The virtual parking lot of NFL stars is crammed with some sweet machinery — Clinton Portis’ Maserati, Reggie Bush’s Ferrari, Frank Gore’s Rolls Royce. With all their millions, one of their first acts as professionals is to buy an impressive car.
But FAU grad Alfred Morris, now in his second year as a running back for the Washington Redskins, already had his “Bentley.” He’s just lucky it hasn’t been towed away.
No problem for Morris, however. The adjective often used to describe the Pensacola native is “grounded.” Even though he was on full scholarship at FAU and setting all kinds of records, he made good grades — student athlete of the year — and held a part-time job at Sears in Boca’s Town Center mall. When he couldn’t hitch a ride, he walked to work … until his local minister proposed a deal.
Knowing that the NCAA might look warily at a freebie, the Rev. Gregory Fashaw of Delray Beach, who played football at Boca High and Florida A&M, offered to sell Morris his 1991 Mazda 626 with 100,000 miles and almost as many dings on it… for two bucks.
To Morris it was a “gift from God.”
Even though Morris signed a contract after his rookie season worth $2.25 million and could have bought any car, he held on to the “Bentley.” When a D.C.-area Mazda dealership offered to fix up the car, he was at first reluctant. He finally relented and took a 2013 Mazda as a loaner.
Like a NASCAR pit crew setting up for the next race, they took the car down to the bare metal. More than 450 parts, some specially manufactured in Japan, were replaced; the engine was overhauled; new brakes and exhaust were installed, the air-conditioner repaired. As a bonus, they added some features not available on the original 1991 model — leather interior, digital sound system and back-up camera.
“She looks different, but it’s still the same car,” Morris told Sarah Kogod of The Washington Post. “It’s a feel thing. Sometimes when something changes, you’re like, ‘Oh man, I want it the old way.’ But when I sat in her, I still got that feeling. She’s still ‘The Bentley.’ ”
Player and car made the network news after the ’Skins dusted off the Chicago Bears, but as usual Morris was his low-key self.
“I didn’t grow up with a lot. This helps me remember where I come from and where I’m going,” he said, aware of his good fortune to date yet aware that it could all end with one hard tackle. “I’ll never be a star. Other people may think I’m a star, but I’m just Alfred.”
“It’s a risk… But we’re confident that we’re headed in the right direction,” Bonnie Brooks said as she watched crowds pour into Lord & Taylor’s new Mizner Park store preview party on Oct. 9. Hors d’oeuvres, wine and Champagne, lots of photographers, lots of purchases and lots of handshakes for Brooks, now vice chairman at the parent Hudson’s Bay Co.
In the crowd: Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel, her predecessor and now county Mayor Steven Abrams, local socialites, fashion designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka, Project Runway judge and Marie Claire Creative Director Nina Garcia, the Cole twins — Timolin and Casey — who no doubt wouldn’t mind support from Lord & Taylor for their next Nat King Cole Generation Hope Foundation benefit that funds school music programs.
After an 11-year hiatus, it was a delightful sight for the L&T brass. In 2002, slipping against its competition, the chic retailer had closed its store in Boca’s Town Center. Eventually every store in Florida closed.
But five years ago, L&T was bought by Canadian retail giant Hudson’s Bay, which brought in Brooks to apply CPR. Mizner Park is the first shot in Florida, indeed the first in the entire Southeast, and Hudson’s Bay has even bigger plans. In July it bought Saks Fifth Avenue.
With Christmas just around the corner, Brooks and company should know soon enough if Boca shoppers prefer the relative intimacy of Mizner Park to Town Center’s vastness.
Heard through the grapevine: On Nov. 5, the American Fine Wine Competition brings its tasting for charity — more than 40 wines plus hors d’oeuvres — to Terra Fiamma, way out west at the Delray Marketplace. Tickets are $45 in advance, $50 at the door and proceeds benefit Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. (www.american finewinecompetition.com)
The next weekend, both Delray and Boca will host wine and food events.
Boca’s fourth annual Wine & Food Festival opens its three-day run at the Boca Corporate Center on Nov. 8 with a Vineyard Party that includes a wine sensory garden, spirits region, farmer’s market and live entertainment and a Dinner Under the Stars. From 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 9, Braman Motorcars presents the Palm Beach Grand Tasting, A Culinary Affair, featuring chefs from more than 70 restaurants, accompanying wines and spirits and more entertainment. The event closes out at noon Nov. 10 with Jazz Bubbles & Brunch. For pricing including numerous pre-event discounts, go to www.bocaratonwine andfoodfestival.com.
Admission is free to Delray’s second annual Wine & Seafood Festival, which will be staged Nov. 9 (11 a.m.-10 p.m.) and Nov. 10 (11 a.m.-7 p.m.) on Atlantic Avenue east of the Intracoastal Bridge. Patrons can buy any of the more than 60 seafood dishes or beverages from such local favorites as Boston’s, Ceviche, Caffe Luna Rosa and 50 Ocean. Plus live music on two stages and 160 artists and craft exhibitors, special wine and food pairing seminars ($30), and hand-crafted ornaments made from wine corks by students at Plumosa School of the Arts.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nov. 9, the Greater Boynton Beach Chamber of Commerce will host its Harvest Hoedown at Intracoastal Park. Activities, games, entertainment, food and a Due South beer garden.
Those wondering what the Max Group plans to do with its brand-new Sonoma House, in Boca just north of Mizner Park, may get some answers Nov. 15 at its first public event. Whisky Bent Hootenanny is billed as a Palm Beach-style hoedown party featuring culinary creations from Max’s Harvest and Max’s Grille, paired with hand-crafted whiskey cocktails and craft beers, plus music by Uproot Hootenanny, barnyard-style games, art displays, themed attire competitions, cigar rollers and plenty of dancing. (For tickets, $65, $55 each for a pair, go to thesonomahouse.com.)
If you want to learn how to pair wine and cheese, check out the next event in the Boca Museum of Art’s monthly “The Art of Wine” Series, Nov. 20, led by certified sommelier and wine educator Stephanie Miskew. Next up (Dec. 18): Picasso and the wines of Spain. (392-2500, ext. 208).
From blue water to pink ice. Only in Boca where pink is perfect, the Boca Raton Resort & Club, which already conducts surfing classes, now is offering guests a chance to skate … on pink ice. The 85-by-40-foot ice rink opened Nov. 1 and will close New Year’s Day. Offering assistance and encouragement will be world pro pairs champs Frank Sweiding and Anita Hartshorn. (Reservations: www.bocaresort.com or 888-495-BOCA)
Since its start in 1989, the Chris Evert/Raymond James Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic has raised more than $20.6 million to combat drug abuse and child neglect. To add to that total this year, Evert has rounded up a show biz crowd that includes Alan Thicke, Kevin McKidd from Grey’s Anatomy, actress and former pro tennis player Maeve Quinlan; American Idol David Cook, Bush’s Gavin Rossdale, actor-comedian Jon Lovitz and tennis greats Patrick McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pam Shriver, Brad Gilbert and Martina Navratilova.
Play begins Nov. 15 with a pro-am and a cocktail reception at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Tennis will be played Nov. 16 and 17 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, and the Pro-Celebrity Gala featuring a silent auction and a Blues Brothers tribute by the Jake and Elwood Blues Revue will be Nov. 16 at the Resort & Club. (chrisevert.org).
The effort some people will make: Boca Raton is the second-best-dressed small city in the nation, according to Movoto, a real estate website, topped only by Santa Monica, Calif. Miami Beach is 10th. California claims six of the top 10 cities based on the number of high-end fashion stores, high-end shoe stores, high-end jewelry stores, tailors and dry cleaners per capita.
Restaurant news: Legal Seafood is gone. After 13 years in Boca’s Town Center, the southernmost restaurant in the Boston-based chain has turned off the stove. Management cited problems with quality control associated with flying in seafood from New England and a desire to move from malls.
Those who miss dancing on the tables since Taverna Opa’s CityPlace eatery closed in July, can begin practicing. A new Taverna is set to opa, er, open by year’s end on Atlantic Avenue in the old 75 Main spot.
Farther south in Boca, another new spot has already gone to the dogs. Darbster (6299 N. Federal Highway) has 60 seats outside for customers and their dogs and another 55 inside for the non-canine inclined.
The international menu ranges from Cordon Bleu to fried green tomatoes and even some vegan delights. But no Alpo.
Saltwater Brewery’s hoped-for pre-Halloween opening has been delayed to mid-November. As with many first-time ventures, its owner-management team ran into a few snags and needs a little more time to get the kettles up and brewing just right.
Thom Smith is a freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.