6 Tastemakers to Watch
Meet These Rising Stars Working to Set Our Cultural and Business Agendas in the Year to Come.
Photography by Erik Kellar
Anthony Chinaglia, 27, and Milos Simovic, 29
The men of Osetra want everyone to enjoy the high life, and that’s earning them high praise.
If ours is a world of champagne wishes and caviar dreams, Milos Simovic (far right) and Anthony Chinaglia (right) are our new power duo. As co-owners of champagne and caviar bar Osetra, they’re working together to put a bit more sparkle in the Naples social scene. They’re also aiming to broaden local palettes, creating a demand for what they consider to be one of the most misunderstood culinary delights. They even hope to introduce their own line of Osetra-branded line of caviar and champagne.
“It’s on a great path right now,” Simovic says of Osetra. “People love it. People enjoy it.”
Simovic believes that part of what appeals to patrons is Osetra’s atmosphere. Originally, Chinaglia is from Italy, and Simovic hails from Serbia. Both men spent time in New York City and credit their global upbringing for the bar’s urbane energy and eclectic décor, which showcases the work of several local artists.
Then there’s the menu. Anyone seeking a sip of bubbly will find it here, as Osetra’s bartenders pour a variety of notable champagnes and sparkling wines. Some of these come with a price tag that pops, but not all: The goal is to find a sweet spot for everyone, Chinaglia and Simovic explain.
The same is true with caviar, which can easily run into the hundreds of dollars for a serving. But in their quest to create a new generation of caviar fans, the duo want to make it affordable for all. They recently introduced a caviar bites and champagne pairing for two. Priced at $70, it’s catching on with customers, Simovic says.
Still, caviar does have some image problems, they concede. If diners have eaten it in the past, they’ve too often tried caviar of inferior quality, perhaps something they bought off the shelf at a local market. Frequently, this caviar is heavily preserved, and people are left with the memory of caviar being salty or fishy.
But fresh caviar is different, Chinaglia and Simovic explain. At Osetra, part of what the men do is help guests overcome any lingering doubts through caviar tastings intended to educate and inform their patrons about the proper way to store and enjoy caviar.
“It’s an interactive experience,” Chinaglia says of the tastings.
They also want people to know that champagne and caviar aren’t reserved for life’s finest moments. This particular power duo indulges almost daily.
“We want people to understand it’s not just for celebrating,”
Kim Nye, 56
STORE MANAGER OF SAKS FIFTH AVENUE
A favorite fashion destination has a new leader, and we’re feeling more stylish already.
Kim Nye describes herself as the luckiest person in the world.
Fashionistas may find it difficult to disagree. For the past 32 years, Nye has called Saks Fifth Avenue her professional home, first in Michigan and now in Southwest Florida. As the store manager for the Naples and Fort Myers Saks locations, she’s in the fashion vanguard, especially as she looks for new ways to satisfy stylish shoppers.
And shopping should be satisfying, Nye believes. It’s not enough to head home with a bag full of glamorous clothing if you haven’t loved the process of picking it all out. She knows it’s increasingly easy to simply stay home and shop online, but wants shoppers to crave the in-store Saks experience instead.
“That’s my job,” she says. “To get everyone feeling like they want to be a part of this fun, fantastic store.”
Part of that means constantly working to improve the customer service experience, she says. Shopping at Saks should be like shopping nowhere else, and she wants to continually develop the staff to help them have the tools that will make Southwest Florida’s Saks the best.
“It’s already a fabulous platform,” she explains, “but how do you take it to the next level?”
She’s also looking ahead introducing additional designer lines, such as Derek Lam and Erdem, and trying a variety of new in-store events. One of the most popular events at the store she managed in Michigan was a beauty party that drew hundreds of women for a night of fun that included everything from cosmetics to live entertainment. Nye would like to try something similar in Southwest Florida.
Responding to shopper feedback is key, too, Nye says. Fashion-forward men will be excited to hear her plans to boost the men’s department, while gala-goers will be pleased to learn that Nye has heard your pleas for more special occasion attire.
She’s also planning on making some changes to the Fort Myers store, as per suggestions she has received from staff and shoppers. Some of those changes are already in place, and Nye is pleased to see that clients are noticing.
Ultimately, success depends on keeping it fresh so that her savvy clients respond with “surprise and delight,” she says. ‘It’s an exciting challenge, because it’s not just about one or two things,” she says.
Brett Diamond, 23
This visionary sees a Southwest Florida where youth and innovation are changing the landscape.
Brett Diamond has a message for all the bright, young minds of Southwest Florida: Don’t go anywhere. As the co-founder of co-working concept Venture X, Diamond believes the future is now for upcoming entrepreneurs. He’d like to see Southwest Florida follow the lead of places such as Boulder, Colo., where the tech scene has outpaced the tourism scene, turning the sleepy college town into an incubator for innovation.
“I would love to see more tech companies built here and stay here,” says Diamond, who graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in May. “That’s what all the big cities have now.”
He doesn’t believe it’s impossible, either. Located at the Mercato in Naples, Venture X operates on the premise that collaboration nurtures creativity, courting clients who previously worked at home, in coffee shops or even in corporate space. Many of these members are small, individual business owners who may benefit from the networking offered at Venture X, where they rent furnished office space to work, hold client meetings and more.
Since opening in October, Venture X has added members from a range of professions, including marketing, insurance and the legal field. Diamond says the average age of these members is 35. Every economy needs a younger crowd to survive.”
Southwest Florida also offers these younger businesspeople a chance to learn from residents who may have walked the same path before them, tapping into a brain trust of entrepreneurs who have retired to the area. Diamond calls this the partnership of “older wisdom and young energy.”
That energy was on display almost immediately after Venture X opened its doors. The company held a competition where entrepreneurs raced to come up with a new startup business idea in just 48 hours. Organizers didn’t know what to expect, but were astonished when 25 participants registered for the event.
At the end of the event, the winner of the challenge had a working prototype, a smart doorbell called “Chime” that allows users to know when someone is at their front door when they’re away from home. Such ingenuity is what Diamond aims to continue to foster at Venture X.
He hopes Southwest Florida will join him.
“In order to be a great city, the community as a whole has to want to change,” he says. “We need support from the local government to bring in start ups and push forward.”
Will Lawson, 35
NA PLES BEACH BREWERY
The owner of Southwest Florida’s first microbrewery is committed to his craft—and that’s making us thirsty.
Will Lawson is a beer guy. That’s the first thing you need to know.
The second thing you need to know is that he doesn’t give up, especially not when it comes to the first thing. When he moved to Naples in 2003 and discovered the town lacked the variety of beer choices he enjoyed in his native Michigan, Lawson let his imagination begin to brew. As a hobby, he started making beer in his home and, later, completed a beer study course at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Now, the fizzy fruits of that labor are ready to be savored. With the opening of the Naples Beach Brewery in November, Lawson has officially become the owner of Southwest Florida’s first microbrewery. Already, Lawson is hard at work creating a variety of heady libations, including red ale, hefeweizen and a Belgian golden ale that Lawson is convinced will be a crowd favorite.
“We’ve had a great audience and gotten great reviews from everyone who’s tried it,” he says of the golden ale, which is flavored with mango and ginger.
Naples Beach Brewery will brew six beers to start, two of which will be distributed locally. Popular Naples watering hole South Street is among the local restaurants that have committed to sell at least one of his beers.
In some markets, the trend is toward bigger, bolder craft beers with exotic and unusual flavors. But in Southwest Florida, Lawson says he has found that customers want something else—lighter, drinkable beers that complement their tropical lifestyle. That’s what he is offering.
“You feel like you’re drinking a special, handcrafted beer that a brewery spent a lot of time and attention on,” he says. “But they’re still pretty easy on the palate. You can have a couple of them and you’re not falling out of your seat.”
For those who find themselves suddenly craving a cold one, Lawson is holding brewery tours at his Enterprise Avenue facility. Offered on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, the tours are a chance to experience the brewery and its 55-gallon, three-vessel system, as well as sample all six of Lawson’s beers and to better understand the intricacies of brewing.
Craft beer has picked up momentum in the past few years,” he says. “It’s not a fad anymore. It’s more mainstream. And given the opportunity, I can show people diversity in the beer styles.”
Cody Nickell, 37
ARTISTIC ASSOCIATE , GULFSHORE PLAYHOUSE
Nickell brings experience and insight to his role, plus a willingness to build strong community partnerships.
Cody Nickell is ready to put down some roots.
After 15 years as a successful freelance professional actor, Nickell was lured off the road with the siren song of a spot at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples. As the theatre’s first artistic associate— a position created especially for him—he’ll work to expand the playhouse’s programming, including plans for a new works festival some time in the summer of 2013. One of Nickell’s first tasks in his new role was to direct Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage and to act in Art, also by Reza.
For Nickell and his actor wife, Kate Eastwood Norris, being at Gulfshore Playhouse is also a chance to experience what he calls “an artistic home.” With their wayfaring ways, the couple used to joke that perhaps someday they’d be settled enough to successfully own a houseplant.
From what they’ve seen so far, they are quite content in their new digs. Nickell describes the Naples arts scene as vibrant and growing, and is especially excited about the possibility of partnership with other local arts organizations.
“It feels like the arts community here is starting to figure out how to work together and help each other out,” he says. “I think that’s a huge step forward for any arts community.”
To that end, Gulfshore Playhouse is working with the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida on Doug Wright’s play I Am My Own Wife in January and with the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Terrence McNally’s musical play Master Class in April.
The latter tells the story of opera diva Maria Callas and will be performed in the Phil’s Daniels Pavilion. Nickell describes “Master Class” as being a perfect partnership for the Phil, and adds that such relationships can help to build audiences for both organizations.
“Partnerships can really help show the community that these arts organizations are all in it together, that we are in favor of lending a helping hand,” Nickell says. “Maybe we don’t have some of the resources that are available in larger metropolitan markets, but pooling together makes those resources stronger.”
Cody Nickell holds an all-white painting that is the impetus for an argument in Art, which he starred in this past fall.
Then there’s that new works festival.
Nickell’s voice glows when he speaks of it, and he readily admits it will be a feather in his cap to bring it to fruition. Imagine a weeklong festival of new American plays, brought to life here in Naples. He believes it’s an important part of a playhouse’s journey, the relationship that they build with playwrights. After all, at the heart of American theatre is the playwright, he says.
But frankly, it’s also “incredibly satisfying” as an artist to introduce new works to expectant audiences, he adds.
“A big part of my background has been working with new playwrights,” Nickell says. “I have a big passion and desire to continue that work, fostering new voices.”