Your source for uplifting community stories in St Petersburg, Green Bench Monthly is a full-color magazine direct-mailed monthly to more than 15,000 homes and dropped off at dozens of businesses in the Northeast area. Featuring positive stories about residents, local businesses, city-growth, history, events and much more.
Green Bench Monthly is named after the iconic Green Benches that lined the streets of St. Petersburg in the early 1900s. These benches served as a gathering place for residents and tourists, symbolizing community and welcomeness. Much like the originals, Green Bench Monthly offers a resting place for residents to meet, share, and become informed about what’s going on in the St Petersburg community. Read more about the Green Benches here…
Locally Owned and Published
Tony and Ashley Sica are a husband and wife team with over 15 years of combined experience in the publishing industry. Long time Tampa area residents, they decided to make the leap across the Bay in 2014. After looking all over St. Pete for a home, Tony and Ashley purchased (and will forever be renovating) a 1928 bungalow in the Magnolia Heights neighborhood. Confident they have found their “forever” city, they both look forward to living and publishing in the “city of green benches” for a long time to come.
Meet Our Team
Hailing from Minnesota, Ashley is happy to now call St. Pete home. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, she’s got the passion that keeps the Bench moving forward. She juggles everything from content curation to community supporters and day-to-day tasks like answering phones. She is also the Secretary for the Magnolia Heights Neighborhood Association and serves on the board for the MLK Business District. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga and exploring the city with Tony and their larger-than-average chihuahuas, Ryker and Stella.
Born and raised in Tampa, Tony brings 11 years publishing experience to the Bench. He’s the guy that makes sure our shirt is tucked in, our I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed before we go to press. He also moonlights as our entire IT department. Outside of GBM, he spends time honing his skills as a real estate photographer/videographer, and also serves as the Vice President of the Magnolia Heights Neighborhood Association. A fan of basketball, craft beer and anything moderate, Tony’s laid-back vibe keeps GBM running smoothly.
Cristina grew up in Chicago (go Cubbies!). She came to St. Pete 26 years ago to attend Eckerd College and never left. She has always loved playing around with words, and has worked for several area companies as a marketing copywriter and communications specialist. Today, Cristina lives with her fiance, Dan, and focuses on caring for their kids, Jadyn (age 16) and Gabriel (age 2), while working from home as a freelance writer and editor. She enjoys going to the beach, listening to Pearl Jam, and trying out new Pinterest recipes on her family.
Kelly Nash is Tampa Bay’s leading documentary photographer, specializing in photographing families and businesses in both a genuine and organic way. Her work allows families to capture real, everyday moments to keep as photo memories. She’s equally passionate about helping businesses attract new clients with strong photographs that convey the owners’ work ethic and humanity. Kelly studied the art of photography under some of the best photographers worldwide before finally settling down in St. Pete with her husband and puppy child, Mojo.
Erik Jasek is a local cartoonist and illustrator. From a very young age he has been drawing comics and making films inspired by animated cartoons, sketch comedy and science fiction films. He hasn’t changed much to this day in that regards. Erik has immense love for St. Pete, and the city’s fruitful music and art scene is a huge motivator for his work. Erik can be often spotted downtown vending comics at festivals, painting for art shows or just having a good time.
Jack was born many years ago Brooklyn, NY. Hopping from coast to coast, he finally settled in St. Petersburg in the Magnolia Heights Neighborhood in 1991. He is happily married to his wife Cookie, and father to three kids. Now retired, he spends most of his time as President of the Magnolia Heights Neighborhood Association, repairing his mid-century house and writing for Green Bench Monthly.
Nicole had her first article published in high school, and has not stopped writing since. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, and fell in love with writing about all things related to food. She worked for publications on both sides of the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Zealand, before returning to live in St. Pete. She now works as a freelance writer for GBM as she completes her Master’s of Science in Food Systems. In addition, Nicole recently became Program Coordinator for the new Urban Agriculture Center at Pinellas Technical College.
Luke is 19 years old and a lifelong St. Pete resident. He is currently finishing the last semester of his Bachelor’s in Political Sciences at USF St. Pete (provided he doesn’t mess up too much), and is planning to earn another Bachelor’s in Economics after. Outside of writing and schoolwork, he enjoys making music, shooting and editing video, and riding the city’s waterfront on his bike. Green Bench Monthly has allowed him to admire every aspect of our lovely community, and he hopes you can say the same.
Alan Venable is a native Floridian and a literature addict. He spends a lot of his free time covering Tampa Bay happenings and local stories, utilizing an English degree from USF Tampa. He’s written for a wide range of audiences, from NYC tech fanatics to over-the-road truck drivers, and from spirited fashionistas to bar crawlers. You might catch him downtown reading a book on a green bench, but probably not. He spends most his days behind his computer.
Jadyn is a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School. Outside of her studies, she participates in the school’s theatre program, chorus, and Model UN. Early on, she gained an interest in reading and writing from her mother, Cristina Juska (see above, Editor for GBM). Jadyn is a St. Pete native and is very passionate about her hometown. She is considering studying journalism in college, but ask her again in a couple years.
Andy moved to downtown St. Pete in 2013. He retired in 2007 after 30 years on the business side of Time, Inc. and USA Today in New York City and Washington, DC; and after serving since 1987 as VP Finance with Time Customer Service, Inc. in Tampa. A Boston-area native, he was briefly editor of a newspaper in New Hampshire after college. Andy volunteers with WEDU, Big Brothers Big Sisters and as Treasurer of his condominium and church. He enjoys new activities such as boating, Tai Chi and exploring St. Pete, as well as his long-term support of the Red Sox.
Brian Zucker is a local entrepreneur and writer of our column Downtown Developments. He owns an urban development blog, St. Pete Rising, which covers future real estate, restaurants and retail in downtown St. Pete. Currently, his favorite downtown restaurant is Lolita’s Wine Market, located at 16 18th St. N. The downtown project he is most looking forward to is the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, set to open in early 2018. By day, Brian works as an actuary at Wakely Actuarial in Palm Harbor. He has called Tampa Bay home since 2011.
Cindy Garza Ontkos
Cindy Ontkos and her husband Brian moved here about a year and a half ago from Winter Garden and couldn’t be happier. They fell in love with St. Pete while on vacations and sailing trips, and just knew that this is where they belonged. They are fortunate to live in beautiful Historic Kenwood with their dog Alice. Between the two of them, Cindy and Brian have three amazing sons, a beautiful daughter-in-law and their first grandson on the way! Cindy is thankful to be a part of this magazine and to have the opportunity to showcase our community.
Nehemiah Warner is new to the GBM team. He writes and manages grants for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, and wants to see real change in the world for the better. His passion is his family and friends, and relationships in general. He likes walking, running, reading, camping, taking trips just to drink coffee and beer in another city, and complaining about things of which he is in full control. He also loves picnics at the beach and budgeting. His happy place is on the couch cuddling with his growing family and his temperamental cat.
Victoria is a proud St. Petian. Her father instilled in her a love for reading at an early age via National Geographic, and she was blessed to have teachers who encouraged her to pursue her passion for the written word. She studied journalism and received an expensive piece of paper from UF in 2011. After living in Boston for a while, she’s now back in the Sunshine City. You’ll likely find her at the Body Electric, Deep Blue Fitness, the beaches, or the park with her beloved pup, Lucky.
A near lifelong resident of St. Pete, Rui is the Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Museum of History. He holds a BA in Journalism from USF and was a writer for the St. Petersburg Times before embarking on a 15-year career in PR and Marketing, including events for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the 1994 FIFA World Cup. After a short stint in public facility management, Rui returned to his love of history, and St. Petersburg, by creating and teaching Pinellas County’s first Florida History class for St. Petersburg High School.
Mitzi Gordon has a passion for storytelling. Focused on social practice with roots in journalism and the cultural arts, she currently works as a freelance writer, artist, and creative consultant based in the Artist Enclave of Historic Kenwood. A founding member of the nonprofit St. Pete Women’s Collective, Gordon encourages community dialogue through an ongoing conversation series and through mobile projects such as the Bluebird Books Bus.
Molly Hunsinger is originally from southern California, and is passionate about health and fitness. She’s lived in St. Pete Beach with her husband and children since 2013. She enjoys all-things outdoors including running, boating, camping and stand-up paddleboarding. Molly attended the Mass Communications program at USF St. Petersburg where she studied journalism and media studies. Her dynamic career path has allowed her to creatively explore many of her interests including exercise, cuisine, writing, music and events.