30 People You Need to Know
A reflective snapshot of folks doing good things for Raleigh and the people who live, work and play here.
After working in many restaurants in the Triangle, Crawford made a huge impact on the Raleigh food scene in 2016, collaborating with local developer John Holmes and opening the much-heralded Standard Foods in the Person Street Plaza.
After only six months at Standard Foods, Crawford left to create his own company, Crawford Hospitality, and will open his first tavern-style restaurant, Crawford & Sons, at 618 N. Person Street. Look for an opening later in 2016.
Alabama-born Southern chef Royal worked in the famed Fearrington House Restaurant (Pittsboro) and award-winning Magnolia Grill (Durham) before becoming the Angus Barn executive chef in 1995. Overseeing the huge operation, including indoor and outdoor onsite event spaces, the famous iconic big red barn restaurant and a much in-demand catering business, Royal is a much-loved chef by coworkers and patrons alike, and maintains his big teddy bear personality.
Ashley Christensen Restaurants
Starting out with one of Raleigh’s first downtown restaurants, comfort-food-serving Poole’s Diner in 2007, award-winning Christensen (2014 James Beard Best Chef: Southeast) has built a food empire in the heart of downtown Raleigh. All six of her restaurants serve theme-specific offerings, and there is an event space as well as a commissary kitchen serving all of her endeavors.
Her company website describes her goals best, to “foster community through food, philanthropy and the stimulation of the city’s downtown neighborhood.”
Gaurav “G” Patel
Just 32 and recently named by Full Service Restaurant as “a rising star”, Patel started his empire by buying Mura, a sushi restaurant in North Hills. Ten years on, he oversees his six restaurants – Mura, Cameron Bar and Grill, Basan, Edwards Mill Bar & Grill, The Haymaker, and Bare Bones – valued at millions. Born in India, his family came to North Carolina, and he moved to Raleigh to attend NC State. With an endearing memory for names and faces and a self-confessed socializer who loves people and parties, Patel embodies the American Dream.
President of Carolina RailHawks, NASL Professional Soccer (Cary)
Johnson, a Raleigh native, played soccer locally with CASL, Ravenscroft School and NC State. Before heading up the RailHawks in 2011, he was GM with the Richmond Kickers and the Kansas City Wizards.
As president of the Carolina RailHawks, he is very active with community partnerships, many involving youth soccer training. He has been inducted into the Ravenscroft School Hall of Fame, Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) Hall of Fame, and the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame.
Tight Ends/Fullbacks/Special Teams Coach at NCSU
Arriving at NC State in 2014, Faulkner previously coached at alma maters Wisconsin and Ball State. For the Wisconsin Badgers he played in five straight bowls, including back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000. A professional career included stints for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Edmonton Eskimos. Faulkner and wife Anissa recently welcomed baby Xavier Starling, a brother for Eddie IV and Madison Rose.
Cross Country/Distance Runner
All-American Leesville Road High School rising senior Mareno was recently awarded the News & Observer girls’ Player of the Year 2016.
Her junior year achievements in regional and national meets have garnered her the confidence and experience to have a big senior year too. In December 2015 she placed third overall at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Finals. She was named MVP at NC High School Athletic Association’s4A track and field championships by winning three state titles and setting two state records.
ART & DESIGN
Holly Aiken Bags, Designed and Built in NC
Aiken studied design at NC State and launched her own line of vinyl bags in 2004; then, like her mother Patsy Aiken (who with her husband built a successful brand of children’s clothing), she built her business from the ground up. Using distinctive retro colors accented by stripes and cut-out shapes, all bags are made in North Carolina and sold in her Raleigh store, Stitch, as well as boutiques across the country. Two of her pieces are on display in the permanent collection of the NC Museum of History.
CEO & Managing Partner, JDavis Architects
A leader in land planning of vibrant communities, Zucchino has worked for 30+ years in the profession. Graduating from NC State with a master’s degree in landscape architecture, he continues to live and work in Raleigh, where his advocacy and leadership keeps him at the forefront of public dialog – including currently serving on the Dix Park Master Plan Advisory Committee. He is a European motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys taking trips across the country.
Form and Function
Owner of Five Points home décor store Form and Function, Marcotte publishes the annual Design District Raleigh map, covering Cameron Village, Five Points/Whitaker Mill and Capital Blvd, down to Seaboard Station/Person Street and downtown.
A new map comes out every June in order to promote patronage of local design-oriented businesses and area restaurants. Rather than competing against each other, the map, which highlights 56 local businesses, fosters community, creates goodwill, and creates more traffic for all. www.designdistrictraleigh.com
Executive Director, Office of Raleigh Arts
Sarah Powers is an artist and the Executive Director of the Office of Raleigh Arts, the city department charged with fostering, supporting and promoting the arts. Previously, she led Raleigh’s Visual Art Exchange (VAE), a nonprofit dedicated to arts advocacy.
She is a recipient of the Raleigh Medal of Art and two Indies Art Awards, for her arts advocacy work and for her work as a Bain Project artist. Powers graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design.
CEO and Founder, Etix
Janovich, a graduate of NC State with degrees in economics and statistics, founded Etix in 2000. Based on the belief that venues should control their own destinies, their mission is to provide superior ticketing and service solutions for clients and customers. Etix works with over 1,800 venues, and is now the largest independent ticketing company in North America. Headquartered in Morrisville, the company has offices in Austria, China, Germany, Holland and Japan, as well as a full-service digital marketing agency in Nashville, Tennessee.
CEO and Founder, Boss Key Productions
Cliff Bleszinski is the founder and CEO of Boss Key Productions, a video game development studio based in Raleigh. Boss Key, founded in 2014, is currently developing the widely anticipated game LawBreakers. A 20+ year veteran in the game business, Bleszinski is responsible for many hit games including Jazz Jackrabbit and the Unreal and Gears of War franchises – the latter of which has generated over $1 billion in revenue and sold over 25 million copies, making it one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time.
Ana Maria MuÑoz
Port of Raleigh
Born to Colombian parents in Australia, raised in Los Angeles, and most recently transplanted from Malaysia via London, Ana Maria Muñoz’s roots are global, but her interest is local – Raleigh is the city she and her family have chosen to call home.
Tapping into the market of practical design goods she encountered worldwide, her home and lifestyle store Port of Raleigh brings the world to Raleigh through modern and timeless designs that are functional, striking and accessible. A web-shop for Port of Raleigh is in the works.
Not surprisingly, Blondin volunteers with many organizations and nonprofits in Raleigh in addition to running her retail boutique – in part because she worked as a nonprofit executive for 30 years. The skillset she developed in that role spills over in running her downtown business. Deco Raleigh features almost 200 unique brands and goods, almost half produced by local makers and artisans. In its four years of business Deco has donated over $40,000 in cash and goods to local charities and arts organizations.
Co-owner and Manager, Devolve Moto
Greig co-owns and manages the adventure lifestyle shop Devolve Moto, located in the heart of Raleigh’s Glenwood South district. In 2014 he was enjoying a bustling career filled with explosions and glitz as a special effects technician for North Carolina’s once thriving film industry. A near-death motorcycle accident coupled with the axing of North Carolina’s film tax incentives left him lying in a hospital bed, jobless and in search of his next great adventure. Through a chance meeting with his now business partner Charles Long, Devolve was born.
Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy
Goodmon, a Triangle-wide game changer, has his fingers in many nonprofit projects. Under his board leadership the Dix Park Conservancy has championed saving the former mental hospital and 308-acre green space near downtown. In a five-year agreement with the City, the Conservancy’s plan starts off with fundraising to help pay for funding the park planning. The public/private partnership between the City and the Conservancy includes selection of 45 members of the public to assist with planning and decision-making.
President & CEO, Downtown Raleigh Alliance
In slightly under a decade Diaz has helped push the transformation of Downtown Raleigh into a technology and innovation hub, with an annual budget of $2.5 million, doubled from when he started. Under Diaz’s leadership the DRA now produces events and marketing campaigns to promote economic development, such as the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market, Raleigh Winterfest, Downtown Raleigh Movie Series, Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week, and the Raleigh Mix. In 2010, Diaz and DRA received the top award, the Pinnacle Award, from the International Downtown Association.
Raleigh Police Chief
Starting with the police department in 1987 as a rookie right out of the Raleigh Police Academy, Deck-Brown worked her way up the ranks and was appointed chief of police in 2014, becoming Raleigh’s first female African-American to hold that position. Deck-Brown, who grew up in Franklin County and graduated from ECU, is both an influential leader and a down-to-earth person. Working to build stronger relationships between the police and the community has been a hallmark of her tenure as chief.
Maestro William Henry Curry
This past summer, William Henry Curry concluded a remarkable 20-year tenure with the North Carolina Symphony. Curry was a familiar figure on the podium, serving as Artistic Director for the Symphony’s Summerfest series, frequently conducting pops and classical series concerts, and introducing tens of thousands of North Carolina schoolchildren to music through the Symphony’s education programs. Dedicated to contemporary music, Curry will return to the Symphony on February 24th to conduct a program of Ives, Foster, and the world premiere of his own work Autumn.
Raised in Raleigh and attending college at UNC Chapel Hill, Merritt began playing with her band The Carbines in small clubs in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. After winning a Merlefest songwriting contest in 2000, she signed a contract and began producing albums and touring. Opening for big acts all over the country and touring internationally, Merritt always enjoyed returning to the Triangle and playing for her adoring hometown crowd. Recently she had a baby girl and moved back to Raleigh, where she is reconnecting with old friends, and still plays music locally and around the country.
Rapper, Producer, Writer
Mez grew up in Raleigh and made music locally until moving to Los Angeles in 2014, when his career took a huge leap forward. He still returns to Raleigh to play on stage with his North Carolina buddies – the same ones he played with before he began working with rap legend Dr. Dre’s on the West Coast. His work on Dr Dre’s Compton album garnered him a Grammy nomination, and caught the attention of Kanye West and P. Diddy, who he has also worked with.
Reverend William J. Barber II
Pastor/Civil Rights Leader
Barber honed leadership skills as a teen by joining youth NAACP; today he is a dedicated religious and civil rights leader in North Carolina who has become a respected national figure while serving on boards of the national NAACP and Legislative Political Action Committee chair, and as president of the NC NAACP (the largest in the South and the second-largest in the US), he has led regular “Moral Mondays” civil rights protests in Raleigh. His latest national platform was as a speaker at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, where he gave a stirring speech seen by millions.
Kumar is co-owner/chef of the downtown restaurant Garland, clubs Kings and Neptunes, and guitarist for the band Birds of Avalon.
Between her memories from the kitchen in India with her mother and her childhood experiences growing up in the Bronx, Kumar has been exposed to a variety of cultural traditions and flavors.
Moving to Raleigh after college, she embraced the readily available farm-grown produce and ethnically diverse markets. Touring with the band, she began cooking and studying food. Now her kitchen perspective stems from being a well-traveled, first-generation immigrant, and is reflected in the eclectic, locally sourced menu at Garland.
Siler, a native of Goldsboro, has called Raleigh home since attending NC State and becoming involved with the vibrant independent music scene. In 1999 he helped start the original Kings Barcade, and now co-owns Garland, Kings and Neptunes, with wife Cheetie, all in the same downtown Raleigh building. After years of playing in bands and touring with his wife and business partner, he finds that travel and experiences as a musician inspire the many artistic details found in the businesses he owns and operates.
Aly Gamil Khalifa
Design Box/Sparkcon/Kirby Derby
A design entrepreneur specializing in invention development, Khalifa has launched products for some of the most exciting consumer brands. He owns over two dozen patents, and with wife, Beth, he founded efforts to nurture inventive culture, including Designbox and SPARKcon.
Khalifa is also an Eisenhower Fellow and leverages his international experience to energize the local creative community, from helping to found Kirby Derby Day to working in several city task forces as a voice for inventive culture; he was also recently named to the Dorothea Dix Park Master Plan Advisory Committee.
Brand Fuel and Band Together
Rosin hopelessly falls in love with a lot of people he meets. The homeless man playing saxophone tirelessly in 96 degree heat. The kid who yells, “Dad! Come check this band out!”...
Co-president of Brand Fuel, a full-service promotional products agency that helps clients elevate their brands, he is also the active co-founder of Band Together, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that uses live music as a platform for social change. Since 2001 it has donated $6.5 million dollars to the Triangle community, and has become the Southeast’s largest annual charitable music event. Band Together is a bit like a mullet haircut – business in the front, party in the back.
Angus Barn and The Foundation of Hope
Continuing the legacy of parents Alice and Thad Eure, Jr, Eure runs both the restaurant, started in 1960, and the nonprofit, started in 1984, which raises money for research and treatment of mental illness. To date, the nonprofit has awarded 126 scientific research grants totaling over $4.7 million and over 36 community service grants totaling over $300,000. The largest and most successful part of the fundraising is the annual Walk For Hope, scheduled for Sunday October 9th, 2016.
Jabeen is the current principal of Al-Iman School, a Pre-K through 8th grade, Advanc-Ed accredited private school and Raleigh’s only full-time Islamic school. After teaching at the school for five years, she was promoted to principal, a position that she has held for 10 years now.
Jabeen lives in Cary with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, writing, and being surrounded by the beauty of nature. Having been inspired by Finland’s educational system, her goal is to visit the country and apply Finish best practices at her school.
A board member of the ISLA (Islamic Schools League of America) and trained as a National Mentor by the NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals), Jabeen also received training by Advanc-Ed, and serves as a chair and reviewer for school accreditation.
Dr Tashni Dubroy
A Jamaican native, Dubroy became Shaw University’s 17th president in August 2015. With both a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from NC State and an MBA in marketing from Rutgers University, she was originally a chemical research scientist for BASF, later becoming professor and department chair at Shaw. Dubroy has also co-founded a hair care company and hair salon in Raleigh. She is passionate about community, science and education, and enjoys mentoring girls and women in science and entrepreneurship.