BRANDON — Taneesha Thomas grew up as a self-described "Southern girl" in Arkansas with debutantes, cotillions and charm schools a way of life.
With a father in the Air Force, she cherished spending time with family and often had special-occasion visits to her grandparents' home.
At those gatherings she would dress formally for dinner, and all the children would serve their parents. Once the host was seated, usually Grandma, everyone was allowed to commence the meal.
"It was a rite of passage," said Thomas, 33, of Brandon. "It literally was a big deal. Social graces are the norm. I enjoy being polite and using my manners."
Naturally, she wants to teach today's youth some of the forgotten concepts of good behavior.
She has launched Mind Your Manners Etiquette School, targeting 5- to 21-year-olds who she says "are just allowed to be abrupt" these days or don't have the social skills to seek and interview for jobs.
Thomas, a quality control auditor at a local bank and the mother of a 6-year-old daughter, Makenzie, hopes to one day make Mind Your Manners Etiquette School a full-time endeavor. In addition to hosting events, she will take her manners on the road, visiting with youth groups and children's organizations.
Thomas, a certified etiquette instructor from the Etiquette Imperative in Chicago, focuses on molding the character of juveniles in their crucial learning years. She wants to promote effective communication and help children learn to say "Pardon me" rather than interrupt an important conversation.
"It's not for the privileged; it's for everyone," she said. "It's called Mind Your Manners because you should be mindful of your actions."
The classes range from $52 to $75, depending on age. The three-part dining series is $180 and includes an experience at Ruth's Chris Steak House.
The first class of eight to 10 is scheduled for June 14 at 1219 Millennium Parkway, Suite 109, Brandon. There still is room to join.
Thomas will host an open house from 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 10. For reservations, visit mindyourmannersetiquette.com.
Shop is now Kim's Natural Pet Foods
Kim Albright couldn't believe the outpouring of community support she received after the Bloomingdale Pet Supply in Valrico, where she worked for six years, suddenly closed in March.
She decided to transform from employee to owner and reopen the business as Kim's Natural Pet Foods in April.
As she prepared the building at 3110 Lithia Pinecrest Road, customers she had come to know began helping her. One pressure-washed the front, and another remodeled the restroom. A third customer brought her a coffeemaker and a fourth crafted a curtain, complete with paw prints.
"I fell in love with the people and the products," said Albright, 52, of Valrico. "I couldn't imagine not having the store here. I got to know the pets and the kids."
Kim's Natural Pet Foods offers food and toys that are made in the United States. Albright says the dog and cat food contains no corn, wheat, soy, gluten or fillers and provides a healthier staple for pets, especially for those with special dietary needs.
The store also hosts low-cost vaccination clinics on the first Saturday of every month, when providers give pets annual shots, rabies shots and others at cost, without the cost of an office visit.
Albright said she wants to expand into smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For information, call (813) 684-3663.
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