For Montclair Local

Oh, the smells of fall. Temperatures are cooler, the air is crisp, and pumpkin spice coffee is the flavor of choice for many. I love visiting pumpkin patches and carving jack-o’-lanterns, but I draw the line at smelling like a gourd.

Smells evoke memories, and a visit to Alchemy Scent Bar is an olfactory delight. Deanna Critchley opened the business on July 1, 2021, and said, “It was a COVID passion project, and took less than a year from concept to fruition. I decided to open my business after traveling in South Carolina and going into a shop that featured many scents and interactive creation of such by customers. I learned how candles were made, and how to choose jars, bottles and a business logo.”

If scent is your thing, then this is the place for you. When you walk in, there is a table at the front with clipboards, pens and a Follow Your Nose information sheet for you to fill out with your favorite picks from the 112 different scents on display. 

I spent a long time smelling  the scent-testers. My first picks were baked bread, basil, berry bliss, brown sugar, coffee bean, dark chocolate and hot cocoa. How these would go together to make a candle or aromatic mist overwhelmed me, and Deanna let me experiment, until I created a fragrance mist from three of my favorites, since four of them seemed to be too much.

It all comes together at the end, in a wonderful way. My intrepid photographer and brainy genius, Neil Grabowsky, used a scientific calculator to find out how many possible combinations there were, and if you use three different scents, you’d end up with 1.5 million of them.

I sat down at the counter where there are plates, spoons and a beaker in which to combine the various liquids, in the proportions of my choice. Food brings back the happy memories and comfort of my childhood, and I ended up with a mix of baked bread, brown sugar and dark chocolate. After shaking it up, it was transferred to a black bottle. No one else will smell exactly the way that I do.

The décor is modern and classy, with black, gray and white accents. The high ceiling is decorated with witches hats and lights, which not only follow a fall theme, but show what alchemy means. The definition of such, painted on a high wall in the back, is “A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.”

You can choose from pre-made soy blend candles with cotton wicks and no amplifiers or chemicals, scent diffusers, wax melts and hand soaps in single scents to give as gifts or keep for yourself. Alchemy Scent Bar also hosts special events for clients, and will make up special signature batches of candles as well. Ask Deanna about the Secret Menu of scents. The possibilities are endless.

Councilwoman Lori Price Abrams (ROBIN WOODS / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Councilwoman Lori Price Abrams (ROBIN WOODS / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

Smelling all sugary and sweet, I had a lengthy getting-to-know-you sit-down over cappuccino with Lori Price Abrams, Montclair's Third Ward councilor. The ward sits largely in the Central Business District, where there are many vibrant businesses, residential homes and apartments.

Running on the successful Progress in Action slate and elected in 2020 along with Sean Spiller, William Hurlock, Robin Schlager and Bob Russo, Abrams has a history of bringing people together with her work as an attorney in the not-for-profit field, focusing on the homeless population.

She attended law school in California, later coming back to her native New Jersey and Montclair. Abrams said, “Social justice is a motivating factor for me. Community and government relations and being a connector is also important.”

Abrams was involved for seven years with founder Myra Terry and Emerge New Jersey, an organization that provides support to Democratic women who want to run for office. However, she is not beholden to any party or group and wants to advance things for all women. She said, “Women bring different qualities and skill sets to governing. It’s a windfall of importance that women get elected.”

In her role as Third Ward councilor, Abrams sits on the Business Improvement District (BID) board, as well as serving as a liaison to the Civil Rights Commission and Senior Citizens Advisory Committee. The Jewish community is also important to her, and she is a member of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield.

When I asked her about which Third Ward resident issues come up most often, she said, “The Central Business District is of significant interest to the Third Ward. The affordability of the town and being able to maintain diversity, whether socioeconomic, racial or being able to age in place are of utmost importance. We go above and beyond the former Council on Affordable Housing requirements in Montclair, and want to maintain a vital intergenerational community. Montclair is a place that’s passionate about issues, and cares.”

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Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award for Essex County Legacies Essay contest.