Monthly archive

February 2017

Montclair Community Band celebrates the ‘End of Winter’

in Arts/Music

By Gwen Orel
orel@montclairlocal.news

 

Quentin Zimbalist plays the tympani. Photo courtesy of Barbara Rudy.

Barbara Rudy was there when the Montclair Community Band began 35 years ago. Not too many of the original bandmates still play, but the ethos of the band remains the same: a place where amateur musicians can rehearse and perform both popular and less known band music. Since 1982, the band has performed several concerts a year. Adults and high school students from Montclair and the surrounding area who play an instrument are welcome to join — no auditions necessary.

Band Manager Rudy, who plays flute and piccolo, said by telephone that only once or twice has someone who joined not been able to stay — and one time it was because the musician didn’t read music well. Violinists need not apply, though — it’s a band, with band instruments only. And it’s a nice, big, full band, with 65 members and a long-standing conductor, Jim Wasko.

Conductor Jim Wesko leads the band. Photo courtesy of Barbara Rudy.

Generally the band rehearses once a week at the Montclair High School music room and performs five concerts per year.
On Sunday, March 5, at 3 p.m., at Montclair High School Auditorium,  Montclair Community Band will perform its “End of Winter” concert. Admission is free, and the venue is barrier-free and handicap accessible.

The mixture of marches, Big Band favorites and some light classics will appeal to the entire family, including children, Rudy said.
The program includes: music from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” by John Williams; Circus march from “Entrance of the Gladiators;”
Clare Grundman’s “American Folk Rhapsody #3;” Bedřich Smetana’s overture to “The Bartered Bride;” music from the movie “Lincoln,” by John Williams; and a Beatles medley, titled “All You Need Is Love.”

As always, John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” rounds out the program.

This weekend’s concert is the second of the 2016-17 season. The next concert, the band’s spring concert, will will be a 35th-anniversary celebration and will take place on Friday, May 12.

The band is sponsored by the Montclair Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. For more information, visit montclaircommunityband.org or call Rudy, 973-744-1454.

Jessica Goodson, Robin Furrey, Barbara Rudy play piccolo in the Montclair Community Band. Photo courtesy of Barbara Rudy.

Montclair Ambulance Unit honors Irish pubs

in Benefits

The Healing of the Green?

Montclair Ambulance Unit (MAU) is holding its sixth annual St. Patrick’s Day Benefit on Friday, March 3, from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Commonwealth Club, 26 Northview Ave. This year, MAU is celebrating owners of Irish pubs Egan & Sons, Fitzgerald’s 1928 Tavern, and Tierney’s Tavern.
“We thought we’d turn the tables and honor our beloved Irish Pub owners: Chris and Sharon Egan of Egan and Sons, Paul Brewster and Dave Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald’s 1928 Tavern and Bill Tierney and Family of Tierney’s Tavern,” MAU said in a release.
The evening will feature pub fare, beer, wine, Irish coffee, Irish whiskey, live music, a raffle and more. According to MAU, “This one should be grand!”
For tickets, $75, and information, visit mvau.org or email info@mvau.org. Sponsorships are also available.

Planning Board grills Lewis developer on variance

in Planning Board


About 50 people attended Monday night’s Township Planning Board meeting on a developer’s request for a setback variance to develop Lewis Estates. Photos by Linda Moss.

 

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

A developer faced questions from the Township Planning Board and residents on Monday night about a setback variance it is seeking in order to subdivide and build eight houses on the site of the Lewis Estates on Pleasant Avenue.

Roughly 50 people attended the hearing, which was continued until April 3, about the approval sought by BNE Real Estate Group of Livingston for its residential project at 44 Pleasant Ave. The company is asking to be permitted a 25-foot setback from Pleasant Avenue, less than half of the roughly 53-foot minimum that would be required under one part of the township code.

BNE Real Estate plans to raze the house on the Lewis Estates site, which is just over 2.5 acres, and subdivide the property to build eight single-family homes. There would be four houses on each side of a new road that would be built, to be named Lewis Court, which ends in a cul-de-sac. The Lewis house dates back to 1906, and was once the residence of Aubrey Lewis, a prominent African-American township resident who died in 2001. Although there was a discussion of the proposed development’s water retention system and how affordable its homes would be, much of the 2 1/2-hour hearing was about the setback.

At the meeting, Michael Lanzafama, director of engineering for Casey & Keller Inc. in Millburn, was asked by Jason DeSalvo, who was acting as the board’s chair, why the developer had opted for a plan with eight houses with lots averaging about 11,000 square feet, rather than six houses with lots of about 14,600 square feet, more in line with the average of the neighborhood. A six-house site plan wouldn’t require a setback variance, according to DeSalvo.

“Why weren’t six lots rather than eight lots considered, because that would solve your problem altogether?” DeSalvo said, prompting applause from the audience.

Lanzafama, BNE Real Estate’s engineer, told the board that to comply with one part of the municipal code, the Lewis project’s setback would have to be the average of the two principal structures nearest to it, which is 27.3 feet for an adjacent house and 79.1 feet for the nearby Over the Rainbow Nursery, a preschool. The setbacks for those buldings average average 53.2 feet, according to the engineer.

Under questioning by BNE Real Estate’s land-use attorney, Richard Schkolnick, Lanzafama said that the eight-house development was in keeping with the state’s master-plan goal of providing quality housing stock where infrastructure already exists.

The engineer added, “The lots we’re proposing are not that different than the neighborhood analysis that we performed.”

But the board dug into the setback issue, with DeSalvo asking for the setback lengths for properties near the Lewis Estates. On its side of Pleasant Avenue, the setbacks varied but included 77.5 feet, 43.3 feet and 41.1 feet, according to Lanzafama.

“I think we’ve established enough of a pattern that none of those numbers relate to 25 (feet),” DeSalvo said.

The Lewis Estates home on Pleasant Avenue, built in 1906, will be razed to make way for eight houses under a proposed plan. Photo by Linda Moss.

Lanazafama noted that on the opposite side of Pleasant Avenue, the setbacks were much close to the roadway, and ranged from 22 to 40 feet.

“Typically, one looks at the side of the street that you’re building on,” DeSalvo told him.

“We wanted to give you a sense of how eclectic the setbacks are,” Lanzafama replied.

During the public’s chance to ask questions, a resident who lives across the street from Lewis Estates, Michael Polo, asked how much the proposed houses would sell for.

“Income diversity is an important issue,” Polo said.

At a meeting about the project on Presidents Day, Feb. 20, the developer had already disclosed that the homes would be priced at $800,000 to $900,000, a fact that William Scott told the planning board. Scott, co-chair of the Montclair Housing Commission, asked about BNE Real Estate’s compliance with the township’s affordable housing guidelines.

Schkolnick said that the developer is only required to contribute 1.5 percent of the equalized assessed value of the properties to the township’s affordable housing fund.

The attorney also said that the developer has addressed residents’ concerns about the entrances of the two proposed homes that are on Pleasant Avenue but don’t face that road, but rather Lewis Court. Under the revamped design, the sides of the houses that face Pleasant Avenue will be “made to appear more like the front of a house, with with doors providing side entrances to the premises,” according to Schkolnick.

“We have listened to the community where we can … to essentially soften this view,” he said.

Having those two houses face Pleasant Avenue would also require creating curb cuts to that road for driveways, which Lanzafama said would be detrimental.

During the hearing the attorney stressed that BNE Real Estate has an eight-house subdivision plan.

But DeSalvo brought up making the project six houses rather than eight several times.

“It may not be as profitable to the owner: That’s not our purview,” he said. “It’s land use … That’s [six houses] a no-variance plan. This [eight houses] is a variance plan.”

Montclair BOE predicts challenging 2017-18 budget process

in Education
Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi, center, speaks to the audience during Monday night’s board of education meeting.
Staff photo by HEETEN CHOXI

by ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news
The Montclair School District is bracing itself for a complicated budget season.
Montclair got a first look at its 2017-2018 school budget on Monday evening. And Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi cautioned the board and the audience that the budget process was going to be a challenging one.
During a presentation during the last half of the meeting, Board Secretary Steve DiGeronimo laid out some of the preliminary budget numbers. The first draft of the budget includes a $112,270,030 tax levy, which is subject to the state-mandated 2 percent tax increase cap. It has yet to be determined what the proposed levy will mean for the average assessed household.
“It’s a big budget, and our first run-through was a budget shortfall of $6 million,” DiGeronimo said. “With a budget this big, the devil is always in the details.”
The budget currently has also a $1.8 million shortfall. “Certainly better than $6.4 million, but no matter how you slice it, it’s difficult,” DiGeronimo said.
Over the next few weeks, DiGeronimo said, the district is going to have to make decisions on issues such as insurance plans, and whether the district will have to eliminate certain positions.
The district will hold several additional meetings over the next few weeks to fine-tune the budget. The next meeting will be held on March 6, when the board expects to approve the preliminary budget, after which it will be sent to the Essex County executive superintendent for review.
“It’s a big budget, and our first run-through was a budget shortfall of $6 million,” DiGeronimo said. “With a budget this big, the devil is always in the details.”
The first draft of the budget includes a $112,270,030 tax levy, which is subject to the state-mandated 2 percent tax increase cap. It has yet to be determined what the proposed levy will mean for the average assessed household.
The budget currently has also a $1.8 million shortfall. “Certainly better than $6.4 million, but no matter how you slice it, it’s difficult,” DiGeronimo said.
Over the next few weeks, DiGeronimo said, the district is going to have to make decisions on issues such as insurance plans, and whether the district will have to eliminate certain positions.
The district will hold several additional meetings over the next few weeks to fine-tune the budget. The next meeting will be held on March 6, when the board expects to approve the preliminary budget, after which it will be sent to the Essex County executive superintendent for review.
The board hopes to have the budget settled before Bolandi steps down as interim superintendent in mid-March.
Bolandi’s replacement, Barbara Pinsak, was present at the meeting to introduce herself; she will be serving as interim superintendent to the end of the school year.
“She’s just here to say hello; we’ll be hearing from her more in the future,” Board President Jessica de Koninck said as she introduced Pinsak at the start of the meeting.
“I’d like to thank the board for giving me this awesome opportunity to be the interim superintendent for the Montclair public schools,” Pinsak said during a brief address at the microphone.
“I need to say that Mr. Bolandi has just been awesome and, this very busy time — it’s never a downtime for a superintendent — but he’s been great in helping with an excellent and smooth transition,” she said.
At the start of the budget presentation, de Koninck told the audience that the budget being presented that evening was a preliminary one. As she turned the microphone over to Bolandi, she said, “You’ve got the hot seat.”

A chart presented at Monday evening’s board of education meeting shows some early numbers for the 2017-2018 school budget.
Staff photo by HEETEN CHOXI

Bolandi began by thanking the public for the feedback it had given him on the budget process. “Yeah, it’s going to be a tough three weeks. Unfortunately, it’s my last three,” Bolandi said.
He told the audience that the district was going to have to make hard decisions because of its limited funding situation. “I think that everybody that’s sitting in the room tonight has to recognize one thing. We have limited funding. There’s no place to go — we have a 2 percent cap. Something’s going to have to move.”
He acknowledged that there were programs in the district that were popular with families. “But I’m going to ask you, for the first time in a long time, to think about the total picture, and to think about what’s good for all children, not just certain groups.”
He went on,“We have a lot of electives in Montclair with four students in them. Three students in them. Ten students in them. That’s great when you have money. Terrific when you have money.” But he said it was doubtful that having all those electives was fiscally responsible, adding that Montclair has exceptionally high property taxes.
“My job is a simple one. But it’s also a complex one,” Bolandi said of his role in the district budget process. “The simple one is, when I’m involved in budget dilemmas, and I’ve been involved in 40 years of this … the way I approach it is a simple way, but it’s also a complex way.”
His first responsibility was to protect the core: to make sure that students were working on reading and writing in the classroom. His second was to maintain as many programs as possible. “Because we have a magnet system, and my responsibility is to maintain the magnet.”
Another issue is making sure that the schools are equally staffed and equipped in proportion to their enrollment and other needs. “My job is also to equalize the schools. Because one of the things we don’t do in Montclair for a long time is to equalize the schools.”
As an example, he pointed to two of the middle schools. “Why does Buzz Aldrin have less staff, far less staff than Glenfield, and Buzz Aldrin and Glenfield’s [student population] numbers are identical?”
Other budget challenges include special education and the district’s world language program, which came up for discussion at the board’s workshop meeting in late February.
“It’s a limited pot of gold in Montclair. It’s not endless. And I think we’ve come to the end of the pot of gold in Montclair,” Bolandi said.

Girls basketball: Montclair hammers Fair Lawn in state tournament

in High School Sports
Coach Paul Palek directs his team from the sideline during Montclair’s 52-36 win over Fair Lawn in the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV state round Monday night. Staff photo by Andrew Garda.

by ANDREW GARDA
garda@montclairlocal.news

Led by Alisa Wiggins’ 22 points and Bianca Fede’s 18, the Montclair girls basketball team rolled up a big lead early on Fair Lawn and never looked back, winning the game 52-36. The Mounties outscored the Cutters 23-12 in the first half alone and while Fair Lawn played a solid second half, they never really recovered.

The Mounties’ win allows them to advance to the next round of the NJSIAA state playoffs, and they will face Paterson Kennedy Wednesday night.

After running out to an early lead, the Mounties did have a lull as the second half began. Coach Paul Palek had warned his team not to come out in the second half thinking they’d won the game, and it seemed briefly as if the Cutters would claw their way back.

“I told them at halftime (Fair Lawn) is going to come out and throw a punch,” Palek said. “They’re too good, they’re well coached. They’ve won 15 games. They’re going to come out and throw a punch here, and they did.”

Montclair didn’t get rattled though, and a couple of baskets from senior Jill Jennings and a 7-point run by Fede got them back on track.

“What I was most proud of, was that we took a punch” Palek said. “They got it to 6 with the ball, and we took the punch, got up off the deck and got ourselves together. We made a couple of baskets, Bianca (Fede) had that little run there and then the game was really played at 10 points plus the rest of the way.”

The focal point of practice between the last game against Montclair Kimberly Academy and Monday night had been ball movement and making free throws and both were improved over the Mounties’ last outing. As the fourth quarter wore on, Jennings and Alisa Wiggins both sank key baskets from the foul line. Wiggins in particular was on fire, making 10 free throws on the day.

“We did emphasize ball movement, keeping the ball going, trying to get the best shot we can every possession,” Palek said.

The Mounties also had to adjust to a sudden change in opponent, as Montclair only found out on Friday that their North 1, Group IV state tournament bracket was changed following the recent troubles at Paterson Eastside.

“The girls had a good couple days of practice and they handled the change in the opponent well,” Palek said. “I ended up having to cancel practice, (Fair Lawn) had a game so I was able to come up and scout them. Then we practiced Saturday and Sunday to get ready. We had two really good days of preparation, and then it kind of paid off and rolled into the game here, where we could come out on the road and get a win.”

Margarita Tosca

in Obituaries

Margarita Tosca, known as Nana, of Montclair, formerly of Humacao, Puerto Rico, died on Thursday, Feb. 23.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Marcelo Tosca and Margarita Hernandez, her children Felipe D. Barge Sr. and Carmen V. Barge, and all six of her siblings.

Ms. Tosca is survived by her daughter Adela M. Barge-McKnight, and her grandchildren Yashika (Kareem), Antoine, Fatima and Felipe Jr. (Manoucheka). She is also survived by her great-grandchildren, Nephertiti, Innocence, Noah, Messiah, Passion, Amber, Faatimah, Saajidah, Arianna, Joi, Naomi, Addorable, Prince, Jasiem, Stephan, Angel, Malcom, and Sanaa; and by a great-great grandchild, Josiah. She also leaves her extended family and her pet, Bane.

Funeral services are private. To leave condolences, go to her book of memories at caggianomemorial.com or mail them to P.O. Box 113, Montclair, NJ 07042.

Boys basketball: Montclair outlasts Fair Lawn in NJSIAA playoff opener

in High School Sports
Montclair’s boys basketball team huddles up as it prepares to take on Fair Lawn Monday night. Staff photo by Andrew Garda.

by ANDREW GARDA
garda@montclairlocal.news

Led by 20 points from sophomore Charles Murphy, the Montclair High School boys basketball team held off a feisty Fair Lawn squad, 74-63, in front of a raucous crowd in the opening round of the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV state tournament Monday in Fair Lawn. The win advances the ninth-seeded Mounties (17-10) to the sectional quarterfinals Wednesday night, when they will travel to top-seeded Bloomfield.

The game was a seesaw affair, with numerous lead changes as the Mounties struggled to stay ahead of the eighth-seeded Cutters, struggling to finish their drives to the hoop in the first half and then missing too many free throws in the second. Montclair was finally able to correct its fortune during the last two minutes of regulation, going 9-for-10 from the the foul line to close out the game.

The Mounties were lucky that despite missing four free throws early in the fourth quarter they were able to stay ahead of Fair Lawn, because the Cutters also struggled to hit their shots from the charity stripe. When the Mounties finally heated up — mostly through the sharp free-throw shooting of senior Shawn Smith, who finished with 16 points — they were finally able to put Fair Lawn away.

Still, Montclair clearly struggled with a feisty Fair Lawn team, which took advantage of the Mounties’ early shakiness to enter halftime with a 29-26 lead. Fair Lawn often seemed one step ahead of the Mounties in the first half, as they were quick to claim loose balls and went hard after rebounds. Their aggression seemed to take Montclair by surprise, and before they knew it, the Mounties were in a dogfight.

The Mounties kept calm and continued fighting, keeping the game close until Murphy got hot from the perimeter. In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, Murphy scored 8 points, including a pair of 3-point shots.

“He likes those pressure situations,” head coach Gary Wallace said of Murphy. “He told me before the game, he said ‘Coach, my legs feel great, I feel ready to go.’ I told him that’s playoff energy. I know what that felt like as a player, and I told him … you have to harness it because you can come up here and get too jacked up.”

Murphy’s quick three baskets put Montclair ahead, and it never relinquished the lead again.

Fair Lawn stayed close enough to be dangerous, but the Cutters were clearly worn down by the quick pace and physical nature of the game. As Murphy, Smith (16 points) and senior Ivan McDaniel (19 points) poured on the baskets, the sharp passing, confident ball movement and aggressive demeanor of the Cutters slowly ebbed.

Wallace said the tenacity of their opponent Monday night was a good reminder that the Mounties cannot take anyone lightly.

“I tell these guys, it’s playoff basketball. You can’t underestimate any team. Whether they’re 5-7 or 6-9, you have to have the mindset, to be focused and locked in on every play and every possession. Because every possession counts and as we advance, these games are going to be close. Games are going to come down to a missed free throw, one box out or a loose ball. We have to be locked in at all times.”

Margaret Alice Pratt

in Obituaries

Margaret Alice Pratt, 69

Margaret Alice Pratt (née Cunningham), 69, of Bloomfield, died at her home on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017.

Ms. Pratt was born in New Brunswick, and raised in Old Bridge. She lived in Montclair before moving to Bloomfield. She was a teacher for special needs children in Jefferson Township school system, and a member of the NJ Council for Exceptional Children. She was the secretary for the Division for Early Childhood Education of the New Jersey Department of Education.

Ms. Pratt was a member of the Rosary Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Montclair for 35 years. At St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Belleville, she served as the secretary for the Rosary Society, coordinated the Giving Tree, and volunteered at the church’s Food Pantry. She was a long-time member and secretary of the Women’s Club of Bloomfield.

She is survived by her husband of 49 years, Charles Pratt; her children, Charles and Lorraine Pratt; and her siblings, Ella McCann and Thomas and Michael Cunningham. She was predeceased by her parents, Michael Joseph and Margaret Alice (née Coleman) Cunningham.

A Mass of Christian burial took place on Monday, Feb. 27, at St Peter’s Church. Interment will be at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Belleville.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Women’s Club of Bloomfield, or the Food Pantry at St. Peter’s Church, 155 William St., Belleville, NJ 07109.

 

Wrestling: Mounties send two to State Tournament

in High School Sports
Montclair High School senior Sam Mellow (blue) leverages Bloomfield’s Adam Lutick shortly before pinning him in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA Region 3 wrestling championships Saturday in West Orange. Staff photo by Andrew Garda.

by ANDREW GARDA
garda@montclairlocal.news

Two Montclair High School wrestlers punched their tickets to Atlantic City and the NJSIAA state championships this past Saturday, as seniors Sam Mellow and Kasson Quince-McGee both landed in the top four of their respective weight classes at the NJSIAA Region 3 tournament in West Orange.

Despite fighting through exhaustion, due to an illness Friday night, Mellow (32-3) pinned Bloomfield’s Adam Lutick early in the second period, while Quince-McGee had to win twice after losing his first match Friday night. However, Quince-McGee kept on surviving and advancing, first with a win over Becton High School’s Joe Lesho, then with a 4-3 decision over Warren Hills’ Nicolas Galka.

Mike Freedman, Mellow’s coach, had been concerned the night before when it became apparent his wrestler wasn’t feeling well.

“He won (Friday night) but you could see that he was sick,” Freedman said after Mellow’s Saturday-morning win. “It’s hard at this level to wrestle when you’re not 100 percent. He found a way and he looked better today, and that’s what I was most nervous for.”

“After the match (Friday), I just felt so bad, so tired,” Mellow said. “But now, after the pin I’m feeling so good. It’s a great feeling.”

For Freedman, seeing Mellow advance to the State tournament was a great payoff for all the hard work his wrestler had put in.

“He’s come so far. This was a guy two years ago who was under .500 for us. He always knew wrestling but he finally grew into his body and he worked his tail off this off-season between football and before that with lifting – he’s just having a great season.”

Montclair’s Kasson Quince-McGee (blue) grapples with Warren Hills’ Nicolas Galka. Staff photo by Andrew Garda.

While Mellow had to win just one match to make the State tournament, Quince-McGee had a tougher task after losing a match Friday. Still, he went into the day feeling confident.

“I knew I was going to make it. I had no doubts. I was ready,” he said after the decision of Lesho. “Last year I lost in the second round, so this year I’m excited to go to states.”

The rest of the afternoon didn’t go quite as well, with Quince-McGee falling to Caldwell’s Christian Dalla Riva while Mellow was swiftly pinned by human buzzsaw and Outstanding Wrestler winner Robert Melise of Phillipsburg in the 220 finals.

Still, that wasn’t dimming any joy for either athlete with Mellow capturing the runner-up in his weight category and Quince-McGee placing fourth in the 182 class — both good enough to be sent to state.

Both wrestlers showed determination and will in their morning victories, Mellow overcoming exhaustion and Quince-McGee overcoming long odds after his early loss. That’s a trait which should serve them well as they take on some of the best wrestlers in New Jersey March 3-5.

Bloomfield Avenue fabric, craft store prepares to close

in Business
From left, Beth Rowan, owner of Rock Paper Scissors, and staffer Kourtney Teixeira stand in front of the store’s front desk on Feb. 6. The store officially closes Saturday, Feb. 25. Staff photo by Erin Roll.

 

by ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

After seven years serving crafters in the Montclair area, Rock Paper Scissors will be saying goodbye this weekend.

The Bloomfield Avenue fabric and craft supplies store is closing its doors for good this Saturday, Feb. 25.

“People have been coming in to say bye, people have been coming in to show their support,” owner Beth Rowan said during an interview with the Montclair Local earlier this month. “And people are just coming in to buy fabric.”

The store opened in the Glenmont Square shopping center in 2010. The “Rock” part of the name refers to beads and jewelry-making supplies; “Paper” to stamps and papercrafts, and “Scissors” to fabric and sewing supplies.

The closing was announced on Jan. 24, in a message that Rowan posted on the store’s blog.

“I think it’s what all small businesses, especially hard goods businesses, go through,” Rowan said. She noted that Montclair is an expensive area to operate a small business in, and that Rock Paper Scissors was a discretionary income store. “We’re getting the most competition from big box stores.”

Additionally, she said, a shop like Rock Paper Scissors is not a store where a pre-made product is taken out of the box and put on the shelves. Instead, it is a shop where staff members have to do a lot of hands-on work, from cutting fabric and putting together sample projects to teaching classes and helping customers. All that amounts to a great deal of staff overhead, Rowan said, in addition to wages and benefits for the staff.

It is not just Rock Paper Scissors that has been facing a challenging business climate: “All of the small businesses I’ve talked to are in the same position,” Rowan said.

However, she said that she and the staff were keenly aware that they would be missed. “We know that we mean something to the community. This is a safe space.” She remembered one customer, a first-time quilter, who came in because she was having difficulty with a project. “I sat in the back with her for 45 minutes,” she said, referring to a classroom in the back of the shop, and that customer has been quilting ever since.

Rowan said that the biggest draws at Rock Paper Scissors tended to be the sewing classes for tweens and teens. The classes brought in students from all over the area: Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Verona and Nutley, Rowan said. There was even one student who took the bus from Newark with her mother so she could attend.

She estimated that the classes were popular with middle and high school students and their families for a number of reasons. For one, many high schools have phased out home economics classes in recent years. “And this is a place that they could come and create. There’s no performance, there’s no score.”

After the tween and teen classes, it was the quilting and garment-making classes that were the most popular with customers, and the shop also featured talks from high-profile figures in the quilting industry like Denyse Schmidt and Amy Butler.

Rowan is looking at expanding Rock Paper Scissors’ online Etsy store into a full website, but she emphasized that the website expansion is a work in progress at this point. “There’s a part of us that will still be here for the community.”

Of Rock Paper Scissors itself, Rowan said, “We’ve loved it. We’ve had our ups and downs; it hasn’t always been easy. Except for raising my beautiful family, I couldn’t be prouder of anything in my life than what we’ve built here.”

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