Residents will tell you Ave Maria reminds them of the town they grew up in, that it evokes a return to small-town America and a time when downtown and local businesses were at the heart of the community and the center of childhood memories. Before folks and businesses began a mass exodus to the suburbs and regional shopping malls half a century ago, downtown was the place to buy groceries, enjoy local restaurants, play in a park, meet friends and newcomers and even catch up on the latest gossip.
With its tree-shaded sidewalks, picturesque dining patios and green spaces, Town Center at Ave Maria harkens back to small-town values and a homespun ambiance where holidays are celebrated with parades and festivals, booths and barbecues and the everyday charm of local boutiques, restaurants and town doctors, which all create a sense of community. Folks even live in downtown, enjoying the vantage points from second- and third-floor condos.
Town Center, the Publix retail shops and planned commercial buildings not only fill the needs of the growing town, they’re also one of the main commercial and retail centers in fast-growing eastern Collier County.
And Ave Maria continues to welcome new retailers, restaurants, medical and professional offices, many of them local, often resident-owned, single-proprietor and single location ventures. Others have a national presence, privately owned by entrepreneurs who are moving full time to Ave Maria.
Each newcomer enhances the town’s appeal, lending their personalities to creative, insightful and innovative concepts — from an indoor market to concierge health and wellness clinics and physicians eager to be part of a community.
To market, to market
Reina Del Mar and Jorge Arroyo, the visionaries behind Ave Maria’s Hoja de Menta clothing boutique and the stylish look of OASIS The Kitchen Lounge’s plantdraped dining room, have unveiled plans for Mercato at Ave, an imaginative indoor marketplace elevating the shop-local trend to another level. Featuring a country chic vibe with indoor and alfresco lounge areas and colorful walls perfect for selfies, the 2,660-square-foot space in the Publix retail shops will support a curated collection of 20 or more local vendors, host local events and entertainment, and offer a boutique café serving coffee, wine, beer, small plates and empanadas highlighting the different flavors of Colombia, Argentina and other countries.
Designed to promote small business and economic growth, Mercato at Ave will provide a year-round physical retail presence for mom-and-pop shops selling unique handmade merchandise — everything from candles and clothing to plants and pottery, soap, jewelry and golf accessories. It will also give residents more shopping options as well as a space for real estate and travel agents, event planners and other professional services. More than 200 potential merchants, most of them local, have expressed interest.
“The marketplace gives small businesses the opportunity to sell their products, grow with the community and support each other,” Mr. Arroyo says. “It’s a unique concept for businesses and will be a destination for everyone with a family friendly, all-seasons environment that’s fun and exciting.”
Akin to a farmers market but without the produce, Mercato at Ave will also have an indoor playground and free Wi-Fi.
A new doctor in town
Ana Garcia-Iguaran, an obstetrician and gynecologist, left the big city bustle of the Miami area to open the Mater Dei Clinic, a full-time gynecological practice in Ave Maria’s former Braden Clinic.
“What was most important to me was the opportunity to be part of a small-town health program and provide care to patients who otherwise wouldn’t have it,” Dr. Garcia Iguaran says. “I wanted to connect with people and become part of the daily life.
“In an urban setting it’s all about productivity, how many patients you see. After 15 years, I felt stifled. I wanted to have the ability to spend as much time with a patient as needed because it makes a difference in their health and in their lives.”
Dr. Garcia-Iguaran learned about Ave Maria from her patients, a growing number of who were driving from Ave Maria to her Pembroke Pines office. The town’s Catholic values appealed to her, and after visiting, she realized she could make a meaningful difference in a small-town practice. Since opening Mater Dei in November, the roles are now reversed and Dr. Iguaran is the commuter.
“I realized the community was so close and had more diverse needs,” she says. “We are excited to be here, and patients are thankful for new opportunities for health care.”
Mater Dei provides gynecological care for women of all ages and natural family planning. While her mission-driven emphasis and bedside manner are a welcomed throwback to old-school medical care, Dr. Garcia-Iguaran incorporates the latest technologies in her practice, including NaPro Technology for monitoring and maintaining a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health.
With Mater Dei, she sees potential for additional specialists and services, including obstetrics should she eventually become a town resident.
“I see the clinic as a long-term commitment and the opportunity to become a hub for health care in and around town,” she says. “The Catholic understanding of health care is one of the reasons I came here. It focuses more on the whole-person, not just the physical, and is a different approach to health and disease from what the mainstream program is in America now.”
Healing from the inside out
Cadenza Wellness in Town Center offers a comprehensive approach to health and wellness. Founded by internist Raul Enad, the concierge medical clinic is part medi-spa and fountain of youth, offering traditional aesthetic services complemented by regenerative treatments that not only help patients look younger but relieve joint and muscular pain caused by inflammation.
The spa menu includes Botox and Dysport, three-phase facials, lip rejuvenation and nonsurgical facelifts using PDO threading. The science side combines principles of internal, functional and regenerative medicine for healing from within.
“I approach illness and wellness with a deep dive to the cellular level,” says Dr. Enad. “I consider metabolic health as the key factor to containing inflammation of the body, which is the key to health and wellness; inflammation causes aging and disease. I offer regenerative medicine applications for aesthetics, skincare and common rheumatologic conditions like joint pain from arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis and myofascial pain.”
Sleep deprivation along with mental and physical stress — all prevalent in modern lifestyles — also impact overall wellness, as Dr. Enad discovered during a personal life-changing experience. Supraventricular tachycardia elevated his heart rate to 220 beats a minute, caused light-headedness, palpitations and chest pain. As a result, he started exploring functional and regenerative medicine.
His practice conducts in-depth testing that leads to individualized treatment plans that might include platelet-rich plasma therapy packed with growth factors and anti-inflammatory properties, IV vitamins to boost immune function and target oxygen radicals, and Christian-based meditation to calm the sympathetic nervous system.
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