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A Center of Great Import

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A statue of Christopher Columbus stands as a symbol of the contribution prominent Italian-Americans such as Ciro Poppiti III (left) and Joe DiPinto have made here. Photograph by Greg sachsLocal Italian-Americans have given us the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival and Vendemmia, the Societa da Vinci’s annual wine fest.

Now they’ve given us the Italian Mountain Development Agency Italia Trade and Cultural Center. The center promotes the import of Italian goods and services to the United States. Among other things, that means good artisan foods. The center is not a showroom, however. Located in the Shipyard Shops on the Wilmington Riverfront, it is headquarters for Italy’s small businesses in the U.S.

Call it a team effort, though everyone involved is being modest about their roles. Attorney Ciro Poppiti III, Delaware’s IMDA representative, credits Wilmington di­rector of economic development Joe DiPinto. DiPinto says it was Poppiti who helped persuade Italy’s National Union of Mountain Municipalities, Communities and Authorities to headquarter here.

“Ciro, along with David Mathe (an international trade specialist for the state), made a number of presentations in Delaware and they involved me in it,” DiPinto says. “Ciro was the first chair of the commission. Its creation was his idea.”

Given the dismal economy, is it wise to compete with sales of domestic products?

“Yes,” says Poppiti. “I see people from Italy coming here and spending money here. A landlord has a place rented at the Riverfront. The Italians have hired accountants, lawyers and a staffer. And the delegations stay at our hotels.”

There is yet another rationale for locating the center here. “We’re proud of our heritage,” says Poppiti. “Italians have been an institutional part of Delaware from its beginning because of people like Caesar Augustus Rodney. We have a special obligation to continue that.”         —Maria Hess
 

Page 2: Back to the Garden | She left us as Mary Arden Collins. Now she’s back as Arden of Eden. No matter–the music is still great.

 

The artist formerly known as Mary Arden Collins. Photograph by Ron Hamad Back to the Garden

She left us as Mary Arden Collins. Now she’s back as Arden of Eden. No matter—the music is still great.

For the new year, recording artist Mary Arden Collins resolves to write more songs and to embrace ’09 with a new name and image.

“Arden of Eden is my new artist name, in collaboration with my husband, Mark Gorman,” says Collins, a native of Arden. Gorman, a Philly native, plays bass for the band.

Collins’ new sound incorporates her folksy roots with “new and fresh ideas and collaborations,” she says. Think bluesy rock with an edge.

Collins moved to Los Angeles six years ago, but keeps a strong fan base here at home. She was slated to play First Night Wilmington on New Year’s Eve and recently visited Arden to release the band’s new CD, “Love Street.”

Collins was one of Delaware’s first independent artists to break into commercial radio when her song “Motivate” earned heavy listener responses on Wilmington’s 93.7 WSTW. She released two solo albums before creating Arden of Eden. Her music has been featured in several television shows, including “Joan of Arcadia,” “Carrier” and “Criminal Minds.” Her songs have also graced the silver screen in the films “The Thing About My Folks” and “Solstice.”

“I love coming back to Delaware,” she says. “ It’s always good to see family, fans and friends.”

For now, she’s searching her soul. “It’s easy to get caught up in the business of music,” she says. “My goal is to get back to the creative side.”

For more, visit myspace.com/ardenofeden. —Maria Hess
 

Page 3: Good (Lookin’) Sports | Local stylists strike a pose for a new calendar–and for a great cause. Herein, the 2009 Style of Man calendar revealed.

 

Good (Lookin’) Sports

Local stylists strike a pose for a new calendar—and for a great cause. Herein, the 2009 Style of Man calendar revealed.

At first blush, folks probably won’t get the message behind the 2009 Style of Man Sports Calendar. In fact, when they see beautiful women posing in revealing sports apparel, they’ll probably just blush.

But according to its creators, the calendar is meant to be more than a pinup. You see, the women pictured are not professional models. They are Style of Man stylists—and many are working moms—who posed to raise money for charity.

“It’s the way women live,” says Kathy Thomas, company founder. “Like the goalie putting on lipstick and stopping the puck. Whatever we do, we have to look better than guys, but we still have to get the job done.”

Style of Man is a high-end barbershop that pampers men with salon-like treatment. Thomas opened the first location in Philadelphia 20 years ago. She’s since added shops in Wilmington and Manayunk.

“We didn’t want to do a lingerie or bathing suit calendar,” Thomas says, “but since we cater to men, we thought we’d do the sports men play and watch.”

Stylist Anne Marie Alesi, a New Castle resident and mother of two, posed as a sexy defensive lineman and as a sprawling hockey goalie applying lipstick for what she calls the “G-rated” calendar.

Alesi enjoyed the experience, but admits there is one slight hitch: “Some of my clients don’t want their wives to see it,” she says with a laugh.

The calendar sells for $15, with proceeds going to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. To order, visit www.styleofman.com.  —Drew Ostroski
 

Page 4: A Homeboy Hits A Literary Homer (Again) | Gary Smith’s latest anthology knocks it out of the park. Guess where America’s best sportswriter got his start…

 

A Homeboy Hits A Literary Homer (Again)

Gary Smith’s latest anthology knocks it out of the park. Guess where America’s best sportswriter got his start…

In the acknowledgements of his latest book, Gary Smith thanks local sports scribes Hal Bodley and Matt Zabitka “for making a scrawny 16-year-old think he belonged at the Wilmington News Journal.”

Indeed, Smith—a senior writer at Sports Illustrated—started right here in Delaware, taking Little League scores and running wire copy in the News Journal sports department.

Today the Dickinson High grad is widely considered America’s best sportswriter. Smith, 56, has earned an unprecedented four National Magazine Awards (the industry equivalent of the Pulitzer) for nonfiction writing and has been a finalist a record nine times.

His most recent book, “Sports Illustrated: Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories,” showcases the four award-winning pieces, as well as heralded profiles of famous sports figures such as Tiger Woods and Mia Hamm. The anthology also includes stories of lesser-known folks, such as James “Radio” Kennedy, a mentally challenged man who attended a high school for more than 40 years and established a unique role with the school’s football team. The story was the inspiration for the film “Radio,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

“It’s not that much about sports, it’s about people,” Smith says. “Sports just happens to be the stage they’re acting out on. We connect on a very human level, dealing with a lot of universal things that people can relate to.”

Zabitka, a longtime News Journal sportswriter, remembers fondly the days when the teen-aged Smith was breaking into the business—and into local horse racing tracks. Investigating concerns of a doping scandal and lax security at racetracks, Smith snuck into Brandywine Park and Delaware Park and wrote a full-page story about it.

“Just before he left us to go on to college, he was getting a break and showing a lot of talent,” Zabitka says. “When he was at the Philadelphia Daily News, you could see it coming.” —Drew Ostroski

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