All Roads Lead to Cary

Tips from the once-new on making Cary home sweet home

You can do it — that’s the word from those who were once newcomers to Cary, too, and who now happily call the town home.

They’ve endured culture shock, unfamiliar phrases and confusing roadways to find new friends and create successful businesses. Here, they share their relocation stories to encourage and inspire you.

Welcome to Cary!  

Felecia Niebojeski

Felecia Niebojeski didn’t choose Cary; a job transfer for her husband, Doug Perschbacher, did.

A veterinarian for more than 30 years in her home state of New Jersey, she had just negotiated the sale of her practice there, intending to cut back on her workload. Instead, she found herself in Cary.

“We moved to Lochmere in November 2011, and I used to leave the door open, hoping to see people,” Niebojeski recalled. “I was depressed and lonely. I missed my friends, that day-to-day with someone who really knows you. That first Thanksgiving, I even cried coming home from the grocery store, because I couldn’t find ‘my’ brands.”

Felecia NiebojeskiBut the sociable Neibojeski wouldn’t be lonely for long.

“The first thing I found was a neighborhood book club,” she said. “And for our first New Year’s, I threw an open house for our neighbors. Later I found Lochmere’s water aerobics classes. My philosophy was the more people you meet, the better your chance to find friends.”

Relishing activities her former work schedule didn’t allow, Niebojeski has since organized a dozen Rex “workout buddies,” joined a local veterinarians association, and taken up bunco and outings via the Cary Newcomers Club.

“Cary is pretty cosmopolitan; there are lots of people here from all over,” she said. “The whole point of the group is that everybody was new at some point. People intentionally reach out to become friends, and it helped to know I wasn’t the only one.”

Niebojeski now works part time as a vet, and is exploring a personal coaching career. Along the way, she’s learned to appreciate her new home. 

Her advice to other newcomers?

“Be open to anything,” she said. “Meet your neighbors. Ask questions. Look within your own community for activities. You only need to find a couple of people, and through them you’ll find the rest.

“New Jersey will always be home in the sense of being where I came from. But I’m starting to feel like I belong here. People would notice if I didn’t show up!”

Diane Heath & Kirsty Radley

Diane Heath and Kirsty Radley might miss their fish ’n’ chips, but they call Cary home.

Owners of Dogtopia of Cary, the two originally left rainy London and their jobs with the Metropolitan Police for Florida USA and new careers in pet care. Their idea was launched as Radley, completing an international exchange program at the University of South Florida, saw animals suffer following Hurricane Katrina.

With education and training in their new field, they began the arduous process toward visas and green cards that resulted in lots of it’s-funny-now stories.

Dogtopia Owners Diane Heath & Kirsty RadleyWhen their franchise situation fell through in the Sunshine State, a new opportunity opened in Cary.

“We’d never heard of Cary,” Heath said, “but we had a jigsaw (puzzle) of North Carolina and said, ‘Let’s have a look.’”

Carywas “green and clean” on their first visit, reminding them of home. Their research showed Cary to be an “up-and-coming” place, so they made the move in mid-2010, only to find the nationwide recession had hit the Triangle too.

“We found lots of people working from home who didn’t need our services,” Heath said. “It was carry on, or cut our losses and quit.”

“Maybe we’re stubborn, crazy or both,” Radley said, “but we were so invested financially and emotionally, we stayed.”

It was to Cary’s benefit. Today, Dogtopia of Cary employs eight, and partners with other local businesses on pet nutrition, training and veterinary needs to serve numerous area families.

Dogtopia actively gives back via local chambers of commerce, SPCA and paw printing events, the annual Dogtopia dog wash, and provides care packages to local police dogs. 

Even Billy the beagle, the couple’s own dog, is in training for See Spot Read, a volunteer literacy program in Wake County.

“We have a good, reciprocal relationship with other businesses,” Radley said, something that’s also helped build their sense of community.

“Don’t get isolated. Look for events in the community, and always support small businesses,” Heath recommended to newcomers. “A big plus is that this is a safe area, with a lot of family focus. Cary is a lovely place.” 

Nadine BernsteinNadine Bernstein

Nadine and Herb Bernstein chose North Carolina as their retirement home thanks to many visits over the years with family in Charlotte and Wilmington.

Their relocation checklist included attractive topography; quality medical care; the charms of suburbia; and access to culture, entertainment and fine dining.

Once they found Cary, the Bernsteins built a home and two years later, in 2010, relocated from New York. They’ve not been disappointed.

“We were originally attracted to Cary by all the obvious characteristics of the area, but once we arrived we were enthralled with how much more Cary actually offers,” Nadine Bernstein said. “As a result, we learned much after the fact.”

A teacher and social worker in New York, Bernstein spent her first year in Cary as self-described “play time,” decorating the couple’s home, and learning mah-jongg and enjoying and book and supper clubs via the Cary Newcomers Club.

“My first experience in a newcomers’ club occurred when we moved to Cary,” Bernstein said. “The Cary Newcomers Club opened doors and availed me of friendships and many varied activities. I’ve met well-read, diversified and interesting people and have made valued friends.”

She and Herb, a retired trust and estates attorney, find Cary Town Park to offer a “superior tennis facility,” enjoy other local recreational offerings, and take advantage of access to the N.C. Museum of Art and Durham Performing Arts Center. 

The couple is also delighted with the region’s parks and museum offerings, which are highlights during visits from their six grandchildren.  

A quest to use her job skills to benefit her adopted community have also led Bernstein to volunteer on the Interact crisis line, and become a substitute teacher in Wake County Schools. She is also current president of the Cary Newcomers Club, extending its welcome to others.

“It’s a nice balance. It keeps me involved, productive and allows me to pursue things I enjoy,” she said.

“Cary is unique, and offers a very positive lifestyle.” 

Master Rondy McKeeMaster Rondy McKee

Martial arts Master Rondy McKee traveled the world as a member of the Korean Tigers Professional Demonstration Team, before choosing Cary as the site of her business and home.

“It was a golden opportunity to pick the ideal place,” the Michigan native said. “My teammates and I sat in my living room in Korea with a huge map of the U.S., and we eliminated too-hot, too-cold and places with really big bugs!”

North Carolina, set between the ocean and mountains like Korea, rose to the top of her list; fans recommended the Triangle.

Impressed by her call to the Cary Chamber of Commerce, Master Rondy flew in and by the end of that day in 1996 had rented space in Cary for her school.

She has since built the 24,000-square-foot White Tiger Taekwondo & Martial Arts Center, which serves 2,200 students of all ages and welcomes visiting Korean masters, who teach seminars at White Tiger; some are hired with work visas.

“I’ve never regretted coming to Cary,” said Master Rondy, who is also certified as a fitness and yoga instructor. “Everyone is so friendly, and the town has been very good to us. I’ve achieved beyond my goals.”

To give back, White Tiger partners with the Cary Police Department in the Community Cares program to benefit at-risk youth. Another favorite program is the Lady Tigers, teaching defense skills to mature women, who must maintain their mammogram schedules to test for the next belt level.

“My goal is to offer a family fitness facility,” she said. “People who exercise are happier, healthier, kinder — and if they do martial arts, safer. We want to get everybody up and moving. It makes the whole community a better place!”

Master Rondy’s advice to newcomers is to remember, “You’re not the only one who’s not from here. It’s an international fest every day here, with people from all over the world.

“Get out and join a club or group. People are so nice, so welcoming. They embrace differences, and are open and interested.

“Oh, and Maynard Road is a circle — it helps to know that!”

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