Every winter, the Shucarts go Christmas-tree shopping and select not one but three evergreens. “It’s definitely our son’s favorite tradition, because he gets to pick out his own little tree,” says Rochelle Shucart, adding that 8-year-old Carsten loves having it in his bedroom.
The family also enjoys a number of local traditions that weren’t around when Rochelle was growing up in Naples, such as the Naples Christmas Parade. But Rochelle fondly recalls attending the Christmas play at her local church with her parents, and she looks forward to soon giving Carsten the same kind of magical candlelit holiday experience in church. “But a Christmas tree in my room I did not have. So he’s already one-upping me on that,” she jokes.
Rochelle says that she’s grown up alongside the town and has delighted in watching it become a great place to raise kids, with more activities, sports, and places designed for children. She has noticed many young families moving in, some of whom she meets through her profession, photographing expectant mothers and newborns. The influx of these new families is helping expand her eponymous photography business.
Prior to establishing her firm, she loved working with her family in their plumbing company. Yet she felt drawn to doing something on her own and started the business in 2011. After shooting weddings for a few years, she wanted to be able to stay home on weekends with her family. So she switched her focus to babies and hasn’t looked back. “It’s literally the best time of anyone’s life to capture,” Rochelle says. “When families see their first family portrait together holding their infant, the feedback is so touching.”
She also loves working with mothers-to-be. Not everyone feels pretty when they’re expecting, she says, yet many women tell her they feel beautiful after a photography session. “It’s another rewarding part of the job,” she adds.
Her husband, Chris Shucart, also runs his own local business—but he went in the opposite direction in working with family. After years in the construction industry, he decided to start a real estate company, JCS Realty Group, alongside his father, James Shucart. The plan was for his dad to stay with the business for three years. That date came and went, and they recently celebrated the company’s seventeenth anniversary. “I honestly feel as fortunate as I could ever be that we get to spend as much time together as we do,” says Chris.
The Shucarts agree on the importance of family time. They believe that their Midwestern roots (Rochelle’s parents left behind the snow in Ohio and moved to Naples a few years before she was born, while Chris’s family came from St. Louis) helped tie them together. Philanthropy also looms large in their relationship. Rochelle assisted with organizing the American Cancer Society fundraiser where the couple first met in 2007. “I enjoy giving back to my own community, where I was born and raised,” Rochelle says. Chris, too, focuses on making a difference, and they’re dedicated to supporting a range of local causes together.
The couple attends several charity events each year. They were particularly moved by one held by the STARability Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to connect people with disabilities to the community through recreational and life-skills classes, sports, and other programs. The participants, Rochelle says, are Naples residents who deserve the same opportunities as anyone else.
Feeling inspired to become more involved, she co-chaired the foundation’s annual fundraiser in February. It raised $1.2 million despite having been reimagined as a virtual event and hosted within smaller, simultaneous gatherings because of the pandemic. Rochelle and Chris also support the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, a great resource for kids that didn’t exist when she was growing up.
In addition to these and other causes they contribute to, Chris plans to increase his involvement with Captains for Clean Water and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to help preserve the area’s water quality. “It goes back to my passion for fishing and making sure that the waters around Florida are clean now and clean for our kids and future generations,” he says.
Though they have witnessed many changes in Naples over the years, some things remain the same. They regularly socialize with their friends Laurie and Grant Phelan, who live down the street and have known Rochelle since middle school. When their husbands met, Laurie recalls that the two men “clicked instantly.” Both couples attribute their friendship in part to their shared values. Chris notes that raising kids while running a family business is another thing they have in common. Despite their busy schedules, the Shucarts and Phelans make time for dinners and traveling together, with recent trips to the Kentucky Derby and Deer Valley Resort in Utah for skiing.
Both families engage in a variety of sports, including volleyball and horseback riding for the Phelans’ four kids and lacrosse for Carsten. The Shucarts profess a love of the outdoors in general, from boating and fishing (though they don’t have time to fish as often as Chris would like) to skiing and running half marathons.
“One of the things we enjoy a lot is traveling,” adds Chris. While the pandemic prevented them from hitting the road much during the past year, they did take the opportunity to explore New England landmarks they hadn’t yet seen. “We don’t even have to leave the country because there are so many places in America that we haven’t visited,” Rochelle says, noting that it can be easy for Americans to take this land for granted.
The Shucarts also travel all over Florida for Carsten’s lacrosse tournaments. Besides playing lacrosse, the second grader loves fishing with his dad and skiing, and he recently started viola lessons at school.
With COVID-19 curtailing not only last year’s travel plans but many holiday traditions as well, Rochelle says they’re looking forward to the festive season this year. They usually hold Thanksgiving at their house, complete with decorations that celebrate autumn even in the midst of Southwest Florida’s perpetually sunny, warm weather.
With both of their families living in Naples, Chris says the opportunity to spend more time together over the holidays makes everything more special. He and Rochelle plan to return to hosting a holiday gathering for family and friends with their three trimmed trees and other Christmas decorations helping bring the season to life.
“I feel like everyone’s ready for the holidays,” says Rochelle. “They want to get together, they want to see each other. I think this year, it’s going to be great.”
Jewelry: Bigham Jewelers, Naples
Makeup/hair: Unbreakable Beauty
Decor: Kaleidoscope Floral
Special thanks to The Wine Store and Mikkelsen’s Pastry Shop