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A Little Italy in Peachtree Corners
Makes Extending an Olive Branch a
Symbol of Health

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MagisNat
The medical and business participants of the virtual conference stream at Atlanta Tech Park

Conceivably, one day soon, we’ll be driving through Peachtree Corners taking in views reminiscent of the Italian countryside. As our gaze falls upon stretches of olive groves, we may think we’re in Italy for a second — until we realize this phenomenon in our ever-avant-garde metropolis is due to its ideal geographic location, favorable to the cultivation of olive trees, and the ingenious collaboration of forward-thinking Italian and American researchers working to extract from olive oil its most beneficial molecules, a gift as precious as gold for our health.

The newest virtual member of Atlanta Tech Park is the brainchild of Dr. Matteo Bertelli, founder and president of the Italian MAGI Group since 2006. MAGI specializes in the research, diagnosis and treatment of rare genetic diseases. His spin-off at Atlanta Tech Park, MagisNat, unites academics on opposite shores of the Atlantic in a promising mission to combat disease using natural molecules.

Capitalizing on the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Applying molecular genetics and metabolomics in the study of natural substances extracted from foods typical of the Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet), MagisNat is finding ways to zero in on its long-known health benefits and make good use of its disease-preventing properties. The active components of polyphenols and flavonoids found in olives, tomatoes and citrus fruit for example, can be extracted to produce dietary supplements scientifically proven to prevent an array of pathologies.

The fledgling company has already produced two supplements which will be available soon, Garlive Oral Spray and Garlive Recovery tablets with vitamins, both formulated with hydroxytyrosol derived from olive extracts to support a healthy immune system.

The international launch

On June 23, 2022, a MagisNat conference took place in the press room of Palazzo Montecitorio, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy. Atlanta Tech Park simultaneously hosted the event stateside. Professors from both sides of the pond spoke at the official launch about this promising collaboration to further investigate the disease-preventing properties of the MedDiet.

Bertelli said he appreciates the staff at our local accelerator whose role he considers invaluable. “Without opportunities like those provided by this business incubator, small companies like ours could never start,” he said. “I cannot express how grateful I am to those who conceived and developed this organization called Atlanta Tech Park in Peachtree Corners.”

We’ve all heard about the health benefits of the MedDiet but what exactly is it?

Let’s begin with what it’s not. It’s not a rigid, calorie-counting, restrictive fad diet, but rather a modo di vita, or a lifestyle approach consisting of more traditional meal preparation using a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, and the prioritization of physical activity, social gatherings and relaxation.

The MedDiet was actually coined in the 1950s by American physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys. Keys was dedicated to studying the influence of diet on health. After his famous Seven Countries Study, he concluded that replacing dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces cardiovascular heart disease.

In 2013, the MedDiet was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity because of how and what the diverse populations along the Mediterranean Sea Basin eat. In turn, the World Health Organization has classified it as a diet that protects against cardiovascular disease.

Apparently, coming together with a network of family and friends to enjoy meals consisting of fresh, seasonal and local food, mostly fruits, herbs, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes, fish and seafood and olive oil with moderate amounts of milk and wine — mainly red, with meals — improves heart health, body mass index and cognitive function, while decreasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers. It’s also important that sugar, red meat and processed meat are consumed sparingly.

Perhaps the old adage needs a little tweak: “You are what and how you eat.”

Natural molecule-based treatments show promise across a variety of diseases

In Rome, Italy, Dr. Pietro Chiurazzi, affiliated with the University Polyclinic Foundation A. Gemelli, discussed how olive mill wastewater (OMW) could be used to create supplements containing powerful antioxidants. Instead of the idiomatic expression, ‘Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,’ think: ‘Don’t throw out the hydroxytyrosol with the OMW.’ Chiurazzi studies the treatment of the rare, late-onset neurodegenerative disease FXTAS, characterized by tremors and an ataxic (uncoordinated) gait.

At the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) Institute of Ophthalmology, Dr. Benedetto Falsini has a pilot study underway to rescue retinal cells before they succumb to inherited degeneration.

In Sacro Cuore’s Department of Internal Medicine, Dr. Amerigo Iaconelli aids patients with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, osteoporosis and obesity.

Dr. Sandro Michelini of San Giovanni Battista Hospital scrutinizes pathologies that cause lymphedema, a blockage in the lymph system causing swelling of the arms or legs.

The President of the Macula & Genoma Foundation in New York, Dr. Andrea Cusumano, employs this new and unusual approach to rescue photoreceptors in a pursuit to prevent and reverse blindness. Cusumano advances the field of ophthalmology in Italy, Germany and the U.S.

Bertelli credits Dr. Stephen T. Connelly with getting this venture off the ground, “He devoted an enormous amount of time to the birth of this spin-off,” Bertelli said of Connelly, Associate Clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, who is eager to embark on the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Emory University Dr. Peng Jin chairs the Department of Human Genetics, School of Medicine in Atlanta. He too examines neurodegenerative disorder treatment, especially Fragile X syndrome with tremor/ataxia. “Professor Peng Jin agreed to test the effects of olive tree polyphenols on fruit fly models in preventing FXTAS,” Bertelli shared, extending a personal message of thanks to Jin.

Dr. John Paul SanGiovanni of U. Arizona’s BIO5 Institute explores chemistry of Mediterranean foods linking this information to receptors in the body that keep cells working optimally, showing promise for those afflicted with blinding age-macular degeneration (AMD). He’s identified links between the AMD-related MMP-9 protein and ferulic acid, a chemical found in fennel, oregano, olives and chickpeas.

With locations in Tucson, Arizona and Beverly Hills, California, Medical and Research Director
Dr. Karen L. Herbst of Total Lipedema Care, is passionate about helping patients with connective tissue disorders. Lipedema is an inflammatory disease resulting in the deposition of fibrotic subcutaneous adipose tissue characterized by excess fat accumulation in the lower part of the body.

As varied as their areas of expertise and as geographically dispersed as all the participating researchers may be, they’re linked in the intent to employ the science behind MagisNat, the application of natural molecules to cure maladies and improve patient health.

Under the Georgia sun

There’s much yet to be discovered about the beneficial effects of using these natural molecules in living organisms, but the stage is set and conditions are promising for fascinating developments in science and research at MagisNat in Peachtree Corners.

Consider the MagisNat spin-off, yet another component of la dolce vita in our innovative city. Mangiate bene (eat well) and let’s toast to medical breakthroughs that once seemed like science fiction becoming a reality on our own turf.

Salute! (Cheers!)

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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Gwinnett Principals Tour Businesses with Partnership Gwinnett for Workforce Development

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A breakfast panel comprising (L to R) Dr. Calvin J. Watts, Lauren Croft, Chad Wagner, and Nick Masino (with moderator Andrew Hickey) discuss the importance of education and industry connection. // Photos courtesy of Partnership Gwinnett

Partnership Gwinnett, in collaboration with Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), recently hosted its annual Principal Field Trip event. The program aimed to connect professionals in education and industry to support continued workforce development based on existing and future needs.

The day began with breakfast and a panel discussion featuring Nick Masino, President & CEO of Partnership Gwinnett; Dr. Calvin J. Watts, Superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools; Chad Wagner, President of Peachtree Packaging; and Lauren Croft, HR Director at Peachtree Packaging.

Principals and Industry leaders gather for a group photo at QTS during Partnership Gwinnett’s 2024 Principal Field Trip

“Our principals and educators play a critical role in shaping the future workforce of Gwinnett County. This event provides an opportunity to bridge the gap between education and industry, ensuring our students are prepared and ready for high-skill and in-demand careers,” stated Dr. Watts.

In addition to having lunch at Gwinnett Technical College, principals visited several industry partners, including Price Industries, QTS, Peachtree Packaging, Mitsubishi Trane HVAC, Aluvision, CleanSpark, Nextran, WIKA and Eagle Rock Studios. These visits allowed educational leaders to engage with local businesses and understand industry needs.

“Supporting this event underscores our commitment to investing in the future of our workforce. By partnering with GCPS and Partnership Gwinnett, we can ensure that students are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in today’s job market,” said Wagner.

PFT attendees tour operations at Peachtree Packaging.

Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest public school district in the state, serves approximately 182,000 students across 142 schools. The district’s diverse student population, representing 191 countries and speaking 98 different languages, benefits from career pathways and college and career readiness programs that support career exploration, industry certifications and internships.

“With thousands of students graduating each year, GCPS significantly contributes to the 2.6 million labor draw within a one-hour drive of Gwinnett County,” said Partnership Gwinnett Director of Economic Development Andrew Hickey. “As these graduates enter the workforce, they bring essential skills for high-skill and in-demand careers, ensuring a strong future for the local economy.”

Learn more about the work Partnership Gwinnett does here.

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Local Marketing Production Company Vox-Pop-Uli Finds Peachtree Corners Right for Business

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Instead of asking what Peachtree Corners-based company Vox-Pop-Uli does, it may be quicker to ask what they don’t do.
Andrew Hajduk // Photos by George Hunter

When perusing the list of goods and services provided by Peachtree Corners-based company Vox-Pop-Uli, instead of asking what they do, it may be quicker to ask what they don’t do. When it comes to marketing production, it’s easy to see why the company motto is, “Yeah, we do that.”

A first-generation Ukrainian, Andrew Hajduk’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 after the Soviet Union took over Ukraine. They settled in the Chicago area and worked in the steel mills. A job transfer moved the family to metro Atlanta in 1975, where they’ve been ever since.

In 1996, Hajduk worked at a similar company, where he was inspired to branch out independently.

“I had a partner at the time, and we were out making sales calls in North Carolina and visiting customers,” he said. “We thought we were a whole lot smarter than our boss and decided to go and do it on our own.”

Vox-Pop-Uli

Where did the name Vox-Pop-Uli come from? 

“Neither one of us was smart enough nor creative enough to come up with something. The only challenge that we gave [the designer] was we wanted a name that didn’t tie us to anything specific to what we did. And we didn’t want a name that didn’t reflect either of our names,” Hajduk said. 

The literal Latin translation is “voice of the people.”

“We use that as we help our customers be the voice to their people. Through marketing, with flyers, signage, whatever it is, but letting their marketing be the voice to their people, their employees, their customers, whoever it is.”

At first, they worked out of their homes until securing office space a year later. After a few years, Hajduk’s partner left, so Hajduk continued the vision on his own.

 “We have grown and adapted. Our model has changed a little bit. But it’s always been about working with our customers. We do a lot of specialty retail with other B2B customers, and we’re just really providing a full marketing service for them and acting as their fulfillment center,” Hajduk said.

Even though printing is a major part of the company’s work, communication of the client’s brand is really its backbone.

“We started before digital print had become commercially acceptable. We had an opportunity to be very early adopters of digital print because we saw a need, and we had some customers that were willing to take a chance on it with us,” he said. 

“It’s evolved with that, and there continues to be a heavy print component to it, but now there’s all the swag, all the different things that people use to communicate their brand,” he added.

Technology is the key to success

One aspect that has kept Vox-Pop-Uli ahead of much of the competition is embracing technology.

“One of the things that it’s done to our internal processes is it’s made the timeframe a lot faster. It allows people to be way more responsive to an immediate need,” he said.

“If I want to do a last-minute campaign for Memorial Day weekend, which is in what two and a half weeks, I can do that. Whereas, with the traditional print or before the technology was there, there was no chance I would be able to do that,” he explained.

Sometimes, that makes things challenging because clients don’t build in time. They know that last-minute orders are generally no problem.

“The other thing it’s done is it’s given people the ultimate flexibility,” he said. 

With many national clients, a lot of materials need to be customized for different locations, different states and different markets.

“Everybody’s got legal disclaimers because of pricing, services or whatever. So, we can customize down to a state or local level, depending on the product,” said Hajduk. 

“We don’t print 10,000 of any one thing, but we might print 1,000, each of 10 different versions for a company because if you’re in Kentucky, you’ve got one disclaimer, one price package. And if you’re in Florida, you have something else.”

Creating online store for clients

“We’re maintaining stores where they can go in and order their products,” he said. “Whether it’s posters, business cards, whatever it is, but all the inventory exists virtually now. As a business, you’re not maintaining large inventory levels of anything. They can do everything on demand. … As opposed to printing or producing a whole bunch of something to last you, they can literally order it as they need it. And it exists virtually until it’s printed.”

Vox also helps customers create campaigns.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What form do you think works best?’” said Hajduk. 

“I believe you must be omnipresent. People have short attention spans today. We’re competing harder for that consumer dollar. I don’t think any one thing is going to work. It’s not about a single Facebook ad, a digital post, or a postcard; all things have to work together,” he explained.

Hajduk said the most successful campaigns involve print, storefront, digital and social media elements.

The right place for business

“We’ve always been in the Gwinnett County area,” Hajduk said. “We started out in Duluth on the other side of 85.”

Hajduk and his partner lived on opposite sides of the metro area, so Gwinnett County was a good middle ground. 

“The Interstate 85 corridor was always a good place for us. We started out off Steve Reynolds Blvd; then we’re in Duluth for a little bit. And then in 2005, we moved over here to the North Woods complex and watched it become Peachtree Corners,” he said. “Then, in 2019, we moved to this space. I just love the feel of the community. I love this location. I like being on Peachtree Industrial Blvd.”

Megan Hajduk, Andrew Hajduk, Cindy Hajduk, and Daniel Hajduk

City leadership

“I think Peachtree Corners has done a lot of things right. In terms of how they’re growing and things like that,” he said. “The location is good and central. My wife, Cindy, and I moved to Peachtree Corners in January. We were in Johns Creek till we became empty nesters. We wanted to be on the river, and we found a great house,” he said.

Even though the kids have moved out, Megan and Daniel are part of the Vox staff. Along with his wife, a stay-at-home mom until the children were older, the Hajduks are building a legacy of family and community. There’s room if younger son Steven also desires to join the family business.

“We see continued growth and scaling,” said Hajduk. “We’re excited about growing here. As technology has changed, it’s given us a broader mix of clients. Up until about five or six years ago, the company was very retail-based, meaning we had a lot of retail clients. We have a lot of clients outside of Georgia, and I spent way too much time traveling. But we have a great opportunity now with everything we do to grow here.”

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The Forum’s Transformation: A New Chapter in Peachtree Corners

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Photos courtesy of The Forum

Led by North American Properties (NAP), The Forum is being reimagined as a mixed-use destination in the center of Peachtree Corners. This multi-phase project aims to enhance the already strong community connection between residents. It also seeks to attract new businesses, residents and visitors, while creating jobs and boosting tenant sales. 

Innovative rebranding and technology

Built in 2002, the Forum is an open-air shopping center featuring a variety of retail stores, restaurants and entertainment options. Following its acquisition by NAP, The Forum in Peachtree Corners has undergone a significant rebranding to update its visual and verbal identity and reflect its more modern persona. 

Early in redevelopment, NAP partnered with the city of Peachtree Corners to improve the connection between The Forum and the Town Center

“The overall goal of the project is to create a more cohesive ecosystem that embraces the city’s hometown charm. It also reduces the need for residents to venture outside the area to nearby destinations for in-demand experiences,” explained NAP Public Relations Director, Britni Johnson

The new branding is evident throughout the property with updated pole banners, property and directional signage and window graphics, along with digital enhancements to The Forum’s website and social media channels.

“One of the first things NAP completed upon taking over management at The Forum was a rebrand encompassing a new visual and verbal identity,” added Johnson.

In addition to aesthetic updates, The Forum is set to roll out several technological enhancements designed to improve the visitor experience. These include four new digital directories for wayfinding, event information and interactive features such as a “snap a selfie” function. 

“State-of-the-art stage lighting and A/V for the main stage in The Plaza, which is under construction and set for completion in late summer 2024, will transform the entertainment experience,” Johnson said. 

Moreover, additional Wi-Fi access points are being installed to enhance connectivity and support an outdoor workspace. 

Greenspaces for community gatherings

In terms of design, new community gathering spaces have replaced excess street parking, promoting longer visits and greater interaction among guests. These improvements are part of a broader effort to boost walkability and connectivity across the property.

To enhance the overall guest experience at The Forum, Phase I of the redevelopment focuses on expanding the public realm by adding new greenspaces that welcome casual gatherings. 

The first of these spaces, the 1,700-square-foot North Plaza, was introduced in October 2023 and is complemented by surrounding restaurants with inviting patios, including the soon-to-open Politan Row food hall.

Further enhancements are visible in the construction of The Plaza, situated near Pottery Barn. This development is set to include a 6,650-square-foot turfed event plaza equipped with a covered performance stage, a large LED screen and comfortable seating areas. Upon completion, The Plaza will host The Forum’s annual events. 

“We host over 100 annual events – many of which are held in partnership with or support local organizations, including Light Up The Corners with the Fowler YMCA, Restaurant Week with Peachtree Farm, and Santa at The Forum with Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries,” noted Charlotte Hinton, The Forum’s marketing manager.

Prioritizing guest safety

Rest assured, when you’re attending an event or stopping by for an afternoon visit, your safety is NAP’s top priority. 

Since taking over The Forum in March 2022, NAP has significantly increased security measures, boosting coverage by 35% as a key aspect of the property’s ongoing redevelopment. This enhancement includes round-the-clock protection provided by onsite security personnel and off-duty law enforcement officers.

The Forum’s security infrastructure has also been expanded, with the installation of nearly 30 new CCTV cameras across the property. Additionally, NAP formed a strategic partnership with Fusus by Axon, a local technology firm based in Peachtree Corners, to integrate a real-time public safety intelligence platform with the existing camera network. 

“This allows police to tap into the surveillance feed and gain critical intel during active investigations, ensuring a rapid and informed response to any security issues,” shared Johnson. The security team is directly accessible for immediate assistance.

NAP’s dynamic retail strategy

Understanding the evolving needs of the Peachtree Corners community, NAP is curating a diverse mix of retailers, including popular brands and local entrepreneurs.

Brooke Massey, NAP’s Director of Leasing, emphasized the strategic approach of their retail team. 

“NAP’s retail leasing team has strong relationships with an extensive collection of 300+ in-demand brands and is in constant communication with them about their needs,” she explained. 

This network has facilitated the introduction of both well-known brands and local entrepreneurs into the retail space, maintaining a dynamic balance that caters to the community’s desires. 

Moreover, Massey highlighted the vision behind their tenant selection. 

“Our strategy is very data-driven, and our marketing team even plays a role in the curation process by polling social media followers on what they want to see at The Forum,” she added. 

Since acquiring The Forum in March 2022, NAP has secured 39 deals with various tenants. 

Notable recent openings include Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Giulia, Kendra Scott, Lovesac and Stretchlab. Coming later in 2024 are Nando’s Peri-Peri, Sucre and The NOW Massage

“We look forward to becoming part of The Forum community by providing guests with a truly memorable part of their day. So much of our days are rushed, running one errand to another. Everyone deserves a moment to slow down and enjoy something delicious. We want to be the space where that happens for Peachtree Corners and all who visit,” shared a company spokesperson for Sucre.

Creating memorable moments

The Forum turned a somber anniversary into a moment of joy for a local family. 

Two days after the 2022 Holiday Tree Lighting, tragedy struck Peachtree Corners Councilman Joe Sawyer‘s family. His daughter was murdered while working as a Lyft driver, leaving behind three young children. 

A year later, on the first anniversary of her death, the Sawyer family was invited to The Forum’s 2023 Tree Lighting event. 

“We worked with Santa to surprise the kids, and when I took them backstage, they thought they were just going to get to meet and chat with him,” said Sue Storck, The Forum’s general manager.

Unbeknownst to them, a larger surprise awaited as they were brought on stage to help Santa light the tree, delighting the crowd of over 14,000 attendees. 

“The kids were surprised and delighted to be able to do this, and it was a fantastic memory for both the Sawyer and Forum families,” Storck added, reflecting on the community’s effort to support one of their own during a time of loss.

The team’s efforts continue throughout the year, planting seeds within the community. 

“We’re constantly seeking unique opportunities to engage with our neighbors. The Peachtree Corners Photography Club currently has an exhibit of photos shot by local residents on display in the Forum South office lobby,” shared Hinton. 

“Our team participated in the 2024 Career Exploration Night sponsored by the Norcross Rotary Club. We also recently supported Wesleyan Middle School students on their construction project challenge win,” she added.

Local investments from new tenants: Kendra Scott’s philanthropic engagement

New tenants are bringing their own philanthropic efforts to the community, too. Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners partnered with the Norcross High School Cheer Team on May 10, donating 20% of the proceeds. 

The next day, they partnered with Spectrum Autism Support Group, again donating 20% of the proceeds to the local organization.

“When Kendra Scott opens a store in a new community, we always lead with giving. Philanthropy is one of our core pillars, and we love to celebrate our grand openings by partnering with organizations that are already making a difference!” shared Amanda Young, Southeast Marketing and Philanthropic Manager for Kendra Scott.

By working with Norcross High School Cheer and Spectrum Autism Support Group, we’re able to introduce ourselves to Peachtree Corners residents as a true community partner,” she added. 

Kendra Scott is also dedicated to strengthening community ties through “Kendra Gives Back” events at its Forum location. 

These events are intended to support local causes and foster connections among community leaders and area supporters. 

“We are looking forward to being able to host these organizations in their own backyard!” said Young.

The company is committed to maintaining strong partnerships with neighboring businesses at The Forum, such as Cookie Fix, Peche, and Giulia-The Italian Bakery

“We are so excited to be a part of The Forum family and have already enjoyed working with their leadership,” Young exclaimed.

Looking ahead

The transformation of The Forum is more than a redevelopment project; it’s a vision for the future of Peachtree Corners. 

With plans for adding residential units and a boutique hotel, The Forum is poised to become a dynamic hub of activity. 

“Long-term, we’re working toward creating a place that’s activated 18 hours a day, seven days a week,” projected Johnson. 

Through thoughtful design, community engagement and a commitment to sustainability, The Forum’s transformation is set to enrich the lives of Peachtree Corners’ residents for generations to come.

Read more news about The Forum here.

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