One of the things we love most about living in Northeast Florida is the beautiful mix of eclectic neighborhoods that make up the First Coast. There are so many wonderful areas here-each with it’s own identity and each offers it’s own unique mix of local businesses, restaurants, art and culture. We decided to do a “neighborhoods we love” series in order to spotlight some of our favorite things about each of these areas.
We’ll be exploring everywhere but our first feature is on Arlington. We discovered some hidden gems in this neighborhood and we are excited to feature these in the highlights below.
Artist Connection Theater
The Artist Connection Theater is a new community theater located in the heart of the Arlington area. Lori Newton is the director of the theater and was able to sit down with us and answer a few questions about the theater and the philosophy behind it.
“The idea behind the specific name was to connect artists of all levels: professional, intermediate and beginner. We seek to establish connections between those types of individuals and then we also want to encourage other people to be involved who have never been involved before,” Newton said.
The theater is fairly new and has already presented several shows. Newton explained, “We began in March of 2017 so we’ve been around a little more than a year and have had four shows so far which is about how many we want to do in one season which will add up to about four shows a year,” she said.
Those who are interested in becoming involved with the theater should turn to social media first.
“We advertise word of mouth for auditions and we are a non-profit so we don’t have a lot of extra funds so we try to use as much free advertising as possible. We try to do it through Facebook, Instagram, schools and through the businesses in the area. The auditions are open for everyone to come and participate,” said Newton.
Newton saw a need for community theater in the Arlington area and wanted to provide a creative outlet for that community.
“I grew up in a family that was involved in music and the arts. My brother is in theater, his family is in theater, my kids love the theater, they sing I have a child that dances. So we have arts in our family and eventually we would like the theater to incorporate all of the arts. We want to offer the opportunity for those of lower income to participate at a lower cost. That was part of my frustration with my kids being so involved with the arts and liking them so much but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity because training in the arts costs so much,” Newton explained.
“When I did research to begin the theater in Arlington I looked at all the outlets for theater in the area. You have some in the area but not in Arlington. There wasn’t anything specifically in the Arlington area and they need an outlet too so we wanted to provide one that was right down the road,” she continued.
Newton explains that the theater is geared towards performing family friendly shows with a positive influence on people and all are welcome to participate. “We have actors of all ages in our shows so auditions are open to everyone,” Newton said. “We encourage anyone with an an enthusiasm and love of the theater to audition-no training needed. We want anyone with a passion to be on stage to come audition and to develop something that you may have not known was there,” she continued.
The Artist Connection Theater has some really exciting things coming up to present to the community.
“Right now we’re auditioning for our next show which is It’s a Wonderful Life but I am working to get the royalty rights to some very exciting shows. At this point we have it scheduled to do another show in March, one in June and then one in September. We want to do plays and musicals. Our plan is to do one musical a season and the rest will be straight theater,” said Newton.
You can catch the latest performance of the Artist Connection Theater, “It’s a Wonderful Life” December 14th-December 15th. The theater is located in the gymnasium at Terry Parker Baptist Church at 7024 Merrill Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32277.
The Donut Shoppe
by TOTC contributing writer Jessica Harrison
New Orleans may have its Beignets, but Arlington has its Doughnuts – or should I say donuts!
I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. I love doughnuts, and when I heard that Arlington, a suburb of Jacksonville, had some of the best doughnuts – anywhere – ever, I had to see for myself.
Going by on my way to work, it was dark and the sun had not even come up, but from down the street I could see activity, cars and lights and figured that something good had to be happening there.
Long story short – the rumors are TRUE! I have had the privilege of having beignets at Café du Monde, amagwinya in South Africa, and many of the new glamour doughnuts in and around Jacksonville and other cities in the US.
But nothing really compares to the simple – yet truly delicious – American donut of when I grew up. I got a mix for the office and chose a blueberry cake donut for myself. It was truly sublime and had fresh blueberries in it!!
So needless to say, my skepticism is gone and I will drive again to Arlington to get more of these amazing donuts, at amazing prices, with wonderful service – often!
Hints for those who have not yet been –
The menu at The Donut Shoppe consists of donuts – cake and glazed, éclairs, and fritters and coffee – that’s it. You want eggs, and more, head somewhere else.
Come early, there is parking in the back, but why wait?
Come with cash – the prices are almost too low for me – did I say that?? But they only accept cash, no credit or debit cards here.
Get an assortment and try them all – they are truly amazing and you will be back.
So whether you are from Jacksonville, or just passing through Northeast Florida, a native or a visitor, make your way to The Donut Shoppe, locally owned and operated at 1534 University Blvd N. Jacksonville, FL 32211.
The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens
By TOTC Contributing writer Sharon Adkins
Tucked up in a section of the general vicinity of Arlington is a great place to get away for awhile, stretch your legs, breathe in nature, take your dog for a stroll through the woods. The Arboretum is located at 1445 Millcoe Road, just north of Monument and just East of I-295. There is parking, a restroom and water fountains. I used the plural for the water fountains as there is one for humans and one for dogs, complete with usually one, if not two water bowls for your furry friend. A donation is requested as you head towards the trails. There are also trail maps available before you venture forth.
The Arboretum consists of 120 acres with seven trails that range from easiest to more difficult. If you do all the trails you can cover a bit over 2 miles of ground. Shortly after you walk in, if you bear to the left you will see the 2-acre lake. There is a very slight elevation change heading down to the lake. I like to take the Live Oak Trail and admire the over 100-year-old trees. From there I pick up the trail down to the lake. For the trip back to the parking lot it’s a tossup between the Ravine Trails or the remainder of the Lake Loop Trail.
The Arboretum is really neat as once you head out on the trails you find that you can barely hear the cars on I-295, if at all. All but one of the trails are dog friendly, but your pet must remain on the leash and you are asked to pick up after your pet. It is open 7-days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and they do lock the gates promptly at night so don’t be late getting back to your car. If you are so inclined there are also a few picnic tables, so you can enjoy your lunch over looking the lake. So, get off the couch and go check out the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens.
The University Diner serves up abundant plates of classic American food along with neighborhood hospitality. They are known for their excellent service and friendly, neighborhood atmosphere.
The diner is open for breakfast and lunch and it’s menu offers classic diner fare such as burgers, fried chicken and chili cheese hot dogs along with an extensive breakfast menu.
An Arlington staple since it opened its doors in 1990, the diner has undergone some renovations recently for an updated interior. The University Diner is also close to the JU campus, so it’s perfect for JU students who want to stop and have a quick bite. You can grab breakfast and lunch any day of the week at the University Diner, located at 5959 Merrill Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32277.
Lee Carroll’s Meat Shop
By TOTC contributing writer Sarah Morrison
My family frequently shops at Lee’s Carroll’s Meat Shoppe on University Boulevard. We believe in shopping local and we love Carroll’s because of the prices, the family atmosphere, and most importantly, the quality of the food. My husband grew up here but I’ve only been in Jacksonville for 11 years. If you’re anything like me, you may wonder how some of these local businesses got started. I got tired of wondering and decided I’d ask my favorites for their stories.
Here is what I learned about the best butcher shop in town:
Lee’s Carroll’s Meat Shoppe has been located in the heart of Arlington for 55 years. (That blew me away! Even my husband didn’t know they’d been around that long!) Their original location was on the corner of Arlington and Cessery. About 20 years ago, they moved to their current location to better accommodate the needs of our growing city. If you’ve been in town all this time, you know that the original name was Carroll’s Meat Shoppe. Dan Lee purchased this location when the original owner passed away. Not wanting to get rid of the well-known name associated with a well-liked business, he simply added a piece of himself to the title.
Jay is the manager who was kind enough to answer my questions. He’s been with them for almost three years now. He says when he came in we saw a lot of changes. Change can upset some people, but Jay says “you have to move with time or you’re going to get stuck…” He’s the reason we can now find such a variety of vegetables and other non-meat items on their shelves. Thank you Jay! My husband and I love how much we can purchase without hitting multiple stores.
They currently have five employees, though ideally, they would have seven, so if you’ve looking for a job you may consider putting in your application. Jay says they are always looking for the right people. Lee’s Carroll’s prides themselves on going the extra mile for their customers. While I was there, a gentleman came in and requested four Ribeyes with less fat in them. There were plenty of pre-cut Ribeyes but none of those looked good to him. No one made fuss and they were happy to cut him exactly what he needed. That is what Lee’s Carroll’s is all about. If you don’t see what you need, ask. There’s a chance it’s stored behind the scenes. Did you know they sell meats from deer, rabbit and gator? They also have pork belly and uncut bacon. Jay says their best sellers are steaks, but our favorite thing to buy from Lee’s Carroll’s is chicken wings. The price is always right and there is nothing better than my husbands smoked chicken wings on a Sunday afternoon – especially during football season.
We season them with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. This does have a bit of a kick to it, but we use it on all our chicken and even our one year old eats it. If you use enough seasoning your wings definitely don’t need sauce, but if you’re a saucy person, we recommend Franks Wing Sauce cut with butter to taste. If you’re feeling adventurous scratch the traditional flavor. Instead of butter, add yellow mustard and your favorite BBQ sauce to Franks. I like to add a bit of datil pepper sauce for a little extra heat.
If you shop at Lee’s Carroll’s on Friday or Saturday, you might just run into us as we gear up for the weekend. We would much rather buy our meats from the competitively priced butcher than from Publix or anywhere else. Jay says supporting local businesses does more for the community than people realize. These small businesses tend to be family owned, or if they’re like Lee’s Carroll’s they at least maintain the family atmosphere. This location always tries to have a young person on staff, someone who’s never had a job before. They enjoy teaching teens to work efficiently, take pride in what they do and learn the value of a dollar. One business can’t change the world, but the right business can make an impact on the people in their little corner of the world. Keep up with Lee’s Carroll’s Meat Shoppe on Facebook to learn about weekly specials and the big things they’ll be doing in our community this next year. Lee Carroll’s is located at 2242 University Blvd N, Jacksonville, FL 32211.
Lee Carroll’s Meat Shoppe
2242 University Blvd N, Jacksonville, FL 32211
5959 Merrill Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32277
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
1445 Millcoe Road
The Donut Shoppe
1534 University Blvd N. Jacksonville, FL 32211
Artist Connection Theater
7024 Merrill Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32277
Sharon Adkins, Sara Morrison and Jessica Harrison