In This Issue

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Published four times annually online at www.somimag.com


SENIOR ART DIRECTOR // Jose Roque – DesignWorks Miami, Inc. // WEB DESIGN // Six Foot 3

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS & ARTICLE RESOURCES // Brian Corey, Merecedes Cruz, Stephan Medina,

Tiffany Moore, Stewart Royer, Donna Shelley, Roberto Suarez, Jamal Wilson

For more information, please contact the publisher: JES comm, LLC • Postal Box 431597

Miami, FL 33243-1597 • VM 305.665.2838 Email: jes@somimag.com

“John Edward” Smith
Creative Director & Publisher

FALLing into SoMi

‘Get ready for autumn colors….  With great expectation after a brutal summer heat we’re gearing up for the traditional six months of wonderful weather through mid-May.  And we’re going to have great music to go along with the wonderful pleasant South Florida seasonal climate.  Welcome a transformative development of a cultural collaboration with the Frost School of Music and the City of South Miami as our Fall edition lead feature.

I’m so pleased to finally have our online edition up and in the intended interactive website experience.  It’s been a long time coming, and thank you, our readers, for your patience over the past three editions.  (And we’ll look to work out the kinks before we publish the start of Volume XIX come December.)

The Winn-Dixie site has now been cleared as detailed construction documents are reviewed and approved.  Welcomed resurgence in our town 


center is noted by area businesses, residents, and community leaders.  Next up is Sunset Place.  Direct discussions are being held between the city leaders and the developer.  I anticipate that within the next three months we should see proposed drawings, and then public hearings, negotiations, and approvals by the city commission.  From my conversations, all parties are eager to sit down and get it done.

Congratulations to the Sunset Place based Area Stage Company, now going by the single moniker AREA, on their recent highly acclaimed Little Mermaids adaptation, and read about their equally creative rendition of The Addams Family on page 81.

Meet our new business owners as I take a walk around town.  Follow me along and welcome them to SOMI.  Follow our What’s New in Town feature on page 82.

As a dedicated commuter cyclist and an “early believer” in The Underline, it’s great to have the Ground-Breaking event for seven-mile Phase 3 (that’s our one-mile in South Miami!) this month.  It is such a transformative project for Miami and all the communities along the ten-mile route.  Support The Underline.

All the best and be safe cycling out there!


These are a couple of mentions from our readers Please send along your favorites.

Bon appetit!

EGGS-ceptional! – Peter L., Miami

My wife had an appointment at South Miami Hospital, so we went to Craft, the new place on Sunset, for breakfast.  Food and service were eggs-cellent!  We’ll be back.  Good to see another charming spot in town.  They’ll do very well here – service and quality are always in demand.

CRAFT | 5868 Sunset Drive | 786.564.5873

KALIMERA SHRIMP – Joe R., Pinecrest

My wife, daughter and I just finished up an early movie and looked around for a place to have an early dinner.  We happened on Kalimera, and we enjoyed an exceptional fine dining experience.  The shrimp, which I’ve never had prepared that way, was my favorite.  What got my immediate attention was the very minimal mark-up on some premium French wines.  You don’t see prices like that out at dinner.  We’ll be back for sure.


5840 SW 71 Street | 305.763.8661 

A LATE AFTERNOON TREAT – Jonathan B., South Miami 

I’ve gotten to enjoy an occasional late afternoon gelato at Konos.  My favorite is nocciola {hazelnut) single scope with a side espresso.  Perfecto!  The manager Diego got me to try an affogato – which was very enjoyable as well.  Nice to have a gelateria around town in walking distance from my office.


5885 Sunset Drive | 786.536.9163 

Hearing From You


What a thoroughly informative piece you published regarding the Winn Dixie.  Such a detailed history of the eventual site development since it was purchased by Bacardi in 2007 for $14.5m. I appreciate your time in putting this together.

Jorge B., South Miami


I was in town on a Wednesday night around 10:30, when I got ticketed by your parking police. There were empty spaces all around where I parked.  The streets are deserted – why have parking enforcement that late at night, you could save salaries.  And why enforce when you have people dining in your restaurants.  It’ not good PR.

Alejandro V., Coral Gables


I’ve been coming to South Miami since back when it was a busy shopping spot. Things had gotten to look run down.  It’s good to see some recent improvements and sidewalk repairs around town.  The newly planted croton with the grey stones is very attractive.  Replace those Black Olive trees that just tear up the sidewalks.  And get matching street furniture – it’s a hodgepodge out there.  I think you need a woman in charge!

Marjorie D., Coral Gables


Send your town center favorites photos and comments to the publisher at jes@somi.com. We’d love to hear from you.

New Park Dedication

Ribbon-cutting in the Neighborhood

Vice Mayor “Bicycle Bob” Welsh was memorialized with the dedication of a new neighborhood park in the Ludlam Elementary School area residential community along the Ludlam Glades canal.  He passed suddenly in February 2021.  He was known as a tree-loving community activist, our own “Johnny Appleseed” with planting Live Oaks and Dade Pines throughout the county.

In & Around
New Neighborhood Park Signag
Marilyn Magill, Welsh’s widow with former commissioner Walter Harris and Mayor Fernandez
Pelican Harbor’s Boykin and Marilyn Magill release three mockingbirds

Vice Mayor Robert C. Welsh Jr. Park officially opened to the public on Tuesday, August 9, 2023.  The new park features include open green space, a basketball half-court, a playground area with a poured-in-place protective surface, a prefabricated shelter, an accessible concrete sidewalk, benches, a bike rack, a water fountain, and other park amenities.

Former mayor Philip Stoddard and former commissioner Walter Harris fondly remembered their colleague and friend.  Christopher Boykin, Executive Director of the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station spoke of the support both Bob and his wife Marilyn had given over the years, and the welcoming open space in the park.  Area resident John Palenchar expressed appreciation to the city’s administration and particularly the parks department for being responsive to the neighborhood desires in planning the park.

The city acquired the property (16,730 SF or 0.38 acres) roughly 4 years ago in September 2019 for the sole purpose of converting the lot into a neighborhood pocket park. In January 2020, city staff conducted a 9-month planning and design process. The city officially took over management and operation of the property in October 2020. The single-family house was demolished in January 2021. The park was renamed to Vice Mayor Robert C. Welsh Jr. Park from Ludlam Glades Park in March 2021.  Two years later from the initial planning and design process, in 2022, community members desired a redesign of the park that incorporated more open green, which now represents more than 70% of the park. 

In & Around
Lead Feature

A late August event planning luncheon at Mosaico, pictured are: (back): Maurizio Farinelli, Mayor Javier Fernandez, Dean Shelly Berg; (front) Kostia Lukyniuk, Mary Scott Russell,
John Edward Smith


Building A Special Events Series in Our Town Center

They’ll be dancing in the street to the sounds of a top local DJ and live music jam as a music collaboration between the University of Miami Frost School of Music and the City of South Miami rolls out over the next several months. “And from our streets and sidewalks, we’ll even elevate your SoMi experience with a rooftop concert!” exclaims event producer and SOMI Magazine creative director/publisher John Edward Smith.

Smith is referring to a multi-faceted musical festival in our South Miami Town Center spanning six-months, beginning with a two-day “Strings over SoMi” program on the second weekend of November which includes a Sunset Drive main stage concert on Saturday, Veterans Day.  On Sunday, Frost musicians are staged on sidewalks in town, and that evening, a closing concert will be staged on 

the rooftop of the South Miami Municipal Garage.  Following the Opening Festival Weekend, each second Saturday of the month, from December through May, Frost musicians and other local community performing arts groups will take to the sidewalks to entertain visitors to the town center in a “Somi Sidewalk Showcase.”.  The “Second Saturdays in SoMi,” concludes with DJ and Live Jam by Frost musicians ushering in a dance night on Sunset Drive.

JohnEdward Smith discusses the proposed project in an April meeting with Dean Shelton Berg of the UM Frost School of Music

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This cultural collaboration with South Miami’s neighbor, the University of Miami, grew out of Mayor Javier Fernandez’ earnest desire to foster relationships with “the U.”

In remarks at city meeting on September 5, 2023, the Mayor expressed his appreciation for the event planning and commission presentation noting: “We are very much focused on leveraging the benefit of having the University of Miami as our neighbor in every way possible; whether it’s studying the prospects of the future development of the city hall, working with their school of architecture and design studio in that regard, or to diversity of cultural offerings of the city.  This series could possibly become the seeds for a permanent performance space in our Town Center.  I am very excited for what this portends for the future of our city and looking to support this event in any way possible, and I thank the organizers for creating and planning this event for SoMi.”


John Edward Smith, publisher of SOMI Magazine, long-time South Miami resident and avid promoter of our area business community, had a happenstance encounter with an incredibly talented violinist while attending UM President Frenk’s holiday reception at Ibis House. A polished performer and masters’ degree student at the university,

Kostia performing at a UM Scholarship Donor Reception

Ukrainian Kostia Luykniuk wonderfully entertained the president’s guests that evening.  Smith and his guest were both mesmerized by the energetic and captivating performance.  After another unplanned musical encounter as he performed at a UM Scholarship Reception two months later, the two decided to meet up in SoMi.  As Smith had represented a classical recording artist, he offered whatever he could to bring a showcase performance to the area.

While living close by to our town center and attending UM, Kostia, 24, usually hangs out in Brickell, 

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Wynwood, or South Beach. As an artist, “I love those places for the music, dancing, fun, and networking. I wish something like that was here in South Miami where I chill when I’m in school. Unfortunately, Sunset Place and the area around it is pretty much dead for people my age.” 

By April, the two had crafted a plan to present to the city and the university: a unique musical experience for SoMi.  Kostia would take on the role of artistic director and Smith would serve as executive producer and facilitate the institutional coordination, providing creative direction 

with the understanding of the promotional value for our town center.  

Initial meetings were held with the South Miami Park & Recreation Department director and special events coordinator, and with Kostia’s faculty advisor and music school dean.  “There was superb creative collaboration throughout with the city staff, the university, and Kostia,” noted Smith.  And once the UM school session started this August, a team was put together to plan and execute Frost’s singular involvement with staff and professors in communications, marketing,

and music management.  Kostia observes “with the six-month artistic program being planned, some forty-four separate musical experiences will be offered our residents and visitors to South Miami.”

Dean Shelton “Shelly” Berg embraced the idea early on noting, “I am thrilled to deepen the collaboration between the Frost School of Music and our neighbor, South Miami.  South Miami is truly ‘our neighborhood’, and this musical series will have the feel of neighbors congregating to enjoy 

great music, fellowship, and food.”

Shelly Berg is an accomplished, multi-grammy nominated jazz pianist and composer.  He has graciously offered to perform the opening number for the festival.  

Kostia Lukyniuk is a Ukrainian-born, world-renowned violinist recognized for his unique and rebellious take on a traditional instrument. He revolutionizes the violin by breaking stereotypes, blending genres, and offering an extraordinarily entertaining performance by feeling every moment and improvising with it.  A high-caliber professional classical 

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Kostia on the Miami club scene

musician and winner of many prestigious competitions and awards, he graduated from the Eastman School of Music and is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Miami Frost School of Music.  When home in Ukraine, Kostia performed benefit concerts to raise money for his people and lift the spirits of those suffering from the war.  He now has taken Miami by storm, performing all over the city and surrounding areas






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from private events to Art Basel and upscale gala benefits. He actively performs all over the world, playing a wide variety of genres and styles, always giving himself fully to his audience.  (See SOMIonline 18, 3, “Arts In SOMI” article.  www.somimag.com.)

“I believe that quality music can bring back life and that true Miami party spirit in South Miami, reviving the streets with energy and joy.  That’s why we’re organizing the “Strings over SoMi” festival in November, followed by a monthly musical day every second Saturday.  People need something to get excited about and get together for.”

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SOMIonline wants to know: “As Artistic Director for the two-day festival and following second Saturdays, what can concert-goers and street party folks expect to see and hear on stage and in the street?”

Kostia enthusiastically notes, “Our opening concert on Saturday, November 11 will feature many talented groups 

from Frost. Esteemed dean of the school Shelton Berg will open the program, followed by student groups showcasing different genres of music from classical to jazz and rock. The festivities continue on Sunday, where the public will be able to enjoy various showcases on the sidewalks in South Miami culminating in a big closing concert at the ‘Top of the

Mayor making a point during the planning luncheon

Town.’  You will love experiencing these high-class performances from some of the most talented youth and the future of music, showcasing the different sides of stringed instruments in a variety of genres.

“This will continue every second Saturday of the following six months with the street jams and a DJ dance night, for which I’m personally very excited.“

The city has recently established a Town Center Advisory Board to confer with the city commission in advancing improvements in our business community.  Former mayor Mary Scott Russell and 

chair of the Town Center Advisory Board, notes that “activating the town center was high on the agenda from our first meeting. The purpose being to bring more visitors to South Miami in a conscious effort to support the businesses that make SoMi special. This musical series delivers that idea completely. Rather than seeking out commercial partners for one- off activations, the city will be partnering with the renowned Frost School of Music for not one but six months of programming which will showcase our unique shops and restaurants as well as encourage the use of our newly updated municipal parking garage.  Having seen John

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Kostia with co-presenting sponsors
Carol and Ed Williamson at Kalimera Restaurant

Edward’s creative commitment to the community over three decades and hearing Kostia perform, I am very thrilled to witness this creative collaboration among all participants.”

All parties look forward to seeing the festival flourish annually, bringing life and culture to South Miami and strengthening the relationship between the University

and the city and as Kostia notes, “Music and culture are the cornerstones of progress, I believe The Sounds of SoMi program is going to bring many wonderful things to the lives of South Miamians!”

 The collaboration between the City of South Miami and the University of Miami addresses three mutually inclusive beneficial goals:
1) To provide quality cultural events in our Town Center.
2) To develop effective collaborative relationships with the University of Miami, and,
3) For the Frost School of Music, to have outside venues to promote their exceptional music programs available for residents and showcase

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young talent, while students learn the true craft of their profession in a real-life setting.

In closing his remarks, Dean Berg noted “the Frost School abounds with world class talent, performing 350 concerts per year on the UM Campus, a stone’s throw away from South Miami.  ‘The Sounds of SoMi’ showcases our brilliant students and faculty in a festival setting and will encourage attendees to come to campus for more great music. This concert series is also a real-world laboratory for Frost students in Live Arts Presentation, Music Business, and Music Engineering.  ‘The Sounds of SoMi’   brings together a great city and a great music school, and in this case 1+1 will be an exponent of 2!’’  

Article by Cera Soli

Kostia performing “Amazing Grace” at the September 5th City Comission meeting

In & Around

Chris Christie in the House

Community Newspapers’ Town Hall at CasaCuba

On Friday, August 18, the Miller brothers outdid themselves in hosting a memorable Café y Pastelitos CasaCuba early morning Community Newspapers gathering of community political and business leaders.

With a local and national media bank lined up along the bar, with tables full and a SRO crowd welcomed Republican presidential candidate, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

A resounding rendition of “God Bless America” and Grant Miller chanting “Viva Miami” and “Go Marlins,” South Miami Mayor Javier

 Fernandez welcomed the governor to SoMi.

In his remarks Christie discussed four issues: spending, education/literacy, crime, and America first policy.  He stressed the theme of Bigger, Better, Stronger, Freer.  Being in politics for many years, he realizes in running the country, consensus and compromise with the president leading
the way.  

An hour-long Q&A session followed and brought out the best of him – charisma, combative, politically incorrect.  Christie noted that Trump is “scared of me” for not planning on attending the upcoming debate.  He called Trump “a grifter,” and “an ugly, divisive, horrible figure.”  In acknowledging that he supported Trump in 2016, he closed by saying “But today I have the guts to stand here and say what
the truth is.”

Mayor Javier Fernandez
welcomes the candidate and
attendees to SoMi
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Rank And File


Chief René G. Landa
Officer Rodney Napier

Chief René G. Landa and Officer Rodney Napier, two of the City of South Miami Police Department’s finest, are retiring from the force. Chief Landa after a long and distinguished career and Officer Napier as a new recruit to SMPD devoted to serving as the Community Affairs officer from 2018 to 2023.

Chief René G. Landa 

“What a great way to retire! It is exciting for me to wish him well in his next chapter,” said South Miami City Manager, Genaro, “Chip” Iglesias said of Chief Landa’s retirement.

Chief Landa’s experience in law enforcement took place during some of Miami’s most high-profile and chaotic events when he was with the City of Miami, beginning in 1980. 

“Those were some days in Miami–Cocaine Cowboys, Mariel boatlift, and a lot of civil unrest,” he said. 

Miami was once at the center of a number of events that garnered the attention of the entire country. Drugs were rampant as any episode of the old television show “Miami Vice” could tell you. Miami was awash with drugs, murders, and fear. The Medellin Cartel made monthly shipments of 70 to 80 tons of cocaine into the US from Colombia. In 1981 Miami was responsible for trafficking 70 percent of the country’s cocaine and marijuana, earning it the “Drug Capital of the World” title with “Cocaine Cowboys” running the operation on the streets of what was 

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 then called Dade County.  In 1980 the Haitian migration and the Cuban migration (Mariel boatlift) served to strain the social/governmental network needed to process and house 125,000 Cuban migrants and 25,000 Haitian migrants. More civil unrest was prompted by the murder of Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance salesman at the hands of six Dade County Public Safety officers who were acquitted at trial. Riots took place in Overtown, Brownsville, and Liberty City occasioning the 

Receiving the coveted state police accreditation at a Jacksonville, Florida ceremony are (L-R): Off. Napier, City Manager Genaro “Chip” Iglesias, Mayor Javier Fernandez, Chief Landa, Capt. Larry Corbin and SMPD Communications Manager Lisa Corbin

Chief Landa speaks at the “Blue Mass” at the annual St. Michael’s Day Celebration. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of law enforcement
Chief Landa with state Atty Gen. Ashley Moodey at the “Back the Blue Award’ event in recognition of the Florida Assoc. of Crime Stoppers

governor’s calling up of the National Guard in an attempt to maintain order. Three days of rioting saw 18 people killed, 370 injured, 787 arrests and property destruction exceeding $100 million. 

René G. Landa joined the SMPD in 2010 and was tapped for the position of Acting Chief in 2013. He was promoted to Chief and later sworn in on March 7, 2014. “My wife Maritza was the first to pin my badge on me, and today it’s going to be my granddaughter,” Chief Landa said at the swearing-in. The Chief’s baby granddaughter, Brianna, a young baby, “pinned” his badge on him, with some help from her father (Dr. René Landa) and grandmother.  

René Landa’s passion for law enforcement has been in his blood since he was a college junior and rode along with the police as part of his Criminal Justice studies.

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“I was going to become an attorney, but after that one ride with Officer Delgado, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Landa.

A police officer for 43 years, Chief Landa’s leadership abilities are a result of his continued educational training and on-the-job experience in the field. His education includes a master’s degree from Florida International University; leadership classes at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and FIU; and training with the F.B.I. at Quantico, Virginia.

Chief Landa believes in effective and efficient law enforcement achieved by maintaining public safety and providing excellent service to the community.

“The goal of law enforcement is finally to be a person who helps others.
I expect that our officers will treat the public with the sincerest respect and the utmost professionalism,” said Landa. 

Post-retirement plans include traveling and his continued work with the organization Boulder Crest and the Officer Wellness program, and his membership in the Miami-Dace County Association of Chiefs of Police. The Chief is keenly interested in and passionate about the Officer

Chief always enjoys time spend with the neighborhood children

Wellness program and believes that the emotional needs of law enforcement officers and first responders require more attention from the public and solutions for those suffering from the rigors of the profession. He will continue to work with SMPD officers on this program.

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Officer Rodney Napier

Officer Rodney Napier

Officer Rodney Napier served as South Miami’s Community Affairs officer. His career with SMPD began in February 2018. Chief Landa was the keynote speaker at Napier’s graduation from the Police Academy. Impressed by the cadet’s achievements, the Chief invited him to consider joining the SMPD on graduation day. Napier earned the top honors in academics, physical agility, and the coveted Director’s Award. This he accomplished at the age of 55. 

Officer Napier hails from Ohio where he owned a very successful capital holdings company, that began with two employees and now has 1300. He still owns the company. Asked what prompted him to

Officer Napier working with the homeless in the community
Officer Napier community services photos by Douglas Higginbotham

become a police officer late in life, his comment was that like many 10-year-old boys, he had respect for the police and what they do.

Community Affairs is exactly what Ofc. Napier wanted to do. As a police officer, he took what he learned about dispute resolution in his business and applied it directly to the South Miami community. In his capacity with the SMPD, Napier was able to make a difference in the daily life of the community and its people. He was there to ensure the safety and welfare of all residents, including the vulnerable, elderly, homeless, those with mental health crises, addiction, or someone whose luck had just run out. His ability

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to resolve issues with South Miami business owners and work with local service providers and hospitals has done much to assist those in need who need it the most. 

“The synergy Chief Landa and I have developed over the past years has blossomed because of his genuine care and concern for others, resulting 

At a recent city commission meeting, Officer Napier’s service to the community and his retirement was recognized with a presentation. Pictured are: Chief Landa, city commissioners Steve Calle and Brian Corey, Napier’s husband Kyle Hyatt, Napier, Mayor Javier Fernandez and Vice Mayor Lisa Bonich

in what I envision will be a lifelong friendship,” wrote Ofc. Napier.

Rodney Napier will remain in his home in Miami Beach where he lives with his husband Kyle Hyett, a business owner (Habitat Hyett) on Lincoln Road.   He will return to managing his Ohio business. Ofc. Napier has three adult children from his first marriage and a brand-new grandson. 

“It’s been an honor to be a part of this community and I plan to stay on as a reserve police officer to SMPD,” he said.

As a farewell, he wrote to Chef Landa, “Eagles are meant to soar and Chief Landa’s passion has never waned even after 43 years. And now, that Eagle will be set free to achieve greatness again as he marches on with the Officer Wellness Program. With that, I cannot stress enough what a brilliant law enforcement leader and role model Chief Landa has been for me during my service with the South Miami Police Department. My time here will remain one of the most memorable beacons of my life.”

Article by Donna Shelley

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First National Bank of South Miami and United Community Bank Merge

(Photos to follow courtesy of FNBSM & UCB)

United Community Bank leadership team meet with First National Bank of South Miami leadership and staff for a merger “welcome” luncheon in the bank’s lobby on Friday, July 21, 2023. Pictured above: Holly Berry, Chief Human Resources Officer, Richard Bradshaw, President & Chief Banking Officer, Lynn Harton, Chairman & CEO, Veronica Flores, President, Miami-Dade County, Sharon Thompson, President, State of Florida, Rob Edwards, Chief Risk Officer.

Mercedes Cruz and Veronica Birch Flores

In July a landmark business and long-time community partner in the City of South Miami, the First National Bank of South Miami merged with United Community Bank.  FNBSM will fully transition to the United brand in late October of this year. 

According to United’s news release, United Community Banks, Inc. completed its merger with First Miami Bancorp, Inc., effective July 1, 2023. In this transaction, First Miami’s bank subsidiary, FNBSM, was also merged into United’s bank subsidiary, United Community Bank. 

FNBSM has been operating in the Town Center for just over 70 years, first opening its doors at 5750 Sunset Drive as the Bank of South Miami in 1952. The South Miami location is the bank’s headquarters. They offer traditional banking services,  private banking, trust, and wealth


management services with approximately $320 million in assets under management. The bank’s total assets as of March 2023 were $945 million, total loans of $605 million, and total deposits of $823 million. FNBSM’s excellent reputation, skilled banking team, and superior customer service are well-recognized in the community and among banking institutions.

“We built FNBSM focused on growth, getting there with a fierce commitment to the delivery of preeminent customer service. These are the same virtues 

The senior leadership in Miami with top executives form United Community Bank. Ed Vargas, Renee Reichling, Barry Givner, Richard Bradshaw, Veronica Flores, Sharon Thompson, Lynn Harton, Lourdes Rey Wilson, Claudia Cancio, Angel medina, Holly Berry, Rob Edwards

Rob Edwards, Renee Reichling, Claudia Cancio
and Richard Bradsha

that United Community is known for. We are delighted and excited to join forces with an organization and a group of professionals that share the same values and integrity,” said W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz, Chairman and President of First Miami Bancorp (FNBSM Chairman of the Board). 

United Community Banks, Inc. is a top 100 U.S. financial institution with $25.9 billion in assets, and through its subsidiaries, provides a full range of banking, wealth management, and mortgage services. It is the financial holding company for United Community Bank that has 207 offices across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The award-winning United Community is a nine-time winner of the J.D. Power award that ranked the bank #1 in customer satisfaction with consumer banking in the southeast and was recognized in 2023 by


Forbes as one of the World’s Best Banks and one of America’s best banks, among other honors.

“We are thrilled to welcome this group of talented bankers to the United Community team. While we have been acquainted for some time, we’ve had the opportunity to really get to know the FNBSM team since announcing the merger. Their culture and approach to community engagement, customer service, and the employee experience is very similar to ours at United Community,” said Lynn Harton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of United. “This partnership with FNBSM meaningfully expands our presence in the vibrant Miami market, which continues to be one of the most attractive metropolitan markets in the country. We look forward to working with our new team to continue growing in Miami, providing enhanced products and services with the attention and local service that customers deserve.”

“We believe FNBSM’s culture is a great fit with our culture at United. We are focused on building talented, service-minded teams who are empowered to build communities one customer at a time. We also appreciate FNBSM’s strong credit focus and their ability to maintain a 

solid core deposit base despite a very competitive market.”

Florida’s Rising Financial Health Via Economic Migration

Lynn Harton of United referred to Florida’s upturn in net economic migration numbers when speaking of the recent merger of the two banking institutions. Florida is becoming a top 10 global economy and one of the top 10 in the nation, according to statistics cited by the Florida Chamber of Commerce in its publication “The Florida Scorecard” earlier this year.  As one of the country’s 10 largest economies, Florida has had the fastest real growth in GDP for the four years ending in the first quarter of 2023, when adjusted for inflation. Our state continues to outdistance such states as fifth-ranked Illinois, growing more than four times faster, and is growing more than twice as fast as third-ranked New York state. Florida is competing successfully among states with larger economies like New York, Texas, and California.

Florida welcomes 122.4 million visitors annually. New residents attracted to the state in 2021 numbered 260,000, surpassing all other states. Based on the latest annual tax return data available from the IRS, Florida


realized $23.7 billion in net economic migration. This works out to roughly $2.7 million per hour, every hour of every day. It requires the combined economic inflow of six states: Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Nevada at $23.7 billion to match the power of Florida’s inflow numbers. It is likely no surprise to residents of the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach that their areas gained the largest number of new residents throughout 2022, fueling high demand for housing.

Our loan underwriting team enjoying the program

First National Bank Retrospective

Priding itself as the city’s “hometown bank,” the First National Bank of South Miami partnered with the community from its inception and continued to contribute time and talent, event sponsorships, and funding to non-profit organizations. It has been a major sponsor and partner in South Miami’s long-running events, The Parade of the Elves, the Rotary Arts and Crafts Festival, and the traditional Fourth of July 

Some of the finest community bankers in Miami celebrating the merger


Fireworks. The bank has been a great community partner in building up our town center and the South Miami community.

On April 3, 1952, FNBSM opened for business, located in a modest building on Sunset with two tellers, an officer, and two bookkeepers. By the end of its first year, the bank held deposits totaling $4.77 million. Assets had grown to more than $21 million by 1960. In 1955, the bank built a new addition to its “storefront” location that tripled the bank’s size. In the early 60s, Jim Norris, a successful sports promoter became the chairman of the board. His business partner Arthur M. Wirtz was named as the chairman of the bank’s executive committee, ushering in the successful business talents of the Chicago-based Wirtz family. 

In 1963, due to expanded banking services, the assets exceeded $25 million, qualifying the bank for a National Charter and the backing of the Federal Reserve System. This occasioned the name change to the First National Bank of South Miami. The bank building was again expanded, including an impressive hallway linking the existing structure to the new construction.

The expanded bank facility’s new hallway proved to be the ideal place for an art gallery. The Wirtz Gallery was opened in 1986 to the public and for the public’s use. Named in honor of Arthur M. Wirtz, the mission of the non-profit gallery was to provide a professional setting for all levels of artists to display and sell their artwork, with no fee due to the gallery. It was the country’s first art gallery to be located in a community bank. 

Expanding its services, the bank continued to grow by offering investment opportunities in the 1980s. Other innovations included express banking in 1982 (ATM) and a drive-through ATM in 1983—the first in the state of Florida.  FNBSM remained on the cutting edge of banking innovations such as 24-hour banking, online banking, and bank-issued credit cards for the convenience of its customers. 

South Miami prepares to bid farewell to one of the longest-operating businesses in the city’s history. It welcomes the Community Bank as it transitions to its new home at 5750 Sunset Drive.

Article by Donna Shelley



Meet the Federally Endangered
Florida Bonneted Bat

Photo Credit: Dustin Smith/Zoo Miami

Many people in the greater Miami area don’t realize that they have a very special and highly endangered neighbor, the federally endangered Florida bonneted bat. In fact, this bat may even be sharing space with you in your home or business. Although some people may find this unsettling, others may find it exciting

Many people in the greater Miami area don’t realize that they have a very special and highly endangered neighbor, the federally endangered Florida bonneted bat. In fact, this bat may even be sharing space with you in your home or business. Although some people may find this unsettling, others may find it exciting that they have one of the rarest mammals and bats in North America living right next to them in a large city like Miami. The bats aren’t choosing to live in buildings, but they have adapted to try to survive and have improvised when their vast pine forest home was rapidly destroyed in the last 100 years with a growing Miami.

Red-cockaded woodpecker

The Florida bonneted bat was believed to have lived in harmony with red-cockaded woodpeckers, likely for tens to hundreds of thousands


of years on the eastern coast of Florida as fossils found here indicate. Vacated cavities made by the woodpeckers in old growth slash pine trees made the perfect home for them. With the woodpecker and the old growth pines now gone from the Miami area, the bats began to look for other cavities, like under barrel roof tile and holes in buildings roof flashing or soffits.

But, if you had a colony of Florida bonneted bats living in your home’s roof, chances are you would never know. They form small colonies of mostly females and young with a single dominant male, usually around a dozen individuals in total. They are quiet, shy, and harmless. Unlike their cousin, the Brazilian free-tailed bat, that is our most common bat found in buildings down here and can form 

A single male Florida bonneted bat
roosting in a wooden shelter
in a public park

colonies into the thousands, they don’t have a musky odor associated with them. Unless you happened to be looking at the exact correct spot after dusk, you would likely never know that they were there. And this is what usually puts them at the most risk.

We all know roofs can take a beating in South Florida with the frequent severe storms and termites can eat away at homes with wood construction elements. But when people get their roofs repaired or have their homes tented for termites, these very rare and shy bats are sleeping away in the structures. An entire colony of these bats are at risk of being injured or killed by roofers doing demolition and if the house is tented and filled with poisonous gas for termites. I always encourage homeowners to spend a

Example of a Spanish tile roof that was undergoing demolition where a colony of Florida bonneted bats were found


couple sunsets outside their house watching their rooflines before they have any work done on their home

Why should we care about these bats? Unknown by the vast majority of people living here, bats provide enormous amounts of economic benefit and wellbeing to people. It would be difficult to imagine what our nights would be like in Miami if we didn’t have hundreds of thousands of bats cleaning our skies every night of flying insects. Bats offset pesticide use for communities and farmers. We have evidence of the Florida bonneted bats in our area eating pests of avocado trees and other crops found in the agricultural areas of the Redlands. These ecosystem services can total into the millions of dollars saved each year. So, if you don’t enjoy having flying insects around you, enjoy beautiful landscaping, and low pesticide use on your foods, you should be a fan of bats

Article by Frank Ridley, DVM

To find out more about Florida bonneted bats please visit: https://www.zoomiami.org/florida-bonneted-bat, https://floridabonnetedbat.org/

For plants that you could plant in your yard to help the Florida bonneted bat, use our guide: https://www.zoomiami.org/assets/2891/florida_bonneted_bat_plant_guide_for_mdc.pdf

To help you figure out if you might have bats in your home and what to do, use these guides available in English and Spanish: https://www.zoomiami.org/assets/2891/have-you-got-bats-web-comp_english.pdf.



Chief Landa Celebrates Retirement

At the South Miami City Commission meeting of Tuesday, August 15, 2023, time was set aside at the start of the meeting to recognize SMPD Chief Rene Landa’s retirement after 43 years in law enforcement in South Florida, and starting as a newbie with Miami PD in the 1980s which was an education unto itself.

Present to acknowledge, and tease the chief were other law enforcement senior members, beginning with Stedman Stahl, PBA President; Chief Armando Guzman, Miami Springs; Chief Ed Hudak, Jr., Coral Gables, South Miami Hospital Director of Security Lee Poppa who served with

Landa in Miami PD, and other community leaders as Bill Duquette CEO of South Miami Hospital, FNBSM President Veronica Flores, SOMI Magazine’s John Edward Smith, Pastor Joshua Carey, Anita Jenkins, Coco Plum Woman’s Club and others from the community. Lee Poppa, Sons of the American Revolution presented a commemorative metal.

The mayor and members of the city commission, former mayor Sally Philips and the city manager all spoke of his service to the community.

After the toast and roast from fellow men in blue, the recognition turned to party at Town Kitchen + Bar for a celebratory send-off sponsored in part by South Miami Hospital and First National Bank of South Miami.

To WATCH A memorable toast & roast of chief landa, GO TO: https://southmiami.granicus.com/player/clip/1626?view_id=2&redirect=true&h=0ee5dbe0425182ac8c543c52888b710b


The last seven-mile of The Underline’s ten-mile masterful plan to create a linear urban trail and park and to fill it with music, art, sports, native landscaping and much more in communities along the way celebrates a Groundbreaking on Tuesday, September 12, 11am at the University Metrorail Station. 

The last seven-mile of The Underline’s ten-mile masterful plan to create a linear urban trail and park and to fill it with music, art, sports, native landscaping and much more in communities along the way celebrates a Groundbreaking on Tuesday, September 12, 11am at the University Metrorail Station. 


This final phase of The Underline from SW 19th Avenue to Dadeland South is scheduled to be completed in 2025/26.   Driven by the community’s priorities for safe multimodal transportation, natural and resilient spaces, and recreational opportunities, Phase 3 will feature many benefits and amenities including separated biking and walking paths for enhanced safety and enjoyment; crosswalk improvements; basketball, pickleball and soccer

courts; pollinator gardens and micro-forests; curated local food and beverage concessions; a Bark Park and beautiful areas for free community programs.  This visionary project will offer a wealth of opportunities for fitness and recreation, catering to the diverse interests and abilities of our area residents. It’s a chance to reconnect with nature, prioritize self-care, and embrace an active, vibrant lifestyle. In addition to promoting well-being, The Underline’s Phase 3 will have a positive impact on local businesses, by attracting more foot and cycling traffic, commercial areas will be invigorated and activated. 

Article by Jamal Wilson,
The Friends of The Underline


With Maurizo Farinelli

Maurizio Farinelli welcomes you to experience the essence of Italy’s regions through an unforgettable culinary journey as Mosaico hosts special dinners now through December 14, 2023.

“Mosaico’s Postcards from Italy ‘’ series is dedicated to exploring the rich and diverse regional dishes and wines of Italy. Mosaico’s goal is to highlight the authentic flavors, unique culinary traditions, and cultural heritage of its favorite Italian region’s iconic cuisine. Every other week through December, this culinary journey will take you through a different region to appreciate its culinary treasures and the hear stories behind the recipes and wines. Maurizio Farinelli and Chef Patrizia Mandis have envisioned this delightful and informative series that captivates their customers and leaves 


them craving more. Whether you are a seasoned fan of Italian cuisine or simply curious to explore its diverse offerings, “Mosaico’s Postcards from Italy” series promises to delight, educate and inspire. Each Regional special menu “a-la-carte” pays homage to the unique dishes and ingredients found across Italy. Immerse yourself in the warmth of Italian hospitality as you indulge in an exquisite experience where each dish displays the finest ingredients and the utmost attention to the culinary tradition. ‘Get ready to travel… Buon appetito! 

Pasticiotto Leccese (Traditional ShortBread pastry filled with Vanilla Custard)
Pappardelle al Ragu’ di Agnello
Cassata alla Palermitana (Traditional Cassata made with fresh Ricotta cheese, Marzipan, Almond cake)
Crudo di Orata (Mediterranean Sea Bream Crudo, Cucumber Julienne, Citrus Infused EVOO)
Photo by Mohamed Hassan in Pixabay

THE 3-TYPES of El HappyBreath

A Guide to Better Breathing and Well-Being

There are three main types of el HappyBreath:

el HappyTriangle: This is the simplest type of breath. Inhale, exhale, pause. It involves simply breathing deeply and slowly through the nose, and focusing on the breath as it enters and leaves the body. This type of breathwork can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and tension.

el HappyBox: Also known as the square breathing technique, involves holding your breath as you inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. You breathe more quickly and forcefully, with equal inhales and exhales. It can help to increase energy levels, improve focus, and boost mood.

el HappyCircular: Is a truly powerful spiritual breathing technique that we can play with. It is a more advanced technique that involves breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, in a continuous circle. It can be used to release emotional blockages, improve self-awareness, and achieve a deeper level of relaxation.

El HappyBreath can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels. It is a safe and effective way to improve your health and well-being. 

Here are some of the benefits of el HappyBreath:

Reduces inflammation

Improves athletic performance

Boosts creativity

Improves sleep

Reduces cravings

Here are some additional tips for practicing el HappyBreath:

Start slowly: If you are new to el HappyBreath, start with 5 minutes. 

Be patient: It takes time to learn how to breathe deeply and consciously. 

Make it a habit: The best way is to make it a regular daily practice.

Find a quiet place: This helps you to focus on your breath and


avoid distractions.

Close your eyes: Closing your eyes will help you connect to your body and energy,

If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.

If you are interested in learning more about el HappyBreath, you can download a Free el HappyBreath App at Google Play and Apple App Stores.

El HappyBreath is a simple but powerful tool that can be used to improve your health and well-being. If you are looking for a way to reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy levels, el HappyBreath is a great place to start.

If you have any questions, please email me at roberto@elhappycoach.com. 

Next article we will learn how to practice three 20-HappyBreath Techniques.

el Happy Coach Roberto Suarez has served in various senior management and coaching roles over 35-years. Suarez implemented strategic plans for several Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. and Latin America. For more than a decade he was coach & leader at Landmark Education, one of the world’s leading personal development educational companies. He has presented his training of conscious circular breathing to more than fifty thousand people worldwide, including Cuba, Australia, and Mexico. You can contact him at: roberto@elhappycoach.com.


THE WIRTZ GALLERY is named in honor of the Wirtz family patriarch Arthur M. Wirtz of Chicago. Wirtz made his fortune in real estate and liquor distribution; he created the business in 1922. The Wirtz Corp. also owns the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team and co-owns the United Center arena— where the Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls play. When the gallery opened, it was reportedly the first bank in the United States to have a registered gallery within the institution.



Located in the lobby of UNITED COMMUNITY BANK (formerly First National Bank of South Miami), each month The Wirtz Gallery exhibits local and international artists.

Gallery hours are Monday – Thursday, 9a-4p; Friday, 9a-6p. Artist receptions are generally held on the second Friday of the month from 6-8p and are open to the public.

The bank is located at 5750 Sunset Drive, South Miami.

For the month of September, the gallery hosts THE SOUTH FLORIDA NATIONAL PARKS CAMERA CLUB (SFNPCC). The club is based out of the South Dade area, but the members are from all over the greater Miami area. The club was formed in 2014 to create a community of like-minded photographers who enjoy photography, nature, and our national parks. A portion of the membership dues goes to the Florida National Parks Association.

The club consists of members with varying skill levels; from those just starting out, to experienced novices, and even a few professionals. A big part of what the club does is introduce members to new experiences, locations, and to provide photographic education where possible.

Frozen Flowers by Delfin Hernandez
White Pelican
by Hugh Hudson
Lily on White
by Barbara Livieri
Cirque de lune

In October, the gallery hosts HUMAN COMPLEXITY Art Exhibit by Perla Sofía. In describing the exhibit Perla notes: “Even though I have explored different themes and techniques in my artistic endeavor, I have found that my main passion is to capture and translate into art, human beings in all their complexity and throughout time. This has taken me to enjoy creating pieces of art that capture the personality and hidden feelings of my characters, whether close to me or mostly unknown. Studying their beliefs and semiology has influenced this outcome. Two stages of the human route will guide the observer through the exhibit: Ancestors and Present and Future. Interactive pieces will allow public participation.”


Jodi Budin
Garden Moments

The photography of local artist Jodi Budin will line the walls of the gallery for the month of November.

And is that month that she will be travelling to her seventh continent. Here is a greeting to guests for the exhibit: “My photography at display here takes you to local and other beautiful places all around the world. I have traveled to six out of the seven continents – and I am on my way to the seventh, for two weeks, at the time of the November exhibit at the gallery.

“I am sharing with you the fruit of my lifelong passion for Nature coupled with my love for photography. I have captured, and here, I present magical moments of unparalleled beauty while walking and hiking, from far and near. Enjoy!”

Buggy Passion Vine


coming to

You’re invited for an explosive night at the Addams family manor with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Nick Elice. This comical feast is directed by ASC Artistic Director, Giancarlo Rodaz, and embraces the wackiness in every family It features an original story which is every father’s nightmare: Wednesday Addams. The ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family– a man her parents have never met. And if that wasn’t upsetting enough, Wednesday confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams must do something he’s never done before– keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.

Tickets coming soon. Runs: October 2023 | Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays Length: 2 hours rating: All Ages


What’s New In Town

A walkabout with SOMIonline publisher

The SOMIonline walk about town on Friday, August 25th started with the Grand Opening ribbon-cutting of SWEETLICHS located at 6104 South Dixie Hwy.

Greeting us were Stephanie and Erik Lichter, South Miami residents whose life mantra is “Baking Good Times.” Both high school sweethearts at Gulliver, they grew up enjoying mom’s baking at Erik’s home, where chocolate chip cookies and brownies reigned supreme.

Celebrating the Grand Opening with owners Stephanie & Erik Lichter are South Miami City Commissioner Steve Calle and SMPD Community Patrol officer C. Lilavois
6104 South Dixie Hwy

Erik baked his way through law school (St. Thomas University, 2014) and working out of mom’s kitchen until 2020. That’s when the couple opened a commissary for their wholesale accounts at 4800 SW 75 Avenue, which includes customer walk-in service as well. (Subby’s and Pla-Tu are two spots in town you can also enjoy their baking.) You might even spot their VW ’68 replica for their mobile sales, popular at local area events.

In addition to practicing law, Erik is still working on the culinary side of the business, while Stephanie manages the admin., social media marketing, wholesale orders – and decorate a cake.

‘Glad to have you here in SOMI baking good times.

Open 7 Days: Sun-Wed 11-11 / Thurs-Sat 11-12n

6104 South Dixie Hwy
| 305.200.3726 

5893 SW 73rd Street

Next, we headed to 73 Street and across from the vacant lot where once was Winn-Dixie.

Meet Wassim “Sam” Kattan who had just recently opened Sunset Liquors where Bonaparte Hair Designers had been a neighborhood business for decades. He fully renovated the 800 sq.ft. space and signed a ten-year lease. Attention to detail and customer service are evident in Sam’s “clean 

Wassim “Sam” Kattan
Sunset Liquors recently hosted its first tasting of extraordinary tequilas. Pictured above (L-R) Marcello Coppola El Tequileño Rep,, Tony Santana Southern Glazer’s Rep., and Sam Kattan

and cozy” boutique liquor store. He holds a degree in hotel and restaurant management and worked as Front Office Manager for the Breakers Palm Beach, as well as assignments at Mar-A-Lago. Two years ago, he invested in a liquor store license and his investment is now realized.

Situated next to Khoury’s restaurant, and a parishioner at Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Wassim is well-known in the well-established Lebanese community in the greater Miami area.

Sunset Liquors carries higher-end and special edition brands and offers a selection which would not typically be found in other stores. Sam will be hosting regular tastings and special programs for its customers. The store is open seven days from 10a to 10p. Stop on by to say hello and check out the excellent product selection.  5893 SW 73rd Street | 305.456.6389

Enrique Romero, Gunter Hermanni, Antonio Cazorla

“Ziel” means “Finish Line” in German and meet the fun-looking cycling trio who have opened Ziel Concept Store on Red Road. Born from the love for cycling culture, ZIeL is the combination of everything they’re deeply passionate about. From hammer rides to Cafecito stops, cooling down with beers and sharing experiences on and off the bike. At ZIeL, they strive to share this lifestyle through the culture of cycling, combined with coffee, beer, wine & gourmet food.

Ziel is a collaborator with the National Cycling League and is the clubhouse for the Miami Nights CC. “Our mission is to honor the sport of cycling 


and the lifestyle and nourish its culture. We’re committed to helping people access and fall in love with the sport and the lifestyle – whether it is by finding their dream bike, training them to become the best athlete they can possibly be or simply by leading a damn good ride” said ZIeL founder Enrique Romero.

Check out their website for product lines, ride schedules and much more. www.zielmiami.com

6917 Red Road  | 305.967.8408

And along the way visiting some of our three new businesses, we have some news to report and businesses coming to town soon.

Carlos Silva of Old Lisbon is getting closer to opening his full bar extension at the restaurant on Sunset Drive. Further up the street DBakers is opening at 5809 Sunset, and across the street in the bank courtyard, Gyro Art is planning to open soon. SOMIonline will introduce you to them in our next edition