Author Archives: Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

About Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

Leigh Anne Zinsmeister is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She was an editorial intern for AZ Big Media from January 2009 until May 2010, and is currently working for The Arizona Republic as a copy-editing intern.

Jim Todd in a helicopter - AZ Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

Jim Todd Never Dreamed He Would Be The Valley’s Main Aerial Photographer

Jim Todd
Todd Photographic Services
Title: President
Est: 1990  |

“We’re the only aerial photographer in town that can shoot it, process it, print it, mount it, frame it and get it out the door same day — and that’s huge.” – Jim Todd

When Jim Todd began Todd Photographic Services 20 years ago out of his home, he never dreamed that one day he’d be the main aerial photographer in the Valley. When the economy collapsed as soon as he bought his current 9,000-square-foot building, that accomplishment seemed even less likely.

“Everyone struggled with the recession, but we had this extra burden,” Todd says. “Just the little things, like new business cards and letterheads, add up. The cost really increased and yet the revenue was decreasing. It was a real struggle.”

But Todd found ways to get by. He cut back from 12 employees to three. He rents out the 3,000 square feet upstairs in his building. And, most significantly, he increased the number of services available.

“We thought, ‘let’s bump it up,’” he says. “Let’s create a unique solution to everyone’s photographic needs.”

Today, in addition to aerial photography, Todd Photographic Services provides custom framing, custom photo finishing, mounting and laminating, architectural photography, graphic design, portraits, and custom wall murals. Plus, the building houses an art gallery. Now that things are starting to turn around, Todd hopes to start hiring back some of the employees he had to let go.

“It breaks my heart that I had to do it, and now I want to start bringing people back one at a time because we’re picking up,” he says.

Despite all of the new services the company now offers, Todd’s favorite part is still taking the aerial photographs.

“I just find it tranquil,” he acknowledges. “It’s just beautiful, and it’s the biggest part of our income. The biggest part of our income is the thing I like to do the most — how lucky am I?”

Very lucky indeed to have survived so many challenges in only the last two years. In fact, Todd considers the simple fact that the company is still standing to be one of its greatest achievements.

“Two years ago, our greatest achievement would have been different,” he states. “But becoming king of the hill and keeping our doors open is enormous. The other thing is having a good reputation. A reputation’s a hard thing to get.”

Todd attributes a lot of his success to being located in Arizona, with its weather being perfectly conducive to aerial photography. Another bonus is the rate at which Arizona is growing and houses are being built, even with the recession, which leads to more architectural photography opportunities.

“We build more homes than anywhere else in the country,” he notes. “People want to live here.”

With all that Todd Photographic Services accomplished during the recession, the possibilities for the company are endless now that things are starting to look up.

Arizona Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

Tenant Improvement - AZRE Magazine July/August 2010

Tenant Improvement Projects Showcase Extraordinary Design

Tenant Improvement

Tenant improvement projects happen every day, but some stand out from the rest with their brilliant, unique design. Three such projects have been completed over the past year in the Valley — transforming not only their buildings, but the neighborhoods and communities in which they stand.

Blasts from the Past

A couple of years ago, The Parlor Pizzeria in Phoenix was an abandoned beauty shop. Today, thanks in part to Navin Pathangay of Pathangay Architects, it’s a pizzeria designed around the building’s history — even though it was rebuilt from the ground up.

“There were only two existing walls,” Pathangay says. “We threw the whole thing out, but we tried to keep the design as authentic as possible.”

Not far away, The Vig tavern opened its second location in April. The retrofit facility is an old bank structure originally designed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Peter Koliopoulos of Circle West Architects says they tried to accentuate the unique qualities of the building in their design — such as the vault, which they uncovered behind old drywall. Koliopoulos calls the vault, which became the bar of the restaurant, “a jewel within the space.”

In nearby Tempe, an entrance of Arizona Mills Mall has been remodeled to include a walk-through aquarium. According to Project Manager Andrew Abernathy of The Architecture Co., the entry originally looked like all the others with a unique paint scheme, but was based on a common design vocabulary.

Design Evolution

The first decision to be made when taking on such large, retrofit projects as these is to select the best construction materials for the job. Pathangay and Koliopoulos both opted for the sustainable option.

“We tried to reuse everything we could,” Pathangay explains. However, they were unable to save the original floor boards because of complications with the underground plumbing. Despite site challenges requiring them to pour new concrete, the builders were able to reuse the undamaged wood in other areas of the project.

Koliopoulos also was able to incorporate reused wood products in The Vig’s retrofit, most of which were recycled wood that had been abandoned by subcontractors. “Our goal is always to use sustainable materials,” he notes.

He also tried to leverage natural daylight as much as possible to, “accentuate the spaces and reduce the electrical load.”

For the aquarium, Abernathy says the most significant construction materials used were metal framing and drywall for projects such as the metal canopy over the entry, which was designed in a “wave” to create an ocean motif. The floors have epoxy finishes with contrasting chips to enhance their appearance. In fact, a lot of the space uses special theming finishes of wood, fiberglass and concrete, “to create rock and masonry effects in the attraction displays,” Abernathy explains.

Challenging Concepts

When describing their tenant improvement projects, all three architects recall logistical challenges being the most complicated.

“We had parking and sign issues,” Pathangay says. Koliopoulos also remembers parking issues, which he solved by adding a valet concept to the restaurant.

“Parking is always a concern,” he adds. However, Koliopoulos noted that the bigger challenges came from utilizing unusual aspects of the existing structure. “The building had a drive-through teller window for the bank facility,” he explains. The drive through ultimately became a covered outdoor area, benefited by the shade provided by the existing roof.

Encountering unusual property elements in retrofits are not the only challenges for architects. Small spaces can create large problems, depending on the scale of a property’s renovation. The logistics of having excavation, concrete pours, pipe installation, drywall construction and sprinkler pipe fitting all being done at the same time, in a very limited construction space, contribute to the difficulties of a project’s completion.

The aquarium was completed in nine months, with demolition beginning in late September 2009 and the grand opening taking place in May. The Vig also had a quick turnaround, with design beginning in July 2009 and construction being completed in April.

Only Pathangay describes a lengthy process for The Parlor’s transfiguration. His firm took on the project in late 2007, and were the fifth architecture firm to tackle the redevelopment. The design process took eight months, and the restaurant did not open until March 2009.

In the end, though, all three tenant improvement projects were successful. While the architects who designed these extraordinary retrofits certainly deserve a round of applause, they give credit to the rest of the teams involved for the finished product’s resulting success.

“As architects, we can design a beautiful structure,”  Pathangay says, “but the soul of the building only happens with other factors — like the location and atmosphere.”

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AZRE Magazine July/August 2010

La Hacienda at The Fairmont Scottsdale - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

La Hacienda Returns To The Fairmont Scottsdale

Tucked away at the Fairmont Scottsdale is a hidden gem and an old friend, La Hacienda. After shutting its doors in 2008, the fine-dining Mexican restaurant was re-opened in January with a new chef and new décor.

The Fairmont is touting the re-opened La Hacienda as having “a fresh, contemporary twist.” The restaurant’s traditional Spanish architecture is now accented with sleek, urban décor. Along with a new chef, Richard Sandoval, the revamped La Hacienda also features fire pit patio seating. And then, there’s the bar.

When my companions and I arrived, we spent some time at the vibrant bar exploring the beverage menu. La Hacienda offers more than 100 tequilas, as well as a full margarita menu, meaning that no matter your taste buds, there is a drink for you.

After some time at the bar (we recommend the sangria — with tequila, naturally), we moved to the cozy dining room. Our table was next to a roaring fireplace and the atmosphere was quiet and relaxing, despite the room being filled with diners. If you prefer outdoor seating, request a table on the front patio to watch the hustle and bustle of the resort as you enjoy your meal.

The menu at La Hacienda contains many Spanish words, but don’t let that intimidate you; the wait staff is extremely helpful in making recommendations. We started out with guacamole para la mesa, for the table. It was fresh and delicious, complete with avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro and serrano chile, all served with tortilla chips.

After enjoying the delicious guacamole, we ordered our antojitos, or appetizers. The table favorite was the flautas: crispy tortillas wrapped around shredded chicken, three-chile citrus, tomatillo salsa and cotija cheese. They were fried to perfection and devoured within minutes of arriving at our table. Also a favorite were the tacos de langosta — yes, that’s lobster tacos. Inside these delicious tacos were black beans, chile de arbol sauce, avocado and cilantro. It was by far the fanciest (and tastiest) taco I had ever eaten.

After our antojitos were cleared, we were brought our platos fuertes, or entrées. We sampled the costilla de res, or braised beef short ribs, which we found to be absolutely scrumptious. They were served with vegetable escabeche, a sour cream potato puree, habanero chiles and guava sauce. Although everything was delicious, the overwhelming table favorite was the pipian de puerco: slow-cooked pork shoulder with roasted corn puree, pumpkin seed and pipian sauce. The pork was cooked to tender perfection, making the dish the star of the dinner.

For dessert, my companions and I ordered cinnamon churros and empanadas. Both were simply fabulous, but the churros took the prize. They were fluffy and delicious, and certainly not your standard amusement park treat. Our churro standards have been raised. The four of us devoured six churros in no time.

The highlight of the evening came in the form of a flaming coffee. Our waiter prepared it right at our table, drawing the attention of the entire dining room as flames shot into the air. Once it was prepared, it was positively tasty and the perfect size for sharing.

For a fun, relaxing evening out, La Hacienda is incapable of disappointing. Welcome back, La Hacienda!

If You Go:
La Hacienda
Fairmont Scottsdale
7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale
(480) 585-4848 ext. 7320

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010

Downtown Phoenix After Dark - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Great Cuisine Helps Lure People To Downtown Phoenix After Dark

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. As recently as five years ago, Downtown Phoenix was practically deserted in the evenings. It was a place people came to during the day to work, but left as soon as 5 p.m. hit. Now, Downtown Phoenix has finally become a destination for concerts, sporting events and a happening nightlife. Much of its new found popularity is attributed to the innovative restaurants that have begun springing up, drawing in customers before and after events.

“The Downtown Phoenix cuisine is becoming a center of good food, farm-to-table concepts, and a variety of locally owned restaurants,” says Douglas MacKenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. “From before a game or concert to late-night dining, the culinary scene is eye-catching and mouth-watering.”

Indeed, most of the restaurants open downtown can’t be found anywhere else. Cheuvront Restaurant & Wine Bar has been open since 2003, so owner Ken Cheuvront has witnessed the downtown makeover firsthand.

Cheuvront says the restaurant attracts most of its customers from the arts community, especially those who attend the opera, the symphony and the theater. Five years ago, he started advertising in playbills and giving to arts organizations.

“Now that more and more people are coming downtown for their entertainment needs, we see people before or after their events,” he says. “Our demographic is 35 and up, but we think of ourselves as hip.”

District American Kitchen, the full-service restaurant inside the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, draws in theater patrons before and after shows with its live weekend entertainment.

“Theater people come to dinner before the show, then come back after for jazz music on Saturday nights,” says general manager Heinrich Stasiuk.

He says the restaurant also appeals to theater patrons because it intentionally offers dinner items that can be prepared quickly without sacrificing quality, since diners often have time constraints.

Jonathan Cullen, general manager of Kincaid’s Fish Chop & Steakhouse, says his restaurant sometimes offer discounts to those who attend the symphony.
Downtown restaurants also benefit from First Friday, the art walk that takes place on the first Friday of each month.
“First Friday is huge for us,” Cheuvront says. “Those are our biggest nights of the month. That’s a huge benefit to us.”
While the arts certainly bring a lot of people to Downtown Phoenix, so do other big events, especially professional sports games. With the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks playing right next door to each other, sports fans are constantly moving through the downtown area — and of course they’re hungry.

The Phoenix Convention Center houses what Executive Chef Jesus Cibrian dubs an “upgraded food court” called Metro Marche. It incorporates various stations serving several kinds of food from Asian to American, and it’s open to the public, not just convention attendees. Although most days only two or three stations are open for lunch, Cibrian says if there’s an event taking place, they open more and extend the hours.

“We are what the guests want us to be,” he adds. “We are a chameleon.”

Not only does the convention center provide great food for the community, it provides the community with more business. Since the expansion, the convention center has drawn large numbers of convention-goers to the downtown area and to area restaurants.

“We always contact the heads of the conventions in town,” Cullen notes. By doing so, he says he attracts many convention attendees.

Another recent addition to the flourishing downtown area is Arizona State University’s newest campus. Thousands of young adults travel downtown to take classes, and many of them live there, as well. Many nearby restaurants, particularly Pasta Bar, which is only a block away from the campus, regularly see students as customers.

Even those pricier restaurants with a bigger focus on happy hours benefit from the younger demographic.

“We have a lot of employees from ASU,” Cullen says, even though most students can’t afford to dine at Kincaid’s.

Of course, a lot of downtown dining business still comes from those 9-to-5 professionals. Johnny Chu, owner of the Asian tapas and sake restaurant, Sens, says most of his customers are businesspeople on their lunch breaks or stopping by after work.

One of the biggest changes to the downtown landscape in recent years has been the addition of the light rail, which opened in late 2008. Although it was a nuisance during construction, restaurant owners agree it has ultimately brought more people and business to Downtown Phoenix.

“We were down to 30 percent of our sales” during light rail construction, Cheuvront acknowledges. “People couldn’t even get into our parking lot. But it went back up. Last year was the best year we’ve ever had.”

Chu agrees that the light rail brings more business downtown.

“On the weekends, most of our customers take it in from Tempe or Mesa, so they can avoid a DUI on the way home,” he says.

Wade Moises, owner of Pasta Bar, sees a similar trend.

“A lot of our regulars take the light rail,” he says. “They tend to take it downtown and come here for an inexpensive night on the town.”

So with some help from the new and improved dining scene, Downtown Phoenix has become one of the hottest destinations in the Valley.

“Downtown Phoenix is a little different than downtown in other cities,” says Cullen, who has watched the evolution since Kincaid’s opened 10 years ago.

“We’re in the beginning, growing stages of it. We’re finally starting to see downtown develop into what it’s going to become. It’s been good to see it happen. Everything is moving in the right direction.” | | | | |

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010

close up of salad

Tomaso’s Sibling Restaurant, Tommy V’s, Strives For An Italian Tavern Vibe

Tomaso Maggiore has been the king of fine Italian dining in the Valley since the 1970s. Now, his Tommy V’s Osteria Pizzeria is offering a slightly more casual, but still exquisite, alternative to his signature restaurant, Tomaso’s.

“… Tommy V’s felt like a neighborhood dining establishment — a place to relax in after a long, hard day.”

Located right next door to Tomaso’s in Phoenix, Tommy V’s provides a comfortable, vibrant atmosphere and food that is to die for. From the moment I walked inside and saw the bar hopping with people, even on a Thursday, Tommy V’s felt like a neighborhood dining establishment — a place to relax in after a long, hard day. My companions and I couldn’t wait to see if the food would measure up to the wonderful atmosphere, and we jumped right in and ordered appetizers. We decided on the crispy calamari with pepperoncini, watercress organic tomatoes and citrus cream, as well as the osteria board. Osteria means “tavern” in Italian, and the osteria board features roasted tomato and pepper relish, crisp ciabatta, roasted garlic flat bread, bruschetta, artisan meats and cheese, and warm country olives, which our waitress told us were “world famous.” They certainly were delicious, as was everything else on the board. There was something for every taste bud.

After we had finished off every bite, our salads came. The chopped salad was divine, and about as unique as a chopped salad can get with mozzarella and hearts of palm. My personal favorite, though, was the Osteria, with baby greens, organic tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette.

Finally, it was time for our entrees. The specialty, of course, is pizza, and we chose two: shiitake wild mushroom with porcini, cremini, scallions, fontina, mozzarella and truffle oil; and the Let’s Meat, which includes sausage, salami, pancetta, scallions, tomatoes and mozzarella. Both pizzas were equally scrumptious and we simply could not choose a favorite. It is practically a guarantee that any of the other eight pizzas on the menu will be just as delicious.

Other than the pizza, our party also ordered eggplant torta, a baked multi-layer dish of eggplant, cheese fondue and pasta. It was wonderful, but the table favorite was the butternut squash ravioli. The ravioli consisted of not only roasted butternut squash, but also amaretto cookies, toasted almonds, and the key ingredient, parmigiano sage sauce.

Finally, we knew that we had to make room for dessert, which promised to live up to the high standards set by dinner. We didn’t think it could get any better, but we were wrong. Our party selected tiramisu and cannoli, and fought over both until the last bite was gone.

The next time you’re craving some fine Italian food, but not feeling quite fancy enough for Tomaso’s, stop by Tommy V’s. It will not disappoint.

If You Go:
Tommy V’s Osteria Pizzeria
3223 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
(602) 955-8900 |

Surgeons working on a Haitian earthquake victim

Arizona Medical Centers Provide Opportunities For Doctors To Help In The Wake Of Haiti’s Disaster

When a massive earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, the video images of the horrifying destruction moved millions around the world to tears. Here in the Valley, the news also moved many physicians to take action and head to Haiti. Four of those doctors making the journey were David Beyda, Grant Padley, Ara Feinstein and Jonathan Hodgson.

When each of these doctors felt the desire to travel to Haiti and help, the first thing they had to figure out was which group to travel and work with. For Beyda and Feinstein, the decision was easy. Beyda, a clinical care physician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, also is medical director for Mission of Mercy, a nonprofit group that helps provide needy children in 22 countries, including Haiti, with physical and spiritual necessities. Beyda himself makes six-to-eight trips per year, and had just been to Haiti in November.

“When I heard about the earthquake, I assembled a team and we were there within four days,” he says.

Beyda and his team packed all of their own supplies, chartered a jet out of Miami with another organization and spent a week in the middle of Port-au-Prince working on trauma rescue and intervention. In that time, he estimates they helped more than 750 people.

Feinstein, who works in trauma surgery and critical care at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, traveled to Haiti with the International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT), a group he’s been a member of for seven years. According to Feinstein, IMSuRT is the only federal disaster team with surgical capabilities. This was Feinstein’s first international deployment with the group, but he was well prepared.

“The team has several drills every year where we are required to set up the whole tent system and go through drills with the equipment,” he says. “We have to take a lot of courses and continue our education online.”

The IMSuRT team “showed up in Haiti as a full hospital,” Feinstein adds. Team members brought their own anesthesiologists, critical care nurses, equipment, food, water supply and all other necessities.

Hodgson, a neurologist at Gilbert Neurology, traveled to Haiti with a group from his church, which had done mission work in the Dominican Republic.

For Padley, an orthopedic surgeon with his own practice who also works at Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix, the decision on which group to work with was not as obvious. He ended up joining a team from Orlando, Fla., that had a specific need for his specialty.

“Once I saw (the disaster) unfolding, there was a big pull on my heart to go down there,” he says. “There was an urgent need, they were in need of someone with my specialty, I volunteered and it just came together.”

Unlike the others, this was Padley’s first mission, but it was something he had always wanted to do.

“Some people in my group had gone on missions before, but they all said this wasn’t like any mission they had been on,” he adds.

Padley spent his time performing orthopedic surgery at Haiti Adventist Hospital, where he dealt with a lack of air conditioning and swarms of flies. The resilience of his patients earned his admiration.

“They still had hope,” he says. “They had gratitude for us being there. They put trust in us.”

Beyda notes that the most challenging parts of emergency relief work are the upsetting psychological effects and emotions for all involved.

“It’s a horrific place to be,” he says. “You go down there with an open mind knowing you’re going to see horrific things.”

Hodgson says it was sometimes hard to comprehend “the suffering and devastation,” but adds that he also witnessed miracles.

“Over that week I was there, my (young) patients started to become children again,” he says. “It was really neat to see that change.”

For Feinstein, the challenges were more practical.

“It is a huge transition from doing surgery here, where I have everything available to me at all times, to in an environment where the things I need to care for patients may not be readily available,” he says. “It required some improvisation. Some things were repurposed.

“Now when I have an obstacle, I realize it’s OK. We can do all right without that one special piece of equipment or high-tech stuff.”

Despite their considerable skills and talents, the devastation in Haiti left all four doctors humbled.

“It’s not about us,” Beyda says. “It’s about what we offer others, as servants to those who are seeking help. We do the best we can. It’s not about being a hero, it’s about being a servant and doing what you can do.”

Heidi and Mike standing in front of a TV with their logo on the screen

Heidi Paley & Mike Dietterick, Co-owners Of EnVizon, Launched Their Company Amidst An Economic Slowdown

Heidi Paley & Mike Dietterick
Title: Co-Owners
Est: 2007  |

“Even though there’s that recession out there, there’s been more of an opportunity for us in Arizona. It’s a very good market to be in.” – Heidi Paley

In April 2007, Heidi Paley took a risk. At a time when the economy was beginning to show signs of slowing down and some owners were scrambling to find a way to save their businesses, Paley decided it was the perfect time for her to step out and launch her own company. Today, Paley is CEO and co-owner of EnVizon, a home automation company.

“I saw a lot of opportunity” in the economic slowdown, Paley says. “Not just to get into business, but to be the very best at what we do in this industry.”

EnVizon provides design installation and services for home electronics and sells a variety of related products, mostly from Control4.

Paley began her career in the home electronics industry 10 years ago, working retail for Ultimate Electronics. As one of 600 employees and one of six females, Paley knew she would have to work hard to stand out and make it in the business.

“I’m a go-getter,” Paley says. “It’s a very male-dominant industry. When I couldn’t find resources in my store, I wasn’t afraid to go outside. I was able to make connections with manufacturers. When I started EnVizon, I had strong relationships that a lot of professionals have trouble getting.”

Last year, Paley and EnVizon’s co-owner and president, Mike Dietterick, took another risk and brought in an electrical division to add another team to the company, which has 12 employees and is soon expanding to 20. EnVizon has an office in Scottsdale, a satellite office in Mesa and a showroom at the Home & Design Idea Center in North Scottsdale. In the future, Paley hopes to break into international markets.

“We’re definitely proven,” she says. “We’re an established, reputable business here in the Valley. We want to take our business model and expand it.”

Paley’s favorite part of the company is working with home automation services.

“Making it happen is so awesome,” she says. “You can start small and then expand upon that. Being able to automate things is incredibly cool. You dream it up and we will make it happen.”

Enhancing a customer’s quality of life is paramount to Paley and Dietterick.

“We had a vision of implementing the latest technologies through system design, greatly improving consumers’ lives, comfort, ease of living and lifestyle,” he says.

But EnVizon doesn’t limit itself to home projects. The company contributed to the Aria Hotel & Casino at CityCenter in Las Vegas, which Paley describes as “the world’s largest IT project ever executed.”

“To be a part of that was an awesome experience,” she adds, calling it the company’s greatest accomplishment.

Having been through the challenges of starting a business in tough times, Paley urges fellow entrepreneurs to know exactly what they are getting into.

“The minute you go into the business, you need to know your numbers,” she says. “Have a plan. It’s OK to revise it, but have that plan, set your goals and achieve them.”

foreground desert tray with coffee press and cup out of focus in background

Regions Bistro & Bar Highlights Recipes From Around The Country

With a brand new location in Scottsdale, Regions Bistro & Bar is serving American comfort food in style. In fact, it’s serving the type of homestyle cooking that would make Mom proud. Every month, one page in the menu changes to represent food from a different region (get it?) of the United States — from New England to the Pacific Northwest and everything in between.

Part of the menu remains constant, but this twist on cuisine and cocktails keeps things interesting and customers coming back each month. In case you don’t see your favorite region’s culinary dishes, the restaurant takes suggestions for future menus.

The ever-changing menu isn’t the only thing that hooks patrons. I was intrigued by the modern, sophisticated atmosphere from the moment I walked inside. Regions truly has something for everyone. The lounge, complete with a bar and televisions, is a great place for socializing and enjoying the happy hour specials. Meanwhile, intimate dinner seating, along with private dining areas, provide a cozier experience. The restaurant’s impressive happy hour specials with half-price drinks and small plates every day from 3-7 p.m., make it even more appealing.

The cocktails provide tasty enjoyment and amusement with creative names such as the Tree Hugger, the Flirtini and the Face Lift.

After checking out the lounge, our party moved into the dining area and began to examine the menu. It does indeed feature traditional American comfort food, but we could tell it was going to be a step up from what we were used to. For appetizers, we decided to sample steamed Oregon mussels from the regular menu and fried green tomatoes and okra from the monthly regional menu, which featured Mississippi soul food. The mussels, which were steamed in pinot gris, garlic, shallots, butter and cream, were impressive even to those of us who had never tried them before.

Next, of course, were the salads. While the traditional Caesar salad and American chop salad were exquisite, the table favorite was the wilted baby spinach salad, complete with toasted almonds, couscous, feta cheese and, the star of the salad, bacon vinaigrette dressing. It was a unique flavor that gave a tangy punch to the taste buds.

Finally, it was time for the main course. The overwhelming favorite was, not surprisingly, the epitome of comfort food: mac and cheese. But this was no Easy Mac. The pasta was mixed in a creamy sauce and topped with lump crab and more cheese, creating the most grown-up, sophisticated mac and cheese any of us had ever tasted. If crab isn’t your thing, it can also be prepared with shrimp or chicken, and no matter what, it’s sure to be a winner.
A close second for our table was the grilled wild Alaskan king salmon with corn relish and lemon butter sauce. It was perfectly grilled, tender and full of delicious flavor.

Although it was difficult to imagine being able to eat anything else, we knew we couldn’t leave without sampling dessert. After much discussion, we decided on three desserts: fresh fruit creme brulee, New World trifle and the regional dessert of the month, Mississippi mud pie. All three were absolute perfection and we left the restaurant feeling satisfied.

So the next time you’re craving some good old-fashioned comfort food, consider feasting on American comfort food with a twist. No matter how many times you visit Regions Bistro & Bar, there will always be something new to try!

If You Go:
Regions Bistro & Bar
9343 E. Shea Blvd., Suite 100, Scottsdale

View of a California beach

Summertime Cool: For Temporary Relief From The Arizona Heat, Check Out These Neighboring Attractions

Summertime is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to plan a summer escape. Luckily, you don’t have to go far: the Southwest is full of fun, exciting destinations no matter what your vacation style. From the beaches of Southern California to the mountains of Colorado, there’s something for everyone right here in our own backyard.

Southern California
San Diego: As if San Diego’s 70 miles of coastline and reliably sunny weather weren’t enough, the city is also home to many museums, a world-renowned zoo, theme parks, famous golf courses and a lively theater scene, as well as great food, shopping and nightlife in the historic downtown quarter.

Los Angeles: The question in Los Angeles is never what to do, but where to begin. Your choices include amusement parks, architectural landmarks, art museums and galleries, beaches, parks, hiking and shopping — just to name a few. A region of great diversity, you’ll discover a world of culinary adventures. After the sun goes down, you’ll find there’s an abundance of nightlife options, including live music and comedy provided by performers both legendary and yet-to-be-discovered.

Santa Monica: Drop a line at Santa Monica Pier. Sure you’ll find rides and restaurants, but the pier is a great place for fishing, with bait and tackle available. Experience it and you’ll understand why it continues to be a location favored by still photographers and film crews who use the pier extensively as a backdrop for magazine layouts, movies, television shows, commercials and videos.

Northern California
San Francisco: San Francisco is considered one of the greatest cities in the world for many things, including five-star dining and a happening theater scene. Beyond the 50-square-mile city in the surrounding Bay Area, there’s much more to explore — including Silicon Valley’s innovations, Marin’s Headlands, the Napa Valley’s vineyards and Berkeley’s free spirit.

San Jose: You don’t really know San Jose until you explore some of its unforgettable attractions; from its earliest adobes to a mysterious mansion, and innovative museums. Nearby small towns make for rewarding day trips from Campbell and Mountain View to Los Gatos and Saratoga. San Jose is a gateway to some of the most amazing sights in California, from wine country to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Spend a day or a week and begin to unlock the area’s secrets.
CALIFORNIA SOURCE: The California Travel & Tourism Commission,

Las Vegas: This is a city that needs no introduction. With its top-of-the-line resorts, shopping, dining, exciting entertainment and nightlife, Las Vegas has earned its place as one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. Nevada’s largest city has long outgrown its adult playground moniker, and is no longer just a gambling mecca.
SOURCE: Nevada Commission on Tourism,

Salt Lake City: Utah’s capital and gateway to the state’s renowned ski resorts, scenic national parks and recreational areas. Salt Lake is a well-known ski destination, having hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Skiers continue to flock here to enjoy world-class facilities and the “greatest snow on earth.” The historic Mormon Temple Square is a popular tourist attraction, and the city also offers lively entertainment and nightlife.
SOURCE: Utah Travel Industry Website,

Provo: Just an hour south of Salt Lake City on Interstate 15, there is a section of the state called Utah Valley. The area is home to Provo, Utah’s second largest city. To the west of Provo lies Utah Lake, and to the east of the city stands a towering range of mountains called the Wasatch Front.
SOURCE: Utah Travel Industry Website,

Denver: Urban sophistication meets outdoor adventure in the Mile High City. With 300 days of sunshine, a walkable downtown, thriving art and cultural scenes — with the Rockies as a backdrop — Denver offers affordable exploration of the world’s most spectacular playground.
SOURCE: Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau,

New Mexico
Albuquerque: The true Southwest lives in New Mexico. Immerse yourself in rich culture and heritage, rooted in centuries of history. Soak in blue skies and sun that shines 310 days a year — perfect for outdoor activities. Breathe in the high desert air scented with sage and piñon, and you’ll understand why the area is a destination like no other.
SOURCE: Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau,

Leigh Anne Zinsmeister contributed to this report.

steve randazzo projected on a home theater screen

Steve Randazzo, Owner Of Randazzo’s Home Systems, Is A Self-Described ‘Gadget Guy’

Steve Randazzo
Randazzo’s Home Systems
Title: Owner
Est: 2005

“I love music and sound systems, I love movies, TV and presenting those formats for overall enjoyment.” – Steve Randazzo, Randazzo’s Home Systems

Steve Randazzo describes himself as a “gadget guy.” His love of music, movies and television has been the foundation of his business, Randazzo’s Home Systems, since its inception.

As the owner and sole employee, Randazzo provides both residential and commercial clients with technology “from a simple TV and surround sound receiver setup to full-blown, large-screen home theaters to complete home automation,” he says. He provides all of the design, customer service and installation himself, and uses qualified sub-contractors when necessary.

Randazzo began the company in 2005 after careers in mechanical design, manufacture engineering and product marketing. After working for a company that went out of business, “the opportunity just presented itself to take all of the experience and the best things from those companies and create my own,” he states.

Randazzo considers the biggest challenge of running his own business to be “finding time to do what you love,” while still managing the business aspects of leading the company. Selling, managing, marketing and accounting are critical to the success of an enterprise — he realizes that balancing all this is a common hurdle with any small business.

The highlight of his hard work is seeing customers’ satisfaction at the end of a project, and their referrals to friends and family. Many customers even call him back to expand on the original project.

“Truly the greatest accomplishment is the ongoing business that comes from referrals and the satisfaction of the existing clients who want to expand on what we’ve done already,” he notes.

Randazzo hopes these referrals, and continued excellent service to existing clients, will help expand the business in the future — especially after the recession.

“We certainly didn’t break any records in 2009, but we maintained positive relationships with existing clients and we sought out new marketing and business opportunities through referral services,” he acknowledges.

Randazzo relies on honesty, reliability and efficiency to make those relationships work. He also believes that his location has been advantageous in keeping the company afloat.

“Arizona is great,” he asserts. “Year round sunshine and outdoor activity makes a TV on the patio a staple for an avid sports fan.”

But mostly, he adds, the company is successful because he enjoys it, and suggests other budding entrepreneurs do what they love.

“Find something you are passionate about,” he suggests. “Provide those services to people and back it up with continual customer service.”

Seafood in white dish

New Italian Eatery Bice Bistro Opens In Glendale’s Westgate City Center

Bice Bistro at Westgate City Center Among the array of restaurants at the ever-growing Westgate City Center in Glendale is a new standout: Bice Bistro.

The Italian restaurant has a contemporary feel from the moment you step inside. The decor is light and sophisticated, and attention is immediately drawn to the wine wall lining one entire side of the restaurant. Televisions tuned to sporting events hang above the bar at the front, but there is quieter, more intimate seating in the back.

When my dining companions and I first saw the menu, we knew we were in for quite a treat. Bice Bistro offers a wide variety of Italian food, including pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, fish and meat. As soon as the bread arrived at the table, it was clear that we would not be disappointed with the overall meal. The bread was served with butter spiced with flecks of red pepper, making it difficult to save room for the entrees as we gorged on the high-carb treat.

Of the appetizers we chose to sample, the overwhelming table favorite was the calamari. Served with mushrooms, zucchini and a spicy tomato sauce, it was perfectly cooked — the lightest and fluffiest I have ever tasted. Not surprisingly, it was much fought-over and completely devoured before too much time had passed.

Luckily, our salads soon arrived and diverted our attention. Bice Bistro offers the usual green and Caesar salads, and the Caesar, which had a hint of garlic, was definitely delicious. The star salad of the evening, however, was what our lovely waitress called the “house specialty.” The baby spinach salad came with beets, goat cheese, pine nuts and lemon vinaigrette. The beets in particular were fresh, and even those of us who had never tasted beets before thoroughly enjoyed them.

Before long our entrees were served and, as with the appetizers and salads, we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of flavors. Our pizza of choice, fotomodella, had tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, arugula, and the key ingredient, truffle oil. Needless to say, it was distinct from any pizza any of us had ever tasted, and it was easily a favorite. Another favorite entree was the crab-and-shrimp-stuffed ravioli with a lobster cream sauce. The ravioli is made in-house, and it was perfectly cooked. The rich and creamy sauce, however, was what really made the dish.

Finally, it was time for dessert. Although we all thought we had filled up, we still managed to relish three delicious treats: tiramisu, chocolate souffle and mango sorbet. The tiramisu and souffle were equally exquisite, and we were all impressed with how rich the souffle was without being overly sweet. The sorbet, which also is offered in other fruity flavors, was simple yet delicious — the perfect alternative if you’re just not hungry enough for a full dessert, but can’t imagine walking away with nothing. AZ Business Magazine March 2010

So the next time you’re at Westgate and feeling overwhelmed by the vast number of restaurants vying for your business, relax — Bice Bistro will not disappoint.

If You Go:
Bice Bistro
6751 N. Sunset Blvd., #E-110
Westgate City Center, Glendale
(623) 877-4760


AZ Business Magazine

March 2010

Man standing in front of building pointing a surveillance camera at you

Pasquale J. Piscitelli, Founder And CEO Of Simply Surveillance, Took His Background In Technology To The 24-hour Monitoring Business

Pasquale J. Piscitelli
Simply Surveillance
Title: Founder and CEO
Est.: 2003

“The greatest achievement is starting with just a vision and shoestring budget, and then being able to complete projects that challenge most large companies while keeping our integrity.” – Pasquale J. Piscitelli, founder and CEO of Simply Surveillance

Pasquale J. Piscitelli has always worked in technology — ranging from graphic art to database administration. Today, he is the CEO of Simply Surveillance, a local business that specializes in 24-hour monitoring for alarm systems and surveillance cameras.

The company began in 2003 as B*Evolved Technology group, which Piscitelli founded to specialize in low-voltage installations, entertainment, communications, wireless networks, surveillance and security systems.

Piscitelli knew that the company needed focus, and he credits the change to a complete stranger.

“During an expo, a man visited our booth,” he says. “As he approached the booth he said, ‘Wow, what a great logo, nice colors, interesting name … but what do you do?’ ”

That day, Piscitelli called business associates and reassessed the company.

“We came to the realization that surveillance was the majority of our business and the market was tantalizing,” Piscitelli says. “The transition was painless. Simply Surveillance was formed.”

The company now has eight employees, including office staff and installation technicians, and is poised for further growth. Piscitelli hopes to begin franchising on the West Coast and eventually throughout the United States.

But their current location in the Valley has been an advantage.

“Arizona is an opportunistic state,” he says, adding that it “is a sizeable state with a personable and relatively tight-networked business community. Once you have a reputation for being a ‘straight shooter’ everyone will know and it doesn’t take long.”

“The greatest achievement is starting with just a vision and shoestring budget, and then being able to complete projects that challenge most large companies while keeping our integrity.”

But it isn’t easy. Piscitelli notes that one of the most challenging aspects is researching new products in an industry that is constantly changing.

He reveals that Simply Surveillance stays on top of technology by working directly with manufacturers from the United States and abroad to enhance their offerings. They build relationships with the companies and stay loyal.

“These relationships give us an edge because we stay informed of new product developments before they are released to the public,” he says, and asserts that one of the best parts of the industry is knowing that he is making things that matter.

AZ Business Magazine March 2010“I like the fact that we can customize systems, be creative, and meet our client’s needs,” he says. “People look to us to solve problems so it’s never boring! There’s a certain satisfaction knowing our systems actually make a difference in people’s lives.”

While economic woes affected many companies negatively, Simply Surveillance is one company that has actually benefited from the recession.

“I’d like to thank all the thieves, creeps and less reputable for keeping us in business,” Piscitelli jokes, before adding seriously, “some find excuses in recession, some find opportunity. We focus on opportunity!”

Valentine's Day Film Goes Green

‘Valentine’s Day’ Film Is Going Green

The new romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day,” in theatres now, has been getting a lot of hype for its star-studded cast, which includes such famous actors as Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel. While the names on the movie posters are sure to draw in a wide audience, the film really hasn’t been getting played up enough for the truly amazing thing it’s doing: “Valentine’s Day” is going green.

While the fight to save the environment continues its uphill battle, Warner Bros. decided to show their support for the earth-saving movement. The prodution of the film is among the first in the film industry to implement green practices to lessen its environmental impact. To me, it seems like an enormous task. Being a college student and living in a dorm, I see first hand every day how tough it can be to remember to recycle, or even to put your trash in the garbage instead of throwing it down on the sidewalk. It’s hard enough to make the individual commitment to help the environment, but going green on a movie set would involve not just the actors’ cooperation but that of equipment suppliers, vendors and film crews — surely difficult to coordinate.

But it seems that Warner Brothers’ green endeavors with the film “Valentine’s Day” have been successful. Green initiatives were seen throughout all aspects of the production. Producers used reusable water bottles and solar-powered generators. Biodiesel fuel was used to power rental trucks and set lighting generators. Caterers used biodegradable plates, cups and utensils, and most of the waste was either composted or recycled. Perhaps most significantly, each actor was provided with a hybrid rental car to use in place of gas-guzzling limos. Way cooler, if you ask me, and the best part for the company is that only the solar panels added to the budget.

The best part about it — this wasn’t even a stand-alone project. Lots of studios are doing their part to reduce energy costs, and Warner Bros. has even hired environmental managers to help figure out the most sustainable production techniques. I have no doubt that before long, seeing “green” films will be the norm, and I can’t wait. There’s a lot of buzz and “speculation” as to why the sudden focus on the environment in Hollywood: Is it just for the good PR? To save money? Do the rich and famous actually care about the environment? It could be any or all of these, and if you ask me, it doesn’t even matter. The point is, for whatever reason, they are doing their part to help the environment. And hey, I know better than anyone how teenagers can be slaves to Hollywood: this could easily inspire us sloppy college kids to throw our trash in the recycle bin.

Ron Edwards, Executive Producer And CEO Of Audio-Video Networks, Always Knew He Would Work In The Music Industry

Ron Edwards
Audio-Video Networks
Title: Executive Producer and CEO
Est: 1985  |

“It’s my job to find out what makes a business unique and to turn it into a campaign; to think outside of the box.” – Ron Edwards

When he was just five years old, Ron Edwards, executive producer and CEO of Phoenix-based Audio-Video Networks, knew he would someday work in the music industry. He grew up playing the piano, majored in music in college, started writing jingles at 18, and never stopped.

He started Audio-Video Networks, of which he is the sole employee, in 1985 as a way of creating effective advertising in electronic media.

“I heard a lot of things that were mediocre,” Edwards says. “I wanted to pull the best of a business forward and let people know about them.”

Edwards started writing radio jingles for his clients. As clients started asking about TV commercials and Web sites, he expanded his company to other include other forms of electronic media. Today, Edwards offers a full spectrum of advertising, including radio commercials, TV commercials and Web site development.

Each time he acquires a client or a new medium, Edwards adds to his pool of freelancers, which he regularly uses to help him with projects. He currently has about 15-20 regular sub-contractors who specialize in everything from writing to producing to editing. Edwards says this system works well for everybody because he retains his independence and the workers don’t feel trapped in a company.

The biggest challenge for Edwards when getting Audio-Video Networks off the ground was getting people to believe in a product without knowing if it would work for them. He overcame this by producing jingles for free and gained many paying clients this way.

“I put together a jingle for Sanderson Ford and now I’ve done four or five since then,” he says.

Edwards believes that his location in Arizona is advantageous because it is not as competitive as a bigger markets such as New York or Los Angeles.

“Bigger markets are so fast paced that you lose focus on the customer,” he says. “There’s a good pace here that allows us to focus instead of just throwing together a commercial.”

Like many other businesses, Audio-Video Networks was not immune to the effects of the recession. Edwards estimates that the poor economy caused a 5 percent decrease in business, at most. When companies don’t advertise, they don’t make money, so his clients recognize the value of his services. Most of the impact has come from the fact that several of his clients are auto dealers who have been severely affected by the economy.

Edwards attributes much of his success to his quick response time and advises other small business entrepreneurs to always be on alert.

“You lose business if you’re not always available to answer the phone or e-mails,” he says. “Always be available so that everyone is a priority.

Edwards’ biggest goal for the company’s future is to keep expanding and adding clients, stay available and continue providing the effective electronic advertising he always has.

“I want to get more people on board and give them great advertising campaigns,” he says. “Something unique. Something that will grab people’s ears.”

Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010