie in each store. 

“The whole premise of Parlor is it’s a gathering place, in the old days its where people came into a home to discuss the news of the day to or socialize with friends and family,” explained Guibas “It’s really easy as you expand to lose touch of that community, but the way I feel we stay true to that is through our ownership has ownership has maintained that contact with each location. We want to make sure we stay in contact with each location, to keep up with the day to day.”

 In combining their delicious recipes, dynamic parlor theme, and a hands-on ownership philosophy Guibas and the Parlor brand have solidified themselves a space in the Jacksonville food scene. With a 5th location opening soon in Golf World, and multiple others in surrounding Florida cities, the Parlor brand is able to look upon their 904 locations as a blueprint for local growth and connection. 

Regulation Changes & Fish Farms; How Local Fish Markets Stay Relevant 

Story by: Marshall Shive

Seafood lovers and seafood restaurants across Jacksonville rely on commercial fishing to supply them with the highest quality and freshest fish, but how are the small family-owned businesses fighting against the big competition in the River City? The Trout River Fish Co. is family owned and operated. Located across the street from the Trout River fishing pier on N Main St. the small mom and pop shop has consistently brought in business for the past six decades.  

David Cowart, a lifelong employee at the Trout River Fish Co. explained the origins of the shop and its role it has played in the Jacksonville fishing community.  

“Trout River Fish Company was started around 60 years ago by a man named Mr. Marvin, and it’s been like a pillar to the community ever since. Everybody comes here to get fresh seafood. Fresh crabs, fish, and shrimp, we also provide fresh bait and tackle. Plus, it provides our family with jobs.” Said Cowart.  

Cowart was very clear about what sets them apart from the rest of the seafood markets in Jacksonville. Highlighting the services, they offer that are unique to their shop. 

“Here we provide a lot of things. We provide rods, reels, life jackets, knowledge of local fishing spots, educating people on how to tie knots, and we’ll even spool your reel for you. We like to create memories families won’t forget.” Stated Cowart.  

Not only did Cowart talk about the good of running a family-owned fish market, but he also got into detail about the future of the ever-arising hardships of running a locally owned business for all fish markets alike.  

“It’s hard to predict the future of this mom-and-pop shop. There was covid and the lockdown regulations that was hard on us. Then once that ended size regulations on certain fish got stricter. Specifically, flounder, bag limit regulations and size regulations have recently changed.”  

Cowart also acknowledged the wildlife conservation side of the regulations and how they’re necessary for sustainable fishing. He also weighed out the cons of the constant regulation changes. 

“I understand there has to be regulations to prevent overfishing and keep our business alive, but the regulation changes put a big strain on all fish markets because it’s hard to get fish out to the customers when regulations are constantly changing.” Explained Cowart.  

One final hardship of the seafood market business is the expansion of farmed raised fish. Not only the expansion but the people’s reliance on it, as of recent more people have gravitated towards farm raised fish for a more organic dining experience as opposed to the fish market fish which are often brought in that morning already deceased. Although kept fresh on ice throughout the transportation process.  

These small changes might have minor impacts as we see it now but if these trends keep going in this direction the fresh fish supplier market could get a lot more competitive.  

Fig and Willow:  Go-To Boutique for Affordable Style in Jacksonville 

Story by: Alexa Villegas

Boutiques are always fascinating stores to visit, it tends to feel a lot more personal than the regular shopping experience. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to a hidden gem that has been winning hearts in the Jacksonville area: Fig and Willow. Founded by Katy Werhner in 2016, this local boutique has become a sensation with its two locations in San Marco and Neptune Beach. 

What sets this boutique apart is its commitment to providing affordable clothing options that cater to women of all ages, ensuring that every customer feels beautiful. 

Grace Mashie, the Community Director at Fig and Willow, shares, “Katy started Fig and Willow with the aim of offering affordable clothes that make women feel truly beautiful. We believe in making our clothing accessible without compromising on quality, so every woman who wears our pieces feels special and understood.” 

Fig and Willow is a women-owned business with an all-female staff that was designed to understand women’s needs and desires. They believe in creating a unique and empowering experience for every woman that walks through their doors. 

With a wide range of brands in their inventory, Fig and Willow showcases both big labels and local talent. Emily Lingard, Assistant Buyer at Fig and Willow, explains, “We curate our collection with both well-known and local brands. We have our staple brands that our customers love, and we also collaborate with local jewelry businesses and small vendors, hosting events and pop-ups to support the local community.” 

Fig and Willow believes in the power of women supporting women. Their commitment to empowering local vendors and celebrating the Jacksonville community is evident through their collaborations and events. They embrace the belief that success is attainable when women come together and envision their future. 

Fig and Willow is a store that not only sells beautiful clothes but also empowers women and supports local businesses. Located in San Marco and Neptune Beach, this boutique aims to make your shopping experience enjoyable and meaningful. So, the next time you’re in Jacksonville, be sure to visit Fig and Willow, where you’ll find affordable fashion that makes you feel loved and beautiful.