09/03/15 Human Interest
NEW PORT RICHEY
Eric Stewart walked out of the sun and into the shade on a path between vegetable patches.
He had dirt on his shirt and sweat in his eyes. But his work as part-time manager of West Pasco Habitat for Humanity's Kinship Urban Farm is worth getting dirty for.
"This used to be a parking lot," Stewart, 30, said of the half-acre farm. "Now we're growing thousands of pounds of food."...
Mark Barry, executive director of the Arc Nature Coast in Hernando County, had discussed a merger with the Center for Independence in Pasco multiple times.
Both organizations are chapters of the Arc of the United States, which provides services for adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc Nature Coast serves more than 200 people; the Center for Independence serves about 30....
LAND O'LAKES — Many mornings, Jessica Warren stands beside the basket beneath a hot air balloon that will rise with the sun.
From inside the basket, "the sunrise is spectacular," Warren said.
The first time she saw one from a balloon is why she and her husband turned what started as a hobby into a business: American Balloons.
After their wedding in 1996, Warren, 37, and husband Tom, 39, moved to a house in Town 'N Country, where the woman across the street was a hot air balloonist....
LAND O'LAKES — With a carving knife and a commercial kitchen spoon, Steve Stallone perfects his craft, which probably could be the highlight of almost any party: a watermelon keg.
Stallone and his wife, Chelsea, both 27, co-own a business called Wikid Watermelon.
Stallone started his culinary career at a couple of chain restaurants, Red Lobster and Cody's Original Roadhouse, in 2003, when he lived in Spring Hill. He later worked at Salishan, a retirement community in Hernando County, where colleagues noticed his knack for decorating buffets with fruit....
NEW PORT RICHEY — Where fast food usually reigns, fresh food has taken root: inside a Pasco County gas station.
It's "handcrafted barbecue," to be exact, said Dave Weisser, 52, who owns Dave's Pit and Pig.
The restaurant, which has four tables and 14 chairs inside a Mobil station on Little Road, is the result of a passion that Weisser shares with his wife, Cheri, who manages the restaurant....
TRINITY — When Clara Vanderhoof moved from Olympia, Wash., to Florida, she immediately had a question for Floridians.
"Where are all the coffee shops?"
Vanderhoof, 50, came from a coffee culture an hour south of Seattle, where coffeehouses are social hubs.
"Not like the greasy spoon restaurant, not grab your coffee and go," she said. At an authentic coffeehouse, where "people create community."...
TRINITY — John McGregor bought a beer kit in college, which marked the start of a hobby — brewing beer.
Creating ale became a passion he shared with his brother-in-law, Matt Thompson, 39. So, brewing equipment eventually crowded McGregor's three-car garage.
"I couldn't get one car in there," McGregor, 41, said.
He had a choice: Store the equipment elsewhere or use it to start a business. McGregor, who worked in software sales at the time, chose the latter....
NEW PORT RICHEY — While Eric Mullins' mom worked as a lifeguard when he was a kid, she couldn't afford the cost of music instruction for him. So she struck a deal with a pianist.
The woman provided "piano lessons for my mom's kid, and my mom gave her kids swimming lessons," said Mullins, 37, now a music teacher at Genesis Preparatory School and co-owner of a music school called Mullins Music....
LUTZ — For a while, Moses Medina didn't like having his picture taken.
"You could see my shiny scalp," he said.
Medina, 52, who now co-owns Vive Naturals, had alopecia, a kind of hair loss that resulted in a couple of bald spots.
So, 22 years ago, a friend suggested Medina use what his friend's grandmother used to undo her hair loss: allium — garlic and onion.
He minced the garlic and onion in his kitchen, mixed them with warm water and applied the mixture to his scalp, almost daily. A few months later, hair showed up where there hadn't been any....
ZEPHYRHILLS — When artist Fran Byers house-sat for a Zephyrhills couple last year, she used a vacant room in the home as a studio. There, she painted.
The space, in which the homeowner once ran a health and wellness business, was "a bright venue with a lot of Zen" — the perfect place for an art gallery, Byers, 57, said to the homeowner.
"Go for it," the homeowner told her....
PORT RICHEY — For three years, Curtis Frantz served as a scout in the U.S. Army. Then he worked in food and beverage sales. Then, his mother-in-law made a suggestion.
Why don't you become a butcher?
"A light bulb came on," said Frantz, 30, who now owns Your Family Butcher with his wife, Amanda, 28.
"My grandfather was a butcher for 60 years," said Frantz. "I spent a lot of time in his shops. I grew up hunting and fishing with him, and he taught me how to process my own meat."...
NEW PORT RICHEY — As the longtime owner a roof-cleaning company, Dante Rodriguez has rubbed elbows with lots of homeowners associations and with homeowners. He has learned about their concerns.
"The spray-paint guys," said Rodriguez, 49 — the ones he says show up to paint people's house numbers onto their driveways.
So Rodriguez did some research. And because of what he learned, he started another business: Bay Area Thermoplastics, which manufactures reflective curb markers that display a homeowner's house number and are an alternative to spray paint....
NEW PORT RICHEY — Next week, Wheelchair/Stretcher Limo, a non-emergency transportation service, will celebrate its 30th anniversary, a milestone that makes its founder, JoLynn Spivey, proud.
In 1985, Spivey, now 57, worked as an emergency medical technician for an ambulance company in Pinellas County. There, she started a non-emergency unit to transport patients whose conditions weren't critical....
DADE CITY — Five months after Robert Schultz retired, a fire destroyed the uninsured double-wide mobile home he called home.
In the fire's stressful wake, a friend of Schultz, 67, made an observation: He needed to relax.
His friend suggested yoga. So Schultz took a yoga class at a studio attached to a frame shop, called the Custom Frame Store, which his yoga instructor owned.
"I walked in (to the frame store) and told her this brought me full circle," he said. "I had learned framing in college to work my way through school."...
Spotlight | Florida Professional Motorcycle Training
PORT RICHEY — Dave Cruz's first crash on a motorcycle, in 1981, shook him. The recovery after his second crash, in 1997, took a year. But it wasn't until 2004 that Cruz took his first class on how to properly and safely operate a motorcycle.
What he learned prompted a question, said Cruz, 59, who now owns Florida Professional Motorcycle Training: "How the heck did I stay alive on a bike for 35 years?"...