In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem.
When I started writing about local Winston-Salem difference makers, there was one I knew I wanted to write about from the very beginning, my big sister, Lawren Callahan Desai. I needed to establish my blog without being known as her brother first, but I always had September 19, 2016 in mind to finally do one on her, since it is her fortieth birthday. First off, happy “over the hill” birthday Lawren.
It runs through our blood to want to make a difference in Winston-Salem. Our family never expected Desai to come back to Winston once she left for college in the mid-1990’s. She was always a big city person, and that plays a major role in her desire to make Downtown Winston a great place.
Desai was born in Charlotte, NC in 1976 and moved to Winston as a toddler. She grew up in the West End on West End Boulevard for a couple years and then moved to Glade Street. Along with being an excellent student throughout high school, she was also a star swimmer for Sherwood pool and Reynolds High School. Desai graduated from Reynolds in 1994 and chose the University of Pennsylvania to study International Relations. Her move to Philadelphia was just her first move in a series of moves to some of the most well-known cities in the world.
Along with the “City of Brotherly Love,” Desai spent time living in Madrid, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn, along with one year working as an assistant in the School of Film at UNC School of the Arts. She moved back to Winston to receive her MBA at Wake Forest in what appeared to be just a transition before going back to a big city.
During her time at Wake, she met her future husband, Jigar Desai, who hailed from Dalton, GA. The two got married after they both received their MBA, and they decided to try to bring a little bit of the big city to Winston.
After they had their only child, Jake, Desai began to look into options for bringing a movie theater to Downtown Winston. It was a merger of what she learned at Wake combined with her love of movies developed from her time at UNCSA and in Los Angeles pursuing a career in film production. On January 8, 2010, Desai opened a/perture cinema in the heart of Downtown on Fourth Street.
Over the past six and a half years, a/perture has added two additional theaters to its original two screens. a/perture hosts events like RiverRun each year, and they have their own events like Art House Theater Day, which is coming up on September 24th. Desai travels to the Toronto Film Festival yearly to help find movies to bring to Winston.
Through her hard work, Desai, was the recipient of the R. Philip Hanes Junior Young Leader Award. The award recognizes someone under 40 whose time, talent and energy have furthered the mission of promoting the arts and culture in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, leaving a legacy of service for future young leaders and for the future of the arts in this community.
When I was in kindergarten, my dad had my fifth grade sister go out and protect me and a couple friends from an older neighborhood bully. Ever since then, I have looked up to my big sister, and with all she has accomplished, I really have to crane my neck to see that high up!
Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
West End, Ardmore, Buena Forest, and Downtown
What different schools did you go to?
The Hanes Park trifecta: Brunson, Wiley, Reynolds
Who were your favorite teachers?
Mr. Hierl-U.S. History (Career Center)
What are your top three Winston-Salem restaurants of all time that are no longer here?Rose & Thistle
South By Southwest
Mayberry’s in the old location on Stratford
What is your favorite nickname of our minor league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Thruway, but I hope pretty soon to have a third Downtown Winston option.
Are there any stores you wish would move to Winston? How about restaurants?
Stores: Anthropologie and Apple
Restaurants: A legitimate Spanish Tapas restaurant or a Shake Shack
Where is your favorite day trip outside of Winston?
Too many good ones-Hanging Rock, Asheboro Zoo, Pilot Mountain, Durham, Asheville
What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
South Nags Head-mile marker 19
Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
I like to visit Asheville, good restaurants and music scene.
Did you ever go to the original Ziggy’s? What was your favorite concert there?
Yes-a lot in high school and then through the years until I moved. My friends and I saw Dave Matthews in high school during a snowstorm. Since it was snowing so hard, we had to get a parent to drop us off.
Could you ever imagine leaving Winston and if so, where would you go?
Not at this point. Winston is such a great base and traveling for the weekend, in country or abroad, is so easy from here.