The big day has arrived, the one you have been dreaming about since you played dress up with your nana’s long, white gloves. Since you began this journey, your thoughts have been plenty, and on your big day, you may replay the list of things to do, including, “Are my hair and makeup OK? I hope he remembers the wedding rings. Should I have done that first-look trend? Will the flower girl freeze or dance down the aisle? Will our dance be as special as I have hoped? I hope guests will enjoy the reception. Will the best man make us laugh or cry during his speech? Will I hold it together when I dance with my dad?” There will be dozens of thoughts on that big day, but the one that calms your mind from racing should be that you get to marry the one with whom you choose to spend the rest of your life, and together, you will go on to create many wonderful memories. And all of those thoughts will seem foolish when you look back on the most magical day ever!
Wellington The Magazine’s team looks forward to our annual Palm Beach Brides edition, and this year is no different. Nothing gets us more excited for bridal season than checking out the latest and trendiest bridal fashions. For some of the most exquisite looks for 2023, we visited with the bridal gown experts at Bacio Bacio Bridal Salon. From playful feminine and sparkling ruffled ball gowns with plunging V-necklines to A-line skirts with full movement and a romantic feel from shoulder to hem. Turn the pages to see them all, including a stunning couture with seams that hug your curves and will make you feel amazing on your wedding day. Take your time, visit many web sites, go into the showrooms, feel the material, make an appointment to try some on. Whatever you do for your special day, make it your own. You will know the right dress the moment you put it on!
For this special Palm Beach Brides issue, we sat down with Wellington jewelry professional Adam Yorke of Designer’s Touch Jewelry. A local favorite, Designer’s Touch offers the finest gold, platinum, silver and stainless-steel pieces with a wide variety to choose from. That’s why we turned to them for answers to some common questions couples should consider when choosing their symbols of eternal love, engagement and wedding rings.
Q: When choosing that perfect engagement ring, what do you suggest buyers consider about the 4 Cs (cut, color, clarity and carat)?A: The 4Cs are a great common baseline to start shopping for an engagement ring. Two of them are very easy, which is cut and carat. Cut refers to the shape (round, cushion, radiant, oval, etc.) of the diamond, and carat refers to the relative “size” or weight of the stone. The two more intricate questions are color and clarity. What we do to show customers the differences is explain the grading scale, and then show them different diamonds with different colors and clarities to identify what’s important to them in choosing the right diamond for the customer.
Q: What are your thoughts on custom-designing an engagement ring from scratch or choosing from among what is available in the showroom?
A: If you’re set on a certain, unique style of engagement ring, there’s definitely nothing wrong with custom-making a ring from scratch. However, it’s always worth taking a look at what’s already in the showcase to see if you might find something similar, or something you find that you like better than your original thought. Having an open mind is important when shopping for an engagement ring. Things don’t always look the same in person as they do online.
Q: What should couples keep in mind when considering the budget to spend on their diamond engagement ring?
A: We approach budget a little differently than some other jewelers. The most important thing about the engagement ring is the significance of what it means, not how big it is or how much money you can spend on it. Life is expensive, especially for those getting engaged at a younger age. The most important thing is to choose a ring that has a good look and doesn’t push you past your monetary comfort zone. It’s very common for large occasions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) to upgrade the engagement ring, which is why we always offer our customers full value toward a future upgrade at any time, no strings attached. This gives people more freedom, where if we’re set on a certain size or style and don’t have that affordability, we can always work our way up to it over time.
After the proposal, it’s time to set a date and get ready for the big day! This means that it’s back to the jewelry store for the wedding bands.
Q: How soon should couples begin to shop for the perfect wedding bands?
A: Generally speaking, you should give yourself 4 to 6 months in advance before the wedding date to pick out bands, just in case they need to be custom made or special ordered.
Q: Walk us through the process. Should the couple set up a consultation? What are some of the options to explore?
A: The couple should definitely come in together to figure out what they want to do for their rings. Every couple has their own vision for wedding bands, and it’s OK if that doesn’t match other people’s opinions or taste. Some couples will want an alternative metal (tungsten, cobalt, tantalum, titanium, etc.) band and the ladies’ band to have a little bit of design to contrast the engagement ring. Other couples want exact perfect matching white/yellow gold or platinum rings and keep things very traditional. Both options (and more) are correct. Your wedding bands represent your love, and however you choose to portray that is OK.
Q: What is a typical price range for wedding rings?
A: There’s a wide range of prices for wedding bands. I’ll cover some of the most popular. Alternative metals can be between $150 to $400. Simple white/yellow gold or platinum bands with no diamonds can be anywhere from $300 to $1,500 based on the weight of the ring. A thin diamond band can be between $800 to $2,000 depending on how big the diamonds are. From there, the sky is the limit, and you can really spend as much as you want to on bigger and more “showy” rings.
Q: How long will it typically take for a custom set of wedding bands to be made?
A: Depending on the store and the volume of work they have, custom can take between 4 to 8 weeks. We generally promise 4 to 6 weeks, but if the job is a bit simpler, then it could be sooner.
Q: What should couples consider when choosing which precious metal to use?
A: Personal preference plays a big part in choosing what metal to use. They all have pros and cons. One of the biggest debates is between white gold and platinum. Platinum is often seen as the “top end” of jewelry and the finest metal to use, but I always advise my customers away from platinum if they want a white ring. Platinum is very malleable, so it bends and scratches very easily. White gold, on the other hand, is much sturdier but has a tendency to be worn and look “off-white” on the bottom of the ring. White gold has to be polished and rhodium plated to look brand new again, and is usually done once every year-and-a-half to two years.
Q: What are some of the styles available, and should the bands match or complement each other? Can both men and women have diamonds in their rings?
A: The number of ring styles are truly limitless. Between different colors of metals and different designs, as well as perhaps combining components from two different rings, the options are endless. It all depends on what the individual couple is looking for on the ring. Traditionally, the bands are supposed to be perfect matches, but nowadays people do whatever they want that appeals to them. Some even wear the engagement ring on one hand and the wedding band on a separate hand, and that’s OK. I always say to customers that there’s no “jewelry police,” and whatever you choose to do for your rings is correct if you like it. There’s definitely a “social norm” when it comes to how men and women should have their rings, but in our opinion, both men and women can have diamonds on their rings and also choose to have no diamonds in their bands, too. Everything is acceptable and is totally reliant on personal taste.
Q: What are some of the latest trends in rings?
A: One of the bigger trends for engagement rings is the “under basket halo.” You take a single row of diamonds on the band and then, instead of a traditional halo that surrounds the diamond on top, there’s a row of diamonds that hugs the bottom of the stone, and sometimes also diamonds on the prongs. This all accents the beautiful center stone on top. For men, the trend for bands tends to be alternative metals. Many of these are gray/black rings that can be worn and worn hard. A lot of guys worry about hard wear on rings at work, so this is a great solution to keeping a wedding band on and not having to worry about how the ring holds up, as they are very durable.
Q: Should couples match the engagement ring and wedding bands?
A: Not every couple agrees on what looks good on their hands. It’s very common for a man to get one of the previously mentioned alternative metal bands, and a woman to get a thin diamond wedding band. It doesn’t match, but in its own way, it looks good and still represents their marriage and love for each other.
Q: Do you recommend engraving to subtly
personalize a couple’s bands?
A: We offer the service, but most opt not to have their bands engraved. Most of the time, the ladies’ bands are too thin to get a proper legible engraving, and most guys will tell me they’ll never notice or remember the engravings in their rings. Additionally, once a ring has to be sized, the engraving winds up getting polished out and re-engraved, which sometimes kills the sentimentality of the meaning of it, so many just avoid the process altogether.
Q: Should a couple consider purchasing insurance
for their rings?
A: Absolutely! At minimum, get the engagement ring insured. At our store, we cover if any of the small side stones get lost, because we know it can happen. There is not a jeweler on this Earth that will cover the loss or damage of a center diamond. That’s a huge investment that can be totally lost in a moment. Rings get worn, and loss can happen with a good hit on a counter or a night out on the town. Jewelry insurance is not incredibly expensive, and you’ll be happy you have it if something ever happens.
Q: What should a couple consider when choosing
the best jeweler for their wedding rings?
A: Make sure to do your research beforehand. Shop local and find someone you feel you can trust based on your conversation with them and their reviews. Rings require maintenance and care, and you want to make sure that the place you shop stands behind their product and cares about your business. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as there’s much to learn about diamonds. You should feel like a diamond expert at the end of your shopping experience, and not leave with doubts. We make sure that all our customers know the exact product that they’re getting, including the quality of the stones and how they affect both the look and the pricing of their ring. We’ll always make sure that our customer walks away confident in what they purchased and the service we provided them.
We hope that this information was a helpful introduction to buying some of the most precious gifts that you will give one another. Designer’s Touch Jewelry is a family owned and operated jewelry store located at 2891 South State Road 7, Suite 120. Whether you are looking for custom jewelry or showroom-ready sets, this Wellington store has your perfect fit. They work one-on-one with clients to create truly one-of-a-kind pieces that offer beautiful style and lasting elegance. For more information, visit www.designerstouchjewelry.com.
From sustainability to a sneak peek at the future bride and groom, 2023 will be like no other year, as trends are on the move. Many consider a “trend” to be nothing more than a fad, but like with that old-fashioned penny in your shoe for good fortune, many trends are here to stay and will eventually become traditions. Some will continue to coordinate their wedding as before, but more and more couples are opting to make their day stand out and become one for the books — photobooks that is. Like many things in life, your wedding day is but a fleeting moment in time, only captured in our memories and photographs. Check out some of the trends for 2023, use some, and make some of your own. After all, a trend is anything that catches on, and we’re sure ideas are plentiful!
After-Party Mini Dress
Your vows are done, and your reception was a smashing success. You’re saying goodbye to your grandparents, and that’s when you slip away to slip on your after-party look. The DJ keeps the dance floor alive, and upon your return, the party continues.
Many of us have a new respect for smaller, more intimate affairs, and weddings are taking on the same feel for some. Scaling back on your wedding day doesn’t mean a smaller celebration, it just means a more intimate one — that is what we will be seeing more of in 2023.
Make It A Weekend To Remember
You do not have to be rich to have or attend a “weekend wedding.” What does that look like? Kickoff festivities with a fun gathering on Friday night, followed by your stunning ceremony and reception, and recover until check out on Sunday. Be sure to send a “save the date” way in advance, so guests can plan this as one of their vacations. Keep it fun and simple for everyone!
Mismatched Bridal Party Dresses
Looking into 2023, not everything has to be matchy-matchy. As a matter of fact, it is looking less and less like that, especially for the bridal party. You will see not only different styles of dresses, but also combinations of color palettes. Some will be a variety in one shade of green with darker and lighter, and others will be a shade of a different color on each. Either way, it’s your day. Make it look like you want it to look.
Technology Is Here To Stay
Although we will continue to see some “unplugged” ceremonies (with the occasional plea to Uncle Jim to stop taking photos on the iPad), we will see the expansion in the use of technology at weddings. Some destination weddings are allowing you to Zoom in family and friends who couldn’t be with you, allowing live streams, both private and on social media platforms. And yes, hashtags are still all the rage. They’re a great way for your guests to share the view from their table!
Although once considered taboo for the groom to see his bride before she walks down the aisle, first looks have been introduced and used at more and more weddings. 2023 will see this trend continue. It is a great way to capture that true emotion of how you both look into each other’s eyes, and nothing better for genuine photography than that.
Not sure if Kim K. kicked off this trend with a wall full of roses on one of her many big days, but statement florals have taken on a life of their own — from overstated centerpieces to floral walls, and most recently, florals hanging from the ceiling to create a cascading effect that will take your breath away.
Bold Color Schemes
Trends used to be a pop color, now the boldness of color is making an entrance in a big way. Say goodbye to pastel shades and hello to anything goes! Daring and unforgettable color schemes reflect your personality, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Think of the colors that make you the happiest and go for it.
Another ever-evolving trend you will see for 2023 is outrageously creative ceremony backdrops. No more are the days of the simple arbor or draped material over a trellis, now you can see hanging greenery, bling lighting and painted murals to masterfully designed balloon art and so much more. Not only is it a focal point during the ceremony, it often becomes the backdrop to many of your guests’ selfies and group photos.
Many are opting to use items that are not single-use plastics or other materials that may add to the destruction of the Earth. Couples are using their day to make a difference and reduce their impact ever so slightly, believing if everyone just does their part, it can have a bigger impact. So, for 2023, look for more locally sourced food selections, more sustainable wedding favors, live plantings as décor, and items that can be reused or regifted when the wedding day is done.
Remember, a trend is anything that catches on, and we’re sure that ideas are plentiful!
Photography by Haley Jessat of Haley J. Photo
Small destination weddings have become more popular in recent years, and that is exactly how local couple Rachel Sternola and Kyle Brunner celebrated their love this past summer.
“We had a small micro wedding with only 11 guests in West Glacier, Montana,” Rachel explained. “Our ceremony was just outside of Glacier National Park with park views at Glacier Raft Company Weddings. Kyle and I ventured into the park with our photographer and videographer for our bridal shots before heading to our reception.”
Rachel and Kyle were high school sweethearts.
“We both went to Palm Beach Central High School,” Rachel recalled. “I played soccer with his sister, and let’s just say she takes all the credit for us meeting.”
Kyle proposed during a visit to St. Augustine.
“We had a trip planned to stay at a beach house there,” Rachel said. “It was the best weekend with both of our families. He proposed one morning on the beach.”
For the wedding, they rented a house on a large property in Whitefish, Montana, and had a dinner reception there. The reception was photographed by Haley Jessat of Haley J. Photo. The videographer was Molly Pearce of Media by Molly. The dress by Lillian West came from Bacio Bacio Bridal Salon in Wellington. Their first dance was to “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran.
“We are country music people, but we’ve always loved the lyrics to this song,” Rachel said. “Our personal vows we wrote were definitely our favorite part of our wedding day. We went back and forth trying to decide if we wanted to say them in private or during our ceremony, but since we had such an intimate ceremony, we decide to share that moment with them, and we are so glad we did!”
The photo shoot in the park was also a highlight.
“We absolutely loved going off into Glacier National Park for our bridal portraits, just the two of us with our photographer and videographer,” Rachel said. “We had the best time, and this gave us time to really soak in our wedding day just the two of us.”
Their honeymoon included a visit to several scenic locations in the mountain west.
“We left from Whitefish, Montana, after spending the week of our wedding with our families and friends, and drove to Yellowstone and then to Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” Rachel said. “We hiked almost every day of our honeymoon in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.”
So, no matter if you are imagining a large wedding or a more intimate gathering, a ceremony here in South Florida or perhaps a destination wedding, it is all within the reach of your imagination.
Not long after planning a wedding, couples looked toward beginning their life together. Often, this means finding a new home. Perhaps this will be a starter home for a younger couple just stepping out into life on their own. Perhaps it will be a larger home for a combined modern family. Some couples want to skip the starter home step and find the permanent home of their dreams.
However, in today’s challenging and quickly changing real estate market, that means having a team of experts on your side to help make your real estate dreams come true.
First National Bank Coastal Community, which recently opened a branch office on South Shore Blvd. in Wellington, has expertise working with a team of experts in all facets of the home-buying market.
Do you have questions about mortgages, such as whether to buy or refinance, lock in a fixed rate or take an adjustable rate? Are you looking to decide between buying and renting? Are you looking for a program for first-time homebuyers? Do you have questions about current market conditions or homeowners’ insurance requirements? Do you know the requirements of title insurance? All these and more can be answered by experts such as Mary Coates, the mortgage team lead at FNBCC; Jim Corbin, a Realtor with Illustrated Properties; Pam Van Woerkom, the president of Coastal Title Services; and Chris and Stephanie Barker of the Barker Insurance Group.
Mary Coates, senior vice president and Florida residential mortgage manager for FNBCC, knows that buying a home can be a challenging experience.
“I would love to help others navigate these uncertain times and be able to buy the homes of their dreams. This can be a stress-free process with the right people on your team,” Coates said.
Upon graduating from Florida Atlantic University in 1988, Coates began her start in the mortgage industry.
“I’ve done it all, and as such have a great deal of experience in all the aspects of the mortgage process,” she said. “I became a residential mortgage loan originator in 1997. I’ve been through good times and bad, but I have always maintained a passion for this business even when times were tough. I really enjoy helping people with their dream of buying a home and being immersed in that process.”
Coates is eager to connect with people in the Wellington community to let them know all that FNBCC has to offer local residents, such as how they execute their origination and closing process, along with other pertinent topics such as the current market and rate environment, in addition to various programs. They can help potential homebuyers get immersed in all aspects of real estate.
Mary Coates is based out of FNBCC’s office at 2000 PGA Blvd., Bldg. E., Suite 5500, in Palm Beach Gardens. For more info., call (561) 324-8661.
Also key to a successful homebuying experience is having a Realtor with expertise in the market you’re looking in, such as
Jim Corbin with Illustrated Properties.
“Illustrated Properties is a family owned and operated business that is No. 1 in sales in northern and central Palm Beach County, and the No. 1 independently owned brokerage in Florida,” Corbin explained. “With 18 offices and 700 sales associates, we can handle all real estate needs one might have. We also have property management, mortgage, title and insurance services in our family of companies.”
Corbin has been a Realtor selling in Wellington since 1978 and has been with Illustrated Properties for 20 years. He holds many designations of post license education programs.
Much of Corbin’s business is word of mouth and referrals, and he has many longtime and repeat customers. Excellent customer service is crucial, and knowledgeable professional expertise sets Corbin apart from many other agents.
When looking for real estate information, Corbin can offer insight into the current state of the market; how the market is changing and why; ways to get an offer accepted; how the market is in other areas of the U.S. and in Europe and Asia; new techniques for offers; insurance issues with real estate; and much more.
To learn more about Realtor Jim Corbin at Illustrated Properties, call (561) 798-2224 or visit www.jimcorbin.com.
If you’ve ever purchased a home, you have likely also purchased title insurance. But do you know what it really takes to properly insure the title to your property? Pamela Van Woerkom, is the owner operator of Coastal Title Services and is a true veteran of the industry.
A licensed title agent since 1992, she has 30 years in the real estate title industry. Prior to that, Van Woerkom was in the banking/finance sector. Because of this vast experience and knowledge, she is a valuable resource to her clients, as well as all real estate professionals.
Van Woerkom believes in a hands-on approach with her clients and prides herself on offering the best customer service possible to ensure clients’ needs are satisfied. Her experience has allowed her to handle a variety of transactions, from large commercial properties to simple land deals. No matter the size of the transaction, she firmly believes that all deals deserve the same high level of professionalism and attention.
What exactly is title insurance? When a property is financed, bought or sold, a record of that transaction is generally filed in the public archives. Likewise, records of other events that may affect the ownership of a property, like liens or levies, are also archived.
When you buy title insurance for your property, a title company searches these records to find — and remedy, if possible — several types of ownership issues. First, the title company searches public records to determine the property’s ownership status. After this search, the underwriter will determine the insurability of the title.
Yet even the most skilled title professionals may not find all problems associated with a property. Some risks, such as title issues due to filing errors, forgeries or undisclosed heirs, are difficult to identify. So, after the title company finishes its searching, it also provides a title insurance policy that will help protect buyers from a variety of issues that might be uncovered later.
If you take out a mortgage loan when you buy your property, your lender will require a loan policy of title insurance. This protects the lender’s interest in your property.
Pam Van Woerkom can be reached at Coastal Title Services Inc., located at 824 W. Indiantown Road in Jupiter. For more info., call (561) 835-5900 or visit www.coastaltitlesvcs.com.
Chris and Stephanie Barker have been helping Wellington residents with their insurance needs for decades. When it comes to property insurance, the current market is perhaps the most challenging ever.
Did you know that in the past year, several property insurance carriers have filed for bankruptcy and many that are still financially stable have pulled out of writing new business in Florida? If you want to know how this is impacting the insurance market and want to make sure you know what to do if you are purchasing a home, contacting the Barkers can get you the information you need.
“We believe information is knowledge,” the Barkers explained. “For many years, we have talked to customers looking to purchase home insurance coverage and have discovered many understood little to nothing of what they had purchased in the past. We strive to share this information with anyone who wants to know more about it.”
This includes topics such as: necessary coverage; the fine print included in policies (co-insurance and being underinsured); deductibles; where you can save money and where you need to make sure you are accurately insured; different policy types and which one will work best for you; and important inspections needed for insurance.
“It is important for loan processors, Realtors, insurance brokers and customers to build a bridge of knowledge so we can give our community the best possible service,” the Barkers said.
Barker Insurance Group is located in the original Wellington Mall. For more info., call (561) 242-3603 or visit www.barkerinsurancegroup.net.
First National Bank Coastal Community’s new branch is located at 12140 South Shore Blvd. in Wellington. FNBCC is available to help with all your banking needs. For more information, call (561) 231-5444 or visit www.fnbccfl.com.
By Jessica Brighenti
Hillary Dobbs is a name that most, if not all, of the Wellington equestrian community is familiar with. With an impressive junior and professional career, Dobbs was no stranger to the winner’s circle or juggling two parts of her life. Upon graduation from Harvard University and an unfortunate riding accident changing the course of her top-level journey, Dobbs found her way to new talents — coaching, being a wife and mother, and spearheading the equestrian division at Malvern Bank.
Born and raised in Sussex, New Jersey, Hillary, and her twin sister, Heather, were born into the equestrian industry. Parents Lou and Debi Dobbs both had a passion for the animal and ran an established Quarter Horse business. The twins were on horseback before they could walk, started taking lessons, riding ponies and the rest is history.
“The Quarter Horses didn’t enjoy jumping quite as much as we did,” Dobbs laughed. “So, the farm slowly transitioned to English and away from Western, and my mom would take me and my sister all over New Jersey to compete in local shows in the leadline and cross rails.”
From there, Dobbs never looked back. At the age of 15, she began training with renowned trainers, Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run, with locations in Warren, Vermont, and here in Wellington. During her professional career, Dobbs became the youngest rider to earn more than $1 million in prize money and won 31 Grand Prix titles.
Shortly after adding her name to North Run’s long list of accomplished students, Dobbs found herself in Wellington more than at home in New Jersey or in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she studied at Harvard University.
“In the winter, I would go to class Monday through Wednesday, fly down to WEF [the Winter Equestrian Festival], show Thursday through Sunday, and fly back Sunday night,” Dobbs recalled.
It was a schedule she would repeat for the entire circuit.
“I was very fortunate to have a lot of support — from my family, from Missy and John and the North Run team, and from my friends and roommates at school,” Dobbs said.
Like all things in life, nothing is predictable, and show jumping is no exception. In 2012, Dobbs suffered a knee injury after an unexpected accident in the competition ring. Her horse slipped and fell, and Dobbs’ foot got caught in her stirrup as she tried to jump off. The injury changed the course of Dobbs’ life in terms of her professional show jumping career, but it allowed her to follow one of her additional passions instead — mentoring fellow equestrians.
“A family friend mentioned an assistant coach opening at the University of South Carolina. Honestly, I said verbatim, ‘Forty girls? No way! I don’t think I am ready for that,’” admitted Dobbs with a laugh.
After further consideration, and remembering her love for team competition in the sport, Dobbs’ final words were, “Sure, let’s give this a try,” before she completely fell in love with it.
Dubbed “mother hen” of the barn at the age of 15 by John Brennan, Dobbs effortlessly fell into her new role as a coach, mentor and confidant for the University of South Carolina Equestrian Team members. “That’s one of the reasons why I truly loved my role as coach,” Dobbs said. “The bond was special. I had a bond with the girls that changed my life. They became family.”
Dobbs now shares her motherly instincts in a different way. Wife to Christian D’Andrea and mother to Kingston, Dobbs said that she couldn’t have asked for a more perfect fairytale.
“Starting a family has been a dream come true,” she said. “I met the man of my dreams at the end of January 2020, and it was love at first sight.”
Although on a different ride, Dobbs hasn’t veered too far from the sport she loves so dearly. As vice president and director of equestrian at Malvern Bank, Dobbs helps the equestrian community in new ways and spends a large amount of her time in Wellington, expanding the business to those she knows best.
Approached by Malvern Bank President & CEO Tony Weagley in 2017, the two immediately shared the same vision — the need for a financial institution that can not only cater to but fully understand the needs of equestrians and their business.
Dobbs understands the niche equestrian community and is sympathetic to equestrians’ ever-changing schedules. Dobbs and Malvern Bank are able to provide an extra level of service by accommodating those time constraints.
“I believe I am bringing something different to the professional equestrian community,” Dobbs explained. “I am able to bridge the gap by assisting equestrian customers with their banking needs. Sometimes even while they are on a horse or between classes!”
Whether it’s experiencing Kingston’s very first haircut with her husband, returning to the magical showgrounds of WEF where she spent so much of her formative years, or assisting her former equestrian colleagues with their business banking needs, Dobbs is certain she is right where she is meant to be.
“A few twists of fate have led me to a career and life that has allowed me to be a mother, wife and a professional still very entrenched in the equestrian community that I love,” Dobbs said. “There certainly isn’t any other way I would want it. It truly is the best of both worlds.”
Story and photos by Melanie Kopacz
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, Bimini Twist restaurant is a popular destination for fresh seafood, hearty steaks and more. The award-winning eatery — an institution on Okeechobee Blvd. — is a fan favorite for both locals and visitors.
Bimini Twist shines all its own with twinkling lights that beam for all to admire from the road. Illuminated palm trees create an island appeal.
“You can’t help but notice the restaurant from the outside, because it’s so stunning to look at,” General Manager Cheryl Averta said. “And you don’t realize how big it is until you walk through the door.”
When you arrive, you’re certain to be struck by the sound of everyone having a great time at a high-quality restaurant that features a vast menu of offerings from sea or land, as well as several new specials, like escargot. The Blue Point oysters are also widely popular.
“All of our shellfish comes from the cold water of the North Atlantic. Our oysters come from Long Island,” Averta said. “They’re crispy and clean. If you want to eat an oyster to define what it tastes like, this is the first one you’d want to try.”
The Chargrilled Octopus is also a must-try, deliciously meaty, yet light.
“It’s Mediterranean inspired. We marinate, grill and serve it over roasted potatoes with a lemon-inspired dressing and a few red pepper flakes,” Averta said. “I tell people that if they want better octopus, they have to go to Santorini, Greece. While we’re predominantly a seafood restaurant, we have something for everybody.”
That includes fresh delicacies like hog snapper when in season. It’s Bimini Twist’s overall top seller, coming fresh from the Yucatan Peninsula and served with a butter and white wine sauce, or piccata style, with capers over linguini.
“For people who’ve never heard of it, I describe it as God’s perfect fish. It’s the richness of grouper, the sweetness of scallops and the flakiness of mahi,” Averta explained. “It’s caught with a spear. I tell people if they don’t like it, it’s on me. That’s how confident I am that they’re going to like it.”
Their yellowtail snapper is also a fan favorite. White, flakey and mild, it’s sautéed in lemon, white wine and butter. Lobster lovers can get their fill with the Twin Lobster Tails entrée. “Our lobster tails come from Maine,” Averta said. “You get a full pound of lobster on your plate.”
For a hearty taste of both worlds, mix it up with a 7-ounce lobster tail and a 12-ounce prime New York strip steak from the “Land & Sea” selections.
“There’s something for everybody — shrimp scampi, ribs, pork chops, Alaskan king crab, a full pound of it. We serve it open split, so all you need to do is take your cocktail fork and pull the meat right out of the shell,” Averta said.
The Seafood Pescatore is a bright and colorful dish full of flavor. It includes a half a lobster tail, mussels, shrimp, scallops and calamari atop red seafood sauce over imported Italian linguine.
Choose either an appetizer or entrée of the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna. The beautiful color and texture make for an uplifting presentation.
There are also a few pasta dishes, like the Chicken Florentine served with linguine over an alfredo sauce with spinach. For the steak lovers, there are a number of choices, including a 16-ounce Delmonico ribeye or the 36-ounce Porterhouse served with bacon shallot butter.
The sides are incredibly tasty too, like top-pick Spinach Maria encrusted with breadcrumbs. “If you like creamed spinach, it’s like creamed spinach on steroids. The best you’ll ever have,” Averta said.
For kids, the menu has a variety of offerings, from fried fish to pasta.
When all is done, there’s dessert. Shareables are popular, including the apple crisp, which is served warm with praline pecan sauce and three scoops of vanilla ice cream, or the white chocolate bread pudding, also served with ice cream and a raspberry drizzle.
A delicious culinary experience is what this longtime staff of 60 strives for with traditional and elevated creations from Executive Chef Charles Wright, whether for an event or a weekly dinner.
People line up daily before open to get their favorite table and a taste of their beloved meals. Special events are hosted almost daily with private table service available for parties.
Complimentary valet parking is offered Fridays and Saturdays, and Thursdays in season. Catch the early bird menu Sunday through Thursday. Order before 6 p.m. and get 20 percent off several popular items.
The bar, which is the cornerstone of the restaurant, serves up an extensive drink menu with new twists on old favorites, like the Passion Fruit Martini, or the Bourbon Berry Smash, made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Beer on tap is ice cold and poured to perfection.
There’s seating near the open kitchen for those who enjoy watching the action. For a quieter area, request a table “under the fish.”
The ambiance is relaxed with low lighting, greenery creating privacy, bamboo-style woodwork throughout, and a playlist of music that took years to curate to the customers’ liking. The fun atmosphere extends out to the patio.
“We have people who want to stay because they want to sit through a song,” Averta said. “That’s when you know you have a good playlist.”
Bimini Twist as a destination is expanding with new experiential businesses that are part of what’s now called “Bimini Boulevard.” All are connected in the same plaza, allowing people to enjoy a broader experience.
“We wanted to make this strip a destination where you can come out for dinner and have other things to do while you’re here,” Averta said.
Enjoy an after-dinner cigar at Stogies Cigar Lounge. Indulge in a macaron and espresso at Merci Bimini French Café. Anchored on the end is a breakfast and lunch place, Portside. Then grab some flowers for your special occasion at Flagler Floral.
They’ll all be celebrating Bimini Twist’s 20th anniversary Saturday, Oct. 22 with a family fun day to include pumpkins, a hay maze and live characters, as well as two car shows. The weekend will be topped off with a formal dinner gala, with two seatings on Sunday, Oct. 23 with a live tenor singing. A portion of all proceeds will benefit the MiniMe Foundation, which helps children battling cancer.
“We’re like a family,” Averta said. “A key ingredient when we hire is kindness. It’s not every day a restaurant gets to be 20 years old.”
Bimini Twist is located at 8480 Okeechobee Blvd. Reservations are highly recommended. For more information, call (561) 784-2660 or visit www.biminitwistwpb.com.
Story by Mike May | Photos by Abner Pedraza
Francisco and Francine Orozco, along with their three sons Erick, Steven and Kevin, have always spent much of their free time working on and repairing machinery, such as golf carts. Fixing machinery has always been a family hobby. They got so good at specifically fixing and refurbishing golf carts, that it has now evolved into a successful family business, ESK Golf Carts, named in honor of the three sons.
“Before starting our business, we perfected our craft,” Francisco said.
While Francisco and his sons work on the golf carts, Francine is the one who puts the finishing touches on each job. “My wife is in charge of quality control and oversees the final details on each golf cart,” Francisco said.
The company repairs golf carts and provides fully customized golf carts to clients.
ESK Golf Carts does not sell its products to the most obvious clients, which are country clubs, golf clubs and golf courses. Instead, ESK Golf Carts focuses its sales on members of the general public, housing communities, schools, churches and municipalities.
ESK Golf Carts also buys its golf carts from the general public, which can be a somewhat unsteady supply chain. But the Orozco family makes it work.
“We buy used and second-hand golf carts from consumers,” Francisco explained. “We search online, and we get them from word-of-mouth. We work on both electric and gas-powered golf carts.”
While ESK Golf Carts does buy and sell carts produced by well-known manufacturers, such as Club Car, E-Z-Go, Yamaha and Gem, it doesn’t buy the carts directly from those manufacturers.
“Ideally, we’d like to buy new golf carts from the main plants,” Francisco said, adding that right now, that’s not possible.
Once ESK Golf Carts takes ownership of a cart, regardless of its condition, the fun begins.
“We strip each golf cart down, replace the brakes, install new bushings, insert a new battery, put a new frame on it, paint it, put in new seats and customize it according to the wishes of the client,” Francisco said.
Customers usually want a golf cart that is unique and high performing. It all starts with the battery.
“Customers prefer a lithium battery since it has a longer battery life, is maintenance-free, has a longer-lasting charge and is quicker to charge,” Francisco said.
Many clients also want a faster golf cart.
“We can engineer a golf cart to go as fast as 35 to 40 miles per hour,” he added.
After you look at each finished product, it’s clear that the Orozco family’s true talents are in the customization process.
“We can make limo golf carts that seat six people, and we produce all-terrain golf carts with special tires,” Francisco said. “We also paint the golf cart according to the wishes of the client. Right now, silver-gray is very popular. But we also paint the carts green, purple and many different shades of blue. When we produce a golf cart for an equestrian client in Wellington, the name of the farm is often placed on the outside. For private country club members, their first names are placed on the side of the golf carts. People also want golf carts with fans and USB ports, so they can charge their cell phones while out playing golf.”
Francisco noted that the golf cart business has picked up since 2020, when people started spending more time at home due to the pandemic.
Right now, most of the clients for ESK Golf Carts live in Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, the Acreage/Loxahatchee area, Delray Beach and Jupiter.
When ESK Golf Carts takes ownership of a used golf cart, which usually has a large amount of wear and tear, the company’s experts will turn it into a thing of beauty — and the process doesn’t take very long. In about two weeks, ESK Golf Carts can transform a golf cart that was considered “trash” into a treasure.
On any given day, the shop at ESK Golf Carts is filled with 12 to 15 golf carts that are being repaired, and the crew is also working on customizing roughly 20 to 30 golf carts for clients.
One of driving philosophies at ESK Golf Carts is customer service.
If you own a golf cart that needs work, ESK Golf Carts will come to your aid. “We will pick up your golf cart, bring it to our shop, fix it and return it to you,” Francisco said.
In addition to restoring carts, ESK Golf Carts provides regular repairs, if necessary.
“We provide service to address any wear and tear on a golf cart,” Francisco said.
When it comes to the bottom line, the prices of a golf cart range depending on the amount of customization and detailing involved.
According to Francisco, prices range from $3,500 to $15,000. The most common golf carts have room for two passengers or golfers.
The next larger version of golf carts has room for four people, who will use it to travel within their communities, neighborhoods and housing developments.
The limo golf carts are big enough for six people.
At ESK Golf Carts, the owners will work with your budget to provide you with the golf cart of your dreams, as the company’s goal is ultimate customer satisfaction.
ESK Golf Carts is located at 4657 Southern Blvd., Suite A, in West Palm Beach. Visit www.eskgolfcarts.com or call (561) 684-8188 to learn more about this unique family business.
Story by Deborah Welky | Photos by Denise Fleischman
Equestrian Trails Elementary School opened in 2003 to serve Wellington’s eastern neighborhoods. Located adjacent to the Olympia community, the school will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year.
For the past 12 years, the principal at Equestrian Trails has been Michele Chorniewy, who grew up in a small, rural, “horse country” town just outside Ocala.
“I enjoyed elementary school tremendously,” Chorniewy recalled. “I can even look back on specific years and specific teachers who made that time special for me.”
Her first mentor, however, was her mother, Marlene.
“My mother should’ve been a teacher,” Chorniewy said. “I grew up in a single parent home with one sister. My mother had this mindset of high expectations, especially for us girls, that nothing could hold us back. She didn’t accept anything but the best we could possibly do. She was a huge influence in my wanting to be a teacher and make a difference, and she helped me find that inner drive within myself.”
Chorniewy received her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida and her master’s degree at San José State University in California. She also took part in a program and taught leadership to other teachers, her first steps toward administration.
“I taught for two years in Connecticut and for 10 in California, but I always knew I would be coming back to Florida,” she said. “I relocated when an opportunity presented itself right after 9/11. I spent one year teaching and observing at Cholee Lake Elementary School in Greenacres, then mentioned my degree to the principal. Soon after that, I became a team leader and then ESOL coordinator at the school.”
Her time at Cholee Lake helped Chorniewy make the transition to assistant principal, first at Limestone Creek Elementary School in Jupiter and then Marsh Point Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens.
“I stayed with that principal, Maureen Werner, for three years and joined her when she went to open a brand-new school,” Chorniewy said. “We chose the design, the colors and hired every single person. At that time, you had to be an assistant principal for five years before you could apply to be a principal.”
Chorniewy credits Werner, who recently retired, with being a key mentor.
“With her as my mentor, I learned how to create a caring ‘school family,’ a supportive environment — especially for staff — where everyone feels appreciated and wants to come to work and views it as a happy place,” she said.
While working at Marsh Point, Chorniewy moved to Wellington, and her own daughters attended Polo Park Middle School and Wellington High School. By the time Equestrian Trails had an opening for a principal, Chorniewy was more than ready.
“I’ve been here at Equestrian Trails for 12 years now,” Chorniewy said. “When I got here, the school had dropped to a B-rated school. I needed to build a strong foundation through students and staff with relationships and a ‘we can do it’ attitude. Now, we’re an A-rated school with state-of-the-art programs and hands-on, project-based learning. We have lots of opportunities for kids to showcase their talents through arts, technology and more.”
The school is highly competitive in the Academic Games and does well in the STEM-based SECME competition.
“We’re a STEM choice school, something I created,” Chorniewy said. “We used to have a few clubs, but now we have robotics, a positivity club focusing on the importance of kindness, and a drama club, which I run myself. I consistently work to bring forth new programs, to make sure kids can compete globally for the jobs of the future, and to promote that to girls especially.
This past year, Equestrian Trails was second in the school district and 18th in Florida on state testing. “That was very big, coming off the pandemic,” she said.
When the pandemic struck, Chorniewy had unique experience for dealing with it.
“A big influencer on my career was Dr. [Martin] Krovetz, my lead professor at San José State,” she said. “He has written books on fostering resiliency in children and was well known around the U.S. I did my graduate work underneath him and learned the importance of creating a nurturing and academically challenging culture at school. In short, making sure students get what they need mentally, preparing them to overcome challenges and being there for them so they can sustain that while, at the same time, maintaining a top-notch academic culture for all kids equitably.”
Chorniewy has found getting back to normal harder than dealing with the early phases of the pandemic.
“The aftermath has turned out to be the hardest,” she said. “Teachers are having a hard time getting kids to learn. We’re seeing how academics suffer when students are home for long periods of time, with no parent in the room with them. And there’s a loss of social skills, especially in those kindergarteners who are now in second grade. We’re seeing kids who don’t know how to talk to one another, nor problem solve.”
Her focus recently has been getting those students the extra resources and assistance they need.
“True, some kids enjoy being on the computer and have the inner drive to listen to a teacher remotely but, especially on an elementary level, they’re not there yet,” Chorniewy said. “The majority of children need to be in school. Sadly, a lot of our kids who really needed to be in school were the last ones to come back. When they had the choice, they stayed home.”
In the future, Chorniewy hopes to get deeper into project-based learning and to have students work on global problem-solving, over weeks and months if necessary. She wants to bring in technology that students will need when they go to middle and high school.
“I want my students to problem-solve and work together,” she said. “We need to come back to that.”
While retirement may be in her future, she has no immediate plans to leave Equestrian Trails.
“I plan on retiring right here at Equestrian Trails,” Chorniewy said. “I recently remarried, so I’m looking forward to traveling. My daughters are older and getting married. I’m looking forward to grandchildren. There are always new things. In the meantime, I want to keep the school growing. I want to find new ways to inspire kids. I want to leave the school much better than when I got here. I’m already looking at staff for leadership ability. Great leaders create an environment where things continue to run well whether they are there or not. Everyone should continue learning.”