By Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Joiray Khalfani was a New York girl who never thought she would live anywhere else. But after moving to Florida, she found a new home that offered her a second chance at love, and a friendly, welcoming community that felt like a vacation every day. A real estate agent, Khalfani loves to spend her time meeting new people, volunteering with the elderly, and as a self-professed foodie, enjoying the amazing food the First Coast has to offer.
1. How did you come to live in the St. Johns area?
I am originally from the Bronx, NY. I came down here after my mother and brother moved; I swore I would never leave the city, but I came to visit, and fell in love. It’s been 20 years. I moved here right after Thanksgiving, and my first Christmas here was sunny, and people were barbecuing, and I was like, “What is this?” I got in the pool with Anthony in February. It’s wonderful! But try to get me in the pool now in February — no way, Jose!
2. What made you decide to settle in Julington Creek?
We were in the Southside area at first, and I was married when I came down, like a year later. But my husband ended up passing away, and I was a widow with three children. And I was thinking to myself, “Where can I live where I can provide something good for my children?” I knew I couldn’t send them to private school or anything like that. I wanted to be in an area that had amenities, since as a single mom, I couldn’t take them on all the vacations I could with their dad, but they could still have a good life, and feel like they were on vacation, with the amenities and swimming pool. And they have the good schools. St. Johns really gave me that homey feeling, helped me to feel complete, even if we couldn’t do all the wonderful things we used to do. It helped them not feel the impact as much. They ended up feeling like, “Wow, we’re at Disney World without being at Disney World!” They were very, very little when we moved here, and now my oldest is in the military, so that tells you how long we’ve been here.
3. What is your favorite thing about living in the St. Johns area?
It’s family oriented. I got remarried, and we have seven children now — he had four kids, and I had three, so we have seven now. So I have two that have graduated from Bartram Trail, and three that are there now. There’s such great community. We have Principal Anderson, who was at Cunningham Creek and now is my youngest son’s principal at Freedom Crossing Academy. The best feeling you have here is community. You have to be involved with the people in your community, have a relationship, and I have that here.
4. You’re a realtor now. What made you decide to pursue that career?
I’ve always had mortgage backgrounds. I’ve done everything from processing to underwriting. And what made me want to be a realtor is that I wanted to be on the front end. I’ve always been on the back end, making deals happen. But I like talking to people; I like to be face-to-face, helping them solve problems. Not only can I help you find a house, but I can help tell you about rates, or why the underwriting does this or that. When I decided to do it, this is an example of community. I called Mark Greenwell, who our kids had played football with, and asked him what he thought. He brought me into the office, really guided me, and helped me get up and running.
5. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a foodie! And I’m a people person. So we always like to find the best restaurants to eat, especially seafood. We love J. Alexander’s carrot cake — it’s the best, and I don’t like carrot cake! They also have great crab cakes. Local in St. Johns though, I give my number one to Taps. They have great music, bands coming in, great wings. They have great drinks, too. It’s one of my favorites. We like to watch movies, and I do a lot of reading on holistic foods and medicines. That’s appealing to me.
Photo courtesy Joiray Khalfani
Joiray Khalfani and family.