Celebrating Women

Artist Stacey Lemons, Playwright Jen Marconyak, and Country Singer/Songwriter Paige King Johnson

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve combed the archives of Main & Broad for stories of local women making their mark in town and beyond.

Simmons shows Fuquay-Varina’s first jail on a tour of the Centennial Museum.

Artist Taylor McGee “wanted to make a space where people who are making beautiful things have an opportunity to share them in person, not online, where customers can touch and experience the art in person” — so she opened Curated Craft Marketplace in Fuquay-Varina filled with goods from North Carolina artisans.

Fuquay-Varina Museums Volunteer Director Shirley Simmons is known to fellow docents as a walking history book. She’s spent years collecting artifacts, timelines, and oral histories from longtime area residents to preserve local history.

When Erica Tyler moved to Fuquay-Varina in 2015, the first store she visited was The Vine Natural Health Shoppe. Today as its owner, she strives to make every customer feel validated and empowered regarding their health journey. “People come in and think they don’t belong here if they eat Swedish Fish. I love Swedish Fish,” she says.

Photo courtesy DEGA Mobile Veterinary Care

Dr. April Gessner studied graphic design in undergrad, worked an ad agency, then went back to school for veterinary medicine, eventually deciding (while volunteering in Costa Rica) that treating pets of low resource and unsheltered owners would be her life’s work. She owns DEGA Mobile Veterinary Care, which frequently partners with local relief organizations like the Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry, Holly Springs Food Cupboard, and Oak City Cares for veterinary clinics.

After serving “on every committee” of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, Tonya Palumbo now sits at its head as executive director. Through the varied tasks, priorities, and challenges in front of her, perhaps Palumbo’s most important role is as a connector, building a bridge between the town and its businesses, directing Chamber members to available resources, mentoring entrepreneurs, and creating opportunities for the community to engage with business owners.

Artist Stacey Lemons attributes her painting education to YouTube. Looking at her detailed portrayals of scenic vistas and American wildlife, it’s clear Lemons possesses an abundance of natural talent. But online tutorials provided the kickstart for her to hone those skills.

Jen Marconyak has worn many hats: Actor. Assistant Director. Stage Manager. Writer. Singer. Then she wrote The Bachelor of Apex, a murder mystery comedy that sold out its three-show run long before opening night.

Irena Krstanovic

Country singer/songwriter Paige King Johnson splits her time between Nashville and North Carolina. She’s worked with everyone from Pam Tillis — yes, that Pam Tillis —to the Got to Be NC initiative and describes her sound as “retro modern country … which is completely contradictory,” she admits. “It’s my way of trying to bring back the sounds and simplistic storytelling of the classic country music that I grew up listening to, but with modern topics.”

Born and raised in the former Yugoslavia, Irena Krstanovic moved to Holly Springs in 1999 and started to work with the town a few months later. Under her leadership as economic development director, the Town of Holly Springs recently landed two giant biotech companies within the same year: Fuijifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies and Amgen, bringing 1,000 jobs to the local economy.

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