Street Talk

By staff October 1, 2006



Teenager Jamea Jackson moves up the ranks of professional tennis.

IMG Academies’ Jamea Jackson, 19, began training at Bradenton’s Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy at age 11 and now is ranked 65th in the world in professional tennis. Last June, the cheerful, articulate Atlanta, Ga., native defeated former Wimbledon champ—and fellow Bollettieri alum—Maria Sharapova in straight sets. Still, Jackson admits her first love was baseball. “My parents decided there was no future in that. They said, ‘We want you to try to get a college scholarship,’” she says of her start in tennis. Instead, “I turned pro, so college is nowhere in the near future.”

Describe your mindset during a match: When I’m playing, I’m intense. You’re always focusing on having that killer instinct. Who is your favorite tennis player? I can’t really choose between the Williams sisters [Venus and Serena]. They’re so inspiring, not just from a tennis perspective, but as people, too. They’re role models across the board. How much do you train? In a day, I’ll spend four hours or more on the court, and about an hour doing fitness. But a lot of [training] is making sure you’re getting enough rest, eating right, not hanging out too late with friends. Do you play other sports? I’ve played football with some of my guy friends. I’ve started getting into soccer, being [at tennis tournaments] in Europe during the World Cup. I watch a lot. Tennis coaches don’t really like you playing other sports—there’s always the chance of injury. Where will you be this fall? It kind of depends on what week. I’ll be in Asia—Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. —Hannah Wallace



Watching the bishop’s first moves.

Frank Dewane’s ordination as coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Venice had the pageantry of the Olympics—something he’s familiar with as an NBC negotiator for the 1980 games in Moscow. Dewane, 56, becomes the Diocese’s second bishop and its first “CEO bishop,” having also worked as a PepsiCo executive before answering “the call” at 33. As "coadjutor,” he’s next in line in succession to John J. Nevins, who retires in January. Church dignitaries from Rome and throughout the U.S. gathered for the invitation-only ceremony at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, and the ceremony was broadcast throughout Florida.


A Wisconsin native, Bishop Dewane was ordained a priest in 1988 and has risen rapidly in the Church, serving as the Undersecretary of the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Instead of saying his vows in Rome as most bishops do, Dewane chose to be ordained in Venice, where he’ll take over a growing diocese that serves 55 parishes and 233,000 Catholics, ranging from wealthy retirees in Naples to Hispanic farm workers in Central Florida.

Some Catholics say there’s “an air of Camelot” because of your youth and energy. How does that make you feel? I’ve been enlivened by the people, by the excitement they have. Where do you see the direction of the church in the U.S.? We’re moving forward, but let’s be blunt: We went through a very difficult time. It’s an examination of heart, as to where do we go from here, and the Church is moving positively on the issues it had to face. Unlike many dioceses, Venice is growing rapidly. Go out and look at the new parishes in Fort Myers, St. Jude’s in Sarasota—that’s the future. It’s exciting to be part of something new, dynamic and growing. What about women becoming priests? Teachings handed down by the great minds have arrived at a conclusion that continues to hold in the Roman Catholic Church, that one of the requirements of being a priest is being male. [One] side of being in a faith community is accepting [its] authority.  How did you transition from secular life to a religious life? I was surprised at the number of skills [learned in the business world] that the experiences of being a priest brought back to me. What role does the church play in the country’s immigration debate, considering the large migrant population here? We have to recall that we are a country built in just this way. The church has to be open and assisting and enter into a dialogue with our brothers and sisters who don’t feel that way. What’s your daily routine? It’s important for me to start out my day in prayer. I like to get going with the day; I don’t like to be trapped in an office. I’m not a big eater; I got very used to the Italian style of a cappuccino in the morning. I’ve heard all bishops have a motto. What’s yours? My motto is justice, peace and joy. We have to be just people, we have to be peace loving and promote peace, and we should live life with joy.—Kim Hackett


Inside the visual arts with Mark Ormond.

The Asolo TheaterRinglingMuseum


, will officially reopen in its new location in the Visitor’s Pavilion on Oct. 6, with a performance by Metropolitan Opera star Susan Graham. Twice previously, in 1952 and in 1958, the Asolo has opened in a new location of the museum complex with a performance of opera. This time around, the decorative panels from the theater underwent an exhaustive two-year process of preservation and restoration led by Michelle Scalera, the museum’s chief conservator, who wanted, she says, “to achieve the highest quality of preservation respectful of the originality and the future utilization of the functioning theater.” Of the more than 890 decorative ornaments, 215 missing ornaments were re-created and gilded; Scalera, assisted by Shay Sampson and David Piurek, used more than 4,000 linear feet of 23.5 karat gold leaf. Lillian Aldermann, who had worked on the 1952 project, provided her expertise as a seamstress for the decorative fabric elements.


Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt, who has promised her Asian collection to the Ringling, traveled to China and Thailand recently, beginning her trip in Japan, where she was invited to celebrate a royal birthday. And there’s more art/Asia news. The Ringling hosted intern Nan Liu, a student and painter from China, this summer; and a contemporary art exhibition held recently at the Art Center in Nanjing, China, included several works from artists who lived in Sarasota a few years ago. Jaia Chen, who taught at the RinglingSchool, organized the show, which included among others Elisabeth Condon, who also taught at Ringling and is now teaching painting at USF in Tampa. Gaby Ray and Sabrina Small, who now live in Berlin, and Ethan Greenbaum, a Ringling graduate, were also included in the exhibition, called Distance

Amer Kobaslija, a 2003 RinglingSchool grad, recently sold out a show of small oil on panel paintings at the George Adams Gallery in New York, and was invited to show his larger paintings there in July and August. Kobaslija, raised in Bosnia, received his MFA from MontclairStateUniversity’s School of Arts in New Jersey and in 2005 received a prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. Kudos also to Tallahassee


photographer Todd Bertolaet, featured in the Ringling Museum Biennial 2000, who has won a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2006.


Spanierman Gallery in East Hampton hosted a five-decade survey of Jimmy Ernst’s work this summer. Ronny Cohen, who organized the show, said it revealed “the sweeping grandeur and poetic elegance of Ernst’s vision.” Ernst lived part of the year on Casey Key before his death in 1984….Joseph Patrick Arnegger, a 1994 Ringling School grad who spent childhood summers in Montauk, N.Y., had a homecoming of sorts when his work was featured at SCOPE Hamptons in July (his first New York show). Arnegger has shown here at his Central Avenue studio and in events at the late Ovo café.



Real estate makes strange bedfellows on Main Street; a new attitude at the Ritz.

By Kim Hackett

Here’s a downtown pipe dream that may not last.

When Smoke My Ash started selling glass pipes and detox kits (when you consume them, they apparently help you pass a drug test) at 1693 Main St. a year and a half ago, it caused quite a fire.

A neighbor, The Fitting Room owner Ken Stevens, put up a sign in his window that said, "Addicts Wanted!!! Your children can purchase crack cocaine pipes, marijuana papers and bongs next door. Heroin needles not available, yet! Wake up!"

“At first I thought it was going to be a cigar shop,” says Stevens, who started a one-man crusade that made him a media celebrity as far away as Miami. Not that the rest of Main Street didn’t notice.

“You would’ve thought zoning would have prevented” the smoke shop, says Ernie Ritz, president of the Main Street Merchant’s Association. “Next we’ll have an X-rated movie house.”

After Smoke My Ash’s owner Darren Ford blew some legal smoke Stevens’ way, the tailor took down his sign a few months ago. “It started to hurt my business,” says Stevens, who has been on Main Street for four years. He still keeps the sign in his store, but you have to ask to see it.

Things have since settled down to a slow burn between the two businesses, but that doesn’t mean the smoke shop is going to be around for long. In January, Smoke my Ash and its neighbors got a new landlord—the First Baptist Church. Talk about real estate making strange bedfellows.

“It’s kind of like your family,” explains First Baptist’s pastor William Hild, with a hint of Tennessee drawl. “Everyone has an Uncle Bob in the family.”

Hild says the smoke shop had a lease and the church could have bought it out, but opted not to. The church’s 1,800 members haven’t raised a fuss about the church leasing to a shop that sells drug paraphernalia, he says. “They understand the situation. When you buy a building, you buy the lease.”

Ford says his lease is up next February, and he’s not sure what will happen after that. “I’d rather not stir up the pot,” says Ford, who wouldn’t talk about his less-than-neighborly welcome on Main Street.

With a shelf filled with $200-plus artsy hand-blown bongs, Ford says he fits right in. “It’s a legitimate business. We have everyone from bike riders to BMW drivers,” he said, before throwing me out of his shop.

Pastor Hild wouldn’t say whether Smoke My Ash’s lease will be renewed. “I don’t handle the leases,” he says.

The First Baptist Church has been racking up good deeds, and not just the kind that get you into heaven. In addition to purchasing the strip center housing Smoke My Ash for $3.9 million, it bought Main Street Cleaners next door for $1 million in January and a $1 million strip center across the street in 2001.

“We bought for defensive purposes,” says Hild of the recent purchases. Zoning on the properties would have allowed high-rises, and Hild says the church didn’t want to be hemmed in and threatened by development.

Developers approached the church about selling its property, but the church opted to stay downtown and continue to add to its holdings. The economic might of its pulpit enabled it to snap up its neighbors. The three-acre church and surrounding land, which the congregation bought in 1981 for $35,000, is now worth a staggering $11.1 million. When combined with its other properties, the church now has about $18 million in real estate downtown.

Long-term, Hild says they may use the properties for other purposes, but tenants have leases until 2011.

 “The spit and polish downtown has been incredible,” says Hild, who says he enjoys the view of the new Sarasota Herald-Tribune building from his corner office.


Maybe it’s the view of Sarasota Bay, the wizardry of bartender Peter Whitely or the heady smell of money, but for me, nothing matches the martini “experience” at the Ritz. Besides, it’s the only place you can play my favorite drinking game.

As someone paid to pick up on the nuance of language, I’ve become fond of counting the times I hear the Ritz staff say “excellent” and “certainly”—as in “a third chocolate martini, Mrs. Hackett? Certainly.”

But recently, the Ritz announced that “certainly” and “excellent” are on their way out. “You can be ‘my pleasured’ to death during an extended stay,” explains public relations director Liza Kubik, who admits to using a tad too many “certainlys” herself.

The new buzzword at the Ritz is “relaxed.” It’s a departure from the 20 Basic Values Ritz employees have been following since 1983, which dictate among other things, that instead of saying “yes” or “sure” to a request, employees say “excellent” or “my pleasure.”

“The affluent customer has changed,” says Kubik. “He’s no longer acting so formal and doesn’t want to be treated with such formality.”

Employees will be given more discretion in the words they choose when talking to customers. But don’t expect to hear “Yep” and “Whaddya want?”

“We use professional language,” says Kubik. “We’re encouraging staff to use a vocabulary that is comfortable. It reflects the freedom and trust we have in our employees.”

Sarasota tends to have older guests and residents than some of the other Ritz properties, and Kubik says she had to reassure some about the change.

“The 20 Basics were always only guidelines,” she says. “Some people took it a bit far.”

Ironically, all this new casualness and saying what feels natural requires quite a bit of training. Ritz employees spent six hours this summer on how to apply the new 12 Service Values, with reminders at the daily meeting before each shift. This new Ritz philosophy is a relief to my hubby, who gets elbowed for every “certainly” lest I lose track. Now I’ll have to find a new drinking game. Quarters, anyone?



Rumors that PF Chang’s restaurant has dropped plans to locate on Lemon Avenue aren’t true, says John Simon, CEO of Isaac Group Holdings (the Pineapple Square development). “I have no idea how that [rumor] got started,” says Simon. “It’s crazy.”

Not that the upscale Chinese chain, famous for its spiced chicken wrapped in lettuce, is definitely coming, either.  “We haven’t made a decision,” Simon says. “It’s not a deal until they announce where they’re going.”

If that sounds a little cagey, Simon says he doesn’t mean to be. “There’s Benderson and the Quay and lots of players we’re competing with,” Simon says. “And I’m sure they’d like to know what we’re doing.”

Word around town that Chang’s was going to occupy the former site of the Ovo restaurant on Lemon started last year when Simon was talking to city officials about his Pineapple Square plans, which include about 40 retailers and restaurants, 275 residences and 1,067 parking places. Simon mentioned Morton’s Steak House, Brooks Bros. and Cole Haan as possible retailers.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune quoted Simon as saying he wouldn’t have named them if he weren't confident he could land them “I was asked to characterize the project,” Simon says. “And I said businesses like Chang’s.”

Chang’s spokesperson was equally coy about the chain locating downtown. “I read some clips about that,” says Laura Cherry, spokesperson for Chang’s, from the Chinese chain’s headquarters in Arizona. “But we don’t talk about it until a contract has been signed.”

Cherry then went on to explain the semantics of the situation. “Developers may use the word ‘like Chang’s’ on their Web sites, but that doesn’t mean we’ve reached a deal.”

Simon says he’s had a lot of inquiries about the site. “We have lots of choices,” he says. “And if we don’t make a deal with Chang’s it doesn’t mean they rejected us. Many restaurants want that location. Why shouldn’t I shop it a little?”

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