A Day with Dani

A Day with Dani

Dani Almeyda and Tim Anderson – Owners, Original Strength Institute

For seven years Original Strength Institute (previously known as OPT) has been thriving in Fuquay-Varina. Owners, Dani Almeyda and Tim Anderson, have been taking growth in strides- moving locations, rebranding, and building up a huge following within our community along the way. Today I sat down with Dani to learn more about Original Strength Institute.

Dani always knew she was going to be in the health and fitness industry, attending school for Sports Management and Exercise Science. It was natural for Dani to move into an entrepreneurial role, she grew up in a family full of entrepreneurs. Dani shares with me some of her favorite parts of being a small business owner and beams when she shares of her passion for “forming relationships” with her clients and watching them reach their goals. Dani also enjoys working hard, but having the flexibility to spend time with her two young children.

Trainers hear everyone’s deep dark confessions! Dani’s laughs when I asked her some of the funny confession stories she has heard over the years, “A client came in the other day and broke down to me “I had birthday cake for breakfast”! Dani laughs and tells me there is no need to apologize to your trainer if you eat cake, or skipped a workout, but says she could “write a book about the funny things” people have told her.

It may come to a surprise to you that our community’s prized gym is also the sister company and headquarter location for an internationally known company, Original Strength.  Original Strength educates other gyms, coaches, healthcare professionals, and physical therapists how to teach their clients/patients press reset and live their lives better! These programs are distributed and taught worldwide, Original Strength is a big deal! Tim has written several books and teaches movement to be able to live lives to the fullest extent – even into our 90’s! “Much like resetting an electronic device after its not working well, we can press reset on our bodies to help us feel better and move better” Dani tells me. Being able to spread the message that movement can heal and to help people lead healthy lives is important to Dani and Tim.

OSI has been operating out of Downtown for years now, being a part of the Downtown family means the world to Dani and OSI “we love being a part of the community and getting others involved” she explains. Working with many Downtown businesses and supporting other businesses in Downtown is something OSI is energized about. When Original Strength hosts conferences in town you will often see Dani and Tim leading groups of people in and out of our Downtown businesses, showing off what makes our Downtown unique and charming.

It is clear when you walk inside that Original Strength Institute is not your average gym. OSI hosts specialized ninja classes for kids, training classes for our towns 5k, self-defense classes, mommy and me classes, and much more- there is something for everyone! Dani tells me the plan is to expand their educational programing even more and expand the gym into other towns. We will be on the watch to see this great Downtown business and what they have in store for us next!

Dani let me ask her some rapid fire questions as we finished our lunch! She ate WHAT?!

First job?
Cleaning golf balls!

Favorite sport? Favorite team?
Volleyball. The Bears (NFL)

Best 90’s song?
Meat Loaf “I Would Do Anything for Love”

4 Sisters!

Best place to escape in Downtown?
The Mill

Grossest food you’ve ever eaten?
I ate a worm, I thought it was fake.

Favorite workout?
I like to rock out in the mornings, check out my daily flow on Facebook or Instagram

Favorite subject in school?

Best day of the week?

Favorite place to vacation?
Bermuda or Beech Mountain

I loved hanging with Dani!

-Chelsea Konowski

Interested in learning more? Check out Original Strength Institute online and on Facebook!

Coffee with Katie

Coffee with Katie

If you live in Fuquay-Varina, or have ever visited our charming town, you have probably heard the whispers about a delightful little bakery called “Stick Boy Bread Company”. This cult classic took Downtown by storm in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since. Today I spoke with Katie Dies, Owner of Stick Boy Bread Company, to learn more about this sweet treat that has been serving Downtown for years.

With 28 smiling staff members, Stick Boy currently offers over 30 breads on a rotational schedule. If bread isn’t your favorite item on their menu, sticky buns, cheesecake, or smoothies might be- Stick Boy really has it all! Katie talks excitedly about what makes Stick Boy work, and reveals that she felt the biggest moment of success came on the stores first anniversary, about the same time wholesale accounts started contacting her to feature Stick Boy products in their stores. Katie tells me about some of the challenges Stick Boy has faced as well. “We opened in 2008, right when the economy tanked. The cost of flour tripled- we really weren’t anticipating that”. They had to figure it out- they use a lot of flour! The Dies worked through that challenging time with help from their loyal customers, of which they have many today.

Josh, a former Engineering Draftsman, and Katie, a former Real Estate Agent, knew they wanted to open a space in their community where friends could gather, enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry. Katie had worked for Stick Boy Bread Company in Boone, North Carolina during her college years and loved “everything about it”. Josh and Katie studied the business and decided to open their doors in 2008 after 7 long months of construction, much of which they did themselves. They process was “scary and long”, Katie even served at the projects General Contractor!

Katie and Josh Dies have become fast friends of mine. Their love for their community, friends, and family, while owning two businesses, serving on many committees, volunteering, and caring for two small (and very sweet) young boys is an inspiration to me. “We love what we do, we love our customers, we are very thankful” Katie remarks. I asked Katie how they make time, not surprisingly Katie laughs, and tells me “lots of coffee”! Katie and Josh have an entrepreneurial spirit, Katie has “a tough time passing by an old building without daydreaming” but reveals they have “no plans to open another business anytime soon”.

Katie and I finished our chat with a brief Q&A

Favorite Cookie?
“Magic…no, Chocolate Chip…no…yes… okay definitely Chocolate Chip”

Where were you born?
“Chicago, IL”

Dies Family Pets?
“Boone, our 12 year old sweet Hound dog”

Favorite Flower?
“Yellow Tulips”

Current TV show you’re watching?
“Homeland, I love Claire Danes”

Favorite type of Pizza:?
“How specific can I be? Okay- Giordano’s Deep Dish Sausage and Mushroom pizza, from Chicago. FYI, they’ll ship a pizza in the mail”.

How do you take your coffee?
“Black, iced coffee only…Iced Black Americano”

Favorite type of beer?
“IPA’s- Booneshine IPA to be specific”

Least favorite animal?
“I’m going to make some enemies here…cat’s. But only because I’m super allergic”!

What is your dream vacation?
“Venice, Italy. Although I would like to go on a European Tour and do some ‘market research’”.

That was a fun cup of coffee with Katie Dies! Be sure to stop by Stick Boy Bread Company on Main Street in Downtown and say Hello!

Chelsea Konowski

It Started In a Speech Class ….

It Started In a Speech Class ….

Meet John and Patty Byrne ….

The Fuquay Mineral Spring Inn Bed and Breakfast have quite the love story attached to it. It all started during an 8am speech class at the University of Southern Mississippi. In the class were “Miss Southern Miss” and a Southern Miss basketball player that had a father with a pretty impressive baseball career. Miss Southern Miss was “Patty” was from Gulfport, Mississippi and the tall basketball player was “John” from Wake Forest, NC. Patty recalls how great John was at public speaking. They didn’t know how that talent would serve John well down the road.

They began to reminisce about their first date. It was on the tennis courts. This says a lot to Patty’s confidence on the court to entertain a first date with a guy John’s size but Patty had a reputation for being quite the athlete herself. When asked who one, Patty was quick to say “John did BUT we HAD to go into the 3rd set”. They then found themselves on the University calendar. There was a conflict on if they were dating at that time. John thought they were but Patty wasn’t quite sure, but regardless the photo that John has in his office shows a couple that in all accounts was the all American couple. The relationship grew and as we all know, John and Patty eventually were married.

In 1973 John landed a job at Fidelity Bank in Fuquay-Varina. At the time, Fuqua-Varina did not have a lot of people in the city limits. Everyone pretty much knew everyone so when this new young couple moved into town, people noticed. Dr. William Freeman was the Fuquay-Varina High School Principal and when he learned Patty’s first job was at Brentwood he wanted to talk to her to find out how he could get her to transfer to FVHS. And so she did.

John recalls his mother telling him the story of “The Spring” in FV and told him he needed to find it. For those of you new to the area it wasn’t until recently that “The Spring” had an extensive transformation. Until then, one would have a hard time locating it due to the overgrown shrubs. In 1973 John literally could not find it, but he did find Zazzelle Johnson’s house. Zazzelle lived in the home that is now the FV Adminstrative Offices. She grew fond of the Byrne’s and loved it when they would come over to play tennis on her private tennis courts, located on the property.

It was that first encounter with The Spring that got John and Patty thinking differently about downtown.

Fast forward to 1998. For three years prior to 1998 John spent a lot of time researching Bed and Breakfasts. The hotel industry was part of both John and Patty’s family heritage. Something was calling them to explore turning the Cozart home into a Bed and Breakfast. John had developed an interest in revitalization of downtowns and had started attending the NC Main Street Conferences. In the 1990’s the “sprawl” was happening across the country and all our downtowns were beginning to struggle as people left to head to the strip malls. They thought if they invested it would show people that people are willing to invest in Fuquay-Varina Downtown. He began to shadow and work with Karen Pullens who owns the Pittsboro Rosemary House. He wanted to really understand what it took to run a top notch B & B.

The work began in 1998. They added four and a half bathrooms to  what is now the three room, two suite Inn. They brought the kitchen up to code so that they could run the Bed and Breakfast and offer cooking classes. They started the work on making this a well appointed facility that now has MANY prestigious ratings and accreditations. To those who travel the Bed and Breakfast circuits, the Fuquay Mineral Spring Inn is known as one of the top in its class.

When asked what they love most about owning an Inn in Downtown Fuquay-Varina, John and Patty were both quick to point out how many friends they have made as a result of this business adventure. They talk about friends from other countries that are repeat guests and have learned a lot about other parts of the world as a result of meeting visitors to our area.

A 8am speech class in college ended like this. For all those college student out there … word to the wise. Pajamas are not acceptable for attendance. You just never know how that 8am class will have an impact on your life down the road.

Interesting Facts

1. John and Patty moved into the Inn in 2000, during the 24” snow storm!
2. During another ice storm, there were people from Japan in Wake County and the Inn was one of the few hotels in the area that still had water and heat. The group filled up the Inn.
3. The US Open usually brings a lot of guests since the commute to Pinehurst is not too far.
4. They had a gentleman that traveled from South Carolina each week to take each one of the cooking classes.
5. John teaches a class on how to operate a Bed and Breakfast. He works with 16 to 20 groups each year which assist them in their research.
6. Two years ago they installed a Bocce Ball Court in the back. According to James Richard who rents an apartment at the Ben Wiley …. it is a GREAT court.
7. The painting over the fireplace in the Inn has a really interesting story. John’s father, Tommy Byrne, played for the New York Yankees. The day Tommy signed with the Yankees, he and his high school baseball coach, John Caddell stood in front of the painting at the Andrew Johnson hotel in Raleigh. “John” was named after his dad’s beloved coach. When the hotel was purchased by the News and Observer, JC Knowles told John and Patty they should purchase the painting for the Inn. Little did he kn

8. The Gardens are part of the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program by the National Wildlife Federation.
9. The Inn is a true “Art Gallery”. Ask Patty to take you around and talk about each artist and what was the significance of the purchase. MANY were purchased from our local Art Gallery, Ashley’s Art who has a reputation of bringing in amazing talent all over the world.
10. In the china cabinet, Patty has a silver bowl that was a “party favor” of Princess Diana and Prince Charles wedding. John found it during on of their travels and was able to acquire it for Patty. He thought she would like it … he smiles when she talks about it. I would say, he hit a “home run”.

Please help support this local business by telling your friends that when they come to visit that The Fuquay Mineral Spring Inn is a GREAT choice!

To learn more about The Inn, visit their website.

Until the next conversation,


A Day with Eleanor

A Day with Eleanor

Certainty … There are some things in life you can pretty much count on. One of those things is when you walk into David Anthony’s you will probably see “Eleanor” standing at the gift-wrap area. She’s there to greet you, ask you about your day and of course, get you all taken care of when it comes to the perfect gift! Since 1984 this downtown gem has helped people spread joy with their friends and family. Originally owned by Betty Joyce (Kinton) Sammons, Eleanor purchased the building and business in 1988 and for 28 years has worked six days a week with enthusiasm that might make you wonder if she has a caffeine patch on her arm. Maybe it was her training as a Campbell College Cheerleader (yes, “college” was what they called it when she attended the school) or her genuine love of what she does, but whatever the reason … NOTHING seems to be able to slow down this southern bell.

Eleanor’s customers often will tell you they shop at David Anthony’s because “Where else can you walk into a store, find the perfect gift, have it wrapped for FREE and be out the door in 15 minutes.” Yes, folks …. That is even with the “David Anthony’s SIGNATURE bow on top. If you don’t believe them …. go in and try it for yourself! As I was visiting with her a customer walked in. Eleanor quickly said his name, asked about his wife and they both spent time talking about what was happening in their life. It was genuine. It was real. It was “Eleanor”.

Eleanor Stephenson genuinely cares about people and about Fuquay-Varina. She loved sharing with me how she was born in the house to the left of John Adcock’s office on Academy Street and how she and her very best friend “growing up”, Mollie (Ashworth) Stephenson, would walk to Elliott’s each day after school. She talked about the days when she loved working with brides as they purchased their china and gifts at David Anthony’s. Before the days of Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, etc. she would have around 20 brides during a summer. Talk about an economic stimulus package for a mom and pop! Her eyes lit up as she recalls the MANY teenagers she has hired all through the years as “David Anthony’s” was often times their very first job. Landing a role on the staff is something she has NEVER had to advertise. She smiles and says, “You know, anytime I’ve ever needed a new staff person, they just show up! I know God did that!” She reflects and in her eyes you can see how she loves the memories and how each one made an impact on her life.

The big box stores have taken a hit on many small business owners. She said she has many loyal customers and many new to the area seem to really grasp that supporting the mom and pops is so important. She makes certain what she carries you can’t find in the cookie cutter stores of mass production. She has even started offering a “vintage section” in the store where items of real craftsmanship are offered for sale or as she chuckled … a walk down memory lane for people.

For a business owner of this length of time you would think they would be tired. But not THIS GIRL. I think she came from “good genes” as I learned her mother was the very first Woman Vice President of a bank in NC. That bank is now what we call “Fidelity Bank”. Eleanor does not stop. She is the first one to jump on an idea and the first one to help a local cause. She sells books for the FV Woman’s Club and FV Museums. Anytime I’ve needed her, her answer is always “Sure”! It is that willingness to help and to be entrenched with what happens in FV is what I believe has kept her going for so many years.

As I walked around the store, she loved showing me so many wonderful new things that she was carrying. Jewelry continues to be a big seller for her and her coffee has been a product that has always been a steady staple. Her roaster is from Raleigh so once again … she preaches the “local”. If you are a fan of David Anthony’s FB page you will see items posted daily that will inspire you to head down to see “Eleanor” THAT week. You will walk out happy, not just by the purchase but because you were able to spend some time with “Eleanor”. Greatest GIFT of all!

Until the next conversation,



Time at Flowers

Time at Flowers

I walked into the shop to see once again things were changed out and rearranged. There is never time for the dust to settle too much at this spectacular flower shop in downtown Fuquay-Varina. Seen amongst the industry as one of the top florists in the area, Donna Pittman was busy showing her incredible husband Jack and a steady helper on a ladder exactly where to hang the curtain in her new “bridal consultation room”. No details were left out as Donna wanted to create a space that was an extension of a home with soothing monochromatic colors and enough sophistication that you felt special without that feeling of stuffiness.

Donna knew I wanted to chat with her about the business so we went over to Nil’s where we could get a hug from Sibel and sip on some wonderful sweet tea. I asked Donna to tell me her story. How she got started, what inspires her and how she has made it as a small local business for 19 years! Below is her story.

Donna started out in Cary, NC around the year 1987. She spent ten years in Cary prior to landing in Varina …. strictly by chance. There was a business in Varina that worked on “golf carts” and Donna needed her cart repaired for her kids. She brought it to Varina and while walking around she stumbled across the space where she has called “home” for 19 years. Now, for those of you who think Varina has always been the booming area of town you need to be brought up to speed. You see when Donna found this “space” there were only three or four businesses in Varina. Below is what the storefront looked like right after she moved in and a view of what “Varina” looked like during the time she decided this was the place to relocate.

To say Donna had “vision” even then would be an understatement. Most would have looked at the space and said, NO WAY. But Donna saw a diamond inside those walls. She knew with a lot of hard work she could make this the place where her business could grow. Years have passed by and Donna has seen many changes. She said Varina Station really put Broad Street on the map. Once the new mix of residential and retail came in things started lighting up. Some businesses have landed that have been a draw for people outside of Fuquay-Varina. She chuckles when she now gets calls for directions, all she has to say is, “We are across the street from Aviator, Do you know where that is?”. Gone are the days where people are riding around on Main Street and she has to explain how to get them routed to Broad Street.

I then asked Donna what was her “moment”. The moment that she remembers that is so special to her. She quickly said …. Juli Betts wedding. I know Juli very well so my ears perked up. What about Juli’s wedding. Donna said it was at THAT wedding that she felt she had been validated as a “real professional”. She said Juli and her mom came in to meet with her. They didn’t get into the details, they simply said …. “We trust you”. Donna was then able to create the wedding of Juli’s dreams based off a trust that it would be beautiful. I called Juli afterwards and shared this with her and asked her to send in some photos. She was out of town but that awesome husband of hers delivered the goods!

Donna is now known as one of “THE Florists” in Wake County for weddings. Her trademark look is organic. She utilizes many local growers, which even consists of her own personal garden! Her yard is full of unique flowers ready for their next bouquet. Last year she produced 92 weddings during a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. She employs two full time designers, two full time support staff, three part time support staff and seasonal staff during peak seasons. Her vision for that run down building has created jobs and for those of us who have watched her business grow, many would say that Flowers on Broad Street helped “Put Broad Street on the map”.

When Fuquay-Varina Downtown thinks of our purpose in growing our community it is this kind of story that helps us realize what a special place our downtown is. You see, we get to become friends with business owners like Donna who took a risk and we get to watch and hopefully help them grow. We get to share how a “moment” from a citizen helped mold someone as a professional and send home the message that you never know how impactful your support can be to someone in our community. We get to rally the troops to always remember that supporting a local business will ALWAYS be important to us as a community because without them, our heart of our community would simply die. Donna said that FVDA’s efforts with the “Shop Local” movement was working. She said this past year she has had countless people stop in and say, they want to support local! For her …. She knows the citizens of FV “get it” and they show up to support the local businesses often. THAT is the real key to her success.

Stop by this week and check out Donna’s NEW bridal consultant area. Below are some “teaser” images. If I go missing …. I may just be working from her awesome new couch!

Until the next conversation,