Palm Beach Creatives

That Effervescent Tang

Photography by Libby Volgyes

There’s a tasty science to brewing, and Chris Montelius has figured out the formula. In 2014, he secured his license to make the fermented tea kombucha under his company, Non-Prophet Brewing. At the time, he was still at his job of nearly 10 years, overseeing internal brand management for one of South Florida’s largest beverage distribution businesses. In his downtime, he transferred his skills—the principles of managing beverage brands and sales knowledge—into his own endeavors. Three years later, Non-Prophet Brewing produces five flavors of kombucha—passion fruit, dry-hopped, blueberry mint, strawberry basil, and raspberry, lime, and ginger—as well as a ginger beer.

“I still encounter a fair amount of people who have no idea what kombucha is,” Montelius says. “I’m a big boy. I know it doesn’t work everywhere.” Research, however, shows he’s on the right track: Kombucha is on target to hit $1.5 billion in sales by 2020. Montelius attributes this surge in popularity to changing consumer needs. “People are realizing sugar is bad for them and drinking less soda, energy drinks, and Gatorades.”

Kombucha delivers a refreshing fizz that’s low in sugar and filled with natural probiotics that contain bacteria, which some studies suggest benefit digestion and boost the immune system. “There is a lot of pseudoscience behind kombucha,” says Montelius, recalling how one popular California kombuchery (a portmanteau of kombucha and brewery) turns away visitors because it wants to keep out “bad energy.” Montelius doesn’t adhere to that philosophy. “I wanted to make something that is good and happens to be good for you, rather than the other way around.”

Whether they’re drinking kombucha for its distinct effervescent tang or its purported health perks, tri-county consumers are nodding in approval. Non-Prophet Brewing moved into its own facility in north Boynton Beach in early 2017, has hired its first full-time employee, and brews 300 gallons per week, on average. Non-Prophet is on tap and bottles are available for purchase at area bars, breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, and markets. “We aren’t done,” Montelius says. “These are temporary goals that we’ve reached and we’re still growing.”


House of Greeting Cards

There’s something magical about receiving a card. These simple notes are somehow wrapped in warmth, comfort, and love. It’s probably why more than 6.5 million greeting cards are sold each year. Renee Griffith agrees, and has turned her love for the medium into a career. “The goal of my line is to make people feel loved, thought about, and cared for,” says Griffith, founder of HeartSwell, a paper goods brand launched in 2016. “I want each of my designs, and the messages people write in my cards, to be meaningful and really touch their hearts. I want them to make their ‘heart swell.’”

A trained graphic designer, Griffith operates HeartSwell from her bright and airy West Palm Beach home studio brimming with greenery, sunshine, and her pups. She has a knack for capturing nature on her greeting cards. She draws the cacti from Phoenix, the tropical plants from South Florida, and the pine trees and mountains in her home state of Pennsylvania—all places she and her husband have lived or visited. In sync with her creative vision, every paper item is printed on 100-percent recycled materials sourced in the United States.

Griffith is somewhat old school when it comes to designing. “There’s nothing that can beat good old paper, pen, and pencil,” she says. “I feel like I have more control over the lines, but it does require a few extra steps than starting digitally does.”

Once a hand-drawn illustration is done, she scans it to digitize. She has an affinity for letterpress, a centuries-old printing process that forms an impression in the paper. “Letterpress printing my cards gives me the ability to keep my designs very simple and clear, but the tactile quality from the old way of printing makes it feel really special and sets it apart.”

In a short time, HeartSwell has blossomed. It’s now available nationwide, internationally, and online. This success has allowed Griffith to be more selective about custom work, such as designing invitations and lettering projects, in addition to running workshops, doing collaborations, and working with nonprofits. It’s also allowing for a new dream, this time in the interior design industry. “I think feeling safe and cared for, what I strive to do through my design work now, is something that directly translates to the space you live in, as well,” says Griffith.

Bloom City

In a few short years, floral studio Flower and Fringe has become a community cult favorite. It’s operated by the recently wed Halle Burkhalter (née Frey), who fell in love with the trade as a young girl training in her aunt’s flower shop in Pennsylvania. “For whatever reason, she poured into me and I loved it,” says Burkhalter. “[Owning my own shop] was always a dream, but it was just a dream.”

In her late 20s, she said yes to wanderlust and worked as a yacht stewardess. Then, at 30, she accepted a job at a local nonprofit flower shop. “I had a little test of running a flower shop, but I wanted to do this on my own. I wanted my style,” explains Burkhalter, who launched her business in 2014.

Now, she spends her days at the new downtown West Palm Beach studio she moved into last October, building compositions using flowers, greenery, and other species. Music is integral to the process—The Lumineers, chansons Française, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack are a few of her favorites, depending on the project.

Burkhalter’s arrangements are a mix of natural, whimsical, and organic elements. They’re at once wild and controlled, and always very thoughtful. “That’s why I am thankful for this time and for social media,” she says. “My style is very different from other florists in town. Because of Instagram, people know and love my style.”

Instagram has also brought clients, such as the Hilton West Palm Beach, which reached out to her through the platform and forged a long-term partnership for fresh lobby arrangements. In the world of florals, Burkhalter helps commemorate relationships, celebrate occasions, and add pops of life to businesses like Lululemon, The Blind Monk, and Le Bazaar salon. Weddings are one of her key markets; she even worked on her own nuptials this past August, alongside the aunt who inspired it all. Flower and Fringe also offers a bouquet subscription and design workshops at local businesses, although Burkhalter will soon host classes at her own studio, too.

Her work environment is sweet and her vision is simple: Floral creations evoke happy responses. When it comes to a business plan, Burkhalter believes that’s all she needs.

Health Halo

Juices made from vegetables, fruits, spices, and herbs aren’t just for cleansing anymore. According to Jules Aron, they’re for cocktails, too. “I am a huge advocate for fresh, wholesome foods that come from the earth,” says Aron, a holistic wellness practitioner and cookbook author, who splits her time between Palm Beach and New York. In her guide to body-friendly drinking, Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker, Aron proves drinking to good health is not only a toast, it’s a way of life. Her zesty cucumber margarita (made with coconut water, cucumbers, lime juice, and rosemary-sage syrup) does sound more appetizing than a rum and coke.

Influenced by her parents—her mom was a French culinary chef and her father was a restaurateur—Aron spent years in the service industry, working late nights behind some of NYC’s best bars until the lifestyle took its toll, resulting in chronic fatigue and a perpetual hormonal imbalance. The much-needed rest led to her rediscovery of holistic healing. She studied martial arts as a teenager, training throughout her 20s and 30s, and also ventured into other Eastern practices and healing modalities, such as yoga, qigong, and traditional Chinese medicine. During an escape to her cabin in upstate New York, she came up with the concept for Zen and Tonic.

Dubbed “the healthy bartender,” Aron channels the same drive for nutritious and delicious results when consulting on a bar menu, advising a client with dietary restrictions, or working on new cookbooks. This past summer, she released Vegan Cheese: Simple, Delicious Plant-Based Recipes; she’ll launch two more titles in March, this time focusing on inner and outer beauty. “The first volume, called Nourish & Glow, is a plant-forward cookbook to nourish your beauty from the inside, while Fresh & Pure is a collection of homemade skin care recipes to nurture your beauty from the outside in.”

For her own part, Aron feels you shouldn’t have to sacrifice flavor and pleasure to be healthy, so she doesn’t. Instead, she chooses to eat more real food—from the earth instead of a box.

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