• Wednesday , 21 February 2018

About Us

Explore-Philly.com and Explore-NJ Publisher and Editor Cassie Hepler.

Why should you even care about yet another online magazine?

I’ll tell you in one word: passion.

I have been hungry for this mission since I was a teenager… and at that time, obsessed with Rolling Stone Magazine, which isn’t what it used to be. I’ve always wanted an online magazine because as one editor explained, “you are good at finding the unusual out of the ordinary.” I won’t wax on and on about my extensive journalism experience because anyone can have a shitty blog about absolutely nothing (but if you’re super curious, check out my Website or LinkedIn). What I will tell you is where my passion has led me was to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it all started as Explore Philly and now to my west home base of Phoenix, Arizona where the site has expanded to ExplorewithCassie.com.

When I first moved here to the hills of Manayunk, Philadelphia. I was a budding journalist working restaurant hours and lived with my best friend, Melissa Hollely. She also happened to be the pastry chef at Steven Starr‘s Washington Square with enough talent in her artistic sketches, tastes and designs that they wanted to move her to one of his top sellers, Buddakan in NYC. She loved this city too much to leave as well (it’s the only place both of us have ever actually settled down). We would explore weekly at a different Starr restaurants, tasting almost the whole menu and discussing flavors, textures, presentation and life. She taught me to love each facet of life and live to the fullest, savoring every flavor and experience along the way until her heart gave out one summer night on Green Lane. Now I am living in the Valley of the Sun in Phoenix, Arizona and loving life without harsh winter weather! Read about why I moved on my personal blog.

The passion for food, entertainment, living graciously and exploring the world are now permanent parts of my personality. Through years of journalism, photography, modeling/acting and editing, I have come to a place where I want to share all of these explorations with the world. Ironically enough, years later through a brief contract job, I met another amazing pastry chef who I now consider one of my best friends, Dana Prophet from The Pastry Prophet. She will also be contributing to the growth of the website and exploring with – and without me – for an alternate experience.

Another outstanding writer with Explore Philly is Jill Love. No really, that is her real name and has nothing to do with the iconic Philly Love Statue. Keep an eye out for this classically trained dancer who is as sweet as she looks!

Our staff is always growing and we’re always looking for positive, creative types with class who are writer/photographers and videographers like myself. Don’t be shy, always say hi! You never know where it may lead you…

I also feel a very deep-rooted need to give back to the world, thus why I chose journalism as my major at PSU, I suppose. And in that search through some Manayunk friends, I joined Project Sunshine. Years later, I became the Philadelphia Chapter Leader to fulfill the child-like wonder inside of me. Unfortunately due to scoliosis back surgery in 2016, I had to leave my beloved children behind but to a new crew of the Sunshine gang.

If there is one thing that my Missy taught me is that sometimes life will flow in a way that creates its own path. Welcome to mine! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do living it.

***Special thanks to Eric Smith from Penn State, who without your help, responsive and patient guidance, this site would not exist and be as amazing as it is! Also special thanks to Rob Wright, who lit the fire under my ass to get moving on this dream to become a reality. People come into your life for a reason and I am blessed to have you both in mine!

Meet The Explore Team!

Here are just some of the talented team who help make the magic happen. Think you have what it takes? Email your resume and experience to info@explore-philly.com for consideration.


Dana Prophet,

Writer & Pastry Chef

Pastry chef, writer and opinionated mouthy broad. Also a graduate of Philadelphia’s The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. Upon completion, she worked for The Frog at the Yard (currently known as Urban Outfitters), Jose Garces’ The Trading Company, and Time Whiskey Bar.

In 2013, she decided to try her luck on The Live Well Network’s “Food Rush Holiday Cookie Challenge,” flown out and filmed in San Diego, California. The renowned judges had many positive things to say about her pastries. Dessert catering is her focus as she makes her creations at The Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises through her online delivery pastry store, The Pastry Prophet. When not cooking food, she enjoys writing about it and of course, eating it.


   Jill Beckel, Assistant Editor & Dancer

Jill grew up in Ravena, NY and graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Elmira College. She is semi-new to the Philadelphia area and has lived here just about 5 years. She loves trying new restaurants, going to shows, taking walks and shopping. With various jobs in the writing world including working at two newspapers, a group of radio stations and a website company, Jill has a fine tuned nose for news.

One of her other passions besides writing is dancing. She currently teaches tap and jazz dancing to kids and adults at Bowman Dance Company. She’s performed at Manayunk on Ice, the Good Day Philadelphia morning TV show and various other local events.

“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.” – Mark Twain

                                                   Tyra Gardner, Writer & Psychologist

Tyra Gardner  is an serial entrepreneur and psychotherapist who specializes in anger management, individual and family therapy, relationships, phobias, anxiety, shopping addiction, stress management and cyber psychology. Her brand is the “NotsoPsychotherapist” because of her many interests and approaches to many career fields.

In 2016, Tyra became an expert contributor to many media outlets such as Daily Mail, Elite Daily, Today.Com & Women’s Health which has increased her love in writing. Tyra enjoys life, photography and writing on all topics especially when it comes to helping others. Learn more about her at Tyrasgardner.com and tyrasjustsaying.com.







Kelly M. Kusumoto, Writer, Gamer & Drummer

Kelly M. Kusumoto is an established writer of many genres. His fictional short stories have been published in literary magazines and websites across the world. He has written articles and blog posts for neighborhood, travel, and sports publications. He has written content for consumer websites, email campaigns, biographies, portfolios, and resumes. He has also written screenplays and video game scripts for independent video game developers. When he isn’t writing, Kelly loves to spend time with his wife, Colleen, traveling or walking their dogs. He also plays ice hockey and has his own YouTube drumming channel.



Sharon Kozden, Writer, Poet & Runner

There’s more to Sharon than meets the blowout. Hair today, gone tomorrow. True to her changeling Gemini nature, she can rock a pixie or long locks, whatever her mood or inclination. But that’s not “hair” it’s at for Sharon, who graduated summa cum laude from Cedar Crest College with a B.A. in English and a minor in French. She hasn’t a single non-creative bone in her marathon-trained body.

Her passion for writing, reading and words in general became evident early-on. While her brothers and sister pursued athletic endeavors and accumulated trophy troves, Sharon holed up in bookmobiles, libraries, backyards and in hammocks, reading for hours on end. Sharon’s heart belongs to Gladwyne; however, she also is peripatetically inclined and enjoys covering events local and far-reaching, chatting up anyone everywhere, acutely mindful that we all of us “enter this world with a terminal illness:  it’s called birth.” 

As Maurice Sendak told NPR’s Terry Gross in his final interview with her, “Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.” The power of repetition in a dying man’s words could not NOT become indelibly “tatted” onto Sharon’s conscious mind as well as further inspire her work. Also preventing any writer’s block is her role as fiercely protective mother of a purebred Maine Coon kitten. She promises the advance for her first novel will include massive quantities of spoils for her beloved “baby.”

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