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Visionary Leaders Helped Wellington Grow Into The Community It Is Today


Visionary Leaders Helped Wellington Grow Into The Community It Is Today

By Julie Unger

Time sure flies when you’re building a community. It was just 20 year ago that Wellington made the jump from a collection of neighborhoods to an incorporated community. Since then, it has been two decades of amazing growth — topping 60,000 residents this year — and impressive milestones. The winter equestrian capital of the world boasts A-rated schools, great shopping, amazing parks and spectacular amenities, such as the brand-new Wellington Community Center.

After a razor-thin incorporation referendum in November 1995, the Village of Wellington was officially born on Dec. 31, 1995. Official governmental operations commenced after the village’s first election in March 1996.

On March 28, 1996, the inaugural Wellington Village Council took the oath of office. One of its first acts was to choose the community’s first mayor — a role that was awarded to Kathy Foster.

Foster was not new to local government. In 1990, she was elected to a seat on the Acme Improvement District Board of Supervisors, Wellington’s pre-incorporation government. She was a natural choice to be the village’s first mayor, at a time when “mayor” was a title appointed from among the five elected council members.

Foster, who served as mayor from 1996 to 1998, has fond memories of the village’s early days.

“We spent almost the entire first few years concentrating on developing a comprehensive plan for the overall village that would hold up over time and protect the individual lifestyles of the various communities,” she recalled. “We were nine separate subdivisions that were bundled together to become the Village of Wellington. It was our promise to the community that everyone’s lifestyle would be protected and that we would try our best to make sure that the lifestyle that they enjoyed was not negatively impacted in the years to come.”

Wellington became the first municipality in Florida to create an equestrian preserve area in its comprehensive plan, she added.

“I’m thrilled to say that, 20 years later, it still holds up, and at buildout, which is right around the corner, the ideas and the concepts that the first council put in place hold true today,” Foster said. “It has been a great guideline, and in some ways, a bible for the community, as we grew and developed so quickly in the last 20 years.”

Approximately 20,000 people lived here when Wellington incorporated. The village has tripled in population since.

Foster recalls being able to accomplish so much in so little time because the original council members were committed to working together for the good of the community. Through public hearings and open forums, the council was able to learn about what residents wanted. This was formalized in writing when the village adopted its comprehensive plan in 1999.

“Honestly, we had no concept then how amazing Wellington would be 20 years later,” Foster said. “I’ve been here for more than 36 years now. When I came, there were fewer than 1,000 people and 300 homes. No one could imagine what Wellington would become. I’m just honored and privileged that I had a part in it.”

Also a member of that inaugural council, Dr. Carmine Priore served as Wellington’s next mayor, from 1998 to 2000. The village’s longest-serving elected official, Priore was elected to the Acme board in 1994, becoming a councilman in 1996, and continuing to serve the village in that role until 2012, with one short break. This included winning five elections.

“I’m really proud of that because it was a feeling that was passed on to me that I was doing a good job, and that was important,” Priore said.

One of his biggest decisions as mayor was the purchase of the 5-acre parcel that now houses the Wellington Municipal Complex and the other nearby Wellington facilities, in what he calls the “heart and soul of Wellington.”

“We did two things in purchasing that,” he said. “We bought a great piece of land at a very reasonable price, and we were able to eliminate 90 additional units planned for Forest Hill Blvd. It was $500,000 for a 5-acre parcel, and it is a piece of land that now houses a $15 million building.”

That deal, he said, gave Wellington one of its largest pieces of village-owned property.

“Wellington has been an accomplishment that few say could happen today. Who would have believed in the 1990s that a new city would be born?” Priore wondered. “Being a part of it actually taking place was a great feeling of something being very, very good. We think we did a very good job at the time. I’m proud of my tenure and service to the community.”

Priore is looking forward to seeing the changes that the new generation of Wellington’s leaders will bring to the community.

After two years on the Acme board and four years on the council, Tom Wenham took the reins as mayor in 2000. The village’s longest-serving mayor, he kept the title until 2008. Along the way, he became the village’s first elected mayor, when the village switched to a directly elected mayor in 2003.

“Aside from being the first elected mayor of the Village of Wellington, I am most proud of Wellington Regional Medical Center annexing into the Village of Wellington and the opening of the Mall at Wellington Green during my years of service,” Wenham said.

The mall and the hospital added to the village’s tax base and provided large-scale employment for the community.

“I’ve always felt that a hospital completes a town,” he said. “If you have a hospital in your community, that’s the place. If somebody needs to go to the hospital, it’s your hospital and you take ownership of it, and it’s very important. The mall, that’s great also. To have the mall here, and the hospital not too far apart, this is our town. This is the community that has both its own mall and its own hospital, and I’m very proud of that.”

Wenham is also very proud of the Wellington Veterans Memorial. “That’s near and dear to my heart, too, being a veteran,” he said.

Along with his wife Regis, Wenham sponsored the Korean War column at the memorial. As a young man, Wenham served as a member of the 8th Bomb Squadron 3rd Group in Korea.

“The Wellington Veterans Memorial was important to me, and we dedicated it on May 30, 2005, when I was the mayor,” he said. “I thought it was important to recognize the people not only who I served with, but all the veterans who served in Korea during the war. When Regis and I sponsored that monument, it was in honor of all Korean War veterans.”

During Wenham’s years as mayor, the village’s horse community was growing strong. He enjoyed working with equestrian leaders to help expand Wellington’s equestrian venues. “I was proud to work with Winter Equestrian Festival founder Gene Mische to expand the equestrian venues and grow the industry,” he said.

Darell Bowen, the first person to serve as mayor who was not part of the inaugural council, led the community from 2008 to 2012. He presided over construction of the Wellington Municipal Complex, which replaced an aging facility supplemented by portables with a modern, state-of-the-art governmental building. Bowen calls that building his proudest achievement.

“The way we were operating was extremely inefficient and expensive. We had been sitting on that land for a number of years, and to get to move forward and to get the building built was a nice accomplishment,” he said. “It was something that really needed to be done.”

Taking office at the start of an economic downturn, Bowen’s time as mayor saw the village’s budget cut from $120 million to $75 million. Under most circumstances, such a budgetary decrease would result in a decrease in services. However, Bowen said that he was able to create an extremely efficient administration that was able to use targeted spending to achieve its goals.

“We were able to move ahead and accomplish a lot of things with a lot less money,” he said.

Bowen enjoyed accomplishing things he thought were important during his mayoral tenure, which he said was gratifying, especially for someone who doesn’t identify as a politician.

The biggest thing he misses from his time as mayor, he said, is giving credit to those who are often overlooked.

“I certainly have never missed the politics of the position,” Bowen said. “I have, however, missed the relationships with all of the people who make up the staff — the people who pick up the trash, who fix the roads, who run the sports programs and who run the water and sewer plant. I think Wellington is blessed with the best people anywhere who do those jobs, and sometimes they’re taken for granted.”

With six years of service on the council under his belt, Bob Margolis was elected mayor in 2012. He served in that role until 2016. He is very proud of being able to bring a number of new amenities to the village.

“I am most proud of the new tennis facility as well as the new community center,” he said.

The council led by Margolis continued to add to the area around the Wellington Municipal Complex. In late 2013, the village agreed to purchase the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, and the next year agreed to move the aging Wellington Tennis Center to a brand-new facility on Lyons Road. This allowed for the complete rebuilding of the Wellington Community Center into a more modern, larger facility that was nearly complete by the time Margolis left office.

After six years on the council, Anne Gerwig was elected mayor in March 2016. She is very proud of her new, relatively young council, which now includes two people — John McGovern and Michael Drahos — who actually grew up in Wellington.

“This is really a fantastic group of people,” she said.

Everyone on the current council, she explained, has a different past and different leadership backgrounds, but they are all working together for the good of the community.

Gerwig was proud to preside over the grand opening of the new Wellington Community Center on Aug. 6.

“It’s a very exciting time to be the mayor because of the young council, and the unique environment that that brings,” she said.

Gerwig wants to focus on bringing more arts and culture to Wellington. “I think it’s time. We’re tired of leaving the area for entertainment,” she said.

As the council and its mayor move into the next era of Wellington, great things are bound to happen in our hometown community.


Take A Tour Of The New Wellington Community Center

Our New Community Center

Take A Tour Of The New Wellington Community Center

By Jason Stromberg

A new era began in August with the opening of the new Wellington Community Center. After years of planning, the state-of-the-art facility opened to rave reviews.

Last year, the village knocked down the old community center, a 35-year-old facility, to create a blank canvas upon which to create a versatile, new building. Now, village officials want residents to check out and tour the new Wellington Community Center, home to many community programs.

“There is no comparison between the two,” Wellington Parks & Recreation Director Bruce DeLaney said when comparing old versus new. “The views from our ballroom and meeting rooms are outstanding. It is like a brand-new world. It’s brighter and more vibrant. It’s everything you want in a new facility.”

Wellington Cultural Programs & Facilities Manager Joe Piconcelli is excited to see the new building in operation.

“I think residents are going to be amazed with how nice the finishes are on the inside of the facility,” Piconcelli said. “It has a nice, crisp, clean look. It follows today’s theme of a more modern look. Some of the outdoor features are really unique.”

Those outdoor amenities include a large grass area around the building where special events can be held, and the walkways that lead to Lake Wellington, the dock area, the new rowing club building and the Wellington Aquatics Complex.

One of the nice things about the new Wellington Community Center is that visitors no longer need to walk up a steep hill to enter the building — an important consideration since the facility will host many programs for senior citizens.

“What it means for the seniors is that they can just pull up to the building and walk straight in,” Piconcelli said. “The seniors don’t have to walk up a big hill to get to the community center. The entryway and the landscaping is really fabulous.”

The new building is a 25,000-square-foot facility featuring a ballroom on the second floor that overlooks Lake Wellington. The first floor has several multipurpose meeting rooms. There is also a beautiful small banquet room.

“The new facility fits in with our overall municipal complex area,” DeLaney said. “You have to remember, the original building was a sales center and a clubhouse that went through multiple renovations.”

The original Wellington Club opened in 1979. Piconcelli remembers it like it was yesterday. The country club, a meeting place for early Wellington residents, eventually became the village’s community center.

“I was a housing salesman for the original developer,” Piconcelli said. “We would have dinner with clients, looking out over Lake Wellington, and enjoying the sights. It became a focal point for all the local residents. The clubhouse is where you would bring people to have a good time. It became the community center after incorporation.”

A focal point of the fledgling community, Piconcelli has fond memories of the old building.

“There was nothing out here at the time — no shopping, no malls. The club was the center of town in Wellington. It was where people met,” Piconcelli said. “Of course, it was a sales tool to sell property here in Wellington. It was a place to go. A lake you could row on and boat in, along with swimming and tennis. It was just a very unique place. Basically, it was a good country club.”

The decision to build a new Wellington Community Center didn’t happen overnight. The concept was discussed for a number of years. “The original facility had come to the end of its useful life cycle,” DeLaney said. “The Wellington Village Council made the decision to replace the existing facility with a new one, as opposed to putting an investment into rehabilitating the old one.”

Now, it is a better community center, with an incredible number of scheduled programs, from dance to meditation, and a meeting place for local groups, such as the Wellington Seniors Club, the Wellington Art Society and the Wellington Garden Club.

“Those are the kinds of organizations and programs that will be here,” Piconcelli said. “There is the other aspect of the community center. There are two magnificent rooms that can be rented for weddings, baby showers and birthday parties. Both rooms overlook the lake, with excellent views of Lake Wellington. There are catering kitchens adjacent to both rooms. There is a wonderful outdoor patio and a covered lanai.”

It doesn’t stop there when touring the new building.

“You’re going to have wonderful views from all vantage points,” Piconcelli said. “You will have a warm and inviting feeling in the new Wellington Community Center. When you walk in, there is a 25-foot ceiling. On the second floor, there are extra celestial windows that give the room a bright and cheery feeling. The ballroom upstairs is magnificent. You can seat about 300 people. It has a separate alcove for a stage area. The list goes on and on.”

The new building offers expanded views of Lake Wellington, as well as more parking spaces for the handicapped.

“I came to work here when I was 30 years old. I’ve lived here all my life. I wouldn’t live anywhere else but Wellington,” Piconcelli said. “It’s one of the most unique places in the country. Where else do you have the most fabulous schools, sporting and aquatic facilities? Now, you’re adding the final jewel on the crown — a brand-new community center that the whole community can enjoy. We’ve gone from 300 families to now 60,000 people who live here.”

Piconcelli believes that the new building will offer more amenities while keeping the spirit of old Wellington alive. “We’ve expanded, but kept that hometown feeling,” he said. “It just shows you how Wellington has caught on and how it has become such a vibrant community. It’s one of the premier places to live.”

For more information about the new Wellington Community Center, call (561) 791-4000 or visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.


There Are Many Interesting PlacesTo Visit In Our Great Hometown

Our Wellington

There Are Many Interesting PlacesTo Visit In Our Great Hometown

By Hailey George

The Mall at Wellington Green, a great place for both shopping and family outings, is located at 10300 W. Forest Hill Blvd. The mall opened in 2001 and has had several expansions since, including a current project to add a high-end movie theater to the 1.3-million-square-foot facility.

“The Mall at Wellington Green is a beautiful blend of Mediterranean architecture with many community-friendly features,” Marketing Director Rachelle Crain said.

Mall features include seating areas, a children’s play area, a guest services desk that provides complimentary wheelchairs and stroller rentals, and free wi-fi — all in addition to more than 150 retailers.

“We offer terrific shopping, dining and entertainment,” Crain said. “The Mall at Wellington Green is family-oriented. We see lots of friends enjoying time together, co-workers spending time after work at our restaurants and lots of shopping. We are also very proud of our community partnerships.”

With increasing demand for local entertainment, the mall staff continually works hard to enhance the experience for shoppers.

For additional information, call (561) 227-6900 or visit www.shopwellingtongreen.com.


Tiger Shark Cove Park, located at 13800 Greenbriar Blvd., is a place for great outdoor fun. The park has two batting cages, four softball fields, a concession stand and three pavilions. However, the park’s main attraction is its unique Leathers Playground.

The playground was designed by residents of the village and built by volunteers. It includes a large tiger shark play sculpture, sand castle, crab shack and sunken pirate ship play areas. Obstacle courses, a submarine with portholes, swing sets and soft, rubberized flooring with shaded areas make it great fun for the younger set.

The playground has a capacity of more than 100 people and has pavilions available for free from Monday through Friday. The pavilions are also available for rent on the weekends. For more information, call (561) 791-4005 or visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.


Scott’s Place, a barrier-free playground, is another fun play area, but with a few features that make it very special. Located at 12190 W. Forest Hill Blvd. near the Wellington Municipal Complex, it is designed to allow disabled and able-bodied children to play side by side. The park, made possible through a donation by Del and Barbara Williamson, was built in memory of their late son, Scott. It is set on a full acre of land and includes restrooms, picnic tables, a playground, swing sets, shades, wheel chair ramps, water fountains and slides. For more information, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue stations are also an integral part of Wellington. In Wellington’s early years, the entire community was served by Station 25 on Wellington Trace. Before long, Station 27 on South Shore Blvd. came online serving the southern portions of the community.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue has since expanded to four stations in Wellington, with 22 firefighters serving the area, Capt. Albert Borroto said. Newer stations include Station 20 on Greenview Shores Blvd., serving the western areas of Wellington, and Station 30 on Stribling Way, serving the eastern areas.

The services the department provides go far beyond putting out fires.

“We provide everything that comes with fire-rescue. It’s not just fire suppression,” Borroto said, adding that PBCFR also sends out rescue personnel and first responders, while dealing with hazardous materials and brush fires. “Wellington is a big equestrian community, so we do train on large animal rescues in case a horse gets stuck in a canal. We do all the things that people think of when they think of fire-rescue, but we’re big on community education. We have done events at the mall for hurricane preparedness. We are more than just putting out fires. We take an active role in the community.”

For more info., visit www.pbcfr.org.


The Wellington branch of the Palm Beach County Library System, located at 1915 Royal Fern Drive, is a place for fun and learning. It opened with 8,000 square feet in April 1997. The library re-opened in July 2007 after a major expansion project. It is now 30,000 square feet and includes a teen area, free wi-fi, study rooms, large and small meeting rooms, copiers and 29 public internet computers, said to Community Relations Manager Nicole Hughes.

The library is not just a place for books. “Children’s classes are offered on a seasonal basis where pre-learners are introduced to reading in a fun and educational fashion,” Palm Beach County Library System Area Coordinator Karen Williams said. “These classes also give parents an opportunity to meet their neighbors and create a sense of community. The teen area gives older kids a unique place of their own to read, use the computers and connect with friends. Activities for adults range from crafting workshops, to educational lectures and entertainment to meet the diverse needs of the community.”

For more information, call (561) 790-6070 or visit www.pbclibrary.org.


Did you know that you can play the classic New York City street game of stickball here in Wellington? The Wycliffe Golf & Country Club Stickball League currently has 88 players and is going into its 15th season.

With help from the Village of Wellington, the league created a stickball boulevard in Village Park, located at 11700 Pierson Road, where teams play on Tuesday afternoons. Created in 2002 by Marty Ross and Harry Klaff, the league contains five teams: the Big Apple Boys, the Bronx Clippers, the Brooklyn Bums, the Long Island Whalers and the New York Egg Creams.

“The mission of the stickball league is to keep it a tradition, not a game. It was played in the northeast, and since there are many transplants, I thought a lot of people would like reliving their childhoods,” said Ross, also known as “The Commish.”

The league seeks to build friendships while helping players improve hand-eye coordination and providing exercise.

“The best part of the league is the camaraderie amongst the competitors. We’re out on the field trying to improve, trying to have fun with each other, remembering playing as we did as kids,” Ross said. “It’s a great fun activity.”

For additional information about the stickball league, e-mail wycliffestiffs@aol.com or visit www.wycliffegolfccblog.com.


Pioneer Entrepreneurs Helped To Create The Wellington We Call Home

Over 20 Years In Business

Pioneer Entrepreneurs Helped To Create The Wellington We Call Home

By Deborah Welky

Schaefer Drugs

Significant changes in the Wellington business community have taken place over the past 20 years. With a front-row seat to everything that has happened are the pioneer businesses, those whose founders risked their livelihoods to establish retail enterprises in the fledgling community of Wellington in the years before incorporation.


Chuck Schaefer opened Schaefer Drugs in October 1979 and, although more and more drugstores have opened up in the area, it has not affected his business much.

“People like to do business with people, not institutions,” Schaefer said. “I’m lucky enough to have long-term employees, and my customers can usually walk into the store anytime and talk to myself or a member of the family. My son Jay is the store manager now. Six or seven years ago, I signed a lease to take us to 2025 whether I’m here or not. I don’t do all the work anymore anyway. I’ve got two other pharmacists with me.”

Schaefer said that the biggest change to his business model has been dealing with insurance companies. “The insurance companies are making it more and more difficult for independent drugstores to survive,” he said. “It’s a level playing field for us right now because we do compounding. We can make specific drugs and also have a big veterinary business. We can accommodate some needs that are not met by the big chains. We do 95 percent of our business with the people who live here full-time, and the community continues to grow.”


Horizon Pool & Patio

Chuck Grove opened Horizon Pool & Patio in 1985, and has worked hard to keep up with the times.

“I think the main thing that has happened in our business has occurred in the last five to eight years,” Grove explained. “Many pools in our area are now 20 to 25 years old, so we are now doing a lot more pool remodeling. It’s very common that, instead of downsizing, people are choosing to stay in their houses and put the money they’d spend on a move into improving it.”

Horizon also benefits from two complementary seasons. “When people who live here year-round stop using their pools in the winter months, then the snowbirds start using their pools. They realize they need a heater, which is a fairly big-ticket item and compensates for customers not buying floats and toys. Plus, a large portion of our business is maintaining pools, and that stays steady all year long.”


Visions Salon

Tom Monticello opened Visions Salon in 1988 and has been keeping up with local styles for nearly 30 years. “Yeah, I was 6 years old when we opened,” Monticello laughed. “We started in a small space, then expanded to 2,500 square feet. We remodel every five years or so to stay modern.”

Through the changes, Monticello’s mission is the same. “We focus 100 percent on hair services — hair design and especially color. We have about six master colorists on staff, doing everything from touch-ups to hair painting, the latest trends in the color world,” he said.

Today, Monticello is doing the hair of his original clients’ children’s children. “We have every age group of stylists. Our protégée hairdressers may be age 19 and overseen by a master stylist, then we have senior master designers for people who need a more experienced touch,” he explained. “We try to advise both men and women to stay contemporary as they age… We don’t do anything that’s dated.”



Richard Wood opened Woody’s, his shoe and leather repair shop, in June of 1987 and has seen some major changes in his industry over the decades. During the equestrian season, he takes his show “on the road,” setting up a trailer at the show grounds to be available for on-site repairs.

“I’ve upgraded my trailer to a 29-footer,” Wood said. “We needed to bring out more equipment, and we needed more workspace. The riders have a big impact on our business over the five-month equestrian season. Things do break. If I wasn’t here on the spot, I don’t know what they’d do. In the beginning of the season, we get bombarded with boots from all over.”

As a cobbler, Wood doesn’t think much of many shoes on the market today. However, he keeps his focus on high-end footwear.

“Many of today’s shoes are injection molded — they’re made by chemists. They’re glued together using 100 different kinds of glues. They’re not repairable ladies’ high-heeled shoes and men’s good loafers and dress shoes like they used to be. Society women buy the best shoes, and some have them for 40 years,” he said. “In riding boots, we used to have five big names, and now there are about 50. Your good brands are still making quality products. I’m old school. I’ve been in the original Wellington Mall for 29 years, just trudging along doing a quality job using quality materials.”


Wheels of Wellington

Stan Kilbas of Wheels of Wellington has also seen materials change over the past 20 years. Kilbas opened his store in 1995, moving to its current location in the original Wellington Mall in 1997.

“Since that time, the biggest change in the bike business itself has been the products we sell,” Kilbas said. “The road bikes have gone from steel and aluminum to carbon fiber. It used to be that mountain bikes were hot sellers, then the road bikes, and now it’s gone to more of a comfortable cruiser-type ride.”

Kilbas now also has to compete with big box stores along State Road 7. “We put a major emphasis on providing the best customer service,” he said. “Our summers have gotten busier than previously, but the kids aren’t riding bikes like they used to. A lot of the equestrian folks use bicycles to get around the show grounds, so we do a lot of selling and servicing in those months. And we have customers bring in bikes that they’ve tried to assemble themselves.”


Wellington Florist

While many still identify founders Dean and Melinda Varvarigos with Wellington Florist, it’s their son J.P. who has managed the shop for the last 10 years.

“We’ve had substantial growth since we opened in May 1991,” J.P. said. “In 2014, we expanded our shop, doubling our size, to accommodate the needs of Wellington. The equestrians are a big part of our customer base, but we also do deliveries for those who want fresh flowers in their homes weekly. Those people want what’s trendy, so we educate ourselves at different symposiums and workshops to learn what’s new. We get busy for dance troupe recital season and prom — and Wellington’s Father-Daughter Dance is huge. There’s always something going on. Valentine’s Day has grown out of control. We do 500 to 600 deliveries. Mother’s Day is also huge. NuVista, the new local nursing home, is big now, so we send a lot of flowers there.”

With many year-round customers, Wellington Florist is now a less seasonable business. “For 20 years, we weren’t profitable in the summer, but now we are,” J.P. said.


Van Dell Jewelers

Jack Van Dell opened Van Dell Jewelers 40 years ago in Wellington and has been selling custom, handmade jewelry ever since.

“Eighty percent of what we sell, we make in the stores,” Van Dell said. “The internet and social media is what has changed for us. The digital world has had a big effect. Rather than looking through the cases, clients send us downloaded photos and say, ‘I want one of these,’ and we create the piece. The majority of what we do is hand-done and requires expertise.”

Embracing this new way of shopping is what has allowed Van Dell to open several shops in the western communities. “The population of the Royal Palm Beach-Loxahatchee-Wellington area is well over 110,000. Each of our stores has a base of 1,000 to 2,000, so I can put them in close to each other and not hurt the original store,” he explained. “The convenience of the computer has made it easier for clients to shop quickly and, if you don’t have a shop close to where they want to go, you’re going to miss out. It behooves us to put more, smaller stores in a wider area rather than having one big store and expecting them to come to us. That’s why I’ve just signed to open my fourth store.”

Van Dell’s business has always flourished during the winter season, but he has also seen more year-round business. “We used to live for the season,” he said. “Now the season is more like dessert, and the rest of the year is meat and potatoes.”


Contemporary Palm Beach Polo Home Features A Modern, Open Concept Design Style


Contemporary Palm Beach Polo Home Features A Modern, Open Concept Design Style

Story by Deborah Welky • Photos courtesy Casey Flannery

On a quiet cul-de-sac overlooking the Big Blue Cypress Preserve lies this unique Palm Beach Polo Golf & Country Club home. It is situated on one-third of an acre but, thanks to the location, it seems like its own private oasis. Soaring impact-resistant windows look out onto fantastic landscaping and into a unique contemporary design. The glass-walled corner discreetly pockets itself away to truly bring the outside in, while a misting system works to keep unwelcome pests at bay. Especially in the temperate Wellington winter, the homeowner can slide open the windows to take open concept living to the next level.


Try The Gabriel Salad At Gabriel’s Café, The Oldest Restaurant In Wellington


Try The Gabriel Salad At Gabriel’s Café, The Oldest Restaurant In Wellington

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

A staple in the community, Gabriel’s Café & Grille has been operated by Gabriel Finocchietti and his family since 1990. That alone puts it among Wellington’s oldest eateries, but the location as a restaurant dates back even further, to the late 1970s.

Serving breakfast and lunch every day, it’s almost like Wellington’s own Cheers bar. They know your name, what you like to eat and how you like your coffee. There’s a friendly atmosphere and a familiar face at every turn.

One of the dishes that makes Gabriel’s special, Finocchietti said, is the Gabriel Salad, with chicken, gorgonzola cheese, cranberries and pecans, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, onions and olives over a bed of mixed greens.

Chef William Camacho, who has been with Gabriel’s for 15 years, said it is a signature dish because “everything comes together with a good flavor.”

Finocchietti chose the Gabriel Salad as a signature dish because of how well his namesake salad comes together.

“It has a nice presentation, it’s a nice-looking dish. It’s well known, and people like it,” he said. “There’s a variety of items in the salad that pleases customers, and it is light, healthy and tasty at the same time, with the cheese and the pecans and the cranberries, and of course, the chicken.”

With 26 years under his belt at Gabriel’s, he has seen three generations of customers. It’s a family tradition for many within Wellington to visit the café.

“The kids, the neighbors, the friends get together. It makes them more comfortable than going to a place where nobody knows them,” Finocchietti said.

Many of the staff members have been working at the café for more than 20 years.

The family atmosphere is what has kept Camacho at Gabriel’s for so long. “We do something special,” he said.

Everything moves like a ballet in the back, where employees work together in a way that only those who have worked together for years can. They have their own unique shorthand, quick language and ease when working together.

“When you get to that point where a customer comes in, 90 percent of the time, they know how they like their coffee, or how they like their toast done, or how they like the cream on the side, so they’re not repeating themselves all the time,” Finocchietti said. “The staff already knows half sweet tea, half unsweetened. They get their drink without saying anything. The drink is there waiting, just how they like it.”

Now, Finocchietti’s grandchildren — the third generation — are coming into the restaurant.

“It’s a comfortable, homey environment, where they don’t have to pretend anything and everyone knows each other,” Finocchietti said. “Everyone’s comfortable, and that’s why they keep coming.”

One great feature is the outside patio, he explained, where people come and bring their dogs.

“When they drive down Wellington Trace, the dogs get so excited because they know they’re going to Gabriel’s,” Finocchietti said.

Gabriel’s is not just a restaurant to Finocchietti, it’s his second home.

“My restaurant is a place for me to be home every day,” he said. “People say, ‘Oh, you work seven days.’ Yes, it’s seven days, with my customers. I’m there seven days a week. I make sure that the customers are happy. I talk to them, and we discuss things.”

For some customers, the Gabriel’s family is their family.

“When they come in, we tell them our stories; they tell us their stories,” Finocchietti said. “It makes them part of our family because they come in and talk to us about the old days, when they used to do this or that.”

A few couples have even been introduced at Gabriel’s, he said. “That’s why it’s special,” Finocchietti said.

Gabriel’s offers a wide variety of delicious meals, including three-egg omelets; eggs Benedict with crab meat, asparagus, Canadian bacon and other specialty items; hamburgers, hot dogs, garden burgers and more; many specialty salads; frittatas with ingredients like zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus or broccoli; waffles and crepes with pecans, peaches, banana, apple, strawberries or Nutella; French toast, pancakes and egg sandwiches; many varieties of sandwiches, melts and wraps; and popular classics like fish and chips, quesadillas, liver and onions, hot roast beef, fresh roast turkey, country fried steak and more.

“We do everything,” Camacho said. “Our customers, they know what we sell is homemade. Everything is homemade. That’s why they keep coming.”

Gabriel’s is open for breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Take-out and catering are available.

Gabriel’s Café & Grille in located in the Wellington Plaza at 12793 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite G. For more information, call (561) 793-0675.



Stephanie Gagnon Of The Keyes Company Keeps Her Focus On Clients


Stephanie Gagnon Of The Keyes Company Keeps Her Focus On Clients

Story by Matthew Auerbach • Photo by Abner Pedraza

Stephanie Gagnon loves her job with the Keyes Company. Her current position grew out of her long career in property management.

“I moved to Palm Beach County from Madison, Wis., 17 years ago, where I studied criminal justice at Madison Area Technical College,” Gagnon said. “I was offered a phenomenal job opportunity in sunny South Florida, where my real estate career was launched. I spent 14-plus years in property management and property accounting, overseeing a large portfolio of multifamily housing developments throughout South Florida and Mississippi.”

Two years ago, Gagnon felt the urge to branch out into other areas of real estate.

“Looking to take the next step in my career, I became a licensed Realtor in 2014 and joined the Keyes Company in Wellington,” she explained. “I was impressed with Keyes’ family-like service, management support system and honorable reputation.”

Since joining Keyes, Gagnon has become a mentor within the firm’s Business Certification Coaching Program and is responsible for immersing sales associates into the daily functions and responsibilities.

As a wife and mother of two children — daughter Adriana, 9, and son Mason, 4 — Gagnon keeps busy during her spare time as the vice president of public relations for the Discovery Key Elementary School PTA. She also coaches her daughter’s intramural soccer team in Wellington and is an avid runner.

She doesn’t hesitate to credit the unique working atmosphere at Keyes for her continuing commitment to her job.

“Keyes has been an independently and family-owned company since 1926, which makes it not beholden to corporate structures that exist in national companies,” Gagnon said. “Keyes offers hands-on, personalized management support, state-of-the-art training and a strong internet presence for its agents. I am extremely hands-on, passionate, energetic and relentless.”

She is sure to keep the focus on her clients.

“For me, quality of service comes first, and every transaction is as unique as the home buyer and seller,” Gagnon said. “I recognize buying and selling can be very stressful for some; therefore, I pride myself on working hard to gain the trust and support of the clients who expect and deserve to obtain their objective.”

Working in and living close to Wellington has allowed Gagnon a unique perspective. She can assess the community both personally and professionally.

“Wellington is a highly sought-after destination in which to live,” she said. “It has that great hometown vibe, the unmistakable equestrian flavor and is a family-friendly community offering something for everyone. It’s also recognized for some of the top-rated schools in Palm Beach County. While I have become very familiar with Wellington and the surrounding areas, my focus remains directed toward the needs of the home buyer and seller, regardless of the location.”

Gagnon believes that the future of the local real estate market is healthy and probably will remain that way.

“I see the market as stable and positioned for conservative growth and holding strong over the next few years,” she said. “Foreclosure filings and short sales are significantly lower than previous years. Banks are holding the foreclosed homes close to their chests and demanding market value in some areas. Interest rates seem to be holding strong and are at an all-time low.”

The Keyes Company is located at 13920 Wellington Trace, Suite 200, in Wellington. To contact Stephanie Gagnon, call (561) 252-3356 or visit www.stephaniegagnon.keyes.com.


Cooper Orthodontics Provides Patients With Beautiful Smiles And Much More


Wellington The Magazine – September 2016

Cooper Orthodontics Provides Patients With Beautiful Smiles And Much More

By Jason Stromberg

Brothers Dr. Andrew Cooper and Dr. Justin Cooper operate Cooper Orthodontics with the goal of providing patients with a beautiful smile in a friendly and enjoyable environment.

“It has been a very rewarding experience. In terms of working with my brother, it’s nice to be able to know you have someone who you can trust who provides the same level of quality care,” Justin said. “Our main message is we are a family. We run the business. We want everyone to feel like they are a part of our family practice.”

Cooper Orthodontics creates beautiful smiles at two offices, one in the Royal Palm Beach/Wellington area and one in Lake Worth.  “We enjoy what we do,” Andrew said. “The nice thing is that all of our patients have the eyes of two orthodontists on them. Cooper Orthodontics is truly a family practice, and we feel we provide patients with the best service and experience.”

Born in Philadelphia, Andrew and Justin Cooper moved to Boca Raton at the ages of 10 and 12, respectively. Although Andrew is older, they both received their undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida in 2005. Each graduated with a degree in food science and human nutrition. Andrew received his doctorate of dental medicine (DMD) in 2008 from UF, while Justin received his DMD from Harvard University in 2009.

After dental school, each specialized in orthodontics, spending an additional two years in post-graduate education. Andrew earned his certificate in orthodontics from Tufts University in 2010, while Justin graduated from the University of the Pacific in 2011 with a certificate in orthodontics and a master’s degree in dentistry.

“Customer service is 100 percent our first priority,” Justin said. “We are very fortunate that we can treat so many fun and lively kids. We want them to have a great experience visiting our dental practice. I should also mention that orthodontics isn’t just for kids anymore. Many of our patients are adults who want to improve their oral health by obtaining straighter teeth and improving their bite. In fact, we have many parents in orthodontic treatment with their children.”

Cooper Orthodontics offers free consultations, and there is a fun rewards program, where patients can get points and prizes for keeping their teeth clean, participating in contests and taking part in other activities.

“We make recommendations that we feel are in the patient’s best interests, but at the end of the day, our goal is to work with patients and make them happy,” Andrew said. “We want to work with each individual to develop a treatment plan, rather than dictating to them what they must do.”

Cooper Orthodontics offers metal braces, clear braces and Invisalign, which is a series of clear trays designed to straighten teeth. The practice is also a fully digital office, providing patients with a better experience. With new digital X-ray machines in both offices, the lowest dose of radiation is used to obtain the best diagnostic images.

Cooper Orthodontics has a digital scanner used for patients who are going to get the Invisalign treatment, which allows for a more accurate depiction of the patient’s teeth, providing better-fitting trays.

“We are able to help make sure that each patient’s private medical information is kept private, but at the same time, it is accessible to my brother and me if needed via our online software,” Justin said. “For example, if one of our patients has an emergency, we can quickly access our patient’s chart and medical history through our app, so that we can address the concerns of the patient or parent as soon as possible.”

Cooper Orthodontics also has programs to work with patients on the financial end.

“When it comes to finances, I think our office goes the extra step to make sure that cost does not get in the way of a patient achieving a beautiful smile,” Andrew said. “All of our consultations are free, we offer very low down payments, and we accept most insurance plans. We find a financial plan that works within everyone’s budget.”

The Coopers, who are in their third year of business locally, wore braces when they were younger. Andrew explained that this allows them to relate better with their patients.

“I was a very difficult case,” Andrew recalled. “Once my teeth were straightened by my orthodontist, it made me feel more confident in myself.”

The most rewarding part of the practice is the reaction of each patient when the task is complete.

“Every time we take a patient’s braces off, they are much more confident individuals,” Justin said. “They are just so happy with their smile.”

The Cooper Orthodontics office serving the Royal Palm Beach/Wellington area is located at 685 Royal Palm Beach Blvd., Suite 202, in Royal Palm Beach. For more information, call (561) 790-0319 or visit www.smilesbycooper.com.


Wellington High School’s Jim Marshall Helps Students Find Their Calling In Life


Wellington The Magazine – September 2016

Wellington High School’s Jim Marshall Helps Students Find Their Calling In Life

Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Abner Pedraza

In his 34-year career in education, Jim Marshall’s focus has widened far beyond teaching science concepts to classrooms full of students. It has extended to helping guide groups of kids onto purposeful paths that can gain them swift entry into the work force, set them on their way to a career or reduce uncertainties about their future upon entering college.

As the choice programs coordinator at Wellington High School, Marshall was instrumental in the founding and growth of the school’s groundbreaking Fire Science Academy, which graduated its first class of cadets last May.

However, Marshall’s connection to WHS dates back decades. He started there the year the school opened in 1988 — as did his wife, Rebecca, in the math department.

Born in Spring Lake, Mich., Marshall grew up in the Tampa area after his family moved to Florida when he was a child. He met his wife while earning his degree in environmental biology from Emporia State University in Kansas, where they married and taught at local schools for about three years.

Yet Marshall started longing to get closer to the water. “Kansas was about as far as you could get from it,” he recalled. “My sister was down here, and the ‘Nation at Risk’ report had come out in the early 1980s. Pretty much every school district everywhere across the country was clamoring for science teachers.”

Originally, Marshall’s plan was to work as a field biologist for a government agency. “But the landscape had changed a lot from the 1970s. There weren’t many jobs out there, so I thought I’d do teaching as a part-time gig, but really fell in love with it,” he said.

His first job in Palm Beach County was as a dive instructor, but he was looking to get back into the classroom. “I interviewed at four schools, and picked up a job at Spanish River High School. I taught there for three years and was the number two guy in marine bio there. When Wellington High School opened in 1988, Principal Jake Sello hired me to teach science, and I have been here ever since,” Marshall said.

Over the years at WHS, he has taught several levels of marine science and Advanced Placement environmental science, plus has served as a department chair, activities director and assistant athletics director.

But it has been from his experiences helping to design WHS’s Equine Pre-Veterinary Academy, and then establishing the school’s Fire Science and Fine Arts academies, that has brought Marshall the greatest satisfaction of his educational career.

The pre-veterinary academy came first. “It has been about 10 years now since we started that,” Marshall said. “Cheryl Alligood was the principal, and she was looking to see where we could add some pieces and enhance what was already a great school. As we all know, what makes Wellington a little different is our equestrian community. So we took a look at this.”

Based on the school’s strong science faculty, Marshall helped develop a program designed to give students a firm equine/pre-veterinary background.

The idea for a Fire Science Academy arose in 2013 during the school’s annual “Shattered Dreams” production preceding prom, which is a mock teen fatality car accident staged with help from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue.

“The kids go through about an hour lecture… giving them an awareness of what bad choices can look like,” Marshall explained. “Then there’s a mock event on the field. It’s all staged out, pretty dramatic. Principal Mario Crocetti and I were watching it, and he said, ‘You know, it’d be kind of cool if we had some sort of a public safety type of academy.’”

Marshall noticed several of his former students manning the rigs in the demonstration and got permission to do some research, during which he learned that many WHS alumni had gone on to become firefighters and paramedics. So, they decided to go ahead with establishing an academy.

“We partnered with Palm Beach State College early on,” Marshall said. “We knew they were going to be eventually where we’d send these students for their certification. We developed a plan for their instructors to come on our campus and teach, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

The academy is unique in Palm Beach County. While at least one other school has attempted it, WHS is the first to get the concept fully off the ground. “We are the first ones to put it all together and actually graduate, which we did this year, our first crop of candidates,” Marshall said.

The Fine Arts Academy came about at the school district’s suggestion, but Marshall was thrilled to help get it established.

“We know there are a lot of really quality, motivated, artistic kids who don’t get a seat at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, so it was an idea to add into the western area a fine arts program,” Marshall explained. “And not only did we add it, but also Wellington Elementary School has added a program, as has Wellington Landings Middle School. So now, kids actually can come in as a [fine arts] choice program from all around the district into Wellington schools.”

Through these programs, he has seen students find their calling early in life. “We have very diverse programs to propel kids into college with a real sense of purpose, whether it be in the sciences, or in the marketing program, in business studies, even fine arts,” Marshall said. “The other piece of it that I’m really proud of is that the fire academy is a real high-school-to-work thing. Right now, our kids earn their first fire certification. They literally have just two more months of schooling to do, and they can become certified firefighters after high school.”

The youngest of Marshall’s three sons, Ian, is on track to reap the rewards. He is a senior in the WHS Fire Science Academy this year. Next spring, he’ll experience the thrill of a graduation co-celebrated by future potential crewmates. Local firefighters played ceremonial parts in the academy’s first graduation ceremony this past spring.

“It really was neat,” Marshall said. “The Palm Beach County Pipe & Drum Corps led the kids in, which was really special and set the mood for it. I think it was kind of the last link to propel these kids into a meaningful, purposeful life of service to their communities.”


Jason Lynn Of Decorators Unlimited Helps Clients Make Their Dreams Come True


Wellington The Magazine – September 2016

Jason Lynn Of Decorators Unlimited Helps Clients Make Their Dreams Come True

Story by Julie Unger • Photos by Daniel Newcomb/Architectural Photography

Jason Lynn knows how to make any space luxurious. As vice president and partner at the premier luxury design firm Decorators Unlimited, Lynn lends his expertise to projects of all scopes and sizes.

Lynn’s path to interior design is unique. He is a former rescue swimmer with the United States Coast Guard.

“I’ve had a weird turn of events, going from a rescue swimmer to an interior designer, that’s for sure, but I enjoy what I do,” he said. “I’m very blessed to work with my teammates and designers here, and great architects and builders all around the globe.”

The transition happened almost by chance. Lynn started working at a home improvement store, in the warehouse and delivery department, after his time in the military.

“I actually started delivering furniture, vanities, countertops, kitchens and baths, and learned the industry from the ground floor up,” he recalled. “I was in night school, going for a business degree, and changed my degree to interior design.”

He learned to hone his skills at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.

“My father was in the fashion world, and my mother was in the art world,” he said. “I think there was something lodged in my thought process of how to be creative and still be good at it.”

Lynn has now been in the industry for 17 years and has worked in Michigan, Chicago and here in South Florida.

Eight years ago, Lynn joined Decorators Unlimited with Bob Martin, the original founder, and is now vice president and partner of a firm that has been featured in magazines such as Florida Design and Architectural Digest.

“I’m able to listen and help create people’s dream homes,” Lynn said. “It’s really amazing that they entrust in our firm and myself to actually have the ability to transform the vision that’s in their head into a place that they love and rest their head every day. That’s an amazing blessing.”

Embarking on his interior design journey has proven to be the right path for Lynn.

“Every day I wake up, and I am so thankful and so blessed that I am able to do what I love, and that’s hard to say in this day and age,” he said.

One of the things that makes Decorators Unlimited unique, he explained, is the network of talent that comes together toward a common goal.

“It’s a collaboration of hardworking individuals who have one common goal, to create amazing projects that clients, builders, developers and people love all over the world,” Lynn said. “It’s one of the hardest-working, most talented group of individuals that I’ve ever been part of.”

The firm’s projects span from Florida to the Cayman Islands and across the globe. Some of Lynn’s favorite projects include a home for the Cumber family on Grand Cayman and The Crystal in West Palm Beach, a boutique condominium unit.

“One of my most recent and favorite projects would be the El Milagro project in Wellington and the Fischer residence,” he said, noting that the Fischer residence is in the Palm Beach Polo Golf & Country Club.

Those projects are some of his favorites for a variety of reasons.

“It’s a collaboration of having great clients, a good architect, a great builder, and the free mind to design and create anything you want that the client’s going to fall in love with,” he explained. “It’s like having a blank canvas of art, and you have every color of the rainbow imaginable to do it.”

Being able to transform a space into something the client truly loves and enjoys is special and rewarding for Lynn.

“When a client can hand you a piece of paper or a picture and say ‘create this,’ and not only do we create it, but we make it better, we make it feasible and we make it affordable, that’s really rewarding,” he said. “We have a great time. We really, really do. Bob started it 31 years ago, and we just keep getting better and better.”

Training and experience are necessary for decorating a room with angles, designs, and a flowing pattern of colors, textures and finishes to make the room look finished.

A trained professional is best for designing a house or a room, Lynn said.

For example, most people will look at a room as having four sides. Decorators Unlimited looks at six sides to a room, focusing on the ceiling and floor as the two most important sides.

After looking at the floor and ceiling, Lynn looks at the windows and then the layout of the room. “A house has to function first before you make it beautiful,” Lynn said.

Lynn suggests that potential clients have a true vision and timeline of what they want, then hire a professional and enjoy the process.

Decorators Unlimited has its own 9,000-square-foot boutique showroom called TaDoU, which is open to the public. It houses their furnishings, fabrics, art, accessories, area rugs and more, and has design consultants on hand.

“If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind items or a complete room, we have the furnishings to do it,” he said. “We also offer complimentary delivery on all items purchased.”

A contemporary, modern style is what appeals most to Lynn, who studied famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in school, and has noticed that Wright’s style has returned to popularity.

Decorators Unlimited is located at 4700 Riverside Drive, Suite 100, in Palm Beach Gardens. For additional information, call (561) 215-7615, e-mail jlynn@decoratorsunlimited.com or visit www.decoratorsunlimited.com.