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Bo McMullian

Bo McMullian

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Marianna's newest business A+ Upholstery and Trim

A + Upholstery and Trim ("Over 30 Years' Experience"), has returned to Jackson County, after being in operation the past few years in Blountstown. Steve and Christie Norman of Greenwood first opened A + in Sneads and operated it there from 2006 to 2009. But last week on Tuesday, Sept. 3, they reopened in Marianna on Hwy 90.

The new location in Marianna for A + Upholstery and Trim is at 4461 Lafayette St. That is the former location of Champion Motor Sports, across 90 from Winn Dixie. The landlord is John Dennis of Sneads, who also owns the adjacent location building for Magnolia hair salon.

The auto garage bays at this 4,000 sq.ft. location will help the business by enabling it to bring inside the autos and boats for trim work. Steve told Business News Monday morning that they do a lot of vinyl or leather trim work on boats. "The trim is for the autos and boats," he said. "The upholstery is for the furniture."

A + Upholstery and Trim is truly a family-owned and operated business. Steve and Christie's two sons and daughter, a student at the Malone public school, are involved. They are Steve Jr. and his wife Teri; Joshua, 20; and Chelsey, 15. For more info, call 850-693-9963 or 557-9183.

Oak Station To Get $500,000 Makeover

Regency Properties of Indiana, the new owners of Marianna's hugely successful Oak Station shopping Center (Oaks Restaurant, Save A Lot grocery and a dozen others at full occupancy) is spending about $500,000 on the current remodeling, Regency marketing specialist Chris Folz told Business News Tuesday morning. "We like investing in our communities," Folz said. "Basically, the building project is to give the Oak Station tenants greater visibility. It involves façade renovations, architectural enhancements, upgrades to the parking lot and rehabbing the sign towers out front."

The Oaks Restaurant, owned by Eddie Davis and arguably the main draw at the mall (at 350-plus seating, the largest restaurant in the county), will be getting a big-lettered sign above the entrance which will get an awning for customers as weather protection. Davis told Business News recently that he was very pleased with the new owners and looked forward to many years of mutual cooperation. Fred's also will be getting an awning.

Regency's decision to undertake such a huge renovation project so soon after the initial purchase surprised some observers. But Regency (see www.regency-prop.com) certainly has the resources; it has holdings all over the U.S. and globally, including Singapore. One of the owners, Jeff Howell, also spoke with Business News on Tuesday, having some nice things to say about Marianna in an explanation of why they selected Oak Station for purchasing. "It's our kind of town," he said. "It's the main shopping hub for a 45-mile radius, the Oak Station sees lots of traffic on the main road (U.S. 90) and it's the county seat, among many other things."

Regency bought the Oak Station (4700 Hwy 90) in June for $6.8 million from Phoenix developer Brad Combs (who bought it in 2010 for $4.3 million). But Combs made extensive improvements to the property throughout those three years—moving and expanding Beall's Outlet to the center stage, attracting and doing extensive build-outs for Save A Lot, Citi Trends and Hibbett Sports, and the two expansions for the Oaks Restaurant. The current parking lot improvements will include the removal of the drive-through lanes on the northwest side which were originally built for a bank, Folz said.
That bank branch was SouthTrust, and the year was 1989, the year Oak Station was built. Jacquelyn Reddoch sold the 16-acre site to Land Locators that year and the 171,509 sq.ft. plaza was constructed, with tenants Food World and K-Mart in mind.

Doug Mayo will recommend crop disaster declaration for Jackson County

Jackson County Extension Director Doug Mayo said on Tuesday afternoon he soon will be recommending to FSA that Jackson County be declared crop disaster area for 2013, due to the heavy rains throughout the growing season. "The USDA's Farm Service Agency is in charge of that," Mayo said, "but I feel like they will do it. It's definitely something I'm recommending." FSA officials are able to declare a disaster, allowing farms to become eligible for assistance, if estimated crop losses are 30 percent or more.

Peanuts come out of the ground in a few weeks; cotton is harvested mostly in October and November. "It's not too late for some farms to make a good crop this year," Mayo said. "The rainfall was so spotty. Last year was a great year. Comparatively, it was almost perfect last year, but this year will not be good for our commodities. If you look at the color of the crop, particularly cotton, you can tell it's not doing well." The heavy rains allow fungus and mold on the cotton, and push the nutrients away from the peanut roots. Also, farmers had trouble this year obtaining enough aerial crop dusters which were in high demand due to the farmers' inability to get into the flooded fields with tractors.

Mayo's office released the rainfall and temperature chart, updated for August, to the TIMES on Tuesday morning. (See chart with this article) But not only was July and August heavy in rains, this UF Florida Weather Network illustration only shows the rainfall for the gauge at the experiment station in Greenwood, which, this year in particular, can tell only half the story. The Greenwood levels were at "the bottom" of the range, Mayo said. Other places, especially Campbellton, received as much as twice the amount shown in the chart for August. Bascom grower Jeff Pittman reported earlier this month that his gauge showed "14 inches since Friday." He said that on Tuesday, August 20, after the weekend of August 16-18, which was the weekend the Jackson County Cattleman's Association rodeo got hit. He said then that he was looking at losses of "at least 30 percent." That weekend alone may have doomed much of this year's crop, Mayo said.

  

"The American Dream" - Immigration as It Should Be

Bascom sturgeon farm owner travelled a (very) long way to get here
Almost a decade before the "Winds of Change" blew down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union collapsed, Mark Zavlavsky, then a 29-year-old student in the Ukraine, had a yearning for freedom that would not wait. Although the Communists in the USSR, which was his homeland, wouldn't tell him much about it, he must have known somehow it was "Morning in America" as he began his "Rendezvous with Destiny," to use two of President Ronald Reagan's favorite phrases. It was 1980 and Reagan was just a candidate then, and Mark was just a student. "I knew that America was a free country," Mark told the Jackson County TIMES last week, "but I didn't know much more because we weren't allowed to watch Hollywood movies and the only books we could read about it were some such as the works of James Fennimore Cooper. But I also knew there was nothing good about the Soviet Union, and that freedom and liberty did not exist there. I knew I wanted to leave."

During a brief window of opportunity that closed just after he escaped, Mark applied for a student visa to the Czech Republic. Once there, he travelled to Vienna, Austria, where he applied for political asylum at the American Embassy. He was told to pick a city and he chose Miami, Florida. He didn't know it at the time, but Miami was a perfect immigration town with plenty of tolerance, jobs and opportunity—all this country had to offer, in fact. Reagan was about to launch the longest period of sustained prosperity in USA history. For those willing to work, the American Dream was at hand.

As the story he has oft repeated goes, he came to Miami with less than $50 in his pocket and worked at jobs including dishwasher. But he had not forgotten what he learned back home and he was quite aware of what was happening all around him. So, with others, he managed to open a small business, using his knowledge of ethnic foods. In 1985, he and Mark Gelman started the "Marky's" gourmet foods business and the rest is history. Just go to www.Markys.com ; they did about $20 million worth of business last year, selling items such exotic foods as foie gras, truffles and caviar.

The best caviar comes from the roe of the beluga sturgeon, and some years ago Mark learned of the beluga sturgeon crisis in its native habitat, the Caspian Sea—near Mark's old stomping grounds. It seemed that overfishing and dam constructions were killing off the species. He began importing what sturgeon he could get and began raising them in Florida. The US Fish and Wildlife Service stopped the importation and sale of beluga and its caviar in 2005 because of the shortage, but Zavlavsky had begun importing live beluga and other Caspian sturgeon in 2003, so he already had a supply. He still can't sell it, but he has a solution in mind. He is very hopeful that the US will accept his application to proceed because he has agreed to the usually prohibitive US stipulation that his operation demonstrate a "benefit to the species in the wild."

Zavlavsky will be returning to Russia in September to meet with officials in Russia and Azerbaijan in order to put more beluga sturgeon back where they belong—in the Caspian Sea itself.

The Russian immigrant, who has long since become an American citizen, has already increased the economy of the Bascom area. He bought 120 acres off Tower Road just east of town in 2009 for just over $500,000. There are now more than 120,000 sturgeon there of several species at all stages of growth, including many just two months old and the older giants in excess of 300 pounds. He said he has spent $5 million at the Bascom farm so far. The hundreds of water-filled tanks of various sizes are cleaned daily. There are four generators on site, in case of a local power failure. A tall oxygen tower keeps the tanks oxygenated, just like in a home fish tank. Most all the labor is local. County Commissioner Kenney Stevens, who runs a land-clearing business, did some of the initial work and Jimmie Williams Dozier Service is currently building a seven-acre pond among the others. Grand Ridge subcontractor Ronald Clark has worked there for years erecting the buildings and doing the plumbing. Also there are now six fulltime laborers, among the 15 employees of Sturgeon Aqua farms. Some of them live in the old farm house on Tower Road.

Zavlavsky wants to do as much as he can at the Bascom Farm; he says he has just a few more buildings to build for several more large tanks in which to grow the fish. That's why he's asking the Northwest Florida Water Management District for permission to dramatically increase the daily draw of water from the Floridan Aquifer system, the underground water supply. That seven-acre lake needs to be filled, he said, so they can draw the cool water from the bottom for the fish tanks. The company says most of the water will be returned to the aquifer, as pristine as the way it came.

Eventually, Zavlavsky, 60, wants to leave the Miami area and live on the Bascom property. He says he enjoys the weather and the beauty of the countryside. During a tour of the facility last Friday, he showed the TIMES the roses he is growing with the help of some of the fish waste products. He's also delighted at several baby ducks growing in the holding ponds. "This is as green as it gets," he said.

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