Chomp Chomp isn’t your typical restaurant, and Ian Chase — one of the eatery’s co-founders — isn’t your typical restaurant owner. His customers range from business owners to late-night foodies. And he brings a spark of energy to everything he does.
The River City native and culinary creator built a following at The Fox, an Avondale favorite known for its classic breakfast and lunch menus as well as its eclectic décor. When he opened Chomp Chomp in 2011, people took note. The quirky little dining room, complete with a chalkboard bearing daily offerings of chef-inspired street food, soon filled with ravenous fans. It’s been a dining hotspot ever since.
“I was lucky enough to live in other places, like Atlanta,” says Ian. “But I couldn’t own two restaurants if I lived somewhere like Los Angeles. I knew I could be successful here.”
Ashley Thibedeau is tasked with bringing a spark to all MOSH events, from elementary school field trips to haute rooftop gatherings. Regardless of the demographic Ashley is hosting, one thing remains constant — her love of Downtown and the joy she takes in sharing one of the neighborhood’s best cultural assets with its visitors.
Although children compose the bulk of the visitors to MOSH (on average, the museum hosts between 400 and 700 students for field trips each day during the school year), Ashley is constantly thinking of ways to bring the city’s movers and shakers through the door. In addition to launching a young professionals group (The Elements), MOSH has ramped up its MOSH After Dark series and added more rooftop events to the mix.
“Any time people are up there having fun, it makes my job worthwhile,” says Ashley.
Dennis Eusebio holds a lot of titles, but he’s most often recognized as a co-founder of One Spark, chief designer at KYN, and relentless Downtown advocate. His professional calling is to identify the embers of early stage companies, and fan them into a roaring flame.
Shortly after Dennis accepted his first job as a graphic designer for a Downtown agency, he started attending a brand-new event called First Wednesday Art Walk. It was his first taste of the powerful connection between art, people, and ideas. Fast-forward a few years, to a small gathering between Dennis and two friends and an idea scribbled on a cocktail napkin. That idea evolved into One Spark, a crowdfunding festival that brought more than 260,000 people to Downtown in April 2014.
“All designers try to work on a project that connects people,” says Dennis. “That’s what we were trying to do.”
When it comes to living Downtown, Marci Gurnow doesn’t miss a beat. From walking to rehearsal at the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra to running along the St. Johns River, she embraces all the perks that come with living and working in Jacksonville’s hottest neighborhood.
This Jacksonville-born musician studied music in Dallas and Chicago before she earned a spot on the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s roster in 2006. After bouncing between different neighborhoods, Marci settled on living Downtown for the convenience and a quality of life that she couldn’t find anywhere else.
“The fact that I can walk to work is appealing. I love coming home to make lunch, and the fact that I’m home from concerts by the time other people are getting out of the garage,” says Marci. “Having spent a lot of time in Downtown, every year it just gets more cool.”
On any given night, Samuel Linn is tending the bar at The Volstead, a speakeasy-style joint that he opened with two friends. The bar exudes 1920s appeal, with period-specific materials, vintage films screened on a wall and a soundtrack of swing and jazz music filling the air. According to Samuel, every detail was designed to draw people Downtown; not just to support his business, but to benefit other businesses in the neighborhood, as well.
Word of the sultry new establishment and its menu of craft cocktails has spread like wildfire through Downtown, but Linn and his team won’t be satisfied until that fire ignites the whole city.
“Downtown should be the focal point of the city, breathing life at all times,” says Samuel. “Downtown is finally getting a push — it needs to shape the rest of the city, instead of vice versa.”