The year 2020 delivered Danielle Neri a true ‘double whammy’. Not only had the pandemic struck just after she moved here from here native Chicago, costing her the dog grooming job she had lined up in Englewood as her prospective employer saw a sudden dip in business, but that September, Danielle also tore her ACL while preparing for a jiu-jitsu competition.
“I’d sold my dog grooming business that I’d had for almost 20 years because I was done with the winters,” the plucky Danielle explains. “I visited everywhere in Southwest Florida, and loved Venice because it wasn’t hectic. As soon as I bought a home, a perfect storm of bad things happened. I decided to look on the positive side and to find new opportunities.”
Danielle built a network of friends through Nokomos Sunset Hut in Nokomis, people who were also suffering setbacks because of the pandemic. She stayed connected to the community through them and used social media—specifically Next Door—to share her love for dog grooming and art. Based on designs she’d seen at Pop’s Sunset Grill, she began painting the palm fronds that fell in her yard. She made funny, glow-in-the-dark adult-themed key chains that turned into hot sellers, and also decorated concrete skulls, honoring her fire fighter and police friends.
“I don’t know if it's the sunshine here or what, but I’ve just been in a better mood no matter what’s happened,” Danielle says. “I love not living under the noise of O’Hare Airport, not being stuck in traffic. People are more laid back here. It’s all good vibes.”
By October 2021, Danielle had recovered from her injury and surgery. The extended downtime had allowed her to focus her attention on her two dogs, Luna and Cora, and her two cats, Cubbie and Gloria. She found peace in her artwork, was soon teaching kickboxing and offering personal training at APEX gym, and again practicing with her Gustavo Machado jiu-jitsu team.
“I had huge responses when I put my artwork on Next Door,” she says. “And my dog grooming took off immediately. I learned so much about myself during that year, as well as about this community. Everything that happened to me taught me that I really am where I am supposed to be. It’s all made me better and stronger.”
Contact Danielle at: Danielleneri@yahoo.com