May 8, 2013
SWEET SEDUCTION: “We enjoy getting to know the customers and seeing a smile on their face when they have a cupcake. Everyone has a favorite.” Amy DeSanto (left) and Corina Dumitru-Fritz, owners of Dessert Boutique in the Village Shoppes at Montgomery, are encouraged by the success of their “sweet” enterprise.

SWEET SEDUCTION: “We enjoy getting to know the customers and seeing a smile on their face when they have a cupcake. Everyone has a favorite.” Amy DeSanto (left) and Corina Dumitru-Fritz, owners of Dessert Boutique in the Village Shoppes at Montgomery, are encouraged by the success of their “sweet” enterprise.

Honey lavender, red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, tiramisu, pink champagne, French toast with bacon, chocolate merlot, lemon and orange, canoli, black forest, peanut butter and jelly — sound good?

These are just some of the specialty cupcakes at the new Dessert Boutique located in the Village Shoppes at Montgomery at 1378 Route 206 South in Skillman.

Cupcakes are a very “in” treat these days, report owners Amy DeSanto and Corina Dumitru-Fritz. Everyone seems to like them. They are no longer just the traditional treat to share with the class at school for a birthday — although, of course, they are still a big hit with children.

“Cupcakes have grown up,” notes Ms. DeSanto. “People will come in to get a cupcake for themselves, or for a hostess gift, and also for office gatherings. They can be appropriate for many occasions.”

Bio-Chemists

After working as bio-chemists in the pharmaceutical industry, Ms. DeSanto and Ms. Dumitru-Fritz decided to pursue their true passion and create their own line of gourmet baked goods. It is not such a departure as one might think. “Baking is chemistry,” points out Ms. DeSanto.

“We had both enjoyed baking as girls, and Corina had actually had a bakery in Allentown, Pa. We had kept in touch, and I, too, had always liked the idea of having my own business.”

The space was available in the new section of the Village Shoppes at Montgomery, and Dessert Boutique opened its doors right before Christmas 2012. It was a hit from the start!

“People found out about us right away,” report the owners. “We were very warmly welcomed — both by customers and our neighboring businesses. We already have regular customers who come in all the time, and they stop in all times of the day. Some come in the morning for one of our muffins, croissants, or scones; others stop in at lunchtime for a savory, such as a mini mushroom quiche or spanakopita. Then, after school, a lot of kids come in for a cupcake, and in the evening people stop in for dessert and coffee, perhaps after a movie.”

Customers are coming from all around the area, including Princeton, Montgomery, Rocky Hill, and Hillsborough.

In addition to the wide array of cupcakes — 20 different flavors available each day — a selection of pastries, such as cream puffs, Napoleons, mini fruit tarts, mini cheesecakes, brownies, and cookies are offered. Also, muffins, scones, turnovers, donuts (weekends only), and sticky buns are popular in the morning.

Sculpted Cakes

Fresh squeezed orange juice will be available soon, and currently, coffee (at 79¢ and 99¢), hot chocolate, and a variety of specialty soft drinks, such as Aloe juice, Zico coconut water, Honest Tea, Illy iced coffee, and Coke in glass bottles, with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup, are offered.

Ms. Dumitru-Fritz is particularly known for her special occasion sculpted cakes — from wedding to birthday to novelty creations for kids (including with cake pops). She is an expert cake designer, and her creations are beautiful to behold — true works of art.

They can be seen in full array on Dessert Boutique’s website. They must be ordered well ahead of the event: three to four weeks for birthday and anniversary, two months for weddings. The wedding cakes can also include cupcakes. Ms. Dumitru-Fritz made one containing 350 cupcakes!

“For a wedding cake, the bride will come in, and we will discuss in detail what she wants — flavor, style, etc.,” she explains.

The establishment’s primary business is take-out, but it also offers charming ice cream parlor-style tables and chairs and a sofa for on-site sampling. The store’s attractive “confectionery” pink decor (along with pink gift boxes) is a perfect match for the cupcakes. “Little girls absolutely love it here, with all the pink,” says Ms. DeSanto.

And all ages enjoy the friendly, relaxed atmosphere — including the irresistible aroma of fresh baked cupcakes (which are baked throughout the day) that greets customers as they step inside.

Super Bowl

The store was an especially popular spot for Valentine’s Day, as one could imagine, but it also had a very busy Super Bowl Sunday. “People really wanted to have cupcakes for the event,” note the owners. “We weren’t expecting such a big turnout that day, and we were very pleased!”

Prices include $3 for a cupcake and $1 for a cream puff. A dozen cupcakes at $33 offer a savings, and there is also a Cupcake Club, with a punch card format. After four purchases, the card is punched; when 10 punches are reached, a free dessert is available. Gift certificates are also offered.

The owners plan to provide new amenities for customers while continuing to offer their signature specialties. “We look forward to adding new tables and chairs, and in the spring, we will also have tables outside. We are so happy to have our dream come true, and we are very encouraged. We look forward to becoming a real part of the community.”

Dessert Boutique is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 to 4. (609) 580-1192. Website: www.dessertboutiquenj.com.

May 1, 2013
ONE WISH AT A TIME: “One Simple Wish allows anyone in the general public help children in foster care fulfill their wishes. Our goal is for every single foster child in the U.S to know that we are here and a resource for them. We want them to know that we care and that they can come to us.” Danielle Gletow, founder and executive director of One Simple Wish, headquarted in Trenton, is proud of the organization she began in 2008.

ONE WISH AT A TIME: “One Simple Wish allows anyone in the general public help children in foster care fulfill their wishes. Our goal is for every single foster child in the U.S to know that we are here and a resource for them. We want them to know that we care and that they can come to us.” Danielle Gletow, founder and executive director of One Simple Wish, headquarted in Trenton, is proud of the organization she began in 2008.

“The most astonishing thing about miracles is that they sometimes happen.”

—G.K. Chesterton

One Simple Wish is a non-profit organization that has been making small miracles happen for foster children and vulnerable families since December of 2008.

As its mission statement points out: “We offer everyone a glimpse into the life of a child in foster care and connect people to create rewarding, meaningful relationships between those who want to give and those who need help. One Simple Wish believes in working together with a vast network of Community Partners throughout the United States. We positively impact the lives of thousands of children and families in need every year.”

One Simple Wish is the result of the vision, determination, and dedication of one woman: Danielle Gletow. She saw a need, and found a way to fill it.

“My husband and I had wanted to adopt a child in 2006, and we looked into all the options,” she explains. “We became foster parents with the hope of adopting. Over time, we had three foster children, aged two, 18 months, and six weeks.”

Multiple Homes

Eventually, they were able to adopt a baby girl through the foster care system, at about the same time that they had their biological daughter.

Their experience gave Ms. Gletow an insight into the world of foster care, providing her with information she had been unaware of previously. For example, she reports: “500,000 children are in foster care in the U.S. in the child welfare system. Of these, 100,000 children are legally available for adoption, but many are eight, nine and older, or special needs children. Foster care often includes multiple homes and institution placements, sometimes within the same year or even month. Nearly 58 percent of children in foster care are children of color.”

In addition, notes Ms. Gletow, more than 20,000 children age out of foster care every year, with little or no support. These young people are several times more likely to end up homeless, addicted to drugs, or incarcerated. It is estimated that more than 250,000 prisoners in the U.S. were once foster children.

Her own experience and the information she had gathered prompted Ms. Gletow to try to find a way to brighten the lives of foster children in some way.

“We had met so many children through case workers and friends in foster care that we wanted to do something,” she explains. “We wanted them to have the experiences a child with his or her own parents has.”

Ms. Gletow began with the idea of fulfilling wishes — small and large. “For example, a case worker knows if a child’s birthday is coming up, or if they have mentioned something they’d like to have.”

Children’s Wishes

She came up with the plan to match the children’s wishes with donors who could fulfill them. “People can go on-line to our website to see what wishes the children have made, and then they can donate specifically for a wish request or give an unrestricted donation of any amount. A typical wish is $100. We then purchase the item, which can be shoes, clothing, games, scooters, skates, gymnastic lessons, movie tickets, visits to an amusement park, etc. We have also outfitted more than 1000 girls with prom dresses, shoes, and handbags. The wish candidates are aged from birth to 25.”

The program started in New Jersey, and then branched out. Ms. Gletow established a network of community partners, such as social service agencies, group homes, churches, schools, and other organizations that support children and families in need throughout the U.S. One Simple Wish is now in 36 states with 350 partners.

“We work with non-profit groups and agencies; there is no government funding for One Simple Wish. It’s all through individuals and corporations. We don’t feel the state welfare system is as well-structured as it could be. We continue to try our best to work closely with the Department of Children and Families as often as possible.”

One Simple Wish has grown in all ways since its beginning. In particular, donations, community partners, and its recognition factor have all expanded dramatically.

As Ms. Gletow reports. “We have grown from receiving $24,000 in donations the first year to more than $500,000 this year. And if you count the in-kind donations of toys, clothing, and personal care products, it is close to $1 million. We have received donations and grants from Walmart, PNC Bank, Staples, Janssen, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and PSE&G.”

Ms. Gletow has appeared on the “Making A Difference” segment of NBC Nightly New, and she was chosen as a CNN Hero — one of 24 selected from 10,000 nominees worldwide. Such recognition has been invaluable.

Successful Lives

“Between NBC and CNN, One Simple Wish has continued to grow and grow. We now have five employees, and will open a branch office in Colorado. 5000 wishes have been granted to date — 95 percent of all the wishes requested. We have annual dinners to raise money and also to honor the kids. We award three $1000 scholarships to young people who have exemplified successful lives within a foster care environment.

“Last year, One Simple Wish had a tour of 30 cities around the country to grant wishes. It was 30 wishes in 30 cities in 30 days! We look forward to more of these, and this year, we will go to five states with seven stops in 10 days, and deliver 3000 gifts!”

May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and One Simple Wish will have a team running the Long Branch Marathon on May 5. Each team member is committed to raising $1000, which will be donated to the organization.

Ms. Gletow is rightfully proud of what she has achieved. With the support of her staff, concerned community groups, and individuals, she has put a remarkable program in place. “I am very proud to have created something that has gone on to create a life of its own. I have always believed in the innate goodness of people, and I haven’t been surprised that people are stepping up. If you give someone a way to make a real, meaningful difference, they want to be part of the solution.

“I love the fact that we have a truly immediate impact,” she continues. “It is memorable, an opportunity to make a child smile. We focus on those smiles. It also makes me proud and happy that I can leave a legacy, and one that is important for my children. My kids can see that you can find success and happiness that has nothing to do with making a lot of money.”

For more information on One Simple Wish, call (609) 883-8484. Website: www.onesimplewish.org.

PERFECT FIT: “We are a soccer specialty store, and I believe we are filling a need here in Princeton,” says Tibor Teleky, owner of Princeton Soccer Experience. Shown is one of his very youngest customers, three and a half year-old Princeton resident Heidi Johnson, who is trying on a brand new soccer shoe.

PERFECT FIT: “We are a soccer specialty store, and I believe we are filling a need here in Princeton,” says Tibor Teleky, owner of Princeton Soccer Experience. Shown is one of his very youngest customers, three and a half year-old Princeton resident Heidi Johnson, who is trying on a brand new soccer shoe.

It’s soccer here, but in the rest of the world, it’s football — not to be confused with our own American football. By whatever name, it is growing in popularity, and players of all ages and every skill level, are eagerly participating. Tibor Teleky, owner of the new Princeton Soccer Experience, which opened at 190 Witherspoon Street in early February, is himself a player, coach, and long-time soccer enthusiast.

“I have been involved in soccer a long time,” he explains. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid, and I have been and am coaching club teams, including the Princeton Football Club, among others. The Princeton Club has 24 teams, with all different age groups, starting at under 10.

“There was really a need for this kind of store,” he continues. “There is nothing like it in Princeton, and the interest in soccer is very strong now. Kids start playing in middle school and even earlier.”

Repeat Customers

Mr. Teleky, a graduate of Rutgers University and recipient of an MBA degree from Central European University in Budapest, has also worked in the corporate world with Merrill Lynch. He decided to pursue his dream to open a soccer shop, however, and he definitely wanted it to be in Princeton.

“I like the international aspect of Princeton, and I wanted to have the shop here and in the downtown, where there is a lot going on. People here are really interested in soccer, and I’ve already had a lot of customers in the short time I’ve been open, including many repeat customers.”

The shop features a wide range of soccer equipment, clothing, and accessories in a light and bright setting, which also features a large TV screen, showing soccer matches.

Items are available for men, women, and children, and include balls, warm-up clothing, soccer shirts, T-shirts, team jerseys, shorts, and shoes.

Light and Dry

Adidas is the main line available, but Mr. Teleky notes that he is developing the Princeton Soccer Experience’s own brand of dry-fit soccer shirts. “These are light and dry, and wick moisture away,” he explains. “They are very comfortable and cool.”

A variety of balls in different colors and designs, weights, and sizes, including the small “skill” balls, and size 4 for kids, are all available. Prices of balls range from $11.99 for skill balls, $17.99 for regular size, all the way up to $150 for a top-of-the line hand-stitched model.

Shoes, including the Adidas Predator F 50 and the Samba for kids, are among those available, at different price ranges, with a good quality shoe starting at $50. They are all in bright, contemporary styles.

“Most people have more than one pair of soccer shoes,” points out Mr. Teleky, “and we can definitely accommodate them.”

Shin Guards

Colorful fan scarves representing different teams are available, along with assorted accessories, including gym bags, shoe laces, shin guards, ankle protectors, pre-wrap, and ball pumps.

Mr. Teleky is also proud of the large number of trophies on display, won by teams he has coached.

“I had been thinking about doing this for more than two years, and I am so happy to see it materialize. I’ve met so many people since I’ve been here. I enjoy meeting all the customers and talking about soccer. I also look forward to expanding my selection as time goes on.

“In addition, my long-term goal is team sales. There are a lot of different clubs throughout New Jersey, and I’d like to become a soccer supply and service store.”

Princeton Soccer Experience is open Monday through Saturday noon to 7 p.m., Sunday noon to 4. (609) 580-1924.

April 24, 2013
POWER WORK-OUT: "We incorporate as many different ways of moving the body as possible, so the members can get a full body work-out," says Tiffany Perkins-Munn, owner of Title Boxing Club Princeton. Shown is trainer Daisy Romero, practicing on one of the 100-pound punching bags. Title Boxing Club offers classes in power hour boxing and power hour kickboxing.

POWER WORK-OUT: “We incorporate as many different ways of moving the body as possible, so the members can get a full body work-out,” says Tiffany Perkins-Munn, owner of Title Boxing Club Princeton. Shown is trainer Daisy Romero, practicing on one of the 100-pound punching bags. Title Boxing Club offers classes in power hour boxing and power hour kickboxing.

Spring is here — officially — even if the weather is still chilly. Nevertheless, bathing suit season is right around the corner, and it’s not too late to get those abs, upper arms, and thighs toned — and of course, the extra “avoir du pois” around the middle!

Help is at hand. Title Boxing Club Princeton has recently arrived on the scene, and it can provide just the workout you need.

“This is a full body work-out in one hour, and it can burn 1000 calories,” says owner and general manager Tiffany Perkins-Munn. “It’s group fitness, but with a trainer, so it has personal training appeal. Typically, there are 30 people in a group with one instructor. We use a 15/30/15 model. fifteen minutes of warm-up, including cardio, with jumping, running, and calisthenics. Then, 30 minutes of work on the heavy bags — jabbing, punching, kicking, and kneeing, with various routines under the guidance of the instructor. It’s important that everyone execute the moves properly, and people are more motivated with an instructor.

“The last 15 minutes are a cool-down period, doing exercises that strengthen the core, such as plank and others.”

Fitness Concept

Title Boxing Club Princeton is one of 102 franchises in 33 states across the country. With corporate headquarters in Kansas, it was established five years ago as a unique fitness concept by the Title Boxing manufacturing Company and former professional boxer Danny Campbell.

“Title Boxing is the largest manufacturer of boxing equipment,” explains Ms. Perkins-Munn, who has a corporate background. Having earned a PhD in statistics and psychology, she had worked for Morgan Stanley on Wall Street for several years. Ready for a change, Ms. Perkins-Munn looked into franchise opportunities, and was impressed with Title Boxing Club.

“I like new challenges and opportunities, and I like them to be diverse. I’ve always had an affinity for working out, and my husband owned Grand Slam, a family recreation center in South Brunswick. I’m a statistician, and I ran the numbers for Title Boxing Club. I did a financial model, and then I went to the corporate office in Kansas. The corporation had a good working model. I liked it that it was organic, and they had a franchise development group and ideas of how to market it.”

After administrative training at the Kansas office, as well as hands-on boxing instruction, Ms. Perkins-Munn decided to open the facility in Nassau Park Pavilion at 485 Nassau Park Boulevard.

“I wanted to be in Nassau Park Pavilion,” she explains. “It’s a regional mall, and everything is here. People don’t mind driving a distance, and there is lots of parking, which is important.”

As the franchisor, Title Boxing Manufacturing Company requires 4500 square feet, and also oversees the look of the space, which is workmanlike and practical. “I call the look ‘industrial chic’”, says Ms. Perkins-Munn. “It’s spacious with gray walls and an open ceiling. This is a place where you can get something done.”

Row After Row

One is struck immediately upon entering by the sight of row after row of 54 100-pound punching bags (“Our hanging heavy bags,” says Ms. Perkins-Munn). This is a floor-bolted system, with the bags suspended on steel bars above. The franchisor provides each franchise with the large heavy bags, also small speed bags, gloves, and wraps, cardio equipment, including tread mill, AMT 3-in-1, and glide, as well as weights, balls, etc.

There is also a ring in which a member can work out one-one-one with a trainer, who wears special mitts.

The hour work-out is intensive, energetic, and focused. Ms. Perkins-Munn notes that the client target age is teens to late ’50s, but older clients are also welcome, as are people at all levels of fitness and boxing ability.

“We guarantee that if someone comes in three times a week for three months, they will reach their reasonable fitness goal. This is our 90-day challenge. They can lose weight and inches, tone up, strengthen their core, increase stamina and energy, improve coordination, and feel better, all the while having fun. Don’t forget that exercise is a great stress-reliever.

“Clients don’t have to know how to box,” she continues. “We will teach them. The structure of the class is the same, with clients of different levels all together. Beginners wear different color gloves, so the trainer is aware of their level, and can modify the exercise accordingly.”

Even if people have particular issues, such as knee or shoulder problems, they can still participate, she adds. “They can do modified exercises, but still get the benefit of the work-out.”

Membership Packages

Title Boxing Club Princeton will have 14 trainers, all of whom are certified. “They must be certified to work here, and then they receive further specialized Title Boxing training here,” explains Ms. Perkins-Munn.

The Club offers membership packages on a monthly or yearly basis: at $59 a month, if the amount is fully paid for a year in advance, which also entitles clients to special discounts. $69 and $79 monthly payment plans are also available. The first class is always complimentary.

A special offer is available for those who sign up before the end of April. They will receive a free special starter kit, including gym bag, gloves, wraps, wrap bag, and T-shirt.

“We are very encouraged,” reports Ms. Perkins-Munn. “People are signing up, and we expect to have 31 classes a week, five classes every weekday, and three on Saturday and Sunday. Hours will vary day to day, but we will start early — 5:15 a.m. and the latest class will be at 7:30 p.m.

“This is an exciting new adventure,” she adds. “There are always surprises. You have to deal with a lot of moving pieces concurrently, but I always like challenges. I am enjoying meeting all the people and hearing their stories. I look forward to having lots of people join the club and get great exercise!”

(609) 759-1627. Visit the website for specific hours and further information. www.titleboxingclub.com.

 
ARTISTIC ENDEAVOR: “Seeing my creations come to life is my biggest thrill. I want every piece to be just right. You feel it when it happens. You know when it is just right.” Jennifer J. Shortess, artist and owner of Artemis Boutique, is shown with a display of her artistic creations, including fused glass sculpture, the photograph in the background, and the necklace she is wearing. The shop also features the work of many other area artists.

ARTISTIC ENDEAVOR: “Seeing my creations come to life is my biggest thrill. I want every piece to be just right. You feel it when it happens. You know when it is just right.” Jennifer J. Shortess, artist and owner of Artemis Boutique, is shown with a display of her artistic creations, including fused glass sculpture, the photograph in the background, and the necklace she is wearing. The shop also features the work of many other area artists.

When they step inside, shoppers are reluctant to leave Artemis Boutique in Princeton Forrestal Village. As one customer said recently, “This is a hidden gem! Artemis Boutique is truly unique. You could spend hours here and find treasures in every nook and cranny, and in such a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere.”

That is what artist and proprietor Jennifer J. Shortess has hoped to achieve. When she opened the boutique in November 2011, it was with the intention of offering an inviting showcase both for her own creations and the work of many area artists.

“Nearly everything is one-of-a-kind and made in America,” says Ms. Shortess. “This is an opportunity to exhibit the work of so many talented area artists and still create my own work. I love working with the artists, and I love giving them the venue to show their work.”

Ms. Shortess, who grew up in the arts and crafts community of Sugar Loaf, New York and earned a Masters of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design, is a multi-talented artist. She has worked in video and film, creates fused glass pieces in many designs, as well as jewelry, and is an accomplished photographer.

Open A Store

Opening Artemis Boutique actually came out of necessity, she reports. “I had taken a course in stained glass, and then I began making jewelry. I started in the basement, then the kitchen, and I actually took over the house with my artwork. Finally, my husband said ‘Open a store!’

“I liked the idea of being in Forrestal. It’s a good location, with convenient parking.”

An intriguing array of artwork, jewelry, decorative items, and accessories is on display. Jewelry choices include sterling silver, semi-precious stones, and crystals. Fused glass lamps, fused glass sculptures, suncatchers, and Tiffany reproduction lamps are the work of Ms. Shortess. Also available are handmade, handpainted silk and crocheted scarves, paintings, and photography. Woodstock wind chimes, Murano glass from Italy, and fragrant soap “rocks” are other special offerings.

Among the artists represented is painter Mary Endico, who specializes in water colors. “I’ve known Mary all my life, and I am proud and grateful that she has consented to allow me to sell a few hand-picked pieces,” says Ms. Shortess. “Her water colors have the bluest blues I have ever seen.”

A number of the artists whose creations are on display work in more than one medium, she adds. “The multi-talented Deborah Bowen offers handmade jewelry, fused glass, stained glass, and crocheted scarves. Ruth Hunt is unique in her creations of handbags made of duct tape — really! — and faux decorative cakes that really do look good enough to eat. The purses in black are Chanel-like, and no one can believe they are made of duct tape.”

Limited edition evening bags from Harrison Morgan Accessories and turquoise necklaces made by Mr. Guy for Harrison Morgan Accessories are all originals. A pink stole made of the softest alpaca fur is another statement piece by Harrison Morgan.

Private Collection

“Natalie Sarabella is known as the Rock and Roll Star of Christmas ornaments, and sells at Bergdorf Goodman, Frontgate Catalogue, and soon the Franklin Mint,” says Ms. Shortess. “Her work is stunning and also includes private collection paintings, jewelry, pillows, perfume bottles, and much more.

“And Michelle Sauber makes wonderfully pretty earrings, as well as her totally original ‘stemware’ wine charms to identify your wine glass, made out of antique and new buttons. Gina DiEnna creates all sorts of beautiful, stunning, and fun jewelry. We are now carrying her ‘Bling It On’ line of jewelry: Swarovski crystals in clay and beautiful big Swarovksi crystals in rings.”

These are just a sampling of the fascinating collection at Artemis Boutique. Ms. Shortess notes that the selection changes frequently, with new items arriving all the time. “We also carry men’s jewelry, such as cufflinks, bracelets, and tie tacs.

“Some of the items here are art for art’s sake, such as many of my glass sculpted pieces” she continues. “I was thinking of of the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth — when I created these.”

“I also like things to have multiple uses.” For example, her illuminated glass sculptures are electrified as lamps. They can also be inverted to have an entirely different look. In gorgeous colors, gracefully combining form and function, they are a real collector’s item.

Her collection of fused glass also includes soap dishes, coasters, and key rings.

Ms. Shortess’ photography is equally interesting and eclectic, and features many scenes of the southwest, as well as urban settings focusing on doors and windows, and unique glimpses into ballet.

Payment Plan

Artemis Boutique also offers a bridal selection including a range of items, from champagne flutes and hand-decorated wine goblets to custom-jewelry and keepsakes to registers/guest/gift books and photo albums. A lovely personalized gift is the wedding invitation presented in a custom-painted frame.

Prices cover an extremely wide range, from $5 to $5000, and everything in between. “I have glass drop ornaments from chandeliers for $5, which can serve as wonderful prisms,” notes Ms. Shortess. “There is really a piece for everyone’s budget. I am very competitively-priced, and we also offer a payment plan.”

Ms. Shortess’ emphasis on everything from the whimsical to elegant to dramatic reflects her own creative vision and the varying forms it can take. It was also a factor in her choice of Artemis as the name of the boutique.

“Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, and was an early feminist, a protector of women and children, and also of arts and crafts,” explains Ms. Shortess. “She was independent, and wanted to do her own thing.”

Ms. Shortess looks forward to introducing more customers to the intriguing selection at Artemis. “This is a new adventure for me, and I am thrilled with how it’s going. We have regular customers and great word-of-mouth. Now, I look forward to being able to continue to showcase the work of all the artists as well as my own. I very much like being able to support the area artists and offer customers an opportunity to see their work. And I certainly love being surrounded by beautiful things. The items here are handmade, unique and one-of-a-kind.”

Ms. Shortess notes that a special exhibition and reception will be held for area painter Kelly E. Reilly on Friday, April 26 from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, April 27 from 12 to 7.

The boutique’s hours are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday noon to 4:30 p.m., Saturday noon to 3 and by appointment. (609) 454-5908. Website: www.artemisboutique.com.

 

 
April 10, 2013
CREATIVE COLOR: “Color, cut, and style all work together. We think of it as totally wearable fashion.” Tim and Kate Bricker, owners of B+B Hair Color Studio, are shown with stylist Jill ­Harer at their new Witherspoon Street location.

CREATIVE COLOR: “Color, cut, and style all work together. We think of it as totally wearable fashion.” Tim and Kate Bricker, owners of B+B Hair Color Studio, are shown with stylist Jill ­Harer at their new Witherspoon Street location.

Color is the key. In the hair industry today, it’s all about color. It is the major focus of nearly all salons.

“Hair color is a total fashion statement today,” says Tim Bricker owner, with his wife Kate, of B+B Hair Color Studio at 190 Witherspoon Street, Suite 4. “It’s just amazing how much color has evolved. The quality of color hair products has improved tremendously. It’s completely safe now. We have a super-nurturing hair color Nectayar from Europe that consists of all natural ingredients. Hair color actually improves the condition of the hair, and increases the shine.

“It can also add the perception of depth to fine hair. In addition, color can change and enhance the skin tone, and it can even appear to change the shape of the face.”

Mr. Bricker says B+B Hair Color Studio clients are all ages, “from 16 to 96!”, and  are both men and women. “Men often like to have gray blending, and they can look 10 years younger with this!”

Tone-on-Tone

For girls and women, the variety of choices is extensive. Blond highlights are always popular, but darker “chocolate” shades are also favorites. And, of course, color is still used to cover gray.

“What is really big now is tonal, tone-on-tone color,” report the Brickers. “It’s multi-dimensional, and gives a very natural look. We are definitely natural hair people here. Our focus is natural.

“Ombre is a popular look,” continues Mr. Bricker. “It can be achieved with hair painting or foils, and it is most often done on longer hair. The color is applied part way down, not at the top. Also, we specialize in cool color tones, and they are very popular. It can be light or dark, and it is basically the absence of red tones, so there is no brassiness. If it’s light, we think of it as ‘Fifth Avenue Blond!’”

For those unfortunate do-it-yourselfers who have had an unhappy color experience, the Brickers have corrective color treatments that can undo the damage.

Cutting and color go hand-in-hand, and Mr. Bricker was recently one of five top stylists from across the country, who trained with celebrity stylist Nick Arrojo (seen on the TV show What Not to Wear) in precision razor cutting.

“Precision razor cutting is good for all hair styles,” he explains. “It gives texture, movement, and lift to the hair. The way hair cutting is approached changes, with new techniques constantly coming along. We are always training and participating in continuing education.”

Ambassador Salon

“Also, we have recently partnered wth the Arrojo Studio in Manhattan, and we are an Ambassador salon for Arrojo. Only a select number of salons are chosen as Ambassador salons. We can send our stylists to be trained by his staff, and we carry the Arrojo products.”

The Brickers have trained other stylists throughout the northeastern U.S. As platform artists and master hair color specialists, they also style models’ hair at shows and events in New York City and elsewhere.

In business for 15 years in Princeton, they have always specialized in color and cutting. “I always loved the creativity of it, and I especially liked all the differences involved in hair color. I could see how complex it was,” explains Mr. Bricker.

While the majority of their clients have mid to long hair, the Brickers enjoy working on all lengths and types of hair. Curly hair provides its own challenges, and Mr. Bricker points out that color can enhance the curl, as it reflects the light.

Styling Products

For those with straight hair, he notes the current popularity of the curling wand, and also the variety of styling products that keep the style in place. “We believe the Arrojo products are the best because they are created and tested by hair dressers in the Arrojo studio in New York. This translates into a premium product that is completely user-friendly.”

Their recent move from their former State Road location has provided the studio with much more space, and it offers a very contemporary, sleek, and sophisticated look. “We wanted to be ‘Soho Sleek’! We feel like the Soho of Princeton,” point out the Brickers, smiling. “We are very specialized, and we’re all about being a boutique. We also wanted to be in downtown Princeton, and Witherspoon Street is great. It has lots of energy, and it’s where it’s happening.”

Their many long-time clients agree, and they are also intrigued by the studio’s high tech TV and iPad connection. “We have a big TV screen and can transfer the images to an iPad we give the clients’ says Ms. Bricker. “We can show them whatever style they are interested in. Even styles from celebrities at the Grammy’s and other events.”

“We pride ourselves on offering our clients the best service we can,” adds Mr. Bricker. “We enjoy making people look and feel better. They’re happier, and it makes a difference for them. We look forward to continuing to help our clients have the very best cuts and color.”

They also look forward to their upcoming grand opening event on April 11 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nick Arrojo will be on hand to meet B+B Color Hair Studio clients and visitors.

Studio hours are by appointment Tuesday through Saturday. (609) 683-4455. Website: www.bbcolorstudio.com.

March 27, 2013
TEAM WORK: “The atmosphere here is like a corner neighborhood bar. People come in to relax, and they get to know each other. Now we are offering lunch and dinner, which makes it even better.” The team at Ivy Inn includes (left to right): Michelle (“Mickey”) Ryan, Richard (“Richey”) Ryan, Geoff Aton, Kelly Ryan, Jackie Baldassari, and Caesar Quijivix.

TEAM WORK: “The atmosphere here is like a corner neighborhood bar. People come in to relax, and they get to know each other. Now we are offering lunch and dinner, which makes it even better.” The team at Ivy Inn includes (left to right): Michelle (“Mickey”) Ryan, Richard (“Richey”) Ryan, Geoff Aton, Kelly Ryan, Jackie Baldassari, and Caesar Quijivix.

Adapting to the times, while retaining its essential character, is the key to success for any business. The owners of Princeton’s Ivy Inn have understood this, and continued to make additions, improvements, and innovations, which have all contributed to a long-time thriving business.

The establishment has been owned by the McClusky/Ryan families since 1966, and recently, Princeton resident Geoff Aton has joined the owner/operating team, including Michelle (“Mickey”) Ryan and Richard (“Richey”) Ryan. Ms. Ryan’s daughter, Kelly Ryan, handles the marketing and social media aspect of the business.

My brother Richard (“Dickey”) McClusky bought the Inn in 1966,” says Ms. Ryan. “It was originally located next door, where Small World Coffee is now, but in 1973, Dickey was able to purchase the site of the ‘Flying A’ gas station, located at 248 Nassau Street, and after renovations were completed in 1975, the Ivy Inn, as you know it today, opened its doors.”

Originally known as a “shot and beer joint,” the Ivy catered to working men and women, explains Ms. Ryan. “Dickey was known for his great generosity and always tried to keep prices as reasonable as possible. He was also an avid sports fan, and for 30 years sponsored countless team throughout Mercer County.”

New Ideas

After Mr. McClusky’s death in 1996, Ms. Ryan became owner of the Ivy. Busy with a full-time position at Princeton Hospital, she looked to her son Richey for help in running the Inn. “He was at Franklin Marshall College at the time, but he came on board, transferred to Rider College to get his degree, while working full-time at the Ivy,” she explains.

As time went on, Mr. Ryan introduced innovations and new ideas to the already very popular establishment. He put in a pool table early on, which has been an extremely popular addition. “The only pool table in the area,” notes Mr. Aton.

During the next 15 years, the Ivy continued to grow and attract an even more diverse clientele. It took on a new face with the introduction of live entertainment, Karaoke, and “Quizzos” trivia night.

The Ivy Inn was also host to numerous fund-raisers and donated $75,000 to area charities, including the Sunshine Foundation, St. Baldrick’s, Toys for Tots, and Angel Wings, among others.

The introduction of the popular dart board provided a feeling of an English pub, while a 120-inch TV screen and six other HD TVs invited sports fans to watch their favorite teams in action. Free WiFi attracted those with internet requirements.

Another big hit is the juke box, which offers a great selection of TouchTunes. “We have more than 3000 songs from every era of popular music,” says Ms. Ryan. “People love it, and when it is playing, they often get up and dance!”

Pub-type Food

The latest innovation, the introduction of pub-type informal food, is one of the most exciting changes, note the partners. “This was really Geoff’s idea,” points out Ms. Ryan, “and it is terrific. The customers are very happy about the addition of food.”

“I’m a foodie,” says Mr. Aton, who has been a fan of the Ivy since he came to Princeton in 2007. “My career was in finance in Philadelphia and New York, but I have a family and two young sons. I wanted to be able to spend more time with them.

“I felt the Ivy would be an ideal place to offer informal food for lunch and dinner. It was a perfect match with the bar setting. The Ivy has always been known for reasonable prices, and we will definitely continue that. It’s hard to go out to dinner in Princeton with a family of four and spend under $100. We have that very much in mind. You really can’t go to another establishment in Princeton for a quality meal at the prices we have. And everything is fresh, with daily deliveries.”

The first order of business was to install and set up a kitchen and hire a chef. “We have a wonderful chef, Jackie Baldassari,” says Mr. Aton. “She is highly respected, and our kitchen staff, including Caesar Quijivix, is outstanding.”

Customers will find an appealing pub-style menu, with appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. A soup of the day is available, and appetizers include Caesar salad, Buffalo chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders, thin crust pizza, and mozzarella sticks. Sides include tater tots, cole slaw, beet salad, Boardwalk and sweet potato French fries, are available.

The sandwiches have been extremely popular, and customers are singing their praises. “This is ‘Wow’ — one of the best sandwiches I have ever had,” one happy customer was heard to say. It was the organic boneless breast of Bell & Evans chicken, with Black Forest ham, gruyere cheese, and mustard sauce on a roll.

High Quality

Another favorite is the signature burger with ancho chile mayonnaise and choice of American, cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella, provolone, or Swiss cheese.

“This has been a big hit,” says Mr. Aton. “We have very high quality beef, and we have made a great blend of meat for the hamburger. Everyone wants to order this.”

Other favorites include grilled cheese with gruyere, tomato and bacon; the traditional BLT, but with ancho chile mayonnaise (both served on thick cut bread), the rib-eye steak sandwich, the vegan crabcake, and the famous Reuben (hot or cold) on rye.

Of course, libations are a mainstay at the Ivy, but these, too, have undergone changes, as customers tastes have expanded. For example, points out Mr. Aton, “In the beginning, there were two choices of beer, now there are 40. There used to be one vodka and one kind of gin; now there are several choices. People have many more options now.

“We are also upgrading and expanding the wine with more varieties, but our prices are still very reasonable. We have a house red and a house white for $4.50, and others with a top price of $7.50. Our cocktails, including martinis and cosmopolitians, are $7.00.

Our motto has always been ‘At the Ivy Inn, every hour is happy hour.’”

The owners also emphasize that they are very strict about enforcing valid IDs and appropriate drinking behavior.

“All ages enjoy coming here,” points out Ms. Ryan. “They all know that they will be welcomed and valued. This is a place where people can come and be themselves, relax, be honest, without any pretense. At lunch and dinner, we get all ages, including people with families. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., it’s the younger crowd coming in for drinks.

Diverse Family

“We have always felt we are part of a diverse family here. Not just my own family — but the staff and the customers. It’s a true family atmosphere here. It’s just a nice place to be.”

Giving back to the community has always been a priority of the Ivy Inn, and Mr. Aton appreciates that quality. An unsuccessful Republican candidate for the new Princeton Council in the November election, he looks forward to continuing to contribute to the community.

“For me, getting involved in politics was an opportunity to give back. And you really see that at the Ivy. When you’re around the Ryan family, you see they are very giving, constantly having fund-raisers and helping out. And they do it just because it is right. This is a unique, diverse place, a place with history and character.”

The Ivy Inn can seat 50, including 18 at the bar and more at the booth and table areas. In addition, the renovated outdoor patio offers eight tables, and will be available in the spring. Private parties are also an option, as is catering service.

Live music is featured on Friday and Saturday, Karaoke on Wednesday and Thursday, and Quizzos trivia on Tuesday.

The Inn is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday noon to midnight. Lunch is offered from 11, and dinner is served until 9:30 p.m. (609) 921-8555. Website: www.ivyinnprince
ton.com.

March 20, 2013
“Southern Soul”: “We’re set apart by our style of cooking. It’s unique. It’s Southern; it’s soul; it’s comfort food. You can come in here and have a dinner that tastes great.” Peter (“P.J.”) Young, Jr., owner of Cafe 44 Fusion, looks forward to welcoming diners to his new restaurant.

“Southern Soul”: “We’re set apart by our style of cooking. It’s unique. It’s Southern; it’s soul; it’s comfort food. You can come in here and have a dinner that tastes great.” Peter (“P.J.”) Young, Jr., owner of Cafe 44 Fusion, looks forward to welcoming diners to his new restaurant.

The reviews are in, and they just keep getting better and better! Everyone who has sampled the dinners at Cafe 44 Fusion is ready to go back for more.

Just opened January 2, the restaurant is owned by Peter (‘P.J.”) Young, Jr., and offers “Southern Soul” food with a twist.

“We call it ‘Fusion’ because it’s really a mix of Southern/American food,” explains Mr. Young. “The focus is on Southern Soul food, such as fried chicken, fried fish, cajun shrimp, collard greens, sweet potato casserole, and spare ribs. But we also offer Surf ‘n’ Turf burger, stuffed with high quality crabmeat, and Jack ‘n’ blue grilled cheese — a marriage of Monterey Jack and blue cheese, served with apple chutney on whole grain bread. All entrees are served with two sides, such as French fries, macaroni and cheese, or collard greens, among others.”

Located at 44 Leigh Avenue, Cafe 44 Fusion shares the space with Cafe 44, the popular breakfast and lunch eatery.

Real Need

“Cafe 44 finishes up at 2 p.m., and then we open for dinner at 5,” says Mr. Young. “There was really nothing like our establishment in the area. So many people say to me, there is a real need for Southern cooking in Princeton. There is just nothing like it here.”

And Mr. Young definitely knows the area. He was born in Princeton Hospital, grew up on Leigh Avenue, graduated from Princeton High School, and served as a Princeton Township police officer for 20 years. Not only that, his parents, Peter Young, Sr. and Ricky Young owned the Koffee Kup diner at the very same location that Cafe 44 Fusion now occupies.

“I was really born into the business,” he explains. “My parents had a breakfast and lunch diner, and I used to help out. We lived upstairs, and as a boy, I brought in all the groceries. So when, I was able to open this, it was a dream come true. I had always been interested in cooking and good food. It was my background. This is reminiscent of my mother’s cooking and my grandmother’s too. She also lived on Leigh Avenue.

“I love this! It’s not like going to work, it’s like going home. I have all the memories; I hear the footsteps. I remember Christmas here; I remember my first bike here.”

Because of his long association with Princeton — he has also had successful real estate and landscaping businesses after his retirement from the police department in 2007 — Mr. Young is well-known in town. He has had no trouble getting customers to sample the fare at Cafe 44 Fusion.

“We are very encouraged. We’re getting people all the time and already have regulars, even in the short time we’ve been open. I see a lot of old friends and even those from my parents’ generation. We’re getting so much support from the local people. Most are from Princeton, but we expect to have people from around the area as time goes on. We are also very family-oriented, and we are glad to welcome families with children.”

Jambalaya Fritters

Customers are enjoying everything on the menu, he adds, including fried chicken with sweet potato waffle, shrimp “Po Boy” sandwich with cornmeal-crusted fried shrimp, lettuce, and tomato on a soft torpedo roll, with crabmeat mayonnaise.

Jambalaya fritters are another favorite with sausage, chicken, shrimp, peppers, and onions, delicately battered and fried — a “Chef’s Signature Creation.” Prices range from $4 to $22, with entrees typically at $11 to $16.

Mr. Young is very proud of the staff at Cafe 44 Fusion, including Chef Gina Jackson-Beale. “Chef Gina is outstanding. I’ve known her a long time — we went to high school together, and she used to bring me her homemade chocolate chip cookies! She attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, obtaining a culinary degree.

“We use the freshest ingredients, and we have special recipes passed down from generation to generation, both from my family and Chef Gina. We also cook to order. Everything is always fresh, not frozen. We also have rotating desserts, and always two on the menu, such as key lime pie, strawberry shortcake, sweet potato pie, and pineapple upside down cake.”

Outstanding Reviews

Cafe 44 Fusion’s reviews — both word of mouth and on-line — have been consistently outstanding. A recent diner reported that the restaurant “brings a new flair to the Princeton restaurant industry …. You feel the owner’s passion in both the food and the excellent service. The head chef Gina Jackson-Beale is on top of her game, and I guarantee the spot will become one of your favorites. Everything was super delicious!”

Cafe 44 fusion can seat 50, and also offers take-out. It will soon add catering to its service. Live music is available on selected nights.

The restaurant does not have a liquor license, but customers are welcome to bring wine, and set-ups are available. Cafe 44 Fusion is currently cash only, with an ATM machine on-site.

“I am enjoying this so much,” says Mr. Young. “I am definitely a hands-on owner, and I like meeting all the customers. I’m a local guy, and I greet and seat everyone. I like it when people feel full, and their plates are empty. I like to see a smile on their face; then I know I have done my job. And, I am proud that I am carrying on my parents’ tradition.”

Cafe 44 Fusion is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. (609) 924-3900. Website: www.cafe44fusion.com.

HAND-CRAFTED: “I make unfinished knotty pine bookcases in assorted sizes, including four stock sizes. These have been very popular, and we’ve been selling a lot of them.” Michael Oliver, co-owner of Skillman’s Furniture Store on Alexander Street, is shown with a selection of his handmade bookcases.

HAND-CRAFTED: “I make unfinished knotty pine bookcases in assorted sizes, including four stock sizes. These have been very popular, and we’ve been selling a lot of them.” Michael Oliver, co-owner of Skillman’s Furniture Store on Alexander Street, is shown with a selection of his handmade bookcases.

History detectives will have an intriguing puzzle to solve at Skillman’s Furniture Store at 212 Alexander Street. Does it date back to 1743, as The Business Founding Date Directory suggests? Or was its beginning in 1863 in accordance with Mercer County’s honoring of Skillman in 1988 “as a distinguished representative of the Mercer County business community, in recognition of its continued service to Mercer County for 125 years?”

Michael Oliver and his mother Vivian Oliver, owners of Skillman, aren’t sure, although it is certain that the Skillman family was well-known in Princeton for many generations. Thomas Skillman is thought by some to be the company’s founder, when it was known as the Skillman Express Storage & Furniture Exchange. In later incarnations, it became the Skillman Express Freight Piano and Furniture Mover, and then as recently as 1935, the Skillman Express Storage & Warehouse: Leading Local & Long Distance Movers, Expert Packers, Craters & Shippers, Rug Cleaning and Moth-proofing.

Its early existence focused on moving and storing furniture, which it continued to do until 1988, when the company relinquished its moving license. From then on, it has emphasized buying and selling previously-owned furniture.

From 1947 to the mid 1950s the furniture business was located in the Benson building on the corner of Witherspoon and Spring streets, notes Vivian Oliver. “At that time, they sold and rented furniture. Years ago, the Princeton University students had to furnish their own rooms. Beds were $3 and chairs were $2!”

Mrs. Oliver’s late husband Paul was the stepson of Roy Skillman, who owned the business until his death in the late 1950s. Paul and his brother James began operating Skillman in 1960.

“Roy and his wife, Bertha lived in the current building, which dates to the 1800s,” reports Michael Oliver. “My brother and I always helped out in the store when we were boys, and I began working full-time in 1976.”

Hidden Treasures

With its strong foundation already established, Skillman’s has continued to flourish under his and his mother’s stewardship. Buying and selling used furniture, as well as offering reasonably priced new pieces is the focus of the business today, and not only does it fill an important need, the place is full of hidden treasures!

“We have one of the largest selections of second-hand furniture in central New Jersey,” says Mr. Oliver. “We also carry a line of inexpensive new items for the home and dormitory.”

Used items vary from inexpensive to top-name brands at affordable prices and from fair to excellent “like new” condition.

Customers can browse in the main store, where items are conveniently displayed with prices easily visible, or in the adjacent warehouse, filled with a tremendous variety of chairs, tables, sofas, bookcases, chest, cabinets — and much more

Mr. Oliver obtains items from people in the area, within a 15-mile radius, and the pieces have to meet his standards. “The condition of the item is important. It must be well-made, and something that will be in demand. When I go to a home, I’ll usually pick up more than one item.

“Also, today some people e-mail us with pictures of items they want to sell. Or they can send a photo by regular mail. This can save me a trip, if I know right away that it wouldn’t work for us.”

Great Mix

What does work for Skillman is a great mix of functional pieces at great prices. The customers are from all over — even New York and Philadelphia — and are all ages and backgrounds. A lot of people check out the website, reports Mr. Oliver.

“In the fall, we do a big business with Princeton students, who are getting things for their rooms. The students always want sofas and recliners. We also get young newly married couples, who are looking for dinettes or bedroom pieces and sometimes older people come in, who are downsizing, and moving to a smaller house. Then, they’ll need a few things.

“Right now,” he continues, “smaller dinette sets are very popular — we have four new styles in — and also the new counter-height tables and bar stools. There is also a lot of interest in Danish modern and other retro modern furniture.”

Futons are very popular, too, he adds, along with coffee tables, night stands, coat racks, and accessories, such as lamps and mirrors.

“We get things in all the time. We just got two love seats, a chaise lounge, and an ottoman. A great buy is a 9-piece dining room set, with six chairs, table, china closet, and buffet for $1200. We also have very handsome secretaries, including one in solid cherry, and a Lane cedar chest is in very good condition.”

Other pieces include a solid cherry writing desk, roll-top desk in oak, and a large traditional square desk suitable for a study or den. A charming tall candlestand table with cherry finish is a fitting spot for a lamp, and a camelback sofa — even a church pew! — are other special “finds” at Skillman.

Cheval Mirrors

Among the new, not previously-owned, pieces is a selection of 3-panel, tri-fold Zen screen dividers; wooden coat rack in different finishes; full-length tilted cheval mirrors, also available in different finishes; a 5-piece counter-height dining set, with table and four stools; a Queen Anne occasional table in cherry finish; coffee table and two end tables offered as a set of three for $89, coffee table only for $49, or two end tables for $49.

Other prices include lamps at $9, children’s desks at $8 or $9, coat racks at $35, sofas from $99 to $359, and screens at $69.

Mr. Oliver attributes Skillman’s success to its selection of good quality items at reasonable prices. “If people need it and the price is right, they will buy it. Even though the cost of doing business today is high, we really keep the prices affordable.

“I enjoy going to all the different homes, meeting the people, and looking at all the different furniture.”

He also confesses to a special attachment to some of the pieces that come in. “It’s how my house got furnished!”

Skillman is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 to 1. (609) 924-1881.

Website: www.skillmanfurniture.com

March 13, 2013
MYSTICAL, MAGICAL YOGA: “Yoga is so good for the mind and the body. It brings such clarity. When you challenge yourself physically, it hones your focus. When you leave the studio, the choices you make in life are clearer.” Lara Heimann, owner of YogaStream on Spring Street, is enthusiastic about her Yoga Alliance style of instruction.

MYSTICAL, MAGICAL YOGA: “Yoga is so good for the mind and the body. It brings such clarity. When you challenge yourself physically, it hones your focus. When you leave the studio, the choices you make in life are clearer.” Lara Heimann, owner of YogaStream on Spring Street, is enthusiastic about her Yoga Alliance style of instruction.

It offers an hour of calm and quiet. No phones, no tweets, no e-mails, no texts. It provides experiences focused on strengthening, stretching, movement, and breathing. It can be a memorable — even mystical and magical — mind and body adventure that is fulfilling in many ways.

Indeed, yoga, which continues to grow in popularity in the United States, is essential to many people today, an integral part of their life-style.

YogaStream, the new yoga studio at 44 Spring Street (in the rear of the Judy King Interiors building, with an entrance on North Tulane) offers Yoga Alliance-certified instruction with a focus on alignment, core strengthening, movement, and breathing.

Founder and owner Lara Heimann has more than 15 years experience teaching yoga in Princeton, as well as a master’s degree in physical therapy. She completed her 200-hour Yoga Alliance certification in 1999, and continued her yoga study in more advanced teacher trainings. Her great interest in anatomy and creative movement led her to develop her own style, YogaStream.

Creative Sequences

“YogaStream is an energizing, alignment-based and core-focused style of yoga that taps into your innate current of strength with each practice. Our classes incorporate a variety of playful exercises and inversions to improve strength, flexibility, and endurance,” explains Ms. Heimann. “Each practice starts with core work and inversions to ready the body for the flow. In the flow, a series of sequences are ultimately streamed together. It is basically vinyasa-style yoga combining movement and breath. It is based on creative sequences that make sense and flow. This fluidity sharpens your focus, empowers your body, and clears your mind.”

Yoga is both calming and energizing, she adds. “You feel more alert and awake when you leave, more connected. Yoga is a connection of mind and body, and gives us mental and physical strength.”

Ms. Heimann’s classes typically consist of five to 28 students. The attractive, sunny, light, and roomy space afford an opportunity for clients to practice without being crowded or cramped. Classes last an hour and 15 minutes, with a special lunch time “Expresso” class available for one hour.

Students are primarily women, but men enjoy yoga too, and a class just for guys, “Dude”, is provided Sunday morning.

Ms. Heimann offers 18 classes a week for different levels of ability and experience. Level 1/2 or “Smooth” is for students with some experience and can be challenging; Level 2/3 or “Move”, focuses on more arm balance and inversions; and Level 3 or “Groove”, is very challenging.

In February, Ms. Heimann will start a new class, “Source” for beginners, which will be available for five weeks.

Highest Potential

“I teach to the highest potential of every student,” she notes. “People can do more than they realize. I also have students with particular conditions, such as tendinitis, arthritis, and back problems, etc. They can all benefit from yoga. Because of my experience as a physical therapist, I understand the muscles and how things work.

“Many of our students come three to five times a week,” she continues. “Once a week is better than nothing; twice a week is more toward maintenance; and three times a week is when the magic happens — when change occurs. People lose weight, get stronger, and have fewer injuries. Because of proper alignment, they have better balance. And alignment also helps you grow and improve. People can achieve different and more challenging postures.”

Because one is concentrating intently during a yoga class and is basically free from anxiety, it can help reduce stress, adds Ms. Heimann. “It gives students a sense of empowerment. Another thing, our classes have cardio and weight-bearing exercises. There is no better work-out than YogaStream.”

Classes are $20 each, and $15 for students and seniors. A mixed level community class at 6:15 p.m. on Mondays is donation-based, with all proceeds going to HomeFront. “Budget can be an issue, and we want to enable as many people as possible to come,” she explains.

Way of Life

Gift cards are also available, and are an excellent way to introduce people to the benefits of yoga.

A special open house will be held on Sunday, January 13, with refreshments and two complimentary classes, from 11 to 12:15 and 1 to 2:15.

Over the years, Ms. Heimann has had many students for whom the practice of yoga has become a way of life. “Practicing yoga with Lara has absolutely changed my life,” says a long-time student. “Sometimes I master things in the studio, but more often, I master things that I can take out of the studio and into my life.”

Adds another: “I’ve learned more in Lara’s 2-hour YogaStream workshop than I did in a full year of regular yoga classes.” And according to a third: “Lara’s compassion and love for teaching comes shining through in every class. In her class, I have never felt overweight, out of shape, slow, lazy, or ‘less than’; and after her class, I feel renewed and alive.”

And, as Ms. Heimann says, “What we have here is a real sense of community. There is a true bond. People often stay after the class to be together and talk. When they come to my class, students know they will have quality instruction, but also this sense of community. I look forward to building our yoga community and exposing more people to quality yoga.

“I am so passionate about it. It’s a life-style. You are more connected to things that matter. It’s transformative and life-changing. I am so lucky I get to do something I love!”

In addition to the regular yoga classes, YogaStream offers workshops, retreats and teacher training. (609) 947-5335. Check the website for hours and further information. www.yogastream.net.

PERFECT PIE: “I’m here every day. It’s important to be here and see the customers. People have been coming to us for more than 30 years, and we always treat them with courtesy and respect.” Nino Spera, owner of Nino’s Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping Center, holds two of the pizzeria’s specialties: the “Buffalo” and the “Brooklyn” pizzas.

PERFECT PIE: “I’m here every day. It’s important to be here and see the customers. People have been coming to us for more than 30 years, and we always treat them with courtesy and respect.” Nino Spera, owner of Nino’s Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping Center, holds two of the pizzeria’s specialties: the “Buffalo” and the “Brooklyn” pizzas.

It’s a favorite of nearly everyone. First introduced in Italy in the 1500s, so the story goes, it made its way to the United States in 1905, and was introduced in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Whether it’s a slice or a whole pie, plain with cheese and tomato sauce, or with “the works”, pizza has become a staple in the American diet. It’s on just about everyone’s menu.

“Pizza is so popular because it’s good for you — with the cheese, tomato sauce, veggies, and the protein. And it tastes good!” says Nino Spera, owner of Nino’s Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping Center. “And our pizza is set apart because we make fresh dough every day. Nothing is frozen, everything is fresh. We cook the sausage ourselves, and we have our own special recipes, developed by my father and me.”

Customers have been coming to the popular pizzeria for more than 30 years, and they know they can count not only on great-tasting pizza but friendly service as well.

Family Tradition

“We have so many loyal and regular customers, and we always make them feel welcome,” says Mr. Spera, who purchased Pizza Star with his father Giuseppe Spera in 1977. He is proud to be carrying on the tradition of his family’s pizza business.

“My father had a pizza business in Wildwood, and I really grew up in it,” he recalls. “I started to make pizzas when I was 13, working with my uncle in Pizza City in Trenton.”

And he still makes them today. Not only is he a hands-on owner, he takes pride in creating pizzas of every kind. “Some of our specialties are the “Buffalo”, honey barbecue, Margherita, and the ‘Brooklyn,’” adds Mr. Spera, who was born in Sicily, and came to the U.S. when he was 10.

“This is the best pizza ever — the flavor is fantastic!” said a customer recently about the “Brooklyn”, which features fresh plum tomatoes, basil, Buffalo mozzarella, and mozzarella.

Other favorites include spinach, broccoli, and ricotta pizzas, and of course, all the popular toppings, from pepperoni and sausage to mushrooms, olives, anchovies, and peppers.

In addition to pizza, Nino’s offers a variety of Italian specialties, from every kind of pasta dish to such Italian favorites as sausage with peppers, veal parmigiana,  veal marsala, and chicken cacciatore, and the ever popular calzone and stromboli sandwiches. Hot and cold subs as well as veggie subs are available, and for special events, a 3-foot hoagie is offered. Cheesesteaks and cheese burgers are another favorite option.

Colorful Murals

Mr. Spera has expanded the menu in the past few years, and the establishment has become more of a popular setting for sit-down dining. It is an attractive spot, with its colorful murals displaying scenes of Tuscany, and there is seating for 70.

“We’ve been expanding and improving the menu recently, and my wife Daniela has been very involved in this,” says Mr. Spera. “She has added special salads, and also helps with the catering, which is a growing part of our business.

“We have a special homemade soup of the day, and our salads include arugula with goat cheese, aged olives, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil; spinach salad with white raisins, sliced almonds, sliced reggiano parmiagiana; and caprese salad with wet mozzarella and mozzarella, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper, oil, and garlic, among many others.

“We also have a terrific Pizza Star antipasto, with assorted cheeses, meats, olives, and anchovies, served over lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.”

Seafood entrees are growing in popularity, too, and include everything from shrimp scampi to calamari marinara and mussels marinara.

Beverages range from sodas, juices, and coffee to the popular new bai specialty. There is no liquor license, but customers are welcome to bring wine or spirits of their choice.

Wide Range

Pizza Star is also known for its popular Italian desserts, such as tiramisu and cannoli, as well as for its soft and hard ice cream.

Prices cover a wide range, with a slice starting at $2.40 and a medium plain pie at $13.50. Cheesesteak sandwiches are $8.75, subs from $7.50 (veggie), and pasta entrees from $11.25.

Even with the attractive expanded menu, for many customers, the focus at Nino’s is still pizza,” says longtime customer and Princeton resident Mark Jaffe. “I swear by this place, and I swear by this pizza! It’s authentic, excellent pizza. I’ve been coming here for 30 years, and it’s an Italian jewel! The owner is here, and the staff is loyal and friendly. Nino and the staff love being here and have a true Italian passion for food.”

Such accolades are not unusual, and Mr. Spera is grateful to his loyal customers and looks forward to serving them and meeting new ones. “The customers know they can count on us for the best pizza and service. And the shopping center location has been great. The parking is so easy and convenient. We are one of the oldest tenants here, and I look forward to continuing to be here a long time. I love meeting all the people. It’s socializing for me, a pleasure.”

Nino’s Pizza Star offers take-out and sit-down from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 to 11:30 Friday and Saturday. Delivery is also available. (609) 921-7422. Website:www.ninopizzastar.com.

March 6, 2013
NEW YEAR, NEW LOOK: “We offer very personalized service. Clients are never rushed. Everything is customized. We have different products and treatments for all skin conditions, and all different colors in nail polish.” Eva Korzeniowski (center), owner of EVA Nail & Skin Care Studio, is shown with nail technicians Izabela Gromek and Agnieszka Ciesla.

NEW YEAR, NEW LOOK: “We offer very personalized service. Clients are never rushed. Everything is customized. We have different products and treatments for all skin conditions, and all different colors in nail polish.” Eva Korzeniowski (center), owner of EVA Nail & Skin Care Studio, is shown with nail technicians Izabela Gromek and Agnieszka Ciesla.

Face the future with a facial from Eva!

Indeed, EVA Nail & Skin Care Studio offers a variety of facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, and waxing for clients, including women and men of every age.

Owner and aesthetician Eva Korzeniowski recently reopened her studio at 227 Washington Road in Princeton Junction. She owns another studio in the Princeton Arms Center, 2025 Old Trenton Road in West Windsor.

Eva trained as an aesthetician in Poland, working with dermatologists, before emigrating first to Canada and then to the U.S. more than 25 years ago.

Quality Treatments

Always an essential in Europe, skin care has become more important in the United States in recent years, reports Eva. She worked with other cosmetologists in the Princeton area before opening her own studio, which focuses on the most up-to-date quality treatments and products.

“For example,” she points out, “for our pedicures, we use a disposable insert, so the procedure is very hygienic. This is a new apparatus, and you can’t be too careful about safe hygiene.”

The hour-long pedicures include soaking, exfoliation, foot massage, and polish, adds Eva. Clients often come once a month for pedicures, once a week for manicures, which include a hand massage. Square cut nails are more popular than ovals these days, and artificial nails are definitely in demand.

“We have acrylic, gel, and Shellac from CND — Creative Nail Design,” notes Eva. “In the case of Shellac, we cover the natural nail with the Shellac — a colored gel — and it is ‘cured’ with a special lamp. There are many colors available.”

Many girls and women like polish in a variety of colors, not just red or pink. “The different colors, such as dark brown, blue, green, purple, etc., began coming in about 15 years ago,” reports Eva. “Right now, light and dark gray are the most popular.”

Also, it’s never too late. As she says, “We have a customer, an 80-year-old lady, who came in, and had her nails painted green for St. Patrick’s Day!” Some of our nail technicians are artists. They can paint little designs on the nails, such as snowmen, etc., for the holidays and other special occasions.”

French Tips

French tips, which feature white nail tips, are another favorite for many clients. In addition, says Eva, “Some people just want their nails to be buffed. The main thing we want is for our clients’ nails to be healthy.”

Waxing is another important service at the studio, with brow, lip, and bikini the most popular treatments, as well as legs.

In addition, facials and massages account for a large part of Eva’s business. “We have individual facials for every skin type,” notes Eva “Not only are facials beneficial for the skin, they are soothing and provide clients with an hour and a half of relaxation. We have two types of cleansing, then peeling, steaming, antiseptic treatment, extraction, massage with moisturizing cream, mask, and finishing cream.

“We offer deep exfoliation, which removes the dead skin. The facials stimulate the circulation and help the lymphatic drainage system.”

With scores of Baby Boomers reaching “a certain age”, anti-aging facials for mature skin are in demand; and at the other end of the spectrum, “A signature service is our special acne treatment for teens and young people. We have specific products for them, and it’s very important to emphasize cleanliness” says Eva, who also advises clients about home treatments to maintain their skin in the best condition.

“I really enjoy doing the facials,” she continues. “My experience determines which is the best facial for the individual. We can also mix products for the best result. We have two facial rooms, including heated beds, which are also used for massages and waxing. There are separate areas for pedicures and manicures.

Special Line

“We use a special line of French products from Yon-ka. They are based on aromatherapy and have a very natural scent. The product for peeling contains all-natural ingredients featuring citrus. You can even sleep with it on all night. The product is so scrumptious that you really feel you are doing your skin a favor.”

Eva has had many regular customers from the Princeton area over the years, and even from as far away as the Poconos. She also welcomes new clients all the time.

“We provide a warm, welcoming, and relaxing atmosphere, and our clients feel very comfortable. I enjoy talking with the women and giving them positive reinforcement. I recommend that people come in at least four times a year, seasonally, for facials, even if they cannot come more often. We offer competitive prices for all our services.

“We are set apart because we have the best all-natural products, and because our staff is so experienced, and offers such high quality service. We also have continuing education, and attend seminars regarding all the new products. I look forward to continuing to help people look and feel better!”

Eva’s studio is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 to 4, and by special appointment. (609) 448-5666. Website: evanailandskincare.com.

PERFECT FIT: “Working in divorce law was a perfect fit for my background in the mental health field. Now, I am involved in collaborative law, which is an enlightened new approach to divorce.” Christopher R. Barbrack, Esq., has also received numerous degrees, including a PhD in psychology, served as a tenured professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, and had a practice in clinical psychology in Princeton before attending law school.

PERFECT FIT: “Working in divorce law was a perfect fit for my background in the mental health field. Now, I am involved in collaborative law, which is an enlightened new approach to divorce.” Christopher R. Barbrack, Esq., has also received numerous degrees, including a PhD in psychology, served as a tenured professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, and had a practice in clinical psychology in Princeton before attending law school.

Helping people, whether in his role as psychologist or lawyer, is the mission of Christopher R. Barbrack, Esq. He has been doing this since his graduation from Iona College with a BA in psychology, an MA and ABD from Columbia University, and a PhD from Indiana University.

After studying and working in Indiana, Florida, and Tennessee, Mr. Barbrack settled in Princeton in 1981. He established a practice as a clinical psychologist, and was also a tenured associate professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, where he lectured, and wrote on topics of psychotherapy, clinical supervision, and statistics/experimental design.

In addition, he served as a clinical psychologist at the Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead, as well as at the Princeton Center for Neuropsychological Evaluation and Rehabilitation, where he saw a wide variety of outpatients for assessment and psychotherapy.

Mr. Barbrack also spent time in the Union County Public Defender’s office in Elizabeth, conducting psychological and neuro-psychological examinations of defendants charged with capital crimes.

Process of the Law

“I enjoyed my practice in clinical psychology, and I loved teaching at Rutgers,” he says. In 1986, however, he decided to leave his psychology practice and go to law school. Switching gears, but not focus, he earned a JD degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and New York.

“My wife is a lawyer, and I liked the process of the law. For a lawyer, the results are very obvious. You get an answer. You win or lose a case. You get the divorce settlement.”

“My life presents me with several challenges to think about and spend time and energy on,” he explains. “One, to help those who are least able to help themselves, which in my case are children trapped in divorcing families where the parents are swamped by emotional turmoil. I should add to this my work with undocumented immigrants. Two, to continue to study. As professionals mature, they can coast on what they already know. This is comfortable for them, but makes me uncomfortable. Three, to continue to hone my listening skills. I worked on this as a psychologist and do so as an attorney.”

After graduation in 1989, and passing the bar in New Jersey and New York, Mr. Barbrack worked as a solo practitioner in general law with emphasis on family law. He later served as a trial lawyer as the plaintiff’s attorney in medical malpractice cases.

Welfare of Others

His concern for the welfare of others drew him to consider another aspect of the law, especially in regard to divorce cases. As he explains, “Traditionally, a divorce lawyer represents a client, and the bill goes up and up and up. You bring in experts, and a case can go on for years, ultimately going to court. This bothered me. For more than 20 years, I have been a critic of using psychologists in helping courts make decisions about children in divorce. There should be more of a widespread awareness that the field of clinical psychology has almost nothing to offer the child custody decision-making process — at least there is no good science to verify it.”

These reservations about traditional divorce law led him to a new way of managing these cases. “I went into collaborative law, which is a new approach. In collaborative law, you get people together. Each client has a lawyer, and they all sit together in the same room. Before we start, everyone signs a pledge that says we will never go to court. We want to achieve a solution before it gets to that. Also, the first thing we say is ‘Are you sure you want to do this? Is there no way to save the marriage?’ If not, then we are committed to achieving an amicable solution.”

Mr. Barbrack says that it can take as little as six months to reach a settlement, with sessions lasting from one to three hours.

If the services of an expert in a particular field are needed, the collaborative law approach is to rely on just one, he points out. “We will rely on that one person, and everyone agrees to this. One of the major attractions for me about collaborative divorce law is that it moves the psychologist from conducting always costly and sometimes damaging child custody evaluations to a place where the psychologist can participate in the collaborative process and work directly on helping families through the divorce and setting the stage for a good aftermath.

Emotional Issues

“Also,” he continues, “if there are emotional issues involved, such as a spouse leaving the marriage for another person, a coach or mental health therapist can be brought in. If a client is so upset and angry, they may need help to find a way to get past it in order to move on.

“The idea is to get people to focus on their needs and goals, and always, when children are involved, to think of what will be best for them. The parents have to separate their own issues and problems and concentrate on the children’s needs. It is very important for the children to have a stable, secure home during and after a divorce. Both for them and the society. We want them to grow up to be productive citizens.”

Mr. Barbrack adds that in some cases, such as those involving domestic or child abuse, collaborative law may not be effective.

Overall, however, it is a smoother, less contentious process, reducing the amount of dissension and bitterness. Custody arrangements are worked out for children — and even pets — with the least amount of difficulty and dissatisfaction.

Immigration Law

“Over the years, both as a psychologist and a lawyer, I have learned that you never know the trouble people are dealing with,” points out Mr. Barbrack. “Some people are really heroes handling all they are going through.”

He also devotes part of his practice to immigration law, and he serves on the Advisory Board of the Latin American Legal Defense Fund in Trenton. “I am very moved by the undocumented immigrants in Princeton, and other lawyers and I are helping them with the application process for the Deferred Action Program. This is for those people who have been in the United States for at least five years since the age of 16 or younger. It is aimed at keeping them from being sent back to their native country.”

During his time as a psychologist, and now as a lawyer, Mr. Barbrack has written more than 100 articles, book chapters, professional presentations, and technical reports in law and psychology. He has served on the subcommittee on regulations of the New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners, and has been a frequent lecturer at the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Education. He has also participated in numerous workshops and conventions.

A fan of Princeton, Mr. Barbrack looks forward to continuing his practice here. “Princeton is a diverse community in almost every way and is home to many very interesting and accomplished people.

“The famous psychoanalyst Eric Ericson wrote about the development of people from birth to old age. The challenges of my developmental stage involve finding meaning in everyday life and continuing to be a ‘player’ on whatever stage I find myself. Fortunately, I much prefer work to vacations so I have plenty of opportunities for fulfillment.”

Mr. Barbrack’s hours are by appointment, including evenings and weekends. (609) 497-1111. Website: www.barbrack.com.

February 20, 2013
FRIENDLY FITNESS: “I want women to come in and feel they are trying on clothes in a friend’s home. I wanted to create an elegant and serene environment, where women will feel comfortable and happy to shop.” Liz Compton, owner of Perfect Performance Fitness & Dancewear, is enthusiastic about her new store.

FRIENDLY FITNESS: “I want women to come in and feel they are trying on clothes in a friend’s home. I wanted to create an elegant and serene environment, where women will feel comfortable and happy to shop.” Liz Compton, owner of Perfect Performance Fitness & Dancewear, is enthusiastic about her new store.

Perfect Performance Fitness & Dancewear at 25 Route 31 South, Suite 11B in Pennington is the place to go for work-out aficianadas and dancers. This new shop opened last August, and has a great selection of fitness and dancewear for all ages. Little leotards, tutus, and tights for tots, as well as a complete selection for adult exercise enthusiasts and dancers are all on display.

“This is a new adventure for me,” says owner Liz Compton. “I had previously worked in sales and marketing consulting, but when this space became available, I saw an opportunity for something different. When an opportunity presents itself, I don’t think you should let it go by. I decided to offer dancewear for kids and adults and fitness wear. My children dance, and I danced as a girl, and I am familiar with the dance world.”

In addition to her enthusiasm for tap dancing, Ms. Compton goes to the gym, and knows what is comfortable and conducive to good work-outs. “A lot of people in this area are pretty religious about their work-outs,” she points out. “And another thing, nowadays, women can wear work-out clothes all the time. This clothing is very versatile and comfortable, and quite acceptable to wear in other settings.”

A selection of regular sportswear, including sweaters, tops, and fun vests that can fold into a little bag, is available.

Fashionable and Functional

Indeed, the choices at Perfect Performance offer options that are versatile and interchangeable. Tops and pants are fashionable as well as functional.

“The Beyond Yoga line is really fantastic,” reports Ms. Compton. “The PrismSport line has a lot of colorful patterns, with little skirts that can be worn over tights or leggings. And almost all of our inventory is made in the U.S. A lot is cotton and organic cotton. We also have a lot of high performance fabrics. Color is very personal. Some people are most comfortable in dark pants; others like brighter colors, and remember, patterned work-out pants can hide bulges, ripples, and sweat!”

Ms. Compton also points out that she doesn’t carry a lot of the same items and that customers will not see her outfits elsewhere. “First, there is really nothing here like our shop. In a town like this, I didn’t want two women on the treadmill next to each other finding themselves wearing the same thing. I decided to get a big variety of clothes. For as many types of different body shapes, there is a piece of work-out clothing for someone. It’s important to find out what a person is comfortable in and what works for her.”

The dancewear section offers a selection of tights and leotards for girls and adults, as well as dance shoes, including ballet, tap, and ballroom, from Capezio and Block and others.

The shop also offers a selection of jewelry and accessories, such as SweatyBands headbands, handbags, travel bags, I.D. and cell phone cases from Cinda B?, and little clutches. Sports bras include “Coobics Bee” for total comfort, with one size fitting most. A variety of small items for children, including stuffed animals, ballerina music boxes, and little jewelry boxes, is also available.

Ms. Compton enjoys talking with customers and getting to know them and their tastes. “I like to talk with customers who come in, and I’ll often get information from them. I like to have their recommendations, and I do special orders. I’m still honing the inventory according to customers’ tastes, and I really love talking to them.”

Styles for Everyone

Prices are mid-range, she adds. Sports bras are $20; jewelry from $15, and regular sales are offered.

“What I especially want to emphasize is our personal service, and that women will be very comfortable here,” says Ms. Compton. “I want them to feel that they are buying clothes from a peer, who faces all the same insecurities and body issues they do. I am my client! I work out, and I sure know a lot about shopping! We have styles for everyone — whether they are serious athletes or those who just want comfortable, flattering clothes to enjoy life in.

“And, we’re still a work in progress. I look forward to the store evolving. I want Perfect Performance to be the place that people think of when they say, ‘Oh, I need a pair of work-out pants.’ And it’s super fun for me to go somewhere and see someone wearing something they got here. I am so encouraged already. We’ve only been opened a few months, and we have regular customers already.”

Perfect Performance offers gift cards, and gift packaging, and is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday 12 to 8, Saturday 9 to 4. (609) 303-0320.

HEALTHCARE HELP: “We help clients manage their healthcare, go with them to doctor’s appointments and to the hospital, help explain a diagnosis and treatment, help clients with bill review, and defend them in disputes.” John Karlen, partner in Affinity Healthcare Advocates and Danielle Daab RN, MSN, RN Advocate, look forward to introducing people to the special assistance they can provide.

HEALTHCARE HELP: “We help clients manage their healthcare, go with them to doctor’s appointments and to the hospital, help explain a diagnosis and treatment, help clients with bill review, and defend them in disputes.” John Karlen, partner in Affinity Healthcare Advocates and Danielle Daab RN, MSN, RN Advocate, look forward to introducing people to the special assistance they can provide.

It’s always in the news these days. How does one handle healthcare? So many options are out there — “Obamacare”, numerous insurance plans with Plan A through Z, and for the mature population: Medicare and various supplementary healthcare advantage plans.

Figuring it all out is challenging, even if one isn’t sick! If illness is part of the equation, everything intensifies, and if it’s serious, fear becomes a factor.

As Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy MD points out, “Listening carefully to your doctor and asking questions about a diagnosis or test results can help you get better care. But here’s the problem: just when you should be paying close attention to what your doctor is saying, you may be stunned by the news you just received. That’s when having a health or patient advocate, who can write down information, and speak up for you, so you can better understand your illness and get the care and assistance you need, can help.”

It is a lot to handle, and the mission of Affinity Healthcare Advocates(AHA) is to help their clients navigate the healthcare maze at every level, by relieving them of some of the stress and worry during what can be a very time-consuming and confusing procedure.

Valuable Service

“It’s coordinating the process, explaining what needs to be done, explaining what the medical treatments and options are,” says John Karlen, partner in the firm with his wife Patty Karlen, chief operating officer. “By having an advocate, the patient will receive better treatment and care.”

“This is such a valuable service,” adds Danielle Daab, RN, MSN, and RN Advocate, who helps patients from their initial evaluation through their diagnosis and treatments. “This is a new adventure for me, a different aspect of nursing, and I am really looking forward to it.”

The concept began with his wife Patty Karlen RN, BSN,, reports Mr. Karlen. “She has been a nurse for 34 years, formerly at the Kaiser Hospital Research Clinic in Portland, Oregon, and then with Princeton Healthcare at the University Medical Center at Princeton. Most recently, she has been with Ingham County Well Child Clinic in Michigan.

“Patty saw the need to help patients who were challenged and confused by many of the areas involving their healthcare, and developed this idea of a support system for them. We are the advocate for the patient.”

Formerly president of Conventus, an insurance company in New Jersey, he is now partner in AHA, and oversees the business operation. “We are faced with an increasingly complex and rapidly changing healthcare system,” he explains. “There are many nuances to each disease and for each patient. With several new strategies of medical care available via medical innovation, the patient and family need to be fully aware of the remedies offered to them for the most efficient and best care.”

According to the National Advocacy Association, clients are typically people 65 and over, but one quarter are children, he adds. “Our standard customer is an individual who has been successful and is used to having professionals assist him or her. These people are accustomed to having financial advisors, lawyers when needed, bankers, etc. These professionals help them manage their life affairs.

12 Minutes

“People are living longer, and can often have more ailments as they age. They may have a complicated or chronic, medical situation, such as diabetes or heart issues. In previous times, a doctor had an hour to spend explaining the situation to the patient. Now, typically, a physician has 12 minutes to spend with them. The doctor hardly has time to explain the options.”

This is an opportunity for the AHA team to launch into action. In this case, the “First Responder” is the nurse in charge, Danielle Daab. As the program grows, other nurses will be included.

“Danielle was our first hire,” notes Mr. Karlen. “We currently have three nurses on the staff, and we expect this to increase as we expand. The RN can spend two to three hours during the initial visit and complete a comprehensive evaluation and questionnaire about health and family history. It’s an opportunity to get to know the person and their family, and of course, to learn about their medical conditions.”

Affinity Health Advocates will cover the Princeton area, as well as Ocean and Monmouth Counties. The initial evaluation is $150, and if clients sign up for the service, they pay an hourly fee, receiving a monthly bill.

Medical Conditions

“It’s very important to get the word out, and let people know about this important service,” says Mr. Karlen. “My dad is in Oregon, and he has an advocate, Kathy. She’s an important part of his life, and I actually think he prefers to see her more than me! I expect the relationship my dad has with Kathy is what will develop with Danielle and her clients. She will be the valuable consulting person to help them with their most complicated medical conditions. This is making a difference in their lives.

“I’m looking forward to getting letters from families, saying what a help we have been and that they can’t get along without Danielle!”

And, adds Ms. Daab: “The best thing is having an impact on someone’s life and having a good outcome. I love to meet a person and hear about their life and health history and their family situation, and then put all the pieces together to help them. I want to be of service to the patients. It’s important to listen to people.”

“There is really nothing like AHA in the area,” says Mr. Karlen. “In the future, health insurance might even cover this. We think of Affinity Healthcare Advocates as a bridge to better health. We improve the quality of life for our customers and their families through our network of experts.”

AHA is located at 116 Village Boulevard in Forrestal Village, and can be reached at (609) 951-2244. Website: www.affinityadvocate.com.

January 16, 2013
DINING OUT: “We like to offer comfort food. We have larger portions, with an attractive, straightforward presentation. Our food is from different cultures, and we take the best features of each, and come up with a unique cuisine.” Chef/co-owner Mark Valenza of Za Restaurant in Pennington is shown in the popular Wisteria Garden, which offers al fresco dining in warm weather.

DINING OUT: “We like to offer comfort food. We have larger portions, with an attractive, straightforward presentation. Our food is from different cultures, and we take the best features of each, and come up with a unique cuisine.” Chef/co-owner Mark Valenza of Za Restaurant in Pennington is shown in the popular Wisteria Garden, which offers al fresco dining in warm weather.

Za Restaurant is a special place. Its distinctive “cross cultural comfort cuisine” delights many diners, both regulars and those discovering the restaurant for the first time. Its welcoming setting and decor, featuring colors of yellow, pink, coral, and burgundy, with handsome shade panels, fresh linens, and hanging lanterns invites customers to linger over lunch or dinner.

Opened in 2006 at 147 West Delaware Avenue in Pennington (across from the Pennington Market), Za is the creation of brothers and co-owners Mark and Chaz Valenza. Chef Mark, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute (voted top of his class by the Master Chef faculty), had also worked at the Frenchtown Inn in Hunterdon County, and at Nodo and The Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton.

“It was always Mark’s hope to have his own restaurant,” says Chaz Valenza, who oversees the business end of the restaurant. While the menu is upscale, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, he adds. “What is really unique about us is that we are not a stuffy ‘quiet’ restaurant. There is no dress code; it’s ‘come as you are’, and we want people to relax and enjoy themselves. We offer comfort food, and we want people to come and be comfortable in the restaurant.”

The cuisine, which has received consistently high praise from food critics in many publications, is an intriguing blend of wide-ranging cuisines from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the U.S.

Big Favorite

“All the food is cooked to order, and the ingredients are fresh. We include local products, and everything is fresh every day,” notes Chef Mark Valenza. “Our food is unique.”

Lobster is a big favorite at the restaurant, he points out, and it is available in seven different versions. Lobster comprises one third of the dinner sales, and there are also lobster salads and lobster quiches.

Another popular choice is apricot lemon quail with tabouleh and pico de gallo salsa, featuring a combination of flavors and tastes from the middle east and Latin America.

Grilled items include pork, steak, salmon, and quail. “We have the finest prime rib-eye steak,” says Chef Mark. The blackberry Berkshire pork chops, another popular choice of customers, are served over a bacon, potato, English pea, and pepper hash, finished with blackberry cognac sauce. They are hormone-free, corn fed, and farm raised.

The marsala chicken schnitzel, served with wilted garlic spinach, sauteed mushrooms, large Japanese bread crumbs, and marsala wine sauce, is a big favorite. Another favorite is sole bonne femme, poached filet of sole, served over saffron pepper rice in a broiled shallot and mushroom cream sauce.

“Our goat cheese salad is always in demand, and can be a side order or an entree with chicken or shrimp,” adds Chef Mark. “It is our most popular salad, and includes Montrachet goat cheese dredged in Japanese bread crumbs, served with mixed greens, green apple cranberry chutney, and white balsamic vinaigrette.”

Cross Cultural

Another popular salad is Arabian lentil and spinach salad, with hot cumin and coriander and green lentils, served with sauteed spinach, cherry tomatoes, curried pistachio nuts, and raisins.

In keeping with the cross cultural theme of the menu, Indian naan flat bread is served with entrees and is also included with “Zaanwiches”, the variety of sandwiches available for lunch. Ham, Swiss cheese, and sage; cheddar cheese, hot cherry peppers and sage; blue cheese and Granny Smith apples; and bacon, cheddar, with green onions are among the popular sandwiches.

In addition, “Zaiders”, a boxed lunch, featuring two grilled hamburger sliders with American cheese, caramelized onions and pickle, served with boardwalk fries or green salad, are offered. Individual tandoor oven pizzas, with fontina cheese, spicy tomatoes, and crispy tandoori naan bread are another lunch favorite. A variety of pasta dishes is also available at lunch.

Desserts are a big favorite at Za, especially the delectable chocolate souffle with homemade whipped cream, creme brulee, and key lime pie, among other delicious choices.

Coffee, tea, and a variety of soft drinks are offered, and set-ups are provided for customers who bring wine. There is no corkage fee.

Prices cover a wide range, with lunch sandwiches and salads from $7.99; boxed lunch Zaiders are $8.99. Dinner entrees are in the $20, $30, and $40s.

Great Meal

The restaurant, which is popular with families, couples, and singles, can seat 76 in its two dining rooms, as well as 48 outside in its Wisteria Garden area in nice weather. It is also available for private parties.

Both Chef Mark and Chaz Valenza are very encouraged with the growing popularity of their restaurant. “We have been successful even during the difficult economy and the storms we’ve had. We try to turn every customer who comes into a repeat customer. We look forward to even more people finding us. And when someone says they had a great meal with us, it makes us feel really good!

“Also, even if people can’t come all the time, we hope they will come for a special occasion, a birthday or anniversary. It will be something to look forward to.”

Reservations are recommended, and Za is open for lunch Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner 5 to 9, Sunday 4 to 8. (609) 737-4400. Website: www.zarestau
rants.com.

FINANCIAL FITNESS: “We offer a boutique service with a holistic approach and very personalized service.” Elizabeth and David Scafa are partners in Scafa Financial Services LLC in Pennington, and provide full service financial and investment planning.

FINANCIAL FITNESS: “We offer a boutique service with a holistic approach and very personalized service.” Elizabeth and David Scafa are partners in Scafa Financial Services LLC in Pennington, and provide full service financial and investment planning.

There is a world of uncertainty out there. The fiscal cliff, the president — Congress impasse, unemployment, the problems of the European Union, the Middle East conflicts — all of these can weigh in on the health and stability of the U.S. economy — and it makes people worry.

Will I lose my job? Will I find another? What about my investments? Will there be money for my kids to go to college? Will I have enough when I retire? Will I be able to retire?

Many people are seeking the advice of professionals to help them with these and other financial concerns. It is more and more of a specialized world today, and most people need help navigating its twists and turns.

Elizabeth and David Scafa, partners in Scafa Financial Services LLC, have been helping their clients for 30 years, first in New York and then in New Jersey. They consolidated their practices in 2004 in West Windsor, and recently moved to 54 Route 31 North in Pennington.

Financial Quarterback

They are both Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and also investment-licensed and insurance-licensed. Elizabeth Scafa is a certified financial planner (CFP), and David Scafa is a personal financial specialist (PFS). Wealth management areas they emphasize in their practice are investment management, cash flow and debt management, family risk management, retirement planning, education planning, estate planning, business planning, and special situations planning.

“We focus on being our clients’ financial quarterback,” explains Mr. Scafa. “Our relationship with them is deep-rooted. We’ve had clients for many years, and we are looking after their best interests. 95 percent of them are more worried than they were before. We hear more about their fears and what is important to them.”

“The key is that there is always worry, fear, and uncertainty,” adds Ms. Scafa. “You have to have a plan. The challenge is to try to explain to clients the possibility of what might happen and how to plan so they can weather the storm, if there is a problem.”

A diversified portfolio is essential, agree both partners. “Investment is based on a time horizon. Investments for a 20 year-old can be more aggressive; as people get older, the investments are more conservative.”

Number One Concern

Retirement is the number one concern of most clients today, they add. “People want to be sure they will have enough money. We are living in an age where people need help managing their retirement assets. Employers are not doing this now. And, people are living longer. You have to focus on ‘how do I project what I will need in the future?’”

Assisting their clients with these and other financial issues is very satisfying for both Scafas, who are also husband and wife, and each has a specialty. Ms. Scafa focuses on financial planning, and Mr. Scafa on taxes. They are also licensed to provide life and disability insurance and long-term care insurance.

“Tax preparation and tax advice dovetails together with financial planning and management,” points out Mr. Scafa.

“A lot of clients are knowledgeable today, and they want to know what is happening and often make suggestions. We always keep clients informed about their investments,” says Ms. Scafa, who has enjoyed working with numbers from the time she was a child. “I knew in the eighth grade, I wanted to be an accountant.”

Successful Advisor

She has recently been recognized by H.D. Vest Financial Services as one of its most successful advisors, and she received the prestigious H.D. Vest Excellence Award. She is also a member of the New Jersey State Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Mercer County Estate Planning Council, and member and former secretary of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners.

Mr. Scafa has had long experience working with the New York City government, holding several positions. He was formerly deputy chief accountant for the City of New York. He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the Mercer County Estate Planning Council.

Scafa Financial Services has been recognized for the past four years in the “Accounting Today” publication as a top firm in the business of financial services combined with public accounting.

Helping clients achieve their goals is their biggest reward, says Ms. Scafa. “I enjoy the satisfaction we get in helping people. We can come up with an actual plan based on the client’s goals and objectives and manage the program, adjusting it along the way. We feel we are helping them with their money and also understanding finance.”

“We are always the voice of reason for our clients,” adds Mr. Scafa. “We always have their best interests in the forefront. We are involved in continuing education, keeping up with new regulations and trends. This is a very challenging profession. You put in a lot of hours, but we really enjoy it. We also have had great word-of-mouth from our clients. We operate our practice with a focus on personalized service and attention, and our clients know they can count on us.”

Scafa Financial Services can be reached at (609) 750-0002. Website: www.scafafinancial.com.

January 2, 2013
WORKING OUT: “This is something that I love. It’s wonderful when you can do something you love and that makes you and others feel good. You feel renewed and revitalized after a Gyrotonic® work-out.” Kristen Thompson, owner of KAT movement — Gyrotonic® on State Road, is shown working out on the pulley trainer, Gyrotonic’s main piece of equipment.

WORKING OUT: “This is something that I love. It’s wonderful when you can do something you love and that makes you and others feel good. You feel renewed and revitalized after a Gyrotonic® work-out.” Kristen Thompson, owner of KAT movement — Gyrotonic® on State Road, is shown working out on the pulley trainer, Gyrotonic’s main piece of equipment.

“When I discovered Gryrotonic®, I loved it!” says Kristen Thompson. “It provides a total body work-out, and it simulates the feeling of being in water and air. It draws from the movements of yoga, ballet, Pilates, gymnastics, tai chi, and swimming, but it is different because it is three dimensional.”

Owner and certified Gyrotonic trainer of the new studio KAT Movement — Gyrotonic® at 812 State Road, Ms. Thompson is enthusiastic about the benefits of this unique exercise concept.

“It was developed in the 1970s by dancer Juliu Horvath, who had sustained injuries, including to his Achilles tendon. In the beginning, Gyrotonic was a means for professional dancers to deepen their stretches and improve their fluidity of movement.”

The results were so positive that over time, athletes and others began to practice Gyrotonic. Physical therapists and members of the medical profession also recognized its value.

Arching and Curling

The foundation of the Gyrotonic form of exercise is its focus on three dimensional, spherical and fluid movements, including arching and curling the spine.

“Spinal mobility is very important for every age level,” explains Ms. Thompson. “Gyrotonic exercises are circular, elongating, and strengthening. They also help prevent injuries by toning, stretching, and increasing range of motion and flexibility. We can pay attention to one area, such as knee, shoulder, neck, etc. But it is a full body work-out and in a balanced way.

“Gyrotonic is for all ages, abilities, and agility levels,” she continues. “My focus is to help the everyday person looking for a new way to stretch, strengthen, improve posture, lessen aches and lower back pain, engage their core muscles, and increase coordination, focus, and flexibility. All ages can benefit from the gentle, fluid, circular motion that guide the body through a rejuvenating, relaxing, and renewing head-to-toe work-out.”

The unique pulley tower is Gyrotonic’s primary piece of equipment. It consists of two pieces, a seven-foot wooden tower with two sets of pulleys and a padded bench with two rotating wheels at the end. These rotating wheels allow the exerciser to perform a series of arches and curls, helping the spine to flex and extend, while simultaneously opening the chest and shoulders, explains Ms. Thompson. Weights on the pulleys provide resistance and support the movements of the legs, arms, and hands, all working in a balanced way. At the heart of all the movements is the activation of the deep core muscles.

Balance and Posture

Clients are all ages, from seven to 81, and everyone in between, says Ms. Thompson. “For older people, it can be very beneficial for balance and posture. It is truly for all ages, including kids with agility problems and medical conditions, people with sports injuries, or conditions such as arthritis. I also have clients who do triathlons. And it’s helpful for new mothers, too. It’s a great way to strengthen the muscles and work out the core, which is especially important for them.”

Ms. Thompson trained and worked with master teachers of Gyrotonic at Kinsespirit and Fluid Fitness studios in New York, and has earned Level One certification enabling her to instruct clients. Sessions are one-on-one with Ms. Thompson for 50 minutes, and are $60. Savings are available with packages of five or 10 sessions. Gift packages are also offered.

Ms. Thompson is very enthusiastic and encouraged about her studio and the numbers of clients who continue to return. “When I opened the studio in April, I completely remodeled the space. I wanted it to be warm and welcoming. I so much enjoy sharing something that I love with others and seeing them enjoy it as much as I do. And, then when they see how much better they feel after a work-out, it is very rewarding.

“This is such a beneficial way to exercise. No other exercise can move you three dimensionally and stretch and strengthen at the same time. It’s such a graceful, fluid program.”

As the Gyrotonic founder has pointed out, “The ultimate aim is to be at home in one’s body, experience greater freedom of movement, to feel unrestricted and uninhibited, to be free from pain, to be at one with the nature of oneself, and to experience exercise as a creative and delightful experience”

Ms. Thompson’s studio is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment. (908) 500-3470. Kthompson360@gmail.com. The studio is also on Facebook: KAT Movement — Gyrotonic®.

PICTURE PERFECT: “I want to create timeless photos that will endure. I want my work to be the best it can be, and I look forward to the photos I am going to take tomorrow.” Photographer Frank DiGiovanni enjoys every moment in capturing an image with his camera, and he is an expert in his field.

PICTURE PERFECT: “I want to create timeless photos that will endure. I want my work to be the best it can be, and I look forward to the photos I am going to take tomorrow.” Photographer Frank DiGiovanni enjoys every moment in capturing an image with his camera, and he is an expert in his field.

Getting it right is crucial to photographer Frank DiGiovanni. Whether it’s a portrait, a wedding photo, or a fine art landscape or flower, he devotes all his energy, effort, and expertise to capturing the right shot at the right moment.

“In a portrait, it’s all about getting the essence of that person,” he explains. “The moment can be fleeting. My specialty is one person, with no props, and my approach to every person is barely letting them know I am taking their picture. I want it to be authentic.”

Self-taught, Mr. DiGiovanni received his first camera when he was 11, and he was immediately captivated by this device, and what he was able to achieve with it. “I have always been visually oriented, and have good spatial relations. You have to have an eye to see the concept,” he explains.

He took photography classes in high school, and won a national scholastic award for his work, as well as a Governor’s Award for photography.

Making Memories

As a young photographer, Mr. DiGiovanni was grateful for the support and encouragement of professional and award-winning photographers, and took to heart the advice of one in particular: “To find the substance in my work, I had to find the substance in myself. To grow as a photographer, I had to grow as a person.”

After working for various photography firms in New Jersey, he opened his own studio at 4577 Route 27 in Kingston in 2006. “I always knew I wanted my own business, and I was very happy to open here, which is where I grew up,” notes Mr. DiGiovanni. “When I first opened, I focused on weddings and portraits, and I continue to do these. They are the best ways to make memories. I recently did a family portrait, with two grown sons and their mother, who had been ill. The mother died two months later, and it meant so much to the sons to have the portrait.”

Although not formally trained, Mr. DiGiovanni has been determined to learn all he can about photography, and spends many hours investigating new procedures and examining his own work. “I have read all the books about the theory and concept of photography, but there is nothing like the experience of going out and getting the shot. According to author Martin Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of what you do.”

Provided, of course, that one has the talent and skill to become an expert.

Softer and Softer

In addition to his work with weddings and portraits, Mr. DiGiovanni is now focusing more on fine art photography, including landscapes, flowers, and street scenes. “In this work, I like to find the little things that are part of the overall,” he explains.

“It may just be a very small part of the flower, for example, or a little section of a house or building. And, with fine art photography, you want to show the subject in the moment, in the light of the moment. It is often spontaneous, when I discover it — it can be so fleeting. It may be at dusk, when the light is perfect. That’s the last light of day, and it gets more and more gorgeous, softer and softer.”

Some of Mr. DiGiovanni’s fine art photographs look like paintings, since they are stretched on canvas. These have become increasingly popular with customers, and currently, 30 percent of the photos are on canvas.

Digital has become the means of choice in photography today, and Mr. DiGiovanni is an advocate of its value. “Digital is such an improvement. The answer is right in front of you. You see the photo immediately, and the quality is so much better. The main thing with digital is that it helped me to get better in leaps and bounds because I can see it so quickly, and then, if necessary, you make adjustments.”

Portrait photo sessions can last 20 minutes or more, and Mr. DiGiovanni can have color or black and white prints or digital images for clients in a few days. Digital images on line may be available in 24 to 48 hours.

“My rates are competitive,” he adds. “It’s very high quality work at very fair prices. And, I also try to work within people’s budgets.”

Planning Ahead

Mr. DiGiovanni is practical as well as creative, and strongly believes in the importance of planning ahead. “I need to have a streamlined operation, so I can think about tomorrow and deal with the constant change. My goal is to think about the next 10 years, and I already have my 5-year plan in place. And, I never want to be satisfied with what I did today. I always want to improve.”

He is very pleased that the economy has begun to take a turn for the better recently. As he says, the past eight months have been better than the past four years. Portraits are up, and weddings, commercial photos, and fine art are all up.

Continuing to capture special moments in people’s lives is Mr. DiGiovanni’s mission. “I enjoy taking the photos. For me, if I can just keep taking pictures, that is the ideal situation. I also enjoy the variety of the work, including the processing. I like to study my work, and see ways to improve. The fact that I was able to capture indelible memories for someone with a wedding or a portrait is a way of making a difference in their lives. I want the photos to be meaningful to them, and continue to tell their story.”

Mr. DiGiovanni’s is available by appointment, and he tries to accommodate customers’ schedules. (609) 924-4400. Website: www.digidg.com.

CREATIVE CUISINE: “This is a small restaurant, and I have a small kitchen. There is no mass-produced food here. Everything is cooked to order.” Salvatore Scarlata, chef/owner of Vidalia, is shown in his restaurant with samples of his delicious dishes.

CREATIVE CUISINE: “This is a small restaurant, and I have a small kitchen. There is no mass-produced food here. Everything is cooked to order.” Salvatore Scarlata, chef/owner of Vidalia, is shown in his restaurant with samples of his delicious dishes.

The flavors and tastes of Italy are on the menu at Vidalia Restaurant, 21 Phillips Avenue in Lawrenceville. Both the food and the ambiance at this charming and intimate establishment are pleasing to the senses.

The friendly knowledgeable staff makes customers immediately welcome, and the menu invites leisurely dining in a setting that includes fresh linens and decor reflecting Italian sensibility. Great care has been taken with every detail, and chef/proprietor Salvatore Scarlata makes a point of visiting each table he can to thank his guests for joining him for dinner.

“I am treating people well and feeding people well,” he says. “When people go out to eat, they are spending their hard-earned money. Why should they come here? I emphasize simplicity and consistency. If you have guests visiting you and want to bring them here, you can count on it being good. It’s service, quality food, and a warm atmosphere. I have a great staff, and everyone gives 110 percent. They are all experienced servers.”

Born in Sicily, Chef Scarlata came to the U.S. with his family when he was 12. His father had a restaurant in north Trenton, and as a boy, Sal was involved in the family operation. “I grew up in the restaurant business, and I learned from my father. Now, I have been in the business for 20 years.”

Classic and Inventive

Before acquiring Vidalia in 2005, Mr. Scarlata worked in a number of restaurants in the area. It was always his hope to have a restaurant of his own, where he could not only serve traditional Italian dishes, but also create new recipes.

“There are different ways of preparing Italian food” he notes. “The work is so creative. Sometimes, it can be trial and error, when trying out new things. We change the menu seasonally, and we have classic and inventive dishes. I also often get good ideas from customers. Many have traveled, and have sampled interesting cuisines. I try to cater to them if they have special requests. We can also accommodate people with particular dietary needs, including those with gluten or other food allergies.”

People are more knowledgeable about food today, he adds. They are also more concerned about eating healthier diets.

Mr. Scarlata believes Vidalia is set apart by his special recipes and the fresh ingredients and quality of the food. “We have daily deliveries, and I always get local produce whenever I can.”

In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant offers seven specials every day. Recently, filet mignon, with shrimp wrapped in bacon, French string beans, truffle garlic mashed potatoes, and onion rings were available. Another special was beet salad, including roasted beets with goat cheese, dried apricots, walnuts, apple slices, arugula and the chef’s own salad dressing.

“Lovers Scallops,”  which alternates scallops and shrimp in a molded crostini, with spring mix salad including Sicilian blood oranges and cherry tomatoes, is a favorite. Prince Edward Island clams on the half-shell in a wasabi cocktail sauce is another special.

Many Choices

The basic menu offers many choices, and customers’ favorites include the appetizer Artichoke Francese, egg-battered in a lemon, white wine butter sauce. The Penne E Polle con Broccoli entree, with penne pasta, broccoli, and grilled chicken, sauteed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and topped with fresh grated parmiagiano cheese, is always in demand.

Another favorite entree is Capesente, pan-seared scallops served with a side of black truffle oil, infused parmiagiana risotto, spinach, and topped with a vermouth cream sauce.

A variety of salads and appetizers, along with the selection of entrees will satisfy the appetite of any diner. In addition, the presentation of the dishes at Vidalia is impressive and visually striking. “I feel the food has to have eye appeal,” explains Mr. Scarlata. “I am very visual, and it is important that the food looks as good as it tastes!”

Desserts are always popular, and include such choices as tiramisu, cannoli, and exotic bomba, among others. Cappuccino, espresso, and other beverages are all available. The restaurant does not have a liquor license, but many customers bring wine, and all set-ups, including ice bucket, are available without corkage fee.

Private Parties

Lunch, dinner, and catering (all sizes and styles of events) are offered, and the restaurant, which seats 40, can also be booked for private parties. In seasonal weather, there is room for 60 to dine al fresco.

Even in what has been a difficult economy, Mr. Scarlata is very encouraged and optimistic about the numbers of customers from all over the area who are regulars at the restaurant. “I am very proud of Vidalia. In preparing a dish that is special, I am pleasing someone. The reward is when someone says it was the best meal they ever had, or they posted on-line: ‘It reminds me of my mom’s cooking.’ It’s great to have these comments and to see people leave with a smile on their face.

“On the other hand, I am never satisfied,” he adds. “I always want the next meal to be better. I want to continue to have the restaurant improve and introduce even more people to our great food.”

Vidalia will offer a special New Year’s Eve fixed-price menu, and the restaurant is always reservation only. Hours are lunch: Tuesday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner: Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 9, Friday, Saturday 5 to 10, Sunday 4 to 9. (609) 896-4444. Website: www.eatatVidalia.com.

December 26, 2012

AWARD-BUILDING BUILDER: “We are very honored to have received the Remodeling Big 50 Award,” says Jim Baxter, owner of Baxter Construction in Hopewell. “I direct a lot of the credit to my team of talented craftsmen and administrators. They are just as responsible for the experience that our customers receive and the success we have realized as I am.”

Whether it’s a 200-year-old colonial needing total renovation, a two-bedroom ranch requiring major expansion, or a 1960s kitchen or bath in need of updating, Baxter Construction will create just the look the homeowner hopes to achieve.

“Our focus is on residential,” explains Jim Baxter, owner of Baxter Construction. “We especially work on older houses, including repairs, renovation, and additions. Remodeling older houses and making them look as if they aren’t remodeled — keeping the character of the house — is our specialty. People are saying, ‘Let’s renovate’, but they still want to capture the feeling of the house.”

“We also do other jobs, however, both small and large. From replacing a doorknob or fixing a porch to new construction: everything from large and small additions to complete new houses. We’ll do kitchen and bath remodels, windows, mouldings, any kind of carpentry,” he continues. “Another thing we do is to put handrails and other support features in the house, so as they get older, people can continue to live in their home. We’ll do all kinds of jobs, all sizes, and I think people appreciate this.”

Many of the renovations have been of an historic nature, and have been featured in newspaper and magazine articles.

Peace of Mind

The company has completed many award-winning projects, since Mr. Baxter founded it in 1981. In addition to the 2012 Remodeling Magazine Big 50 Award (which recognizes “owners of remodeling companies that have set exceptionally high standards for professionalism and integrity through exemplary business practices, craftsmanship, and impact in their community or the industry at large”), Baxter Construction has received several Historic Preservation Awards, the New Jersey Historic Preservation and The Princeton Historic Preservation Awards for the Woodrow Wilson House in Princeton, and the Sustainable Princeton Leadership Award for the Whole Earth Center building.

Mr. Baxter attributes the company’s success to its fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, and listening carefully to the homeowners’ wishes. “We emphasize good project management and understanding the needs of the owners. We’re a traditional builder. We do a very detailed estimate, and the goal is getting a clear definition of the scope of the work. We have a lead carpenter and project manager on the job every day, which helps to create peace of mind for the client. What we always strive to do is to reach and exceed customers’ expectations.

“Our detailed management system allows us to plan and schedule your project, track progress of the work, and most importantly, communicate all of that to you in a timely and understandable manner And once your project begins, the work will proceed daily until everything is completed.”

Staying Put

“Many times today, the clients are people who are staying put, fixing their house rather than moving,” continues Mr. Baxter. “We do a lot of remodeling of kitchens and bathrooms, and expanding family rooms. In one house, we converted a two-car garage into a family room. People want to open up spaces and in some cases, they want to turn existing dining rooms into other space.”

Baxter Construction is also experienced in commercial building, having built the Michael Graves Design Studio and the Whole Earth Center store, a LEED certified green construction project, among other jobs.

Energy-efficiency, sustainability, and environmental-friendly methods and materials are very important today, emphasizes Mr. Baxter. “People are definitely thinking green now, and this is reflected in our construction projects.”

For many years, Baxter Construction has supported community organizations through its volunteer efforts with the Historical Society of Princeton, Morven Museum and Gardens, the Hopewell Board of Education, Hopewell Borough, and the Sourland Mountain Preserve.

Apprenticeship
Program

“Volunteering and being a part of the community is very important to us,” says Mr. Baxter, who is himself a carpenter. “I also hope to set up an apprenticeship program for young people to help them learn the building business.”

It is also important to Mr. Baxter that the company continues to improve. He belongs to the Remodelers Advantage, an organization helping companies to improve business practices and development. “There are 10 round table groups in the country, and 10 companies in each group. We meet twice a year to focus on improving business operation, including management, sales, and marketing, among other areas. It is very intensive and a great experience, and I am now focusing more on sales and marketing.”

Baxter Construction’s projects are found all over the Princeton area and beyond, including beach houses in Cape May. Mr. Baxter continues to enjoy the client contact, and he takes pride in the quality of work he is able to provide them.

“I enjoy the level of craftsmanship — what Baxter Construction brings to the job. To see the customer’s satisfaction at the end of the job is very rewarding. Baxter Construction is proud of the quality of the work we do, from framing through finish trimming. Our crews are composed of experienced carpenters who have been with us for many years and believe in the Baxter way of building: top grade craftsmanship, using high quality materials. Led by a master carpenter with decades of experience, each crew is extremely competent, efficient, neat, and courteous.

“I love my job. I walk away at the end of the day and am proud to look at what we have built.”

Baxter Construction can be reached to (609) 466-3655. Website: baxterconstruction.com.

SPECIAL SELECTION: “We are really set apart by our communion and christening dresses. They are our specialty, and we also carry boys’ communion suits in navy and white.” Jennifer Bottoni (left) owner of Julianna’s Closet, and her mother and associate Anna Feniello, are shown by a display of Communion dresses.

Julianna’s Closet is filled with fun, fashion, and flair! Clothes for kids are its specialty, and they are colorful, bright, and definitely “today”!

Little “fashionistas” are thrilled with the selection, especially the ruffles, frills, and “bling”.

Boys are not left out, and there are are plenty of choices, from casual jeans and shirts to suits.

Opened in 2004, the shop is owned by Jennifer Bottoni, and is named for her 8-year-old daughter, Julianna. Located in the Bottoni Plaza at 1240 Route 130 in Robbinsville, it is an easy outing from Princeton.

Niche Boutique

“I knew I always wanted to open my own business,” explains Ms. Bottoni. “I loved shopping for my daughter and son, and it seemed a great idea to have a children’s shop. I actually started the business as a boutique in my basement. I was like a personal shopper. Then, my father-in-law opened this shopping center, and here I am!

“I consider this a niche boutique. With boutique shopping, you don’t carry so much of one item. You won’t see our clothes on every other child. My goal is to sell the most unique, adorable, and highest quality merchandise. We carry many different lines and are adding all the time.”

Sizes include newborns to 16 (pre-teen for girls) and newborns to 7 for boys. Ms. Bottoni describes the selection as dressy/casual for girls, including special occasion outfits that can also be worn to school.

“Our customers love all the ruffles and frills on the dresses,” she reports. “They come in regularly to see what’s new. I am always bringing in new lines, and I believe the point of life is special occasions! I love seeing the little girls’ faces light up when they try something on, and they feel like a princess. By the age of six, girls have definite opinions about what they want.”

The boutique offers a wide selection of lines, primarily from the U.S. although there are a number from overseas. Popular choices for girls are Hannah Banana and Luna Luna Copenhagen; Biscotti, Sierra Julian, and Eliane et Lena for boys and girls; and Fore for boys. And there are many others.

Silver and gold are the hot colors for girls now, and not just for the holidays, says Ms. Bottoni. Tiered ruffled skirts are big sellers, and legging sets are also in demand. Tops with varying degrees of “bling” are a popular item for many girls, and fun birthday T’s with “Birthday Princess” and “Birthday Girl” are also available.

Toasty Toes

The selection of outerwear will keep kids warm this winter, and toes will be toasty in the fun socks, shoes and boots available for boys and girls, with choices from Primigi and Naturino.

Styles are also available for the very youngest customers at Julianna’s Closet. Hand-done layettes from Peru and the U.S. will cover newborns in the sweetest, softest cotton. Adorable onesies and rompers, sleep sacks, and dresses are offered in assorted colors and designs.

Hair accessories and hats are very important for girls of all ages, and the softest plush bears and other animals are favorites for the youngest kids (and some of the older ones too)!

The communion and christening dresses, as well as flower girl dresses provide a big part of the shop’s business, notes Ms. Bottoni. “People have heard about our selection, and we have people from all over, including New York, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, even as far away as Washington State. There are not a lot of places to get these dresses, and we have a wonderful selection.”

Warm and Welcoming

Ms. Bottoni is very enthusiastic about her shop, and looks forward to providing the latest styles for her young clientele. “I take pride in my own children, and I want them to dress nicely and behave nicely. I want this for all children. The kids love to come here, and they are very comfortable when they come in. We have a TV for them to watch, and they often sit down and play.

“I very much wanted to establish a warm and welcoming atmosphere for our customers, and we offer very personalized service. Even in the hard economic times, people still want to buy things for their kids.”

Julianna’s Closet offers regular trunk shows, and in March, its fourth annual children’s fund-raising fashion show will be held. “This is an annual event, and the proceeds go to a child in the area who is ill,” explains Ms. Bottoni.

The shop is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 to 7, Saturday 10 to 3, Sunday 11 to 2, and Monday by appointment. (609) 448-3887. Website: www.juliannas-closet.com.


December 12, 2012

SPECIAL STYLES: “Our motto is: ‘What makes a specialty store special.’ We specialize in custom design, and we call it comfortable elegance. That is reflected in the ambiance of the shop. There is a certain image geared to people who want to look nice.” Nick and Jennifer Hilton, owners of Nick Hilton Princeton, offer the finest apparel for men and women.

Sophisticated, elegant, and tailored clothing for men and women is the specialty at Nick HIlton Princeton. The unique studio store at 221 Witherspoon Street, opened in 2001, and has become an important resource for Princeton clients looking for fine quality fashion.

Classic American-styled clothes, many made in Italy, are highlighted, and owner Nick HIlton is a master of customized menswear, featuring comfortable elegance. The award-winning stylist represents the fourth generation of his family to dress American men. The client list includes U.S. presidents, statesmen, captains of industry, entertainers, and sports figures. Mr. Hilton’s classic yet individual designs have been featured in GQ Magazine, among others.

“My great-grandfather Joseph Hilton and his brothers came from Russia in the 1880s, and started a custom-tailoring shop,” recalls Mr. Hilton. “They opened a series of shops, called Joseph Hilton & Sons, and eventually there were 10 stores in New York and New Jersey. The name was later changed to Browning King & Co.

“My grandfather Alex Hilton, and my father Norman Hilton continued in the business. After graduating from Princeton and serving in the Navy in World War II, my father later created the Norman Hilton Country Line. He established a wholesale business that we never had before.”

Fashion Footsteps

Nick Hilton wasn’t quite sure whether to follow in the fashion footsteps of his forebears, but in fact, the interest was there, and he started out in Italy, working for a trouser manufacturer. When he returned to the U.S., he became a salesman for the family business, and found that he was to wear many hats.

“By 1975, I was head stylist, buyer, and salesman, and in 1980, I became president of the company.”

His real interest was in design, however, with a focus on softer tailoring and subtle patterns. His designs emphasized an international updated traditional style. “It’s not fashion in the sense of anything trendy or a novelty,” he notes. “We reinvent and update tradition.”

Having moved to the Princeton area in 1980, Mr. Hilton was familiar with the menswear business here, and in September 2001, he decided to open his own studio. “Originally, we had sports coats, trousers, shirts, and ties, and only our own label,” he recalls. “Then we added Hickey Freeman suits, and also sportswear, sweaters, and jeans. We now have pajamas and robes, which are very popular.

“There are definite trends in the men’s line,” he continues. “Jackets are fitted more closely to the body. Our leather jackets are styled more like blazers, with a sleeker look, and the outerwear is sleeker too. They are also multi-functional. It’s not just a rain coat, for example, but a car coat. It can be worn over a suit, and it’s waterproof, as well as lightweight. Another thing, pleated pants are just about obsolete.”

In addition to Mr. Hilton’s own designs, new lines are available this season. “New this year is the Italian duffle coat from Gimo’s and Allegri outerwear. They are cashmere, treated with Teflon, and are waterproof. We have also brought in Allen Edmonds dress shoes, Wolverine boots, and Martin Dingman informal moccasin-style.”

Pocket Squares

Easy-care, wrinkle-resistant Eton dress shirts, are very popular, and along with folded handkerchiefs, silk handprinted pocket squares are a favorite accent piece.

Cashmere scarves, also reversible scarves with wool and silk on either side, gloves from England will all get guys ready for winter. Lightweight sweaters continue to be in demand, and dark olive is a popular color generally.

Suits at Nick Hilton range from $795 to $2000 and are of the highest quality fabric, including very fine wool. Sports coats are tweed, fine wool, cashmere, and silk and wool blends.

The shop includes a number of displays featuring ensembles which Mr. Hilton has coordinated to show how different colors, textures, and patterns can work together. “I enjoy helping guys and turning them on to style. I like creating a loyal customer, gaining his trust, and assisting him with his wardrobe. We always help with advice and help him put an outfit together. A large part of the business is custom. The customers who come here care about clothes, and are willing to invest in quality apparel.”

And, it’s not just men who will find the answer to their wardrobe needs. In 2006, women’s clothing was added, and that has been a big success.

“In the fall of 2005, we noticed that men were buying shearling coats for their wives,” explains Mr. Hilton. “We wanted to offer sophisticated, elegant, tailored clothing that women would enjoy wearing.”

Personal Attention

“We brought in jackets, blouses, T-shirts, dresses, and scarves,” adds Jennifer Hilton, who is the buyer for the women’s department. “We have a lot of new lines this season, including, for the first time, Moschino Cheap and Chic, also Greenstone outerwear from Holland, Missoni, Rachel Ray, Philosophy, and Jackett soft suede jackets that are machine-washable. They are extremely popular.”

In fact, a customer walked in the store wearing one! “I love it,” said the Princeton resident and long-time Nick Hilton customer. “I like to come here often. It’s the quality of the clothes and the personal attention that are so special.”

“We also have a lot of dresses now,” continues Ms. Hilton. “They are primarily dresses that can be worn to work, but many are day-to-evening, very versatile, and can be worn to events in the evening. We are also seeing lots of bright colors now, and also prints and patterns. And scarves with color blocks are very popular in different combinations, including in cashmere.”

Also popular at the store is Barbour rainwear. “This is a special favorite of younger women, including Princeton University students,” she adds. “It’s fleece-lined, lightweight, warm, and waterproof. And it is popular with all ages too.”

Three Things

Helping women to look their best is important to Ms. Hilton. “I love my customers. They come in regularly to see what’s new, and we always have something special to show them. They are all ages, and they come from Princeton and the area, including Bucks County.”

Quality is the hallmark at Nick Hilton Princeton both for men’s and women’s apparel, adds Mr. Hilton. “Quality depends on three things. One, it should stand the test of time and be durable and classic. Two, comfort is key. The garment should move with you, and the texture should be comfortable and pleasant to wear. Three, it should be aesthetically beautiful and include classical elements, such as color tone (a palette of colors that go together), content and composition.”

Nick Hilton Princeton offers tailoring and alterations, gift certificates, sales in January and July, and on-line shopping.

“We have had 11 years of uninterrupted growth, and I look forward to that continuing,” says Mr. Hilton. “How people dress and how they look is important. It can also be a sign of respect for others.”

As for himself, he says, with a smile: “I like to be dressed. I like to go around in a shirt and tie. I like to dress up. It gives me a kick!”

The studio store is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5. (609) 921-8160. Website: www.nickhilton.com.


SUSHI SPECIALTIES: “A lot of people like to come and sit at the sushi bar. They enjoy seeing us make a nice sushi platter, and it’s fun for them to watch it being made. “Chef/owner John Lung (right) and assistant sushi chef Bill Zhon of Sushi King get ready to go to work at the restaurant’s sushi bar.

Chef John Lung is very proud of his popular Japanese restaurant, Sushi King at 3562 Route 27 in Kendall Park.

“My dream was always to have my own restaurant, and in 2001, I opened my first restaurant Kanoko at Routes 518 and 27. I had that restaurant for nine years. Then, last year, I was able to open Sushi King in the Town Place, and I am so encouraged to have so many customers.”

A native of Hong Kong, Mr. Lung grew up in the restaurant business. When he and his parents came to the U.S. in 1994, the family opened a Japanese restaurant in New York City.

“My father was a chef, and I learned a lot working in the family restaurant and from watching him making sushi and other dishes,” explains Mr. Lung.

Japanese Cuisine

Sushi is the specialty at the restaurant, although a complete selection of Japanese cuisine, such as teriyaki and tempura choices, is also available. Quality and freshness are key elements, points out Mr. Lung. “We serve very fresh fish and the freshest ingredients for all our dishes. It’s healthy, low-caloric, good food. We use less salt and no MSG.”

As are many of his customers, Mr. Lung is a real sushi fan. “I especially love our Butterfly roll, with lobster, mango, avocado, crunchy sweet chili sauce, and soybean seaweed; and the Kiss of Fire roll, with crunchy spicy tuna inside and white tuna jalapeno on top.

“Sushi is actually fish and rice rolled together,” explains Mr. Lung. “The fish can be cooked or fresh, and the sushi is served at room temperature.”

Choices are available as appetizers or entrees, including four pieces of fresh fish on rice, tuna roll, California roll, salmon roll, and spicy shrimp and crab roll, among many others. A special sushi roll combination could include tuna, salmon, yellow tail tuna, sweet potato, eel avocado, tuna avocado, salmon avocado, spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy shrimp and crab, Philadelphia shrimp avocado, and chicken tempura.

Bento Boxes

A selection of sashimi (fresh fish pieces) is also available.

Popular entrees are traditional Japanese favorites such as chicken, shrimp or salmon teriyaki, and beef Negimaki. The variety of tempura dishes, including vegetable, chicken and vegetable, shrimp and vegetable are all in demand. Entrees are all served with rice, soup, and salad.

Specialties also include the popular lunch and dinner Bento boxes, including chicken, beef, salmon, and flounder teriyaki. These are all served with rice, shrimp and vegetable tempura, California roll, miso soup, and house salad.

Mr. Lung has also introduced a new “All You Can Eat” lunch and dinner buffet special menu. Sushi, sashimi, various rolls, tempura, teriyaki, soup and salad, dessert, and more are all offered for $19.95.

Other prices include salads and appetizers from $2.50, sushi rolls from $3.50, and hot entrees from $11.95.

Popular deserts at Sushhi King are Tempura ice cream and Tempura banana, and assorted soft drinks are available. Customers are invited to bring wine if they wish.

Customers, including families with children, come from all over the area, reports Mr. Lung. “We can seat 65 people with tables, booths, and the sushi bar. We have tried to create an attractive decor, with an Asian theme, but also blending American tastes. That’s the feeling I wanted.”

Best Sushi

“I really enjoy being with the customers,” he continues. “A lot are people who came to my former restaurant Kanoko, but there are many new people too.”

Kendall Park resident Matthew Kroeper was a loyal Kanoko customer, and now comes regularly to Sushi King. “The sushi and the service are just great. It’s definitely the best sushi around.”

Catering is a growing part of the business, adds Mr. Lung. “We are very busy with catering, and we have many orders for Thanksgiving. We will be especially busy during the holidays, and I also go to people’s houses to make sushi for a party.

“I am very proud of achieving my dream to have my own restaurant,” he adds. “We want to be known as the place to go for sushi, and we want to invite everyone to come in and try our great dishes.”

Sushi King is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 to 3, 4:30 to 10; Sunday 12 to 9. (732) 821-8822. Website: www.sushiking27.com.

December 5, 2012

FARMHOUSE FAVORITES: “There are furniture stores and gift stores. We combine the best of each, and many of the items we carry are exclusive to us. You won’t see them everywhere.” Kristin and Ron Menapace, owners of The Farmhouse Store on Palmer Square, are shown near a display of the store’s popular accent pillows, scarves, and intriguing miscellany.

The Farmhouse Store at 43 Hulfish Street is barely a month old, and customers can’t wait to see the latest items.

It is easy to understand why. The attractive store is filled with a variety of intriguing “conversation pieces,” from jewelry to furniture. And much, much more!

Opened the end of October by Ron and Kristin Menapace, it is the second Farmhouse Store in New Jersey. The first was opened in Westfield by Mr. Menapace’s brother.

Originally from Hillsborough, Ron Menapace had worked in the pharmaceutical business, and lived in California before changing careers.

Center of Town

Impressed with the success of The Farmhouse Store in Westfield, he decided to embark on a new adventure, and opened a similar shop in Princeton. “The big difference coming from the corporate world to this is the connection we have with the community here,” says Mr. Menapace.

Adds his wife and co-owner Kristin Menapace: “We wanted to be in the center of town, and Palmer Square was a perfect match for us. We want to make the store unique to Princeton.”

They certainly have! From jewelry to lamps to rugs to scarves, pillows, and throws to clocks and candles, dishes, trays, and mugs to farm tables, hutches, and rocking chairs, decorative stars to greeting cards to fingerless mittens, the selection is never-ending.

“Our signature is our barn wood,” explains Mr. Menapace. “We use barn wood from farm houses to make furniture, and the Farmhouse Store makes its own furniture. It can be custom-designed as to color, finish, size, etc. In just a very short time, we have already sold farm tables, coffee tables, and benches.”

The range of furniture includes beds, cabinets, and hutches with different finishes. There are also handsome upholstered and slip-covered sofas and chairs. Floor lamps featuring both wrought iron bases and hand-blown bases, with beaded fabric shade catch the eye; and accent pillows, including charming farm motif and “Flying Pigs” design, are great gift ideas. Serving dishes in the shape of artist’s palette, and small orange and black cheese trays with “Princeton parking violation” design are fun to add to your entertaining mosaic.

“Many of the items are small batch artisan goods. You will find uncommon treasures,” points out Kristin Menapace. “We have unusual artwork from an Atlanta artist who emphasizes inspirational sayings with her work.”

Front Porch

For example, wooden picture frames with the following sentiment:

“It was the barn for the square dance on Saturday night.

It was the front porch to rock on.

It was the trim that said the hard work paid off.

The only thing worse than tearing down an old building

Is not re-using the wood that created its beauty.”

There are specialties for children, such as “100 Gathered Thoughts (For My Beautiful Child)”, featuring note pads with tear-off sayings.

It is also not every shop in which you will find money pots! The collection of Taramandi Etruscan money pots, hand-thrown in Italy, feature bright colors and designs. As the attached message explains: “Once the first coin is dropped, the money pot must be fed until full, upon which it must be smashed whilst making a wish. Money pots bring good fortune, and can hold up to $500 with nickels, dimes, and quarters.”

Jewelry, from delicate to dramatic, is a big favorite at the store, and includes a complete selection, with many pieces in silver. Unusual pendants feature genuine pressed flowers, leaves and herbs.

Wine stoppers and wind chimes, dish towels and glasses with states of the U.S. motif, clay pottery, soup mugs with scenes of Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, and other NYC favorites, silk flowers, amazing “Gurgle Pots” — fish-shaped pitchers in all colors that actually gurgle when filled with water … the list goes on and on.

Great Resource

“We have something for anywhere in your house,” says Ms. Menapace, “and we are a great resource for hostess and housewarming gifts.”

The wide price range will also please customers. From $1.99 for a little sequin bracelet to $2000 for furniture, and everything in between. Examples include scarves, which start at $13.99, the all-important cheeseboard with dipping bowl and knife at $34.95, cheese platters made from rustic wood scrub boards under $20, and miniature vases at $19.99.

“My little daughter loves to bring me dandelions, and we never had a vase small enough for them,” reports Ms. Menapace. “Now, we have very tiny vases, which are just fine for dandelions!

“I really enjoy talking with all our customers,” she adds. “I like to know where they’re from and what they’re looking for. Personal service is very important, and either Ron or I are always here.”

The Farmhouse Store offers complimentary gift packaging and wrapping, and is open Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 to 8:30, Sunday 12 to 5. (609) 688-0777 www.facebook.com/thefarmhousestoreprinceton.