Sales for Local Businesses Break Records

By Jeanny Lavache

Local retail stores have seen a strong gain in revenue during the last month. According to The Associated Press, The International Council of Shopping Centers Index of 28 retailers rose 4.2 percent compared with the same month last year.

The JCPenney in The Oaks Mall saw higher sales in men’s clothing, home decorating items and luggage.

“We followed national trends of higher sales per store,” said Sara Oldere, JCPenney local manager.

Victoria’s Secret saw the best sales on record for its annual “2-4-1” intimate apparel sale according to store manager Virginia Brown. Overall the store sales were up 12 percent from last year, and with the economy doing better women seem to be more willing to buy their line, said Brown.

Representatives from Macy’s and Dillard’s would not give specific numbers, but said sales for last month were definitely higher than those from last year.

Receipts from the mall food court were also higher. Mall Information Assistant Jane Whitmoore said overall food sales are totaled each month by the mall, and sales were up 9 percent.

“All the spaces are filled in the food court, and business has been very strong, especially in the early dinner hours of 4 to 6 in the afternoon,” Whitmoore said.

For retailers outside of The Oaks Mall, business is still doing well. Target Regional Manger Ira Goldstein said sales at the local store were up 8 percent from a year ago for the same month despite closing the outdoor gardening area, which is now used to expand the food items.

Target made some big improvements in departments such as children’s clothes, home and food.

Sales also seem to be doing well for local Walmart stores.

“Sales last month from Walmart stores continued to rise compared to a year ago,” said Ira Goldberg, regional manager. “We estimate an increase of 5.5 percent in sales despite our continued effort to serve our customers with lower prices on many items.”

Gainesville has also benefitted from the remolding of the Archer Road store and the opening of the new super Walmart on Northwest 34th Street, Goldberg said. The new store replaced a 35-year-old one on Northwest 13th Street.

“The new look has made the Archer store more attractive on the outside and easier to find items on the inside,” Goldberg said. “We think that made a difference.”

The local Kohl’s store sales is estimated to be up 8 to 9 percent from a year ago for the month, said Sallie Anderson, manager of the local Kohl’s store said.

“We are pleasantly surprised with last month’s sales,” Anderson said.

According to The Associated Press the positive economic news isn’t dispelling worries about rising prices. Analysts say more price shocks could scare consumers, especially low-and middle-income people, into pulling back on spending.

“The underlying (spending) trend is quite good,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer affairs for Moody’s. “But increasing costs on basic necessities (are) a growing constraint on household budgets. Question we don’t know is: By how much?


UF CAIRES and sustainability students plan Earth Fest

By Jeanny Lavache

When it comes to reducing carbon foot prints and being more environmentally friendly; it is always helpful to have resources to help get started.

This is why University of Florida’s UF CAIRES and sustainability students have planned a day of fun and entertainment to educate the public on different ways to be more sustainable.

“We wanted an event that celebrated sustainability,” said Alyse Tristram, a sophomore at UF.

Earth Fest is a large entertainment event held at Flavet Field on April 9 with a large array of local businesses, student organizations and entertainment. The event will also have local bands and artists  as well as local and sustainable foods.

“Earth Fest is meant to display that you can get almost anything you need in and around Gainesville,” said Stephen Paolini, a second-year student at UF. “It’s really hard to achieve sustainability goals without a strong community.”

The event is an effort to bring awareness to sustainability on campus and get more students involved. The UF CAIRES organization have put so much time and planning into the Earth Fest event.

“It was basically a trial and error process because none of us have ever planned an event before,” Tristram said.

Uniting the many different student organizations on campus during Earth Fest really helps to draw a larger and more diverse group of students to the event.

“In order to sustain movements on campus, I think we need to have collaboration and coordination with the different groups in order to create a network of like-minded organizations,” Paolini said.

Sustainability is an important issue for a large university such as UF.

“UF is so big we function like a small city,” said Allison Vitt, outreach and communications coordinator for the University of Florida’s office of sustainability. “Our annual electricity bill is $40 million.”

Many steps have been taken to make UF a more sustainable campus.

“We were one of the first schools to get Chick-fil-A to switch from Styrofoam cups on campus,” Vitt said.

Students are also finding different techniques to be more sustainable, even in small ways.

“The first step is to be aware, and do little things like carpooling and getting involved,” Tristram said.

Earth Fest will offer a look at many of the different ways to get involved with sustainability on campus and around the community.

“In order for our campus to be a beautiful and great place to learn and live we have to focus on being as sustainable as possible,” Vitt said.

Locals Protest the Demolition of Beloved Theater

By Jeanny Lavache

After being open for 56 years, Ada Smith and over a hundred locals are grief stricken to see The Palace Theater die.

The Palace Theater, in Cross City in Dixie County, opened in 1960 and has become a local landmark.

The theater has been sold by its owner, Carmike Cinemas, to Community National Bank of Zephyrhills. The theater is closed and will be demolished with plans to open the new bank early next year. Demolition begins Monday.

Locals protested the demolition of the beloved theater, but the last showing, Tower Heist, was at 9:30 on Thursday night.

Rodney Foonman, city manager, relayed a message from the Zephyrhills Bank to theater supports saying a last ditch effort to save the building would cost nearly $700,000. Foonman said the city would not be part of the purchase effort.

“This would all involve private parties,” Foonman said.

Foonman praised the efforts of the save the-theater movement and “the spirit they showed in battling to the end.”

Eileen Herman, a leader in the fight to save the building, conceded the price put it out of reach.

Ada Smith, theater manager, has been working at The Palace Theater since 1976. Her son, Randell Smith, practically grew up at the theater where she toted the now 33-year old around her hip while she ran the concession stands.

Smith let the neon array of lights along the building’s façade burn all night long after the crowd had left. The neon marquis outside glowed reading “closed.” Patrons had snapped “farewell” pictures in front of the building on Thursday.

On the night of the final showing the projector clicked promptly at 9:30 with previews for films that would never come to The Palace Theater. After the movie ended City Commissioner, Scott Black, and his wife Laura were among the last to leave. They left in silence and the next day he said the moment was too powerful for him to talk about at the time.

“That’s always been our night out,” Black said. “I just don’t want to keep losing the things that make Cross City home, the kinds of things that make us special.”

James Marow had orders from Smith to sweep the floor. He cleaned up the last of the soda cups and popcorn boxes, the same job he had been doing for 25 years even though it obviously didn’t matter. Still Marow didn’t argue with his longtime boss.

“Miss Ada told me to,” Marow said.

The last of the moviegoers filtered out of the small lobby by 12:00 a.m., and Smith and her crew cleaned out the last of the remaining bits of memorabilia and emptied the candy counter.

“It shouldn’t be business as usual,” said resident Paul Wadlinger. “I’ve got two grandsons I bring here, they’ve had that taken away from them.”

Wadlinger was one of the 108 people at the last show.

Someone anonymously posted neon colored posters around town overnight after the theater closed urging residence to come to the theater parking lot at 12 p.m. today to show support for the theater. The flyers also urges people to avoid using the new bank if the theater comes down.

For locals like Melinda McCabe Norman, 47, the theater was more than just a place to go to watch a movie, it was a place that held valuable memories.

Norman taped a handwritten note to the wind of the women’s restroom addressed to the “Demolition People” saying: “I would really love to have the windows out of the women’s restroom. Thirty years ago I snuck out of this window.  I don’t have a million dollars to spend. Only a million dollars in memories.”

Norman said in the late 80s she would sneak out of the movies through the women’s restroom windows and meet up with friends in the parking lot or head over to the Royal Castle and drink root beer and smoke cigarettes. The Royal Castle across the street is also gone.

For the locals who tried so hard to keep the Palace alive seeing it go is a heart-breaking sight.

“Oh it’s sad to see all this end,” Smith said. “I just hate seeing it close, having to close it.”

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens Press Release

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

4700 S.W. 58th Drive Gainesville, FL 32608

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                  Contact: Jeanny Lavache, Intern March 18, 2016                                                                                    Phone Number: (352) 372-4981

Fax Number: (352) 372-5892




Kanapaha Botanical Gardens hosts Spring Garden Festival

Gainesville, Fl. – Who: Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

What:  This is Gainesville’s premier horticultural event. The Spring Garden Festival will feature about 175 booths offering plants, landscape displays, garden accessories, arts and crafts, educational exhibits and food. Admission is $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for children three to 13. Cash is the only form of payment that will be accepted. About eight thousand people are expected to attend. This year’s event highlights the bamboo gardens. Kanapaha has the largest collection of Bamboo in Florida.

When: The Spring Garden Festival will be held on March 19th 9am-5pm and 20th 10am-5pm.

Where:  To get to the event take the entrance on S.W. Archer Road (State Road 24) 1 mile west of I-75 (exit #384). A map with parking information will also be posted on the website.

Why: Alexis Caffrey, Director of Kanapaha Botanical Gardens: “For a lot of the nurserymen and growers around here, this is a place where they can showcase and sell all the things they’ve been growing throughout the year.”

How: This event was made possible by our generous sponsors Visit Gainesville, Gainesville Sun, Domino’s Pizza and Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is operated by the North Florida Botanical Society, a non-profit educational organization.

Note:  The 62-acre Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is the second largest and most diverse botanical garden in the state. Built around Lake Kanapaha, the park features twenty-four gardens, including the largest herb garden in the South. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is operated by the North Florida Botanical Society, a non-profit educational organization. For more information, please call Jeanny Lavache at (352) 372-4981 or visit .

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Saving the Elephants

By: Jeanny Lavache

The sad truth is elephants don’t stand a chance against poachers, or at least they didn’t before researchers like Chris Mortensen and Danielle Arnold stepped in.

“The elephant population is on a downwards trajectory with poaching in the wild,” said Chris Mortensen, assistant professor in animal science at the University of Florida.

Every year for the last five years Mortensen has given the same talk on the current status of wild life conservation to the exotic animals club, but this year he really stressed the issue of the declining elephant population.

“It’s projected that in 10 to 20 years they may be extinct in the wild,” Mortensen said. “And in 100 years they may be completely gone from the Earth if current trends continue.”

This is why Mortensen, Arnold and researchers from South Africa are coming together to work on the Preserving the Future of Elephants project.

Preserving the Future of Elephants is an elephant research project aimed at finding the best method of preserving elephant gametes and increasing elephant genetic diversity. The project’s funds is being collected through Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform.

“It’s very hard to get money for conservation research, so we put together a video and a blog write up so people can know what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” said Danielle Arnold, a PhD student at the university of Florida.

The project is focusing on collecting, analyzing and preserving male elephant gametes. The problem is the researchers aren’t getting good quality semen samples from the elephants and are trying to figure out why that is.

“We want to look at the basic biology of these sperm cells,” Arnold said. “By looking at the good and bad samples we can see if there may be an additive we can add to the semen or if there is a dietary supplement that will help improve the quality.”

It is imperative that researchers find a way to get better semen samples in order to successfully inseminate female elephants when needed. According to Arnold this research can really aid in the advancement of elephant preservation.

“We’re trying to find ways of enhancing the process we already have in order to make freezing better,” Arnold said.

African and Asian elephants are both in trouble, but Asian elephants have it worse due to their habitat changing. There is barely any wildlife left for Asian elephants.

“There are about 350,000 to 375,000 elephants max left in the wild, and we’re losing over 100 elephants a day,” Mortensen said.

Although the elephant population is falling drastically there is still hope. Mortensen uses the Przewalski’s horse as an example saying that in the 70s there were only 12 of them left on Earth, but after zoos came together and created a very careful breeding plan there are now about 2,000 today.

The Preserving a Future of Elephants project is trying to raise $10,000 by the end of October.

“The money that is raised will go directly to elephant conservation and research,” Arnold said.

Mortensen’s love and passion for elephants has really made an impact on those who hear him talk about it.

“It’s really noble what he’s doing to save these elephants, and seeing how passionate he is about his work is so inspiring,” said Madison Tonic, a sophomore animal science major.

Mortensen, Arnold and their colleagues believe that through the preservation of the male elephant gametes the species still stands a chance.

“If we remain complacent and stand by it is going to happen; the elephants will go extinct,” Mortensen said.

How I learned to be a Happy Virgin

By Jeanny Lavache

Being a virgin only became a burden once I stared college. In high school, I was always awkward and shy. I worried about everything from my grades to my appearance, but never did I really worry about sex.  It wasn’t until I got to the University of Florida that I quickly realized sex was everywhere and hookup culture wasn’t just a college stereotype.

It was hard listening to my friends go on about their thrilling sex lives, while I sat listening like an ignorant child. It was hard to date as well. Because I was a virgin, dating became tricky. I’ve never had a boyfriend, and this simple fact seemed to linger over me like a dark cloud that rained drops of rejection.

This is college. Who isn’t having sex in college? Well, that would be me. I was new to it all. I was “the virgin” in my friend group, and I would weakly cackle every time a joke about my gloomy love life was made. I wanted to date, and I wanted a boyfriend, but it started to seem like sex was the prerequisite to a relationship, or at least that’s what I saw around me.

Losing my virginity wasn’t something I wanted to save for marriage, but it also wasn’t something I was willing to do just to get out of the way. It was important to me and my fragile heart that I waited until I was absolutely ready, but I was closely approaching the age of 20, and I was slowly losing tolerance for my virgin status. I was tired of being seen as an infant.

Listening to stories about random hookups and friends with benefits arrangements became so normal that I started to believe I was the cause of my own loneliness. If only I was bold, confidant or just more outgoing. But honestly the whole idea intimidated me. I didn’t want to be someone I was not, but I also didn’t want to continue hearing “aww you’re still a virgin?” or “Wow, so you haven’t done anything?” Because of this constant sex presence, I started to believe that my conservative, old fashioned ways would lead to my eternal lack-of-love damnation.

So, decided I would stop hoping my “perfect guy” would romantically stumble into my life, and I took action. After much persuasion from my friends and convincing myself I wasn’t a desperate mess, I downloaded the infamous Tinder dating app. It only took a few matches and messages for me to realize it wasn’t for me. Every message I received from a guy followed the same format. I would be greeted with an extremely flattering compliment followed by a few general questions about myself, and it ended with them wondering if we could hangout. Everything would be fine until I mentioned that I was a virgin. This little detail got an array of reactions from “Are you serious?” to “I could change that” with a winky face. It was a waste of time, and I started to come to terms with my misfortune and prepared myself for a life of solitude and cats.

I deleted the app, and my life went on. I was still lonely, still a virgin and still the butt of every joke. I should have brushed it off and focused on school, but instead I allowed it to eat me up inside. I allowed others to project their ideas of love and relationships onto me, and I dwelled in my loneliness. But suddenly things around me changed. The stories from my friends went from thrilling to heartbreaking, and I saw the hurtful side of casual sex encounters. The fun friends with benefits arrangements turned into one sided relationships where sex was given in exchange for a limited amount of attention. This was when I finally snapped out of my peer-pressured trance, and realized I wasn’t the broken one.

I spent months trying to fit in, and it became clear to me that the people I chose to surround myself with were engaging in these activities not because it’s what college kids did, but because it was a way to fill a void in their life. For the first time in months I realized being a virgin wasn’t something to be ashamed of. I was still the “clueless virgin,” but at least I could say I was happy.

The Pup Behind the Vest

Jeanny Lavache

Sara Cork is using her love for dogs to give back to her community.

The University of Florida student is the only puppy trainer in Gainesville who works with the Guide Dog Foundation. She manages being a student and a trainer to a puppy named Calvin.

“As a puppy trainer one of my jobs is to socialize Calvin and bring him everywhere with me to expose him to different environments,” said the 4th year psychology major.

Different parts of Calvin’s training include learning a list of commands, being potty trained and traveling with Sara everywhere she goes. Calvin goes everywhere with Sara including classes.

“I usually pack a few snacks and chew toys so that he won’t be disruptive in class,” Sara said.

Although Calvin is a cute puppy, his training restricts him from being pet while he’s wearing his guide dog vest.

“Calvin has to learn the difference between being in vest and being a normal puppy,” Sara said.

There is an extensive application process before becoming a guide dog trainer.

“I had to apply and attend at least two monthly meetings where I socialized with other puppy trainers,” Sara said. “Then I had an in home interview where people from the foundation came to make sure my home was puppy proof.”

According to the Guide Dog Foundation their mission is to improve the quality of life for people who are blind, have low vision or have other special needs.

“The training Calvin is getting now is preparing him to help the person he will later be placed with,” Sara said.

It costs $50,000 to breed, raise and train one assistance dog according to the Guide Dog Foundation website. However, all of the foundation’s services are provided at no charge to individuals. Funding comes from the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations.

“I decided to become a puppy trainer because I felt like God was telling me I needed to do something that wasn’t about me,” Sara said.

After seeking advice from a couple who were also puppy trainers Sara decided that being a puppy trainer was right for her.

Sara will train Calvin for a year and a half. After she is done training him he will be sent to an academy for further training and finally placed with a disabled person.

For Sara the hardest part about being a puppy trainer is knowing that she will eventually have to give Calvin up.

“I know it will be hard but I know he won’t be gone forever and he’ll be changing someone’s life,” Sara said.