Palm Beach Post Reporter, Susan Spencer-Wendel (@SpenWen) was one of the first people I followed on Twitter. Her very first tweet in the beginning of 2009 was like many people’s first tweets, trying to figure out what this twitter thing was all about.
Not only did @SpenWen figure out how to use twitter, but when she logged in, she owned it. As one of the first reporters able to live-tweet directly from the courthouse, @SpenWen nimble fingers would craft perfectly written 140-character-long tweets and send them out onto the internet at an unbelievably fast clip. She covered the notorious Dippolito murder-for-hire case, Casey Anthony, and many others.
During those days productivity came to a standstill and I found myself sitting in front of the computer waiting for the next update from the courthouse across the street.
Then, in July 2011, the updates stopped. A Palm Beach Post column in May informed all the readers that Susan had been diagnosed with ALS and began a remarkable new journey, one of showing her friends and family how to live, and die, with joy.
In the year that followed, Susan chose to create new memories with her children and family, travelling, watching shuttle launches, kissing dolphins, and an unexpected trip to a local private farm. Using her thumb, she tapped out a book that beautifully details her journey.
TLDR; version: I am supporting Shanon Materio for District 5 Commissioner in Tuesday’s Election. My support for Shanon was met by a concerted effort to slander and threaten me on the Palm Beach Post comments, on Facebook and through a whisper campaign.
I have been hesitant to write this blog entry simply because I don’t generally write about myself, but the way this has turned out I feel that it’s something that needs to be brought into the open. I’ve waited to discuss this until now, because this election has already been cluttered with distractions from both sides. Regardless of which way this election goes, there are some important issues here which need to be heard.
I’ve been blogging for over 10 years. My first blog was very technical in nature and started in 2002. In 2005 I started a personal blog where I discussed random issues. In 2009, when the construction of our downtown waterfront was in full swing, I decided to start a blog to document the changes that were happening downtown. This timing coincided with the start of having decent cameras on smart-phones. I started taking pictures from my Blackberry Curve 8900 and aGuyonClematis was born.
Through the eyes of aGuyonClematis, we’ve covered multiple Sunfest and Moonfests, parades, Ozzy coming to town, boat shows, and many, many turkey sandwiches. My personal philosophy is that there are hundreds of people taking pictures of the big changes, but nobody documents the small things that many times affect us the most. Some days all I took a picture of was a fire hydrant, and I was fine with that.
aGuyonClematis is about engagement. It’s about finding something unique, like a new dining establishment on Clematis, and letting people know about it.
Supporting the local political process
There is a general lack of engagement in local politics. Of the people who come out to vote for their president, only a tiny percentage get involved in local elections for officials who will actually make a difference to our day-to-day lives.
As aGuyonClematis matured, I wanted to help highlight the need for locals and young people to become involved and, most importantly, get out and vote. When Jeri Muoio ran for Mayor in 2011, I chose to support her. I posted this entry on my blog explaining why I supported her as a Mayoral candidate, and I continue to support her as Mayor. I supported our State Attorney, Dave Aronberg, when he ran and hosted an event for him. I also publicly supported Jeff Clemens and canvassed neighborhoods as a volunteer.
As Mayor Muoio, Rep. Clemens, and Dave Aronberg will attest, I have never been asked to endorse anyone, and I have never profited through my blog entries or volunteering.
2013 District 5 commission race
This brings us to the present.
Shanon Materio and Gregg Weiss are running for District 5 Commission seat which was opened after Bill Moss’ passing. I know both candidates and respect all that they do in their respective communities, however I chose to support Shanon based on her experience in the South End and the passion that she has for the city.
For full disclosure: Since I make better websites than anyone I know, I volunteered to make voteshanon.com and was paid $1,200 by the campaign. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.
At a neighborhood event I had the opportunity to speak with Gregg, and I told him that I was supporting Shanon. He was gracious about it and I felt that we had a mutual respect for each others’ political stands.
This is the part where things started to get weird.
At the green market, on the last day of Voter Registration, I walked up to the voter registration tent to say hi to someone who I considered a friend, who was close to the Weiss campaign. Instead of the friendly chat I was expecting, I was shocked at the harsh words they had for me. Worse yet, it was in front my wife, kids and the Supervisor of Elections. While surprised, I chalked it up to “silly season” and went on my way.
At this point, I had not even come out publicly in support of Shanon. On February 14th (while I was under anesthesia from my wrist surgery) a commenter on the Palm Beach Post “West Palm Beat” blog decided to target me. Here are a couple choice words. Emphasis is mine.
“So you used money from the Materio campaign to buy pizza and beer on Clematis St, Aaron Wormus? of course you did, but only at the places that “pay to play” on your joke of a blog. You’re not independent or fair, YOU ARE FOR SALE. … Real people on clematis laugh at you and know you’re just a wanna-be. You’d support anyone that will help pay those measly bills of yours. I he you know that while you have no political aspirations, your political involvement with people like Materio is gonna cost you something … The push to force you out of the downtown scene has started. Goodbye, euro trash on clematis”
While this won’t be the first time that I’ve taken abuse from people on the internet hiding under a shield of anonymity (and it probably won’t be the last). I don’t take very well to threats, especially against my European wife.
What Aaron Wormus really wants is more money. He’s being paid by Materio to spew lies and stir the pot. In fact, he just told a bunch of people at Thursday nights forum that he enjoys making a mess of things.
At this point I’m actually wondering if they are mistaking me for someone else, since I wasn’t even at a forum that day.
The list of people on the Chamber BOD are REAL leaders, Aaron. Not someone with a silly blog and a couple of thumbs that can type quickly for a twitter feed. Trust me, each one of them is getting some personal reading material on the true Aaron. So maybe next time you want to open your mouth and bash this city’s business owners and leaders you’ll think twice. You crossed the line again, and your stock is dropping. And since being from here is so important to the Materio campaign, I can’t even imagine why you would matter. You’ve been here for like 5 minutes. Get a clue, know how the city works, and don’t be such a dunce when it comes to municipal government. You are out of your league, Aaron. A small but influential group of individuals are already working hard to make sure you aren’t listened to again. Well, no one really listened to you in the first place…
This is nothing more than intimidation. Trying to bully me into stopping whatever I’m doing that is pissing the campaign off.
In this next comment posted after the South End candidate forum, I’m accused of rigging a candidate forum. As a board member of the South End Neighborhood Association, this is a very serious accusation. For the sake of brevity I’ve removed a lot of yada yada. You can read the whole thing on the Palm Beach Post;
@Aaron Wormus, why don’t you keep your nose out of real business discussions and focus on beer and pizza and tweeting a bunch of teenagers. … I heard that last nights forum was completely rigged for Materio, her answers were too precise and the questions asked to each of them were hand selected to give the monsters daughter a chance to swing for the fences while Gregg tackled the tough ones. I bet old Aaron Wormus had something to do with that, too.
The harassment didn’t stay on the Palm Beach Post comments, but moved on to my personal facebook page. After this discussion on facebook, a friend sent me a direct message me to tell me that I should delete the thread. My response was that we should not allow ourselves to be bullied, and threatened and then delete it and pretend it didn’t happen.
Around the same time, several of my friends called me saying that they had heard that I was saying nasty things about the Weiss campaign. Everything I have ever said is public either here on my blog or on comments I wrote on the West Palm Beat blog. I make sure to use my real name on every comment I write.
I understand that it is “silly season” and there is a certain amount political hyperbole that is unfortunately part of any political campaign, but to harass a supporter of your opponent is unacceptable. To make a concerted effort to harass a supporter who is also a local blogger is just plain stupid.
Here are the facts
I am supporting Shanon Materio for City Commission. Reasons are here. I have friends who are supporting Shanon’s opponent, I have no problem with that.
I’m not a political person, and don’t claim to understand the intricacies of running campaigns. Regardless of who wins the election, the goodwill that is lost in making ad hominem attacks on supporters is not worth it.
I believe that the reason why people enjoy my blog is because I do my very best to stay positive. I have NEVER said anything negative about anyone in the past, and it’s really disheartening when I hear people saying that I am saying things I would never say.
I care about my community, I think the more young people involved in every side of local government is a good thing. I will not stand for being bullied and threatened.
GET OUT AND VOTE
Regardless of who you vote for, it’s your duty to get up tomorrow morning, head to the polls and CAST YOUR VOTE! If you don’t know your polling location, look it up here. If you want to see what the ballot looks like, here it is!
On Wednesday when this is (hopefully) all over, regardless of who wins, I hope that you and I can sit down and have a beer together on Clematis Street.
One of the questions that a lot of people ask me is what exactly it is that I do. Well, one of the things that takes up a fair amount of my time each day is deciding where I’m going to drink my afternoon cup of coffee.
Yup, thanks to the newly opened Dunkin Donuts, we now officially have (at least) ten places to buy Coffee on Clematis Street, and I’m going to list them and give you my comments on each of them. I apologize ahead of time if I missed your favorite place – if I did, please let me know and I’ll make sure to swing by and give them a shoutout.
Habatat Coffee is your traditional independent coffee shop. Good selection of coffees, great ambiance, always a nice group of people and great discussions.
You can’t have an Irish Pub without Irish Coffee, and Oshea’s Pub doesn’t stop there. You can order regular hot coffee, French coffee, Spanish coffee (not even sure what that is), and of course the famous $3 Irish Car Bomb, which doesn’t have coffee in it, but is fun to say.
Do you need a mini-pecan pie or a cupcake to go along with your coffee? Cafe Sweets Bakery is the place to go! Serving brewed coffee, Cafe Sweets has lively decor and small tables where you can sit down and take a little break.
Field of Greens has been going strong since they opened. During the lunch service you have a full house, but once that slows down it is the perfect time to run in and get a quick cup of coffee.
Crossing the street you’ll find that Dunkin’ Donuts just moved in, and they are already making a splash! Opening at 5am and serving their classic menu both inside the library and outside, DD is more than just your average coffee place.
If you’re feeling oriental, head on over to Palm Sugar for some traditional Thai Coffee. You can also get other espresso-based hot and cold coffees. If you want to try something else you can always have one of their unique Thai teas.
Don Ramon’s is where you go for your fix of Cuban coffee! And while the “24-hour” window on Clematis is no longer open 24 hours, they still brew up some wicked Cafe con Leche.
Starbucks just opened again after a week or so of renovation.
Clematis Street News Stand is a great stop for coffee. With their proximity to the waterfront and all day breakfast sandwich it is the perfect place to sit and watch Clematis Street go by.
You would be doing an injustice to Clematis District if you didn’t mention Paris Bakery, which is a couple blocks south of Clematis on Olive. Stop by for a French coffee and enjoy some of the great baked goods or great meals.
And finally the most understated coffee place in the area is Freshies “The Munchie Mart” which opened a few months ago on Dixie. Head all the way to the back for the coffee and grab some munchies on the way out.
Just because every list has to have an 11 (and a 12) here’s a shoutout to Harold’s Coffee Lounge. The great eclectic independent coffee shop in Northwood!
People come to me whenever a location closes on Clematis St. worried about the future of the street and how a new vacancy will affect the street. When Five Guys closed so quickly, I got a lot of these types of comments.
We’ve seen a lot of places come and go over the years. In my last email I mentioned that I had more to say on this issue, and here it is. My top five tips for surviving Clematis St.
1. Understand that Clematis Street is a Destination Location
Downtown West Palm Beach is a small and tight-knit community. We have our season which brings a good amount of out-of-towners into our downtown areas, and then we have the rest of the year, where the local dining establishments cater to a much smaller local business and residential community.
A business that doesn’t market themselves and only relies on foot traffic to succeed is going to have a rough time. What works are businesses that actively promote themselves, and bring people into our Downtown area year round.
2. Make yourself UNIQUE and Exciting
Competition is a good thing in Destination Locations, you just need to make sure you stand out. People will come to the Clematis District from Delray or Jupiter or even other places in the country. They may not already know specifically where they want to eat, all they know is that the Clematis District has great dining options.
Roxy’s and the their Rooftop are a good example of this. We have one location that can host Clematis’ biggest Superbowl Party (coming up on Sunday), as well as draw large crowds to their Rooftop Bar on Friday and Saturday nights. These events attract a wildly different demographic of people and create a buzz.
3. Get out there and Market Yourself
Pizza Girls do a great job marketing themselves both in their store as well as on Facebook. Even if you don’t do big events, if you are excited about what you’re doing you can create a buzz around it. Pizza Girls posted a picture of their “Inauguration Special” pizza which consisted of Pineapple and BBQ chicken. This one post made me walk the four blocks down Clematis St on inauguration day to try it.
You’ve got to go all out, you’ve got to let people know you are there and you’re doing something exciting. The best marketing is the kind that turns all your patrons into your spokespeople. You don’t need to hire anyone to do your social media, just get involved with your clients.
Make sure people check in on Facebook and Foursquare, review you on Yelp, and you offer deals on Twitter. You have no idea how much I have spent at Rocco’s Tacos after Rocco lured me in with a tweet about free patron shots.
4. Know your customer and Make Sure They Know You
The following comment was made on my Facebook page yesterday (edited to protect the guilty).
Field of Greens is great. On my second time there the owner remembered my name, and still does. Yet, after 17 years of going to [redacted], the same guy from way back when doesn’t know my name or what I order… it’s been the same sandwich all 17 years and the same guy taking my order. And then they have a line item for a tip – ha! Point is you go where you feel you matter, at Field of Greens you matter.
If you were serving food at the food-court of a mall you may get away with not being personal. On Clematis Street, when the season is out, you will come to depend on your local “regular” client base. If you don’t know who they are, then you are going to be in trouble.
5. Provide a GREAT Dining Experience
Last, but obviously not least, the BEST recommendations you can possibly get are from your customers. Your food and service has to be something that people want to come back to and, more importantly, go out and tell their friends about.
Before the rise of social media, a restaurant could get away with spending big bucks on advertising, work to get good reviews in the paper, and skimp out on the dining experience. Those days are over. Now each of your patrons is a potential reviewer who may have a large local audience. The success of your business may just hang on the two lines that they post on their facebook or twitter feed, make sure it’s good!
Well, that’s all from me! Please feel free to send this around to your friends and post it on your facebook wall. If you’re concerned about the fate of your favorite lunch spot feel free to print this out and hand it to the manager!
What a crazy week! On Wednesday morning our Mayor, Jeri Muoio, in her State of the City Address recapped what the City has accomplished over the past year and set the stage for what is coming down the pipeline in 2013.
The overwhelming theme of the presentation is that the City of West Palm Beach is open for business. While we still have businesses that fail (RIP Five Guys), the Clematis Street District has boomed with lots of new businesses opening up shop and a general optimism, which is seen not just in the businesses but also in the people who come here after hearing the “buzz” that our downtown area is creating in our neighboring cities.
West Palm Beach – Open for Business
I have a lot to say about this topic and I am putting together a blog entry specifically focused on businesses downtown. But one of the things that I want to add is that in any business there is only so much that a city or district, or local bloggers, can do to encourage growth. At some point it comes down to the businesses themselves and their ability and willingness to step out and market themselves. The days of having to spend thousands of dollars in advertising campaigns are over; if you’re willing to put a bit of time (not money) into your online presence and market yourself through social media, as well as provide an outstanding service, you could find that this is the difference between building an established business and fizzling out due to “lack of walk-by traffic”. More to come on this one.
There is still a ways to go and lots of stuff in the pipeline, but I think we’ve gotten off to a good start this year!
Before I move ahead, the paving of Clematis Street starts on Sunday – I believe the details were sent around in a letter to downtown businesses, but from what I gather the paving will start on Sunday and will go on 12 hours a day for 4 days. Hopefully this means that we’ve seen the last of a Guy “with-a-jackhammer” on Clematis.
Friday – Come to Hullabaloo for their Grand Opening!
Hullabaloo is Rodney Mayo’s new “Gastropub” which occupies the space that formerly was home to The Lounge. They’ve done a great job of converting the space into an edgy and modern dining location.
Mixology at Hullabaloo
I crashed the pre-party last night (you people need to actually start inviting me to these things, seriously). The vibe was great, food was prepared in the open kitchen by a team of chefs feverishly working to prepare flat-bread and pizza in their cool gas fired-pizza oven. The final menu promises to have an Italian twist with traditional gastropub items. If you want something to drink you can grab an “Elvis”, “Tupac” or “Winehouse” from the specialty drinks menu with items named after famous musicians who have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Hamburger Heaven – Now open for Business!
Keeping with the theme of new businesses, the beloved Hamburger Heaven finally opened their doors at the farthest end of N. Clematis Street.
I’m really happy to see the east end of Clematis Street being developed by well established eateries. With direct access to our beautiful waterfront commons, high-end establishments such as PB Dramaworks Theater Bar Louie, Slones, Pizza Girls, Tin Fish, WOB, Pistache, Grimaldi’s and now Hamburger Heaven open, the 100 block is making a name for itself as a great waterfront destination.
Hamburger Heaven – Now open on the 100 Block
While I never had the opportunity to visit Hamburger Heaven when it was on the island, my trusted sources inform me that the new location is much improved. The burgers were priced at the same level as Grease, and I enjoyed a fantastic coffee milkshake.
Historic Trolley Rides are BACK!
The DDA has brought back the popular Historic Trolley Tours for another season. They began on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 and will run weekly on Fridays at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. through Apr. 20, 2013, with the exception of Mar. 22 and Mar. 23 during the Palm Beach International Boat Show. Tickets are $5 for adults and free for kids under 10.
Support Junior Achievement in the FTI Great Charity Challenge.
Junior Achievement is a great program that my kids have taken advantage of in their schools.The local organization is great at helping schools out, organizing programs like the JA Biztown which give kids the ability to run a city straight out of their schools.
FTI Consulting has offered a $50,000 challenge! Please support Junior Achievement by clicking here and voting (http://www.ftigreatcharitychallenge.com/home/vote) .
The South Florida Fair is ON!
While leaving Clematis St. is not recommended, I’ll recommend heading down to the South Florida Fair simply because you won’t find fried maggots on the menu of our Clematis-based eateries. Go ahead, knock yourself out. It’s going to be perfect weather!
Get your whirl on at the South Florida Fair
That’s all from me! Hope to see you on and around Clematis this week!
Aaron “aGuyonClematis” Wormus!
P.S. Remember that cast that I wore for 6 months, well it’s gone now! YAY.