February 20, 2013
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

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.


“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.

INSPIRED DESIGN: “Jewelry is very personal. It’s a special part of a person’s life. People have always loved to adorn themselves with jewelry to add beauty.” Beth Judge of Beth Ann Designs in Hopewell is wearing one of her own designs, a pendant with a Peruvian opal set in sterling silver accented with an orange garnet.

Creating beautiful jewelry is the specialty of Beth Judge. And she is very aware of and grateful for her ability and talent to create.

“I love doing this, and I consider it a gift given to me that I am able to do what I love.”

A graduated gemologist, goldsmith, and award-winning designer, Ms. Judge opened her new studio and showroom, Beth Ann Designs at 20 Seminary Avenue in Hopewell in November,

The beauty and creativity of design has always had a magnetism for her. “As a girl, I was always interested in art, and I loved to make things. I started designing jewelry at age 16, and I had a wonderful mentor, my high school teacher. He was also a jewelry designer on the side. I went on to get a BA in fine art, majoring in metals.”

Bench Jeweler

Before going into business for herself, Ms. Judge honed her skills by working for other jewelry firms in the area. “I was a bench jeweler for retail stores, and I did repair and custom design,” she says. “I always wanted to make my own jewelry, and I have been doing that for the past 12 years.

“When the opportunity to open here came along, it was just what I wanted, which was to be in a more accessible location. This space was small enough to show my work in an intimate setting, but also with room for my workshop. My stones, my raw materials are right here in my workshop. I have a huge selection of loose stones. I can tell a customer exactly what is possible, and it was also important for me to offer a very comfortable setting for clients to sit down and talk about what they want.”

It is indeed a charming showroom for Ms. Judge’s creations. Display cabinets are filled with her one-of-kind necklaces, pendants, earrings, bracelets, and brooches. Her pendants are a specialty, featuring graceful designs reminiscent of feathers or leaves that seem to float in the air. She is even able to create reversible pieces, such as a pendant with orange and blue enamel in sterling silver on one side, and sterling silver cut-out with black background on the other, on a carnelian chain.

“I really like to work with stones,” she notes. “Right now, I am working on a pendant with a pink drusy stone, with tanzanite.”

Ms. Judge creates all of her pieces in her workshop in the back of the studio, where, as she says, “I enjoy the creative process of visualizing something and then having it actually in my hand. I also very much like working with someone to create a design for them, whether it is new or a re-design of an older piece.”

This can often begin with a drawing, and Ms. Judge will frequently have questions for the client. “When and where will they wear it? To a formal or informal occasion? With an elegant dress or with a T-shirt and jeans?”

Expert Craftsmanship

Ms. Judge has a full selection of her pieces — including the first pair of earrings she made at 16 — on display, and they reveal expert craftsmanship and are aesthetically beautiful. A series of delicate and graceful bracelets are particularly intriguing. “They are hand-forged silver with one-of-a-kind stones, and hand-made settings,” she points out. “The stones vary and can include malachite and dalmation stones, among others.”

A more dramatic large link bracelet features candy stripe jasper with sterling silver, and is sure to be a conversation piece. An especially lovely amethyst necklace includes sterling silver, accented with gold, and with a drop of ametrine.

“I also have a lot of freshwater pearls,” notes Ms. Judge. “They can be dyed, and I often include them as part of a piece. I also try to make things as versatile as possible. For example, I could have a pendant on a strand of pearls, or it could be placed on a gold chain, and work as well with either.”

An award-winning designer, Ms. Judge has received the highly prestigious DeBeers award for design three times, twice for her brooches, and also for a necklace when she was still a student. One of the brooches  was eventually auctioned by Christie’s.

On Saturday, December 8, Ms. Judge, in collaboration with jewelry designer Sheila Fernekes, will host a reception, “Holiday Adornments” at Beth Ann Designs Studio.

“This is an opportunity for people to come and see the studio and showroom and our work. Sheila specializes in beaded pieces, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc. We will have refreshments, and people can browse and buy and ask questions. It will be from 10 a.m. to 4, and it’s a chance to find some great holiday gifts, which we will put in a box and wrap for you.”

Appraisal Work

Ms. Judge’s pieces are within a wide price range, with earrings from $35. Some of her silver bracelets are $179. She notes that there has been a sharp increase in the price of metals today. “Over the last four or five years, the price of gold has become extraordinarily high, and two years ago, the price of silver doubled. This is certainly a consideration for customers, and for me in how I approach a design. Of course, I will always be adding new pieces, so there will always be something new for people to see.”

In addition to her designs, Ms. Judge, as a gemologist, does appraisal work. “I will look at the stone under the microscope, and check for inclusions (little lines or marks).

“I really enjoy everything — all the different aspects of my work,” she adds. “I believe that what I can offer no one else in the area does. I wear so many hats. I’m a designer, with extensive background in repair, custom-design, and re-design of older pieces. I am very encouraged since I opened. The word-of-mouth has been great, and I have developed a base of many regular customers. I look forward to introducing even more people to my work.”

Beth Ann Designs is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment. (609) 466-6467. www.bethannjudge.com.

November 21, 2012

POPULAR PLACE: “I had been wanting to have my own place for a while, and the opportunity came along when the Red Oak Diner was available. The timing was right.” Jeff Delaney, new owner of the Red Oak Diner & Bakery, looks forward to bringing his restaurant experience to the longtime Montgomery diner.

Diners are fun. They’re often reminders of times past — stopping in with friends for a malt, cheeseburger, and French fries when you were a teen. They can be a perfect place when you’re in a hurry, with just time for a piece of pie and cup of coffee. They’re a great stopping spot to bring the family after a movie or sports event.

And, they can be so much more.

Take the Red Oak Diner & Bakery at 1217 Route 206 in Montgomery. Under new ownership, it offers a wide variety of choices, from typical traditional diner fare to entree specials for lunch and dinner, as well as Greek and Italian specialties, and seafood, such as shrimp scampi and broiled salmon.

“I thought this place had a lot of potential, and it’s a great location,” explains new owner Jeff Delaney. Based on his long experience in the restaurant business with his family, he brought with him definite ideas of how he envisaged the diner.

Complete Menu

“It goes beyond diner food. We are looking to add to the menu and keep it varied and fresh. We will include daily specials — with entree, soup, or salad and dessert. A complete menu. I believe the specials will set us apart. It will be quality food, quality service, and affordable prices. We want to provide a family atmosphere, and we have a children’s menu.”

Recent dinner specials, which are updated daily, include roasted pork loin, roast lamb, roasted tilapia, shrimp scampi, leg of lamb, baked pork chops, broiled salmon, and the always popular meat loaf. These specials (with soup or salad and dessert) range from $11.95 to $15.95.

Similar choices, also with soup or salad and dessert, are available for lunch, starting at $7.95.

“Baked pork chops are very popular,” says Mr. Delaney. “And, people always want the meat loaf — you can count on that! They also like the salads, especially the Greek salads, and the pita specials. People are definitely interested in healthier eating today. We try to get things locally, and the freshest ingredients are essential”

Big Sellers

Other favorites are the Greek specialty spanakopita, the traditional turkey club sandwich, and the array of hamburgers (from $5.15) and deli sandwiches. Baked ham on rye, grilled cheese, tuna melt, and the famous Reuben are all available.

Breakfast is offered throughout the day and night — eggs of every kind, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, and French toast are always big sellers.

And, certainly, the ice cream sodas, shakes, root beer floats, and various pies, cakes (including cheese cake), Danish, muffins, and brownies are here to stay at Red Oak.

Customers enjoy the friendly low key setting and atmosphere, reports Mr. Delaney. The diner is larger than it appears at first glance, with seating for more than 100 at the counter, restaurant-style tables, and booths. Many regular customers are coming in often and new faces are arriving too, he adds.

Busiest Times

“We have gotten very busy. The dinner crowd is getting busier, especially on weekends. Breakfast and lunch are very much in demand on weekdays, and brunch is popular on weekends too. A pattern will become evident, too, and we will see what are the busiest times with the most numbers of people.

“The customers are all across the board,” he says. “All ages, families, singles — everyone. The majority are local but we also have people who stop in when they are on the road. People often come to a diner because they are in a hurry, and they want a smooth and positive experience. What is so important is that we offer a seamless experience for customers. We want them to get service right away and have everything go smoothly. We strive to have the best staff, people who are well-trained, experienced, and welcoming.

“The pride comes from being able to provide quality food and have customers smile and be happy when they leave, and say ‘That was great!’ The compliments are really coming in, and we are so encouraged. It’s such positive feedback. People are really noticing the difference.”

Red Oak Diner & Bakery is open seven days 6 a.m. through 9 p.m. Hours will expand. (609) 430-8200. Website: www.redoakdinerandbakery.com.

November 14, 2012

FEELING BETTER: “It’s more acceptable to go to therapy today, to see it as a path to find a solution to problems. It’s more normalized, nothing to be ashamed of. And many people can be helped.” Ashley Paul Wright, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and certified psychoanalyst (left) and Robin Fein, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and pyschotherapist are partners in Vanguard Counseling of Princeton.

“The biggest challenge is to get the person to make the first call,” states Ashley Paul Wright LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and certified psychoanalyst.

Adds Robin Fein, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and psychotherapist, “When you find the right therapist, it can be life-changing.”

Mr. Wright and Ms. Fein are partners in Vanguard Counseling of Princeton, their psychotherapy and psychoanalysis practice. Both have practiced in Princeton for more than 20 years, with a goal of helping clients resolve problems in a way that provides them with a more hopeful view of the future.

For people struggling with emotional and mental health issues, reaching out for help is so important, points out Mr. Wright, who previously served as director of clinical services for AAMH (Association for the Advancement of Mental Health) in Princeton and also as director for Early Intervention Support Services in Cherry Hill.

Hopeful View

A certified psychoanalyst, he strongly believes people can change their lives for the better with the help of a concerned, compassionate, experienced therapist. “Earlier in my career, I became interested in psychoanalyst Karen Horney’s theories on psychoanalysis. She had a very hopeful view of human growth, and believed you are never too old to change. I was trained at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis-Karen Horney Center in New York.”

“We can help people grow,” points out Ms. Fein. “The relationship we develop with the client creates the mechanism for this. It’s how you do the therapy and the quality of the therapy that makes the difference.”

It is crucial that an individual finds a therapist with whom he or she can build a solid relationship based on trust, she adds. “It is so important to find the right therapist for you.”

Ms. Fein’s practice emphasizes older adolescents, including high school and college-aged patients, 17 and up. Before coming to Princeton, she trained in psychodynamic therapy at the Postgraduate Center in New York, and also worked at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital in the early development of services for sexually abused women.

Mood Disorder

Other focuses in her practice include mood disorder (depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder), life transitions, such as separation and divorce, aging, and also chronic illness, and grief.

“A special interest for me has been psychological trauma — Holocaust survivors, and those who have suffered sexual abuse, including rape and incest.”

Depression and anxiety are frequent conditions that both Ms. Fein and Mr. Wright see in their practices. Addictions of various kinds are other issues that bring patients to seek their help.

When an individual has taken the first — often momentous — step of making an appointment, he or she wants to feel respected by the therapist, explains Mr. Wright. “Patients want to be respected and valued, and feel wanted. I let them know that I respect them and want to help them. Trust is built between the client and therapist.

“People are often unhappy with themselves and with their lives,” he continues. “They feel they haven’t lived up to their potential. Also, people frequently repeat the wrong solutions. I try to help them develop an acceptance of what they have experienced. They need to develop compassion for themselves and forgive themselves. I want to help them find a new path and develop a present-mindedness. The only place to live is in the present moment. Most people live in the past or look to the future.

“They limit their lives that way. They may think it’s more comfortable and safe; I want them to be able to experience a fuller and ultimately happier life. I want to help them identify their values and set goals for themselves, and be comfortable with present-mindedness.”

Men’s Issues

Mr. Wright also focuses on men’s issues, including helping men develop their strengths as individuals and in relationships. Helping them deal with the problems associated with aging, including social, psychological, and physical loss, is another area of concern. “It is important to develop psychological flexibility to deal with the changes that come,” he points out.

And, as Ms. Fein explains, “All the losses that come with aging can be hard to face; and certain stages of life are more difficult — retirement, illnesses, losing friends. And the society is so focused on youth and being productive that people may feel they don’t matter any more.”

Both Ms. Fein and Mr. Wright work with individuals and groups. “In a group, not only do patients interact with the therapist, but with each other,” they note.

Their patients are primarily from the Princeton area, and vary in age — from teens to retired persons. Sessions for individuals are 50 minutes, and are usually scheduled once a week. The overall length of time a person is in therapy can vary from a month to several months to years, depending on the goals of the patient.

“If it’s a crisis, we may be able to solve the problem in a few sessions,” says Mr. Wright. “To accomplish long-term change to enable people to manage problems in the future can take longer.”

“When people have experienced a traumatic event, I try to help them find equilibrium and to recalibrate, notes Ms. Fein. “This can be a longer process.”

Good Listener

Both therapists agree that being a good listener is essential to being a good therapist. “I feel there is almost something sacred in the connection and trust that develops between patient and therapist,” says Ms. Fein. “The openness and communication can be very powerful. It helps the individual feel understood and cared about, and then they can consider how they want to change. It’s relational therapy. We are relational creatures.”

Mr. Wright also works with families, and whether he is with a family, treating individuals, or leading groups, he finds it extremely fulfilling. “What I do is full of creativity. It’s not work to me. In a sense, I feel as if I am playing — in a serious way. I feel I’m in the moment — exploring and learning, and having this encounter with patients. In the course of the therapy, we both change. I impact the patient, and the patient impacts me. It’s learning and interacting, and it’s fascinating and enriching.”

As Ms. Fein points out, “People are unique and so complicated. This work is never dull. There is always something new. I have always had curiosity about people, and I have always wanted to be of service and to do something of value with my life. I want to continue to be of service.”

Because she and Mr. Wright want to make therapy available to a wide range of individuals, they have established an affordable payment plan, based on a sliding scale. “We offer affordable solutions for life’s problems.”

They also offer flexible hours. For more information, call (609) 480-6415 or contact vanguardcounseling@gmail.com.

November 7, 2012

HELPING OUT: “We are happy to participate in this special Thanksgiving Turkey Drive,” says Jack Morrison (center). The owner of Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Co. is shown with long-time employees Jose Lopez (left) and Jeremy Stein. The Turkey Drive, under the sponsorship of JM Group and J.Vrola, will benefit Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and continue through November 9. Donations of $10 will be matched by the JM Group.

The fish is so fresh at Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Company, you can almost smell the ocean!

Owner Jack Morrison takes pride in offering customers the freshest seafood he can find. And he has been doing this for 30 years!

Opened in 1982 at 256 Nassau Street, Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Company has become a Princeton mainstay, with scores of regular customers over the years — many of whom joined the company’s 30th anniversary celebratory clambake on Saturday, September 8.

“It was a great event — a big birthday party,” says Mr. Morrison. “We were so glad so many people came to celebrate with us.”

Freshest Fish

And customers have been counting on Nassau Street Seafood to provide them with the freshest fish for their own private dinners, parties, and special events since that August beginning in 1982. It has surely become the go-to place for fresh seafood as well as prepared meals and take-out lunches and dinners.

From the earliest days, Mr. Morrison’s goal was to bring the Princeton community the freshest fish and shellfish available. “The fish here have just been harvested the day we get it,” he points out. “We’re at the New York fish market several days of the week, and we bring everything in whole and cut it. It’s fresher and preservative-free, and has no chemical treatments. We buy 95 percent of our fish directly, dealing with the boats and docks and fishermen.”

No doubt about it, Mr. Morrison knows his fish. Before opening in Princeton, he had a wholesale/retail seafood business in Philadelphia. When he moved here, he found a different clientele, and made adjustments in his selection of fish.

“The clientele in Princeton was different from that in Philadelphia. It was a more educated clientele than in Philadelphia. Their tastes were based on a greater variety of seafood. When we opened Nassau Street Seafood, we started with high standards, and they’ve gotten even higher.”

Around the World

Now, Nassau Street Seafood gets fish from around the world, including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Hawaii as well as the Jersey shore, the Great Lakes, Alaska, and Nova Scotia. By developing and nurturing relationships with local fishermen and the top seafood purveyors from around the world, Nassau Street Seafood is able to provide its customers with the highest quality of sustainable, fresh seafood.

Wild salmon continues to be very popular with customers, as does halibut from Nova Scotia and Alaska, sea scallops from Barnegat Bay, and monk fish and skate, also from Barnegat Bay. Oysters, crab, lobster, and shrimp are always in demand.

“Nassau Street Seafood customers are interested in trying new and different fish, as well as enjoying raw fish,” reports Mr. Morrison. And although most people like their fish filleted, some customers prefer to buy the whole fish.

“We have a big international community here,” he explains. “Also, generally, milder fish is popular, but some people like the ‘fishier’ fish. For example, shad is very popular here.”

The store has also developed a very strong take-out lunch business (lots of people cheerfully stand in long lines waiting for their favorites). Popular choices include fish tacos, grilled tilapia wrap, shrimp ‘po boy, grilled salmon sandwich, fish & chips, crab cake sandwich, and many others.

The variety of dinner platters to go is also popular, including grilled Atlantic salmon, fried clam strips, grilled sword fish, Maryland crab cakes, and seared sea scallops.

Colorful Display

A few years after opening the store, Mr. Morrison added produce to the mix, and it, too, has proved highly successful. The colorful display includes peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, raspberries, blueberries, apples, and much more. It is all obtained from local vendors as often as possible.

“We get produce from Terhune Orchards, also Village Farm in Lawrenceville, the produce market in Philadelphia, and cheese from Cherry Grove Farm,” says Mr. Morrison.

In addition, he is a sponsor of the very popular Princeton Farmer’s Market, open every Thursday at the Albert Hinds Plaza at the Princeton Public Library, from May until Thanksgiving.

Always looking for ways to expand his operation and bringing new opportunities to the Princeton dining community, Mr. Morrison opened Blue Point Grill Restaurant in 1999. This was a natural outgrowth of Nassau Street Seafood, he believes. “We had also had a catering business for years, so opening the restaurant made sense. Blue Point Grill is really more of a fish house than a seafood restaurant. It is very down to earth.”

And, like all of his ventures, very successful.

In 2006, Mr. Morrison followed up with Witherspoon Grill, a very popular steak house, located at the library plaza. In addition, he became involved in the development of the real estate in the area. “First, Witherspoon Grill was a tenant in the building, and then, eventually, I became the owner. I had actually had experience as a landlord previously, having owned the Blue Point Grill building. There is a parallel between that and running a store and restaurant. It’s being in the hospitality business. In our real estate operation, we treat residents as guests.”

JM Group

In addition to the “Witherspoon House” building on the plaza, Mr. Morrison now owns the retail/residential building at 25 Spring Street. Together, the two buildings have 86 residential apartments and numerous retail tenants.

Collectively, his businesses form the JM Group.

Because of his business success and his emphasis on giving back to the community, including supporting charities, such as those benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Trenton Soup Kitchen, and others, Mr. Morrison was recently named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

And, it all comes back to Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Company.

“We’re still an old-fashioned neighborhood
market,” says Mr. Morrison. “We pay special attention to our customers and offer them the best service we can. Our experienced fish mongers can filet your choice of fish or shuck fresh oysters upon demand. We take pride in knowing we have been a part of many family meals and get-togethers, and it has been our pleasure to be part of such a great community.”

Many Intangibles

“Success is measured in many different ways. You realize this later. There are many intangibles. The value that I’ve been able to get out of this career and being a part of this community is so important. I have always had simple goals. I love food and hospitality. I enjoy business, retail, and people. And I still enjoy being in the fish business and spending time with fishermen.”

Mr. Morrison also takes pride in the many employees of long-standing at the store. Many have worked at Nassau Street Seafood 20 years and longer. “They have made a career here, raised their families, and sent their kids to college. That is an achievement.”

He is also not one to rest on his laurels. As he says, “I look forward to continuing to grow and expand. More things are to come! And, above all, I want to emphasize how appreciative we are to the community and our loyal customers who have supported us over the years.”

Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Company is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 to 6, Sunday 9 to 3. (609) 921-0620. Website: www.jmgroupprinceton.com.

When you need a plumber, most often, you need him ASAP. A broken pipe, flooded basement, inoperative toilet — all are problems needing immediate attention.

Knowing the plumber will arrive, take care of the situation quickly, correctly, and thoroughly brings peace of mind.

Tindall & Ranson, the plumbing, heating, and cooling company at 880 Alexander Road, has established a first-class reputation for quality service.

“We have highly skilled workers,” notes president and founder Kevin Tindall. “We are available 24/7 for emergencies, and when you call us, you speak to a live person.”

Good Job

“You know,” he adds, “we do such a good job in the industry that people sometimes take plumbers for granted. But when they need us, we will be there. And, it is hard work to become a plumber — 8000 hours in the field, 400 hours in the classroom. It’s skilled people teaching unskilled people.”

As a licensed plumber himself, Mr. Tindall knows all about it. Born and brought up in West Windsor, he worked part-time for a plumbing company when he was 16, and then later apprenticed to a plumber in the area.

“I always enjoyed being out in the field and fixing something, he explains. “This is important, and
today, my employees know that I’ve had the hands-on experience — ‘been there, done that’!”

With a partner and four employees, Mr. Tindall established the firm in 1993. It has now grown into a company with a staff of 20 and a client base of more than 5000 all over the Princeton area.

“The work is mostly residential, with some light commercial,” he points out. “We work with some businesses and also fire departments in Princeton. We do a lot of maintenance fit-out, that is, putting in a new sink, etc. for new tenants in a building, and a lot of renovation.

“With plumbing, there is a lot of repair work, traditionally including water heaters, toilets, drips and leaks, etc. We also get a lot of situations where someone says, ‘I dropped my diamond in the sink!’ And kids throw things in the toilet. Make-up caps can also be a big problem if they fall in the toilet. Hair in the sink and bathtub is another big problem. The water temperature now has to be set at 120 degrees, and this is not hot enough to dissolve soap and other things.”

Enhanced Service

Mr. Tindall points out that one way people can keep disaster at bay is to establish a regular maintenance plan with the company. “We will then look in regularly and can see evidence of a problem, something leaking, etc., before it becomes an emergency. Don’t ignore a leak or drip. If you let it go, there can be more damage, and it could come suddenly at night or on the weekend. We can offer enhanced service for those who have a maintenance plan with us.”

Over the years, he has noticed many changes in the business. “The technology that has come to the business is amazing. Thirty or 35 years ago, there was no GPS in the car or smart phone. Now, you can be in touch anytime, anywhere with anyone.

“Another big change is high efficiency, low flush toilets. In 1992, Congress mandated that toilets with a 3.2 gallon per flush capacity must change to 1.6 gallons per flush. That technology is very good today, and it offers both energy and water conservation. Shower heads have also become more energy efficient, going from 2½ gallons per minute to 1¾ per minute. If you save water, you save electricity.”

Energy conservation is very important to Mr. Tindall, and he belongs to varied organizations furthering energy programs. “My wife and I have been involved in the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors association. It is the oldest trade association in the country. I am chairman of the Energy Efficiency Committee.

“In addition, the New Jersey Clean Energy Program focuses on sustainable technology and helps develop standards. It was founded through the social development fee from the electric bill. We can save you 25 percent off your heating bill, and you can also get a $5000 grant toward energy efficiency and energy reduction.

“The challenge is to get people to know it is there for them. It is designed to reduce the total use of energy. You can go to NJCleanenergy.com to learn more about it.”

Time and Effort

Mr. Tindall is very much involved both in the heating industry and the community. His friend of long-standing — Princeton resident Mark Freda — who is a former member of Princeton Borough Council and very active in the community, comments on Mr. Tindall’s willingness to spend time and effort to help people in the area.

“I have known Kevin for decades. He is an honest guy, who isn’t in business just to make money. After one of our large storms in recent years, I was involved in trying to help a family that was facing many difficulties, one of which was financial, and another concerning one of the family members who was home-bound with health problems. Due to basement flooding, their furnace was ruined, and we needed to provide a solution to this immediately. I called Kevin, explained the situation, and told him I had no idea how or when he would get paid for this.

“Knowing that, he still agreed to help; he sent two of his crew to go and remove an almost new furnace from another property and get it to this home within a few hours. They worked until they completed the removal of the old furnace, and
installed the replacement furnace, resolving this situation — a very long day for them. But that is the kind of guy Kevin is.”

“I want to give back,” says Mr. Tindall. “I am very active in the heating industry. We work to raise money for scholarships for students to get into the plumbing, heating, and cooling business. This is a great industry to be in, and we have a great staff at Tindall & Ranson. Many have been with us for a long time.

“We are always looking to allowing the younger people at the firm to take more of a part. It’s important to keep up with the times, and change when necessary.”

What won’t change, he adds, is Tindall & Ranson’s emphasis on dedicated, quality, and honest service. “We strive to provide the best service we can for our customers.”

Cool, Calm, Collected

In addition, to helping customers keep as cool, calm,  and collected as possible this summer, Tindall & Ranson offers a series of tips to help conserve energy in hot weather.

• Keep drapes, blinds and shades closed during the day to block out the sun.

• Clear furniture away from air conditioning vents.

• Install an attic fan — it can cool the attic by nearly 30 degrees.

• Install reflective window coatings to reflect heat away from the house.

• Plant shade trees to shade the house from the sun during the summer — it could save up to 8 percent on cooling costs.

• Use ceiling fans to cool the house. They are much cheaper to operate than air conditioners, and moving air feels cooler, so you can keep the thermostat setting higher.

• Open windows on cool summer days and nights. A good rule of thumb is not to open windows when the outside temperature is warmer than the inside of the house.

• Keep the coils of the central or window air conditioner free of dust and dirt.

Tindall & Ranson’s regular hours are Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (609) 924-3434. Website: www.tindallranson.com.

October 24, 2012

MUSICAL MAGIC: “The musical ability of the singers in Princeton Pro Musica is high. I’m not at all constrained in the choice of repertoire. We’ll continue with most of the well-loved pieces as well as new ones. We also look forward to some collaboration with other arts groups.” Ryan Brandau, new artistic director of Princeton Pro Musica, looks forward to the organization’s upcoming season.

Providing beautiful choral music to the Princeton community has been the goal of Princeton Pro Musica for 33 years.

As its mission statement points out: “Princeton Pro Musica exists to perform choral masterworks and other works of the choral literature with energy, passion, and uncompromising artistic excellence. We believe in the power of choral music to uplift and transform our audiences, performers, and communities.”

Begun in 1979, the organization was founded by singer and choral conductor Frances Fowler Slade. At that time, a small singing group was sponsored by the YWCA, recalls Princeton resident and long-time Princeton Pro Musica singer Simon (Sy) Marchand. “I was a member of the Y group, which was the genesis of Princeton Pro Musica.”

Once under way, with approximately 30 singers, all amateurs but serious, experienced musicians from the Princeton area, the group rehearsed at the Y, notes Princeton Pro Musica executive director Mary Trigg. “They quickly outgrew the space, however. The group expanded so quickly under Ms. Slade’s leadership. Soon, there were 80 singers — there have never been fewer than that, and this season, we have 105.”

High Standards

The singers, who range in age from 18 to 70-plus, are serious musicians, and many continue to study voice. They must audition every year, and the standards are very high. In addition to the amateur musicians, there is a core group of eight professional singers.

Many singers have been with the organization over time, including some for 20, even 30 years. Simon Marchand is an original member and continues to sing with the group. “The community did not have a real community chorus, and Princeton Pro Musica started off as a community creation and has retained that flavor. It is something Princeton can be proud of.

“Personally, I love the weekly rehearsals, when you can hear it all coming together, and hear the sounds that really transport you. The sound that is produced is like no musical instrument.”

The importance and enjoyment of the rehearsal to the musicians is emphasized again and again. Princeton resident Jan Johnson, former children’s librarian at the Princeton Public Library, has been a member of Princeton Pro Musica since its beginning, and she is also a member of the organization’s smaller Chamber Chorus.

“When I think of music, I can hear harmony, but I need to sing with other people because I can only sing one note at a time. I prefer choral singing because it’s like being on a team. One of the things that makes it so special is this group of people who have such a strong commitment, take the music very seriously, and work very hard. The rewards are commensurate with the effort.

“And, we provide high quality performances for the community. People don’t have to go to New York or Philadelphia to hear beautiful music.”

Original Instrument

After a career in music and business in New York, executive director Mary Trigg has been singing with Princeton Pro Musica since 1998 (as did her father before her). She is proud of the quality of the performances the chorus brings to the Princeton area.

“These performances are experienced singers and the scope of musical works that this group has presented is impressive. The voice is the original instrument. The combined choral music is a unique combination of words and music, supported by instruments, and is unlike any other form of music.”

Princeton Pro Musica plans four concerts for the 2012-13 season by the full chorus, as well as a series of performances by the Chamber Chorus, consisting of 24 members who sing a cappella.

The full chorus will perform Mozart’s Requiem, K 626 and Bach’s O Jesu Christ meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118 at Richardson Auditorium on Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. Its 42nd performance of Handel’s Messiah — a holiday tradition — will be presented at Patriots’ Theater, Trenton War Memorial on December 16. Performances in 2013 will take place in March and May.

These and future performances will be under the leadership of the new artistic director Ryan Brandau, who recently joined the organization after Ms. Slade’s retirement.

“We had a national search for director, and considered  53 candidates,” says Ms. Trigg. “Ryan was an outstanding choice.”

Superior Musicianship

Previously the artistic director of the Santa Clara Chorale in California and director of choral activities at Santa Clara University, Brandau has also worked with choirs at colleges and churches in Massachusetts and Connecticut. A Princeton University graduate, he has received graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge and the Yale School of Music.

“Both our board and our chorus believe Brandau possesses just the right mix of superior musicianship, organizational and community relations skills, experience programming from a diverse yet compelling repertoire, and a personal/professional philosophy compatible with Princeton Pro Musica’s mission,” says Jacques Lebel, immediate past president of Princeton Pro Musica’s Board of Trustees. He is an outstanding choice to become our new artistic director.”

Brandau looks forward to continuing to bring the combined voices of Princeton Pro Musica to area audiences. “It’s the magic of taking something that is ink on a page and transforming it into sound. For me, it’s a process of getting 100 people together and making that magic happen. I love it!”

Carolyn Landis, president of Princeton Pro Musica’s board of trustees and a singer with the group, looks forward to seeing the orginization thrive with the continued help of private donations, and funding from the Edward T. Cone Foundation, the New Jersey Cultural Trust, the Scheide Fund, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State.

“In my role as president, the most gratifying aspect is to see how well established and strong Princeton Pro Musica is. This is so important. Of course, the music is primary. The real essence for me is the weekly reshearsal, the opportunity to be transported to a higher level. Within the greater Princeton community, we hope to inspire hundreds, even thousands, of people with our performances of traditional and contemporary classical chord music.”

For further information, call (609) 683-5122, or contact www.princetonpromusica.org.

GREAT TASTES: “We are an informal but full-service restaurant. We have table-side service, and we have the freshest, highest quality 100 percent Angus beef — all-natural, vegetarian-fed with no antibiotics, hormones, or additives.” John Lim (second from left), owner of the new Cheeburger Cheeburger on Nassau Street, is shown with the staff, including from left: Vivian Lim, Matt Davis, Nick Collingwood, Jalyn Harden, and Tess Kazenoff.

How do you like your cheeseburger? You can “invent” your own at the new Cheeburger Cheeburger at 182 Nassau Street. Having just opened in mid-August, the eatery already has many fans, including a large number of regular customers, who love to customize their cheeseburgers with the myriad of toppings available.

“You can build your own burger, salad, or sandwich, with our huge variety of toppings,” says owner John Lim. “We have nine different cheeses, including blue, Swiss, feta, and parmesan, as well as cheddar and American. We also offer many, many more toppings, such as salsa, jalapeno peppers, honey mustard, horseradish, teriyaki, guacamole, curry, wasabi, and sriracha hot chili sauce. You can completely customize your burger to your own taste, and everything is made to order.”

The choices are truly unlimited, and customers are enjoying the opportunity to be creative, reports Mr. Lim, who opened the restaurant with his partner Adam Pasieka. Mr. Lim also owns two other Cheeburger Cheeburgers in the Mercer Mall in Lawrenceville and Hamilton.

An independently-owned franchise, the eatery is one of 70 across the country, says Mr. Lim, whose previous career was as an engineer in the corporate world. He decided to make a career change, after sampling one of the Cheeburger Cheeburger’s cheeseburgers (It was that good!). And, he has not regretted his decision.

John’s Place

“This is a franchise but a very exclusive franchise. We are known for the quality of our food and the fun that customers can have creating their special favorite. We are definitely not a fast food restaurant, which typically offers highly processed food, prepared elsewhere and delivered to the restaurant. Our beef, which is top-notch, is fresh, not salted or seasoned, and has great taste.

“I’m a foodie,” he adds. “(I love to cook — my spaghetti is second to none!), and I make certain that the food at our restaurant is the best it can be. What I want is for people to watch the Super Bowl, see a commercial for McDonald’s, and think, ‘On Monday, I’ll go to John’s Place for a burger.’”

Mr. Lim definitely looks forward to Cheeburger Cheeburger becoming a neighborhood favorite for families with young kids, teens, University students, as well as adults of all ages. “I want to embrace Princeton. I want us to be a local hang-out place. I want people to think of us as ‘John’s Place’. I’m local myself, and live nearby.”

Customers are enjoying everything — from the burgers to the wide variety of salads and the popular wraps, as well as turkey burgers, veggie burgers, portobello mushroom sandwiches, and many more choices. They also love the special French fries (with the skins) and onion rings, both available with any sauce or topping.

In addition, in keeping with the eatery’s vintage fun ‘50s-style, there is an array of shakes, malteds, ice cream sodas, root beer floats, and even the unique “egg cream” (made with the authentic Fox U Bet syrup), so familiar to New Yorkers and Brooklynites.

The true claim to fame, of course, is the cheeseburger — in all its variations and sizes.

Wall of Fame

“Our famous ‘Pounder’ — actually 20 ounces — is special,” says Mr. Lim. “We offer the ‘Pounder Challenge’. If someone can eat it, we take their picture and put it up on the Wall of Fame. We also have the three-quarter, half-pounder, quarter-pounder, and smaller. There is one for everyone. Kids love the burgers (they are served in a special colorful cardboard ‘car’ carton), and this is a great place for families. Prices are very affordable, with burgers starting at $5.59.”

Mr. Lim expects to have a big business with high school and college students as well. “We hope to establish a tradition with them. And we have already established a relationship with Princeton University, and have had a big catering order for their football team.”

Building a strong staff is very important to Mr. Lim, and he is pleased with his employees. “I make a point of hiring young people, often 17- and 18-year-olds. It’s our way of giving kids their first job and an opportunity to earn real money. I try to instill three concepts: honesty, integrity, and pride in their work. This will help them in their lives in whatever they eventually do.”

Giving back to the community is another focus for Cheeburger Cheeburger. “We are known for our fund-raisers for various community organizations, and we will continue to do this.”

Fun and Inviting

Cheeburger Cheeburger has seating for 110, with a counter, booths, tables, and chairs available. The colorful vintage atmosphere is fun and inviting, and Mr. Lim reports that many adult customers are reminded of fun times when they were kids going to the neighborhood diner to hang out with friends.

“I want everyone to be welcome here. I enjoy meeting and talking with people. It makes my day, and I want you to know that when you come into my restaurant, it’s as if you are coming into my home. You’re my guest, and I treat you as my guest.

“I also want people to know that we will always keep up the quality and maintain our standards — the best food, cleanliness, hospitality, and customer service.”

Cheeburger Cheeburger is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9/10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 to/9/10/11, Sunday 11 to 8/9. Hours will be adjusted over the next months. (609) 921-0011. Website: www.cheeburger.com.

October 17, 2012

FABULOUS FLORALS: “The flowers are very personalized and customized. This is what I enjoy most — to fit all the pieces together, so that everything suits the personality of the celebration and the site.” Antonietta Branham, owner of The Cottage Garden, provides flowers for a variety of events. She is shown near a display of orange Free Spirit roses, blue hydrangeas, and green Bells of Ireland.

“This is my passion! The joy that flowers can give a client is wonderful.”

Antonietta Branham, owner of The Cottage Garden, is enthusiastic about the opportunity to provide flowers for events of all kinds and sizes. She has recently opened a shop at 6 Chambers Street, where customers will find a variety of flowers charmingly displayed.

“I always wanted to have a little spot for people to come in and see me,” says Ms. Branham, who has been furnishing flowers for events for the past 10 years.

A long-time Princeton resident — since 1955! — she has had a wide-ranging career, including in real estate. “No matter what I was doing professionally, I always had flowers and plants in my home and office. As a girl, I loved flowers and art, including bringing textiles home to sew a dress. And it was always in the back of my mind to provide flowers for events. I didn’t really want to have a florist shop. I felt I could be more creative doing event work.”

Natural Way

Starting by finding flowers for family and friends’ events, Ms. Branham became more and more involved in the process, and soon established her own business. “When Martha Stewart began to be popular, and a more natural way of arranging flowers was coming into focus, I felt it was the right time.”

Opportunities for events, such as weddings, corporate fund-raisers, campus events at Princeton University, as well as family birthday and anniversary parties, graduations, Mother’s Day, memorial services, etc., began to increase, and she found herself busy year-round.

“It kept growing, and I just love it! My mission is always about the clients. I like to meet them in their surroundings, and I listen carefully to what they want to achieve. Sometimes, they may have a theme in mind. The first thing you must do is to see that the flowers are appropriate for the site. This is a must.”

Color is major, she adds. “This is the biggest issue for me. It’s all about color! If the client loves red, then it’s red!”

Ms. Branham tries to obtain seasonal flowers when possible, she notes. “It can be very seasonal. Spring is the best time for flowers. There are more collections available then. I also like to keep it local when I can. Farmers in the area are growing a variety of flowers, including dahlias.”

Other popular flowers for Ms. Branham’s events include roses, of course — and in all colors — hydrangeas, tulips, calla lilies, lily of the valley, and forget-me-nots.

Flower Markets

She gets selections from all over the world, including Holland, South America, France, Italy, and Israel as well as parts of the United States, and even her own garden!

Ms. Branham goes to the flower markets in New York City and northern New Jersey weekly to find exactly what she wants. “I have a long-standing relationship with people at the flower markets. They know the quality of the flowers I need.”

The type of event determines the choice of flowers, and Ms. Branham enjoys the diversity. For fund-raisers, I usually concentrate on centerpieces, and often something for the entry way. Sometimes, it can include little lights, which adds interest.”

In the case of weddings, she will provide the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets, and flowers for the church and reception. “Some brides like something very simple, architectural,” she notes. “Others like a more traditional look, but with a modern take. Some tend toward vibrant color.”

Ms. Branham especially enjoys the challenge of finding something different. “I enjoy clients who come to me for something that seems so unusual and so impossible to find that I can’t wait to get started!”

The fragrance of flowers often evokes memories, she continues. “I remind a bride to choose a flower with a scent she loves, so she will always remember the day when she encounters that scent.”

Unusual Situations

Three months notice is typical for a wedding, but if her schedule permits, Ms. Branham can be flexible. “There can be unusual situations. In one case, I met a bride by chance on Monday, and the wedding was the next Sunday! We did 15 centerpieces and bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids, and it turned out fine.”

Clients are from Princeton and the area, and also from northern New Jersey, Connecticut, and Manhattan. Cost is determined by the choice of flowers and how many are needed.

I first ask the client to establish a budget,” explains Ms. Branham. “Then, we’ll go on from there. Usually, I’ll get a deposit in the beginning and then payment right before the event.”

“There is no question that Ms. Branham loves what she does. The shop is filled with roses, hydrangeas, gardenias, and in the window is a display of beautiful peonies in a most gorgeous shade of pink, with white orchids intermingled.

Whether you are planning a small gathering at home, a larger happening in a hotel, “high tea” in a tent or a picnic on the patio, Ms. Branham will find just the right accompaniment of flowers.

“This is truly my mission; I will find exactly what the client wants, and then see that the flowers arrive on time for the event, are the right color, and in perfect condition.”

She also provides flowers for home decor for private residences, and reminds people that many times, less is more. “Flowers are a luxury, after all. I recommend to people that a few lovely flowers are better than a bushel of typical, ordinary ones.

“I am so pleased and encouraged about my new location,” she says, with a smile. “I have great hope for it, and I look forward to being here a long time. I love to meet people who share the same passion for flowers, and I love to share information with them.”

The Cottage Garden is open Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment Sunday and Monday. Call for specific hours. (609) 924-3446.

FALL FASHION: “I want women to find fashion that they love at prices they can afford,” says Linda Martin, owner of Flutter Boutique in Pennington. Ms. Martin is shown with a fashion-forward black dress featuring a sheer fitted Swiss bodice and sleeve from the fall Darling line, exclusive to Flutter.

“You want to look as good on the outside as you feel on the inside,” says Linda Martin, owner of Flutter Boutique in Pennington. Opened last March at 20 South Main Street, the boutique has become a favorite of customers from all over the area.

“We don’t target any particular age group,” points out Ms. Martin, who has had a long career in the fashion industry, “Our customers can be mothers and daughters who have come in together, have fun shopping, and each one leaves with something. It is everyone, 16 to 60-plus and everyone in between. It’s really about attitude. It’s your attitude toward fashion that matters, not your age.”

Formerly head of human resources for all the Macy’s Department stores and also for The Children’s Place, Ms. Martin had always dreamed of having her own store. “I knew I wanted to do this and have a boutique. This is where my heart was leading me.”

Even as a toddler, Ms. Martin knew what she wanted to wear. “I kept changing my clothes all day,” she recalls, with a smile. “And when I was six, my godmother gave me an Easter outfit, and nothing went together. I didn’t want to wear it! Clothes always mattered to me. I had a subscription to Vogue when I was 13.”

Right Place

When the Pennington space became available, Ms. Martin knew it was the right place to be.

“People started coming in right away, and there has been great word-of-mouth. I’ve really been surprised at how quickly people have embraced the store. We have lots of regulars, and many customers have become friends. It’s so nice when I see a customer and know their name. I think people really wanted a store like this.”

You don’t have to be a “fashionista” to enjoy yourself at Flutter. Ms. Martin and the friendly, knowledgeable staff are there to be fashion advisers for customers who are looking for advice. Others may know exactly what they want, and find it right away.

“We take what is ‘in fashion’ and interpret it for you, the individual client, and focus on your style,” explains Ms. Martin. “Style is not defined by your size, your age, or your budget. Style is personal and unique to you. I want women to find fashion they love at prices they can afford. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look great.”

It is also important to Ms. Martin that the selection at Flutter is unique, with items not found in other shops in the area. “My goal is to carry a great selection of quality sportswear, dresses, and accessories that you won’t find anywhere else. Every week, we have new things coming in, so there is a fresh look in the shop. And many items are exclusive to us in the area. When they go to a party, clients can be confident that others will not be wearing the same dress.”

In fact, dresses of all kinds — from informal to party glam to Mother-of-the-Bride and Mother-of-the-Groom styles — are all on display.

Wearable Fashion

“Our customers like dresses,” notes Ms. Martin. “We’re really a destination place for dresses. What makes dresses so appealing is a no-brainer. With women so busy, it’s a relief to get up in the morning, and just put on a dress. You don’t have to worry about what top will go with the pants or skirt. It’s a time-saver.”

Indeed, Ms. Martin does not want customers to be stressed about getting dressed at all. Helping them to look their best is a priority
at Flutter. Versatility is key, she adds. Clients want items that can be worn for more than one occasion or purpose. “We focus on wearable fashion that customers are comfortable in.

“Customers can go high/low,” she adds. “That is, you can put a great outfit together, perhaps incorporating one expensive piece and one less expensive. It’s very individualized today.”

Fall is always a highlight of the fashion scene, with new energy and excitement in the air. “Fall is all about leather,” says Ms. Martin. “Pants, skirts, tops. It’s also about leather accents, trim, shoulder detail, etc. And lace is still very important. Lace has really moved from fashion to a basic. You can wear lace with a leather skirt. Again, it’s so individualized.”

Another popular fashion piece is the peplum, she continues. “It’s very feminine, and you see it with dresses, jackets, and tops. It’s great with a narrow pencil skirt, and with embellishment.”

Sequins and beading also lend a bit of glitter to a variety of the items, including tops and dresses, at Flutter. And fashion is nothing without color! Important fall colors are burgundy, cobalt blue, and black “with a shot of color”, reports Ms. Martin. “A black dress with black suede shoes will look great with opaque panty hose in cobalt or teal. Navy and black together are a great combination. A navy dress with black leather shoulder treatment is a terrific look.”

Many Choices

Skirt lengths are up to the individual, she points out. Adapting the length to what the customer wants is the trend today. “They can be everywhere — what looks best on you. Below the knee, mid-calf, even longer, and if age appropriate, above the knee.”

In addition to dresses, an appealing selection of pants and tops is available. Tunics with tapered slim-cut pants are very popular, and there are many choices in color, style, texture, and pattern.

Accessories, such as a wonderful piece of jewelry or an intriguing scarf, complete the fashion statement. The display at Flutter offers many options.

“Statement necklaces, such as large dramatic pieces, or pendants with tassels, are popular right now, and dangle and drop earrings as well as more tailored basic jewelry are all in demand,” says Ms. Martin. “People are also stacking lots of colorful, vivid bangle bracelets together. This is a popular look.

“Our scarf selection offers a variety of textures, patterns, and colors for every season, and we also have outstanding handbags. Studding and embellishment are popular now, and we have all styles — shoulder, across the body, and clutches. Portfolio clutches are big favorites. They are thin, but larger, and you can fit more in them.”

Ms. Martin is often asked about the origin of her boutique’s name, Flutter, and the explanation is intriguing. I had heard the expression: ‘Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.’ That is exactly how I feel. I had retired from one aspect of the fashion industry, and now could do what I had always wanted.”

Beauty and Grace

It so inspired her that she wrote a poem to express her feelings.

“The wings of a butterfly are delicate but strong, its power deceiving.

It is said that the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can turn the tides of an ocean.

And while the life-span of a butterfly is brief, it savors every moment as it moves from flower to flower, enchanting us with its beauty and grace.

What we learn from the butterfly is this: Live every day creating beauty, never underestimate your power and when you can ….. Take flight!”

“I love everything about what I’m doing now,” says Ms. Martin. “I know that every day I get to go exactly where I want to go and do exactly what I want to do. I can’t wait to get here in the morning. What I absolutely love is this: I love fashion; I love selecting merchandise; and I love interacting with customers.

“I also believe in giving back to the community. We support a variety of organizations and charities, including Christine’s Hope for Kids. We sell Christine’s bracelets, and all the proceeds go to the foundation.”

Flutter offers complimentary gift wrapping in addition to very pretty gift bags. Special end of the season sales and shopping nights are other also available. “We always emphasize attention to detail,” notes Ms. Martin. “It says to customers that we care about them.”

Flutter Boutique is open Monday through Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 10 to 9, Sunday 12 to 5. (609) 737-2236. Website: facebook.com/flutterstyle.

October 10, 2012

KIDS’ CORNER: “We make this more of a boutique, a fun, happy experience for customers. And we are really filling a need for people, especially in this difficult economy.” Michelle Towers, owner of Milk Money, is enthusiastic about the children’s consignment shop, and is also photographer of record for this photo.

Milk Money at 51 North Tulane Street is cheerful, charming, friendly, and fun. Its bright decor and color scheme are immediately appealing to children and adults alike.

The children’s consignment shop, which opened several years ago, has been owned by Michelle Towers for the past year and a half. Ms Towers, who formerly lived in Paris, focusing on photography (she also worked for photographer Pryde Brown in Princeton), has worn many hats during her career, including running a restaurant in Pennsylvania.

“I have always been very entrepreneurial” she explains, and when the opportunity to acquire Milk Money presented itself, she was eager to start a new venture.

“I’m a mom, and I had been a customer,” she adds. “The time was right. I believe if it’s meant to be, it will show itself to you. Milk Money is a great concept. It’s a franchise — there are five in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — but it’s independently-owned, and it gives you an enormous amount of freedom. You make it suit the location you’re in and the tastes of the customers. I am very independent and like to be my own boss, but the company’s there to support you if you need it”


The shop offers gently-used (and some never worn) clothing for infants and children up to 12- or 13-years-old, sizes zero to 16. The selection is especially focused on designers, often European, such as Mini Boden, Petit Bateau, Caitimini, and Hanna Andersson. Other lines include Papo d’Anjo, Gap, Polo, and Crew Cuts (the children’s line of J Crew).

Popular items today are jeans, of course, and the girls especially love skinny jeans. There is also an expanded section of boys’ clothing for all ages.

“We have a lot of European customers,” reports Ms. Towers, “and the flavor is different with European clothes. These lines are not easy to get, and you won’t find them all over by any means. The British Mini Boden line is a favorite with boys and girls, and has tops with fun graphics and designs, and also dresses.”

“We’ll sell a lot of coats in the winter, and after Halloween, people start asking for snow — pants, jackets, etc. We already have a big selection of Halloween costumes, and customers are calling for them right now.”

Shoes and boots are also very popular, particularly Uggs and Hunter rain boots. Footwear for tiny feet, including infants, is available as well.

In addition, Milk Money offers a variety of the very popular Melissa & Doug toys. “These are new, not used, and we are one of the few stores in the area to carry them,” says Ms. Towers. “Their sticker books are very popular for boys and girls, and also scratch pads, puzzles, magnets, and the arts and crafts items for beads, pretend cupcake-making, etc.”


One of the most popular sections at Milk Money contains the selection of strollers, carriers, high chairs, and bikes. “We do very well with equipment,” notes Ms. Towers. “We cannot keep strollers in the store. The selection we have is so well-made, including ‘Bugaboo’. It’s an organic wooden system-type stroller and grows with the child, having different uses. Strollers are multi-use now, and double strollers are very popular too.”

Other items include the Norwegian Stokke high chair, which also grows with the child. The comfortable Ergo carrier is organic and versatile, and is a baby carrier that can also become a backpack.

“We also have a Skuut balance bike made of wood and without pedals,” points out Ms. Towers. “It’s European-made and helps children learn to balance a small two-wheeler.”

The Milk Money arrangement with consignors is 60 percent for the store, 40 percent for consignors. In addition, there is a one-time 10 percent consignment fee for entry into the system. Items must be clean, in good condition, and reflect up-to-date styles. They are accepted on Tuesday and Thursday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Good Styles

“Clothes must be good brands, good styles, and in good shape,” says Ms. Towers. “When the consignment is completed, everything is listed, and consignors are directed to a website to track their balance. Also, on Saturdays, we have a drop-off day, when whatever people bring in is accepted for consignment or donated to charities.”

“We have two seasons,” she continues. “Fall/winter and spring/summer. We are currently accepting fall and winter items through December.”

“In mid-season, we lower some of the prices of items that haven’t sold. Also in January and July, we have a 50 percent off clearance sale. And we have a bag sale twice a year, when whatever you can fit in the bag is $20. That is very popular!”

Consignors are notified before the bag sale, if they wish to retrieve their clothes. After the sale, all unsold items are donated to charities helping children in need.

Consignors include people from all over the area and from as far away as New York, as well as European residents in Princeton, reports Ms. Towers. “They all bring in wonderful things, and customers love the selection. They are so appreciative and kind. There are so many regulars who love to come in — it’s almost a life-style for them!”

Customers enjoy the convenient arrangement of the shop, with categories for boys and girls, babies, and age-identified areas, she adds.

What’s Hot

“Every two weeks we send a newsletter to customers, which could include back-to-school specials, What’s Hot’, and a Wish List. All the consignors get this too. We also have a lot of things to see on Facebook.”

Ms. Towers couldn’t be more pleased with the direction Milk Money has taken. “With our selection of higher end designer clothes, the shop is set up more like a retail than a consignment shop. We are more of a boutique, with the brands we carry and the new toys. And our layout is not that of a typical consignment shop.

“There is a lot of work involved in having a consignment shop, but the reaction has been even more enthusiastic than I expected. I love seeing the clothes come in, and I enjoy meeting the people. Some of the customers have been pregnant, and then later, they come in with the babies. This is wonderful! This is a happy business.”

Prices cover a wide area, with dresses and pants starting at $8.

Milk Money is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 11 to 4. Friday hours will be extended to 7 in the future. (609) 921-1665. Website: www.milkmoneylove.com.

September 19, 2012

AUTOMOTIVE EXCELLENCE: “We sell safety. This is major. At Volvo of Princeton, it’s all about safety, customer service, energy-efficiency, reliability, and recyclability” Chris Long, general manager of Volvo of Princeton, is shown by a silver XC60, Volvo’s popular cross-over vehicle.

What is it about a Volvo? This automobile has almost unmatched customer loyalty. Once people have one, they keep it as long as possible, and then, only when necessity dictates, turn it in for — of course — another Volvo.

“Customer loyalty is incredible,” says Chris Long, general manager of Volvo of Princeton (Long Motor Company) at Route One South in Lawrenceville. “We have customers who come back for another Volvo, and refer friends here. Customer service is very important to us. If customers have questions or if there is ever a problem, we take care of it right away. If people bring their cars in for service, we make sure they understand what is going to be done.

“Also, the cars today are so amazing, with such high quality and so many features. We’ll go over a new car with the customer for 35 minutes to make sure they understand it before they drive it away.”

Volvo of Princeton is very much a family business, adds Mr. Long. “My dad, David Long, with his brothers Matt and Larry opened the business at 255 Nassau Street in 1982.”

It relocated to its current spacious quarters in 1991.

Family Focus

The family focus is strong. Chris Long’s Three brothers are also in the business, and founders David and Matt continue to oversee the operation. There is lways a member of the Long family in every location

In addition to Princeton, the Long Motor Company has Volvo dealerships in Edison and Bridgewater?, and last April, they branched farther afield with the purchase of a Porsche/Mercedes-Benz dealership in Atlantic City. “This was an opportunity to diversify, and there has been a great response,” says Mr. Long. “My dad is in charge of the operation there.”

Volvo, with its unique history and passionately-devoted owners has a story all its own, he adds. Safety, durability, and longevity are stressed again and again. This has been paramount since the company began producing cars in Sweden in the 1920s.

“The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo is, and must remain, safety,” said Assar Gabrielson, a Volvo founder.

But how did this automotive company in Sweden (originally a ball-bearing manufacturer!) become such a big success in the car-conscious U.S.A.?

“The Swedes were very clever,” explains Mr. Long. “They had a contract to produce small delivery vehicles, and something happened to the contract, so in the early 1950s they added windows on the sides of the vehicles to resemble station wagons, and introduced them to the American audience.”

Love Affair

Thus began the American Volvo love affair, and it has only grown stronger over the years. The Longs felt Volvo would do well in Princeton, and it has been an excellent match.

“Our firm, an independent family-owned business, buys the most Volvos of any other small independent company in the world — outside of Sweden,” reports Mr. Long, who has worked full-time in the business since 1994. “Princeton people love their Volvos, and they keep coming back for more.”

Volvo cars are manufactured, assembled, and shipped out of Sweden, and the North American headquarters is in New Jersey, he adds.

Careful attention to every detail of the automobile’s production is key. “Steel is very important when the cars are made, and we use a very high grade of steel. It is also about the placement of the steel in the car. The air bags are another aspect. Many factors are involved to create the safest car,” points out Mr. Long.

“Another thing, Volvo is very environmentally-friendly. For example, Volvos are 85 percent recyclable.”

Also appealing to customers is the recent emphasis on design. Long known for its box-like shape, Volvo has added new lines with a more stylish look, a bit more flair. “We have a great range of styles,” says Mr. Long. “Our S-60 mid-size sedan is very popular, and we have a convertible, a sporty hatch-back, a wagon and various versatile SUVs.”

Exactly Right

Silver continues to be the best-selling color, he adds.

Mr. Long is enthusiastic about the upcoming years, with Volvo poised to make a breakthrough in a number of areas. “In the next 12 to 18 months, Volvo will be revamping; coming out with smaller engines, higher performance, and two or three hybrids will be available. The company has been very careful about hybrids because they want to get it exactly right. Also, three of our current cars get 30 miles per gallon.

“I am really looking forward to the next five years,” he says. “It will be out of sight — changes with engines, environmental awareness. It is so exciting!”

Mr. Long, who grew up in the business, and learned it all — “sales, service, parts” — has always loved cars, and is fascinated by the changes in the industry. “The whole business changed with the internet. It’s so much easier to obtain information, and customers are much more knowledgeable. And with all the technology today, our technicians have on-going training and education at computer school. Some cars now start with the press of a button — not a key. It’s amazing!”

“Tiger” Car

Customer satisfaction is a priority at Volvo of Princeton, and Mr. Long enjoys the interaction with all the clients. “We do all we can to make it a satisfying experience for them. We have a courtesy shuttle, our black and orange striped ‘Tiger’ car, to take people home or to the mall. We also have a complimentary loaner car, if their vehicle has to stay a longer time for service.

“And there are a lot of summer sales events now, with great leasing opportunities and payment plans available. For new Volvos, we offer free maintenance for five years or 50,000 miles.”

Volvo of Princeton has won many awards for sales and service over the years, and giving back to the community has always been an important part of the Long family’s philosophy.

“My dad received the Salute to Dealer Award from Ford Motor Company, when they owned Volvo,” notes Mr. Long. “This is based on commitment to service to the community, and he was one of nine recipients out of 62 nominations from 30 states.”

The company has donated a Volvo to the American Red Cross of central New Jersey’s annual raffle for more than 10 years, and Mr. Long is on the board. Volvo of Princeton regularly contributes to numerous charities and organizations in the area.

“The focus is about giving back,” says Mr. Long. “This has always been important to us. We want to make a difference to people.”

Volvo of Princeton is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday until 6, Saturday until 5. (609) 882-6000. Website: www.volvocountry.com

CREATIVE HARMONY: “We’re getting known for being the landscape “theme” experts. We do the landscape in keeping with the architecture and design of the client’s house.” Tom Rinehart, owner and founder of Princeton Lawn and Landscapes, emphasizes the importance of an overall landscaping theme in harmony with the house and environment.

Your home is your haven, and ideally, this should be reflected outdoors as well as indoors. A landscape design in keeping with the architecture of your home and the environment can go a long way both toward enhancing your personal pleasure as well as the property’s future value.

“We believe that the grounds of a home should be in balance with the design of a home,” says Tom Rinehart, founder and owner of Princeton Lawn and Landscapes. “We offer an unsurpassed visual aesthetic in landscape design and superior service at a fair price.”

Whether the house is a stately Tudor, a charming cottage, or traditional colonial, Princeton Lawn and Landscapes can provide the appropriate landscape design.

“For example,” explains Mr. Rinehart, “if your home resembles a cottage in Provence, then your landscape design should incorporate elements such as rustic limestone, decorative planters, groomed boxwoods, and of course, loads of lavender. Unfortunately, a lot of landscapers recommend a contemporary American look regardless of the architecture of your house.”

Design and Color

Mr. Rinehart has a special interest in design and color. Formerly a vice president at Macy’s, he has had a successful career in the fashion industry, including establishing his own children’s wear company. After moving to Princeton 12 years ago, he became a strategic consultant to a number of companies in New York and Philadelphia, as well as focusing on executive searches for many other firms.

In time, he found he wanted to make a change. “My passion was always to get outdoors again,” he explains. “I am originally from Ohio, and I was the first male in the family in 200 years not born on a farm! But we loved to be outdoors, and our whole family gardened together on Saturdays.”

Also, the idea of his own business always appealed to Mr. Rinehart — from his earliest days. “From the time I was 12 or 13, I cut lawns and saved all my money for college. I loved the dignity of work, and was proud to have my own bank account.”

So, after careful research into the landscaping industry, he acquired an existing business, Blue Sky Landscapes in Manalapan.

Dave Guy, former president of Blue Sky, became Mr. Rinehart’s partner in Princeton Lawn and Landscapes last February.

“Dave has a pragmatic sense of design, and expertise in native species, creating hardscapes, lawn renovation, and superior customer service,” notes Mr. Rinehart. “We feel there was a niche for two things in landscaping: one, excellence can be affordable. You can establish a profitable business and not overcharge. And two, the importance of aesthetic sense and style. We are targeting Princeton, Pennington, Hopewell, Kingston, Montgomery, and Belle Mead. We are very focused.”

“Outdoor Living”

Providing planting design, installation, and maintenance, and “outdoor living”, including hardscapes, such as patios, walkways, courtyards, outdoor kitchens, and fireplaces, is a year-round job, says Mr. Rinehart.

“We had our first job in early March. It was a patio and big landscaping installation. We have had great word-of-mouth and referrals, and we are very busy. First, the challenge was getting jobs; now, it’s scheduling all the jobs. We are very encouraged.”

Customers generally focus on two issues, he adds: low maintenance and deer-resistant plants. In the latter case, Mr. Rinehart recommends a variety of deer-resistant plants, such as American holly, viburnum, barberry, juniper, spirea, lilac, dogwood, and butterfly bush.

“We also have organic deer-resistant products to apply that are our own recipes,” he adds. “We like to use plants that are native to the climate and environment, which generally require less maintenance. We also have very big potted containers that only need watering once a week. In addition, after we do a plant installation, we leave behind written instructions. If we are seeding and sodding a lawn, we come and water it for two to three weeks every day. We guarantee the lawn.”

If clients are simply not into maintenance themselves, Princeton Lawn and Landscapes will provide weeding, trimming, lawn cutting, and watering, as needed.

Mr. Rinehart and the staff will advise customers on appropriate plantings for sun and shade, and also the best materials for a hardscape. For example, he points out, “If you want a natural look that blends in well with the local environment, we highly recommend field stone or blue stone. If you want a more economical, easier to install option, synthetic materials are constantly improving aesthetically and look better than ever now.”

Residential Focus

Residential work is the company’s focus, and this is Mr. Rinehart’s special priority. “My passion is residential. I feel it is more creative. I love the idea that we can create a landscape design to go with the theme of the house. And this will also enhance the property value. If owners eventually decide to sell, they will get their money back.”

Small and large projects are all part of the job — everything from a day-long clean-up to a current hardscape, including three patios. Jobs typically take one day to three weeks or more.

Water gardens are another customer favorite, reports Mr. Rinehart. “We also do bird habitats, butterfly gardens, and bird baths.”

Mr. Rinehart is very proud of the company’s special technology feature, enabling clients to see “before and after” pictures of a landscape. “We have fabulous software that can show people how the new landscape or hardscape will look. I love showing this to them on the internet, and then having them see it in person.”

He also is planning to develop an on-line business, including selling self-contained water features and birdbaths. “I am really excited about building the on-line retail business, which will allow us to offer clients exceptional products.

“We look forward to doing beautiful things, to acquiring a phenomenal reputation, and then building on that reputation.”

Princeton Lawn and Landscapes can be reached at (609) 497-3206. Website: www.princetonlawn.com email: tom@princetonlawn.com.

September 12, 2012

CLASSIC CHOICES: “The staff has been here a long time, and we all enjoy being together. We feel this is a second home! We love being here for our customers, and many of them have become friends over the years.” Ellen Sabino, right, owner of Ashton-Whyte in Pennington, is shown with staff members, from left: Darby Van Heyst and Anna Moreno-Paz.

Ashton-Whyte in Pennington is certainly one of the most attractive stores around. Its quality items and charming displays invite customers both to browse and buy.

Known especially for a classic selection of fine furnishings for the home, including bed and bath items, furniture, and choices for babies and toddlers, the store recently added a line of tabletop products, including dinnerware, flatware, and stemware. In addition, a selection of clothing and jewelry is now available.

Opened in 1995 at 250 South Main Street, Ashton-Whyte (the name derives from 18th century London shop signs) has always attracted customers who appreciated its signature classic style and quality, notes owner Ellen Sabino. “We have always had a market that focused on a classic style. There was a real interest in the products we sell. I had always had an interest in decorative arts, including furniture and accessories. And, bed and bath was the original focus, and it is still our core.”

There is no question that customers, who come from all over the Princeton and Pennington area, enjoy Ashton-Whyte’s classic mode, which is reflected in the items throughout the store. “We’ve had a good fit with the lines we carry,” points out Ms. Sabino “All the lines are rooted in the classic style. They endure. Important lines in bedding include Down Right pillows and duvets; elegant bedding and great alternative down from Sferra; casual bedding from Pine Cone Hill; and great classic bedding from Matouk, and prints from Lulu DK.”

Table Linens

Bath items include towels from Matouk and Abyss, and wonderful plush bath rugs with super colors and designs from Habidecor.

Ashton-Whyte is noteworthy for its lovely table linens, including tablecloths and napkins from Le Jacquard Francais, and Calaisio’s rattan placemats, chargers, and baskets.

Ms. Sabino is enthusiastic about two new categories recently added to the Ashton-Whyte collection. “We have brought in tabletop items, such as dinnerware, flatware, and stemware. Juliska and Gien dinnerware, glassware from Reed & Barton and Sabre, and Iittala stemware are included.

“The newest thing is clothing and jewelry,” she continues. “We wanted to offer an environment for personal accessories, but we chose carefully because we are not a clothing store. We have some dresses and tops, also sweats, robes, pajamas, and handbags. Some of our items include tunics from Gretchen Scott; Before & Again’s colorful tunics, T-shirt dresses and T-shirts; jewelry and scarves from the Julie Collection; and Louen Hide handbags.

New Categories

“I have been so pleased at how the new categories have been received,” she continues. “When customers come in, they see things they don’t expect to see. That’s fun for them, and it creates interest. People say it’s fun to shop here. There is always something interesting.”

Many new customers, in addition to the loyal regulars, are discovering Ashton-Whyte, adds Ms. Sabino. “A woman came in recently and said, ‘I’ve never been in here before, and I love it!’”

They seem to like everything and appreciate the “One Stop Shop” aspect of the store. They will find an array of often irresistible items for the home. Colorful Melamine dishes from France, vintage furniture, including beds and dressers, lamps, indoor/outdoor area rugs, pewter picture frames, wooden trays and salad bowls, and framed artwork are all on display, as are cotton sheets, soap and candles, colorful cotton tunics, long cashmere cardigans in beautiful shades, and buttery soft fleece, to crisp cotton robes.

The jewelry selection features pieces from delicate to dramatic. Striking gold chains and beaded bracelets in aqua, black, and natural are among the choices. The latter are priced at an affordable $14.

Beautiful Blankets

Babies and toddlers are not forgotten at the store either, notes Ms. Sabino, “We have layettes and beautiful blankets, and keepsakes items, including music boxes.”

There are also little ceramic dishes featuring two miniature boxes for “First Lock” and “First Tooth”, piggy banks, bibs, and an array of adorable apparel for tiny tots.

“We also now have a Wish List for special occasions, including weddings, and we are working with an event planner,” reports Ms. Sabino. “We always listen to our clientele, and customer service and personal attention are very important, but it’s low key. We don’t hover. We want customers to enjoy the store and the shopping experience.”

Ashton-Whyte offers a wide range of prices, seasonal sales, complimentary gift wrapping, and gift certificates. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (609) 737-7171. Website: www.ashtonwhyte.com.

GREAT TASTES: “I wanted to make food for people so they can eat well; my meals are diet and palate-specific. I feel I am helping to bring the family back to the dinner table!” Personal chef Dan Vogt, owner of food by dan, is enthusiastic about his new business venture.

What’s for dinner? It’s been a long day; you get home late, you’re tired; there’s not a lot of time to prepare dinner, give the kids their bath and read to them, let alone relax after your own demanding work day.

Options are available, of course. TV dinners, fast food take-out, eating at a restaurant. None of these work out for tonight, however. What you really need is food by dan!

Dan Vogt is a personal chef, who loves to cook nutritious meals for people. Headquartered in Hamilton, food by dan offers weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly meals, including five entrees (four servings each) with a vegetable side.

“I will do it all for you,” says Dan. “I do the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and I stock the fridge. You have more time to enjoy!”

After School

From the time he was a young boy, Dan loved to cook. “I always had a passion for cooking,” he recalls, with a smile. “I started to love it when my nose could reach the countertop. My mom was my inspiration. I learned so much from her. She is the foundation of this project and of what I do.”

And he learned fast. “When I was 10, I made dinner for the family. At 15, I started cooking professionally at a nursing home for priests, where I was responsible for preparing meals for 80 people. I did this after school and in the summer.”

Dan especially loved to make “golumpki” (stuffed cabbage) and homemade pasta.

After college, he worked in restaurants and hotels, as a chef and also as concierge in the hospitality industry in northern New Jersey. When he later moved to Hamilton, he decided to go into business for himself. Looking for a way to demonstrate his unique creativity and love for cooking, he researched personal chef opportunities.

A personal chef, he explains, “serves several clients, and provides multiple meals that are custom-designed for the clients’ particular requests and requirements. These meals are packaged and stored so that clients may enjoy them at their leisure in the future.”

Dan began with a few clients, and very quickly, the business grew to encompass people in Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties, providing him with a thriving operation.

Perfect Match

“I started with a Thanksgiving dinner for a friend of my sister,” he explains. “It was so successful that I put an ad in FaceBook, and before I knew it, I did 10 more Thanksgiving dinners! One of the clients said, ‘I wish I could have you every week.’”

Why not? This fit in perfectly with his love of cooking and desire to offer healthy food to clients. A perfect match, indeed.

Helping his customers to enjoy nutritious meals, while relieving them of the shopping, preparation, cooking, and clean-up is Dan’s focus. Everything is completely customized to the client’s taste and needs, he points out. “I have an initial interview with people about their likes and dislikes, possible allergies or special dietary considerations. Do they need gluten-free? Are they lactose-intolerant? Vegetarians? Trying to lose weight?”

The entree can include meat, fish, or pasta, with a vegetable side. Dan enjoys preparing many of his own recipes for people. “I love to take classic American food and put a new twist on it. For example, meat loaf, with a balsamic glaze. I love to cook with vinegar. It adds great flavor and a whole new dimension.”

Summer Choices

Dan’s menu changes seasonally, he adds. Currently, summer choices include summer roasted chicken with pistachio sauce; Tuscan-style salmon; schnitzel (pork cutlet); tomato and watermelon salad; filet mignon with mustard whiskey sauce, and pasta dishes. Gazpacho is a popular summer soup, and chili is always a winter favorite.

Dan emphasizes that all the dishes are tailored to the individual. Roast chicken is a big favorite with many customers, as is Spanish chicken and rice.

He points out that fresh, quality ingredients are a must, and “I try to get produce and other items locally whenever possible. It is important that people know where their food comes from. I am also a member of the Slow Food Association and the American Personal and Private Chef Association.”

Dan shops for groceries the morning of the day he cooks (which can be in his commercial kitchen or at the clients’ home, if they wish).

Heating Instructions

After the meals are cooked, he then packages (vacuum-seals), labels, and delivers them to the customers freezer, with heating instructions.

Desserts can also be provided for an additional cost. “I love to make pies,” he notes.

Catering for parties and events is another service, as are cooking demonstrations and lessons.

“On Tax Day, I did a corporate event — a ‘Thank You’ for the company’s clients, with omelet stations for 25. I have also done picnics, barbecues, and romantic dinners.”

Dan couldn’t be happier that he has so many regular customers who are eager to sample even more of his cooking. “For me, this is being able to follow my passion. It’s edible art. It’s so creative — I’m creating something from my own hands that people can enjoy. Food is much more than what we eat. It is our culture, our company, our comfort, and our inspiration.”

food by dan is also a wonderful gift for a new mom, newlyweds, anniversary, birthday, housewarming, or a get well remembrance.

(609) 649-8238; email: dan@foodbydan.com; website: www.foodbydan.com.