We loved meeting Janet and Brad and their two boys! Janet and Brad both have crucial roles at The Willow Tree Cafe and Magnolia Square Market. And just like our previous couple, they met at Seminole High School. We had a great time chatting with them at the school and discussing the changes taking place at the school (and in Sanford)!
What do you do?
Brad: I work as a prep cook at Magnolia Square Market.
Janet: I do a lot! The short answer would be I’m the Administrator at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, and Magnolia Square Market. The long answer is that I’ve been working there for almost 11 years. I started out as a dishwasher and have worked my way all around the restaurant. As I was moved up over the years I’ve always asked the owners if I can keep working the tent during Alive After 5, it’s always so much fun. My REAL job however is spending time with my kids, and our extended family that lives in the area. We also keep busy with the cub scouts and Civil War reenactments.
How did you find your way to Sanford?
Brad: My parents moved here about 1989. I was just about to start Kindergarten and was sent initially to Hamilton Elementary (where my eldest son now goes and where my younger son starts in September).
Janet: I moved to Sanford in 1999 with my Mom, and started at Seminole High School in 2000 where I met my husband.
What were your first impressions of Sanford?
Brad: The first ones I can remember are of it being very open. When I was a kid, Seminole Town Center didn’t exist yet and the area where BJ’s is now was a produce farm. In fact, I lived in the building that is now a Sobiks across the street from Aldi’s. So it was a much more rural place to grow up in and I really enjoyed that.
Janet: I don’t really remember anything particular standing out, I know looking back that I’m super lucky to have gone to a high school that has so many great teachers, programs and clubs. Sanford itself is situated in a great area. If there isn’t anything going on in town, we are just a short drive to museums, arena, theme parks and beaches.
What has been your biggest challenge while living in Sanford?
Brad: The same as my biggest joy. Raising a family.
Janet: The reputation, there are so many folks that have the wrong idea about the area. I know there are some places and things that could use improvement, but when our communities start banding together to make change, and move forward in the same direction, progress happens.
What is your favorite Sanford memory?
Brad: I have too many to name a favorite. I met my wife here. Started my family here. I’ve lived in Sanford for 26 of my 30 years on this Earth. It holds pretty much all of my memories.
Janet: Training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon with my friend Michele, she would meet up with me in the mornings and run me through downtown and along the Riverwalk. I’m a big girl so it’s no easy task, but she always kept me motivated and on pace.
What is your favorite Sanford event?
Brad: I never really had one before but I think now it’s going to become Touch-a-Truck. It was great to get out there and see all the rigs and helicopters. My kids loved it and it was a really good time. It’s a new event and I hope as more people learn about it, it gets bigger and better.
Janet: While I love working the Alive After 5 events, I REALLY enjoy all of the parades Sanford has. We are so fortunate to have these events, I can only remember a handful of parades as a child, so I really like being able to have the opportunity to share the different events with my kids. It was really great that last Christmas my oldest son got to ride on a float with our friends, while my youngest got to walk with the Cub Scouts.
Let’s say you have friends or family in town visiting Sanford for a day. Where would you take them?
Brad: Depends on who is visiting as to the exact place, but definitely downtown overall because it’s got something pretty much anyone will enjoy.
Janet: Willow Tree is always the first stop, then to Maya’s Bookstore, and off to Riverwalk and Fort Mellon Park.
What are you passionate about?
Brad: My family. Pure and simple. The vast majority of my life revolves around them. I see my parents almost every week, hang out with my brother and his family, often who lives on the other side of the St. Johns. My wife and kids mean everything. I am pretty much defined by my family and love the fact that I’m raising them in a nice small town.
Janet: Besides our family and friends. I really enjoy crafts of all kinds, and Brad likes history, camping, and going out on the ocean. My husband and I love that our interests are both hobbies that we can include the boys in, and teach them different skills they may not normally pick up in today’s fast paced, technology-driven world.
What is your favorite book?
Brad: I don’t think I have ever had just one. I have entire series that I like. Most of which are futuristic military or sci-fi.
Janet: I don’t really have a ‘favorite’ book, however I have a deep joy for paperback romance novels, or as Yvette from Maya calls them; bodice rippers.
Brad: Another hard one. I love O Brother Where Art Thou, Fifth Element is a big one. Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker together will make me laugh in hysterics until I’m old and gray.
Janet: It’s a tie between Sense & Sensibility and The Wedding Date. Anytime I see one of those movies on, I call it quits on channel surfing.
Brad: Never had one. I don’t do albums really. They’ve never told me a story like they do other people. If it sounds good, I’ll listen but beyond that I’m pretty meh about albums.
Janet: Piano Guys- we have there first album in our car and it is the main go to CD when the radio stations just aren’t cutting it.
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Brad: Scotland. I love the place. I’ve been known to go bar hopping in downtown sporting my kilt, but it’s been a while.
Janet: I think Scotland is on the top of the list for our first International family outing. Although our 7 year old proclaimed the other day that he wants to go to Italy, so that is quickly rising through the ranks to number 2.
What does Sanford need?
Brad: A good smoke shop. Not a head shop with glass pipes and hooka’s and people burning incense and trying to figure out which of the three of you that just walked in is the real one. I’m talking about a nice gentleman’s tobacco shop for cigars and tobacco pipes.
Janet: The Historic District could use a small parking garage in a bad way. For the really big events like the 4th of July and the Christmas Parade, parking can be a real mess. I would also love to see some more business in the empty storefronts along First Street and the riverfront under the Gateway. I would love to open a Front Running Sports-type of store!
What would you consider to be Sanford’s “hidden gem” – a place or feature that’s usually overlooked?
Brad: Maya’s Bookstore. It’s a great local book store with pretty much everything there. It doesn’t feel like a corporate place. It feels like a home built out of books.
Janet: The parks and recreational spaces that are dotted throughout Sanford. There are playgrounds, tree covered spaces just perfect for a picnic, and others that are wide open and perfect for kites, Frisbees, or a quick game of catch with the kids, and the dog park!!!
What is Sanford’s greatest asset?
Brad: Being a small town. There are enough major cities out there. Sanford feels good as a small southern town.
Janet: The hard working people and businesses who work here. When I used to hostess I would often meet people who would look over our menu, and not be interested in German food. Theo always told me to make suggestions and send them to our neighbors down the street or around the corner, because as long as they have a good time in the Historic District, they’ll always come back. That always stayed with me, and I really think it sums up the relationship the owners and employees have down here; we’re all neighbors.
If you could give one piece of advice to new citizens of Sanford, what would it be?
Brad: Explore and don’t be afraid visit every little shop, restaurant, and bar you see. You’re bound to find something or someone you’ll like.
Janet: I’m with Brad, get out and explore the area. Catch a performance at one of the theaters, take a walk and look at the scenery. Maybe make a date and go out on the Barbara Lee for a river cruise. Turn off your phone, pack a lunch and find a patch of grass to sit and watch the clouds roll by.