Author Archives: Sharon Steele

About Sharon Steele

Purchasing a home in the Cranford, Westfield and other areas of the Garden State MLS in NJ is more than just a transaction. I am keenly aware that your new property is at the center of your lifestyle. Understanding what is important to you and your family will stay at the center of everything I do for you as a buyer. As a seller, you need someone that stays firmly on the pulse of market conditions in every neighborhood. Knowing how to navigate markets and apply value to the unique features of a property is also a key factor in determining the value of a real estate professional’s service. Whether a market is up or down, a professional that spends their career gaining insight through experience and relationships can keep money from being left on the table or a listing left lingering on the market. Delivering unequalled excellence to each and every transaction requires focus. At the core of that focus are good communication, accessibility and unwavering integrity. My attention to these issues combine with my exceptional attention to detail to deliver results that are above and beyond, every time. Thanks for visiting my web site. I look forward to meeting you!

Open HOuse pIc

GSMLS Open House List For Cranford, Westfield, and Surrounding Areas of NJ 11/18/17-11/19/17

Open House ListHere is the scheduled GSMLS Open House List for residential real estate in Cranford, Westfield, Clark, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Fanwood NJ for the weekend of Nov 18-19th. Open Houses are on Sunday from 1-4pm unless otherwise noted. (A few are Saturday!) Please let me know if you would like information about these, or any other properties. Please let the hosting agents know that I sent you!

Click this link if you would like a Free, No Obligation Market Analysis on your current home!



Broker of Record: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (Harold Maxwell) 908-233-0065
Privacy Policy & Terms Of Service – Copyright 2014, Sharon Steele, All Rights Reserved
Sharon Steele – Licensed Realtor® #0789515 – 600 North Ave. West, Westfield NJ, 07090 – 908.518.5287

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Escapology Opens in Garwood – The Live Escape Room Right in Your Neighborhood!



Many of you may have heard about the escape room frenzy – they seem to be popping up and no one knows exactly what they involve unless you have actually participated in one. I’m here to tell you that the very BEST escape room around is opening up just minutes from the Cranford/Westfield area and is going to be around for quite some time because it’s just that exciting!

Adults, like kids, get bored easily with the same old thing. The new Escapology Escape Rooms in Garwood (Escapology Home Page) at 300 South Avenue next to Crunch Fitness has the most intriguing and gorgeous rooms around! They will keep changing as long as you keep visiting with your friends and family! Read all about the latest in group entertainment and what you can expect when they open their doors.Their soft opening is scheduled for NEXT FRIDAY, November 24 at 11:00 am! Walk-ins are welcome while they work on training their fabulous staff!

I sat down over the summer to speak with one of the owners, a Westfield resident – Michael DiChiaro. Believe it or not – he’s an airline pilot with a passion for mystery and riddles! He filled me in on why the partners decided to start this business in Garwood, why escape rooms were on the mind, and what keeps them excited every day when they go into work!


The franchise owners are Michael DiChiaro and his wife, Michelle DiChiaro. They joined with their friends, James Minniti and Ana Minniti. Michael explained, “This is a family entertainment business”. They discovered the fascination with escape rooms while his eight-year-old daughter was playing similar games on her IPad one day. She loved them so much that he scoured the internet to see if they existed in real life. They found the impressive company, Escapology, and Michael and his wife went for a visit. “We really loved the entire concept – it’s fun being a detective – like playing Clue!”

They wanted to open up a local entertainment center that was geared towards family entertainment, corporate team building, and hanging out with friends. The owners fell in love with the franchise Escapology because each room is intricately designed with televisions, amazing scenery, and hidden clues that could possibly open secret doors! This is the largest franchise in the business of escape rooms and is an overseas company that started in the United States in Orlando and Las Vegas. Michael stated, “There is no match to the quality of this particular company – amazing quality with computer based training!” Escapology is really like live “Clue” – you have some facts and you go and solve a problem.

With 42 escape rooms already in New Jersey, the partners felt the need to set up business in Garwood because the area was rich with families and so close to neighboring towns and NYC area residents! The Garwood location will be the first Escapology in the Northeast.


Unique to Escapology -there will be a large lobby and private lounge perfect for hosting gatherings of friends, business events, or epic parties. Six people will be able to play a mystery in any of the six themed rooms! Each experience is approximately 60 minutes – or depending on how quickly you are able to solve the mystery! With the addition of a private party room – this makes for a great afternoon or evening night out!

EscapologyOne can host huge events perfect for 80-90 people. A business could do a presentation in the lobby with breakfast or a birthday party with a chance to mingle afterwards. The presence of a large television can be used for any purpose – photo slideshow, business presentation, and videos! Escapology is also offering catering from local restaurants to add to the party experience!

Michael recommended that the age for playing the escape games is 8 years and up due to the complexity of the puzzles (however any child under the age of 8 is welcome and FREE). Individuals ages 8 and older will be asked to pay the special Grand Opening Price of $29 (Saving Santa room slightly more)! Children 18 and younger must have a signed waiver. The business welcomes everyone to come out and enjoy the excitement of escape rooms – perfect for large families, scouting events (earn a patch for a scavenger hunt/detective work), birthday parties for kids and adults, corporate events, mingling with friends, and holiday fun!

Here is a peek at the six rooms that you can experience at Escapology…

Cuban Crisis: You are Don Frederico, a CIA Field Operative, your code name is Gerrard “Gerry” Droller and you work directly for the President of the United States, J.F. Kennedy. Your mission is to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s palace, locate the secret KGB office, and find out who was responsible for shooting down the American plane.

Arizona Shootout: The whole shoot out takes only 30 seconds – the most terrifying 30 seconds of your life! After the dust settles, 3 bodies lay in front of you. Quickly, you notice two of your people are injured but the rest are unharmed. The marshals have won the fight! However, there is some bad news: the other 2 outlaws are nowhere to be found. The marshals must quickly identify who has been shot and who is on the run. You will have 60 minutes to complete this task or the 2 outlaws will surely escape to Mexico!

Antidote: You are a team of scientists investigating Dr. Brandt’s abandoned laboratory. You’ve been tasked with finding the only known antidote to virus TS-51 before it gets passed into enemy hands.

Budapest Express: Moving through the cabins and gathering evidence, the killer knows you are hot on their trail and has decided you are their next target. With you out of the picture they would be free to escape when the train stops. Solve the riddles and puzzles, gather the evidence and solve the murder before it’s too late!

TH3 C0D3: You are an FBI agent and know that Nitr0 always provides a kill code for every crime in case things go awry. You must find that code, kill the program, and escape within the hour so you don’t take the fall for the biggest crime in American history



Saving Santa: (Just in time for the holidays!) PLEASE NOTE! This game is designed for children and is perfect perfect for 5 to 14-year-olds. Adults will find this game too easy so bring the children and let them solve the puzzles! Four-year-olds may be a little young but the room has a fun design and there are special treasures to find along the way! Their Secret Elves will guide you through the game and let you know whether the adults may need to help the youngsters along! Escapees MIGHT actually get to meet Santa who MIGHT have a small gift to thank them for saving him!! But don’t let on….

It’s just too much fun and I can’t wait to bring my friends and family to experience a PRIVATE game room – because you NEVER play with strangers! Make sure you book online NOW for any date on or after December 7: Escapology Online Booking. Again, there is a soft opening on Black Friday, November 24 – just walk in anytime starting at 11:00 am!

With the holidays right around the corner– it’s a great time to visit with friends and family. Visit their website at Escapology Garwood to find out more information on your visit and to order gift certificates! Make sure to “Like” and follow their Facebook page EscapologyNJ for current deals and promotions! Call 908-232-2222 for any questions or email Michael or one of his partners at [email protected]

Garwood’s original real-life escape game experience! Located in a prime spot next to Crunch Fitness in the Kings Shopping Center, up to 6 players will be challenged in this new attraction by working together to find clues, solve puzzles, and pick locks that will free them from the game room. Do YOU have what it takes to escape?

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Bella Organici

Cranford’s Bella Organici: Expanding and Celebrating a New Westfield Location!

Bella Organici

Perhaps you’ve met Danielle Decostello around town… This mom of two is a powerhouse – both at her popular small business, Bella Organici, and in the community doing charity work for causes that she feels is important and impactful. Danielle has quite a bit going on right now and wants to invite the entire community to celebrate with her!


Danielle was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to New Jersey in 2011. She opened the doors to Bella Organici – Meditation Studio and Holistic Esthetic & Medical Aesthetic Skin Care Salon in 2009. The studio is located at 29 Alden Street in Cranford. She initially started the company to offer safe organic tans for her clients. As the business grew, she realized the increasing need for other organic treatments and products. She made it her mission to create her own line of organic skin care products. Danielle received her NJ cosmetology license and started to offer a full spa menu at Bella Organici.


Bella Organici is truly a creative and unique salon where you will want to sample from more than one of the services that are offered! From DIY classes to her renowned organic spray tans…Bella is one-stop shopping for detox and wellness!


Organic Tans: the safest and most natural looking organic tans – formulated by Danielle while she was pregnant with her second child!


Bella OrganiciFacials: all treatments are 60 minutes and include a massage! Bella facials are for all ages and skin types – everything is medical grade and organic! The salon also offers microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and enzyme peels to name a few!


Cellulite Treatment: using blended herbs in pre-soaked bandages – your arms, legs, and stomach are wrapped to tighten the skin and reduce the look of cellulite!


Meditation and Yoga: enjoy all of these classes in her warm and inviting studio! Bella Organici offers Meditation Yoga, Happy Hour Yoga (posing with beer in hand has never been more fun), Candelight Yoga, Glow Yoga (paint your body with glow-in-the-dark paint), Bella 101 Meditation, & Aromatherapy Meditation

Aerial Yoga: straight from the NYC studios – Bella offers this new style of yoga that combines traditional yoga poses, pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock!


Other services that sound amazing…Lebanese/Brazilian/Cryo Wraps, Himalayan Salt Therapy for back and skin, CIT Microneedling, Sculpt Ice, and Laser Hair Removal!


Spirituality: Bella even offers Medium Readings by Laura Cifadelli as well as Ganesha Readings and Chakra Cleansing!


Bella OrganiciThe salon also has a Skin Bar with an Herbalist, Alchemy

Classes where you learn about essentional oils and can shop holistic retail – oils, herbs, crystals, makeup, and organic skin care. Fresh, organic ingredients are whipped into body butters, lip gloss, scrubs, soaps, masks, and washes!





Bella Organici is known for exciting Pop Up events and DIY Classes – this is what Danielle has in store for November…


November 13: Microblade Pop Up: Head to Dirt Clean Culture Beauty Shop in Westfield from 10 am till 12 pm and let them make your eyebrows perfect! All details at the Facebook Event here: Microblade Pop Up


November 13: Bladed by Fee Fee: at Bella Organici in Cranford at 6:00 pm–keep those eyebrows fancy for the holidays! All details at the Facebook Event here:  Bladed by Fee Fee


November 21: Skin Party: 7:30 pm at Juice House in Garwood. Come to this DIY event where Melissa will be helping you make scented essential oil rollers and Danielle will be assisting you with your own pumpkin face mask! All event details at the Facebook Event here: Skin Party


November 21: Lash Party: 9:30 am till 7:30 pm at Dirt Clean in Westfield – attend this pop up and get a lash lift! All event details at the Facebook Event here: Lash Party


November 21: Home Made Betty Pop Up:  7:00 pm at Dirt Clean in Westfield – sample this luxurious homemade, vegan skin care line and experience education, food, sips, and fun shopping! RSVP and details at the Facebook Event here: Home Made Betty Pop Up


And finally… Congratulations to Danielle and Bella Organici for their One Year Anniversary! They will be celebrating Cranford style on November 16 at the salon at 29 Alden Street from 7:00 – 9:00 pm! This celebration will have light sips and bites, raffles, free skin care demos, and raffle prizes! Be sure to stop in! All event details at the Facebook Event here: One Year Anniversary


Bella Gives Back… Danielle loves giving back to the community and wants to spend more of her time with family charities and helping to put an end to human trafficking. She will be running numerous fundraisers in 2018. Danielle recently partnered with Fire Me Up Studio in Cranford for “Art for Puerto Rico” – 100% of proceeds from this event went to the Harimau Conservation organization to assist with rebuilding after Hurricane Maria.


Currently, she is accepting feminine hygiene products at the shop till November 20 for Covenant House, a non-profit organization for homeless teenagers.


What’s in the future for Danielle? She’s opening a Westfield location! Since half of her clientele were Westfield moms – she decided to make a big business decision to franchise Bella Organici to other women for 2018! The Westfield store will have a Grand Opening on November 25 at 719 South Avenue. Stop by for live music, food, and giveaways!


Danielle wants everyone to know that “beauty comes in all shapes and colors” and she loves watching her clients embody their inner beauty. Take a moment to stop by any one of Bella Organici’s locations and see what’s in store for YOU! Let Bella make your beautiful inside and out for the holidays!

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Track Friday

Turn Black Friday 2017 into Track Friday: NJ and Beyond!

This Black Friday, November 24, is a day synonymous with waking up early to hit the stores for doorbuster deals. However, Eric Rubinson, a Cranford resident and avid marathon runner, is asking everyone to think about hitting the pavement in addition to the stores. He doesn’t care if you run, walk, or hop – just get outside that Friday morning and donate to whatever cause you feel is important! What Eric began in 2012 is a movement that is sweeping the nation…Track Friday!

Track Friday

Run or walk any distance, anywhere. Meet up with friends and family. Donate or raise money for any charity. Make a difference.

For Eric, the concept of Track Friday started after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Originally from Middletown, NJ, Eric realized that his hometown needed help and he was unable to physically get to them. He did what only he knew best – run for help…literally! He vowed to donate $5000 to Middletown’s local food bank and encouraged other friends and family members to run/walk with him on Black Friday to support this cause. That year, they ended up having crowds at six different tracks and collected over $22,000 in three weeks!

So why Black Friday? It was the first holiday weekend after Hurricane Sandy and Eric knew that his supporters would be home to help him with this inaugural event. After so much devastation had occurred in New Jersey, he thought that Black Friday, a day when people head out for the sole purpose of spending money, needed to be the target. Why not change the focus of this date to a community day where helping people and getting healthy is the purpose!

The energy and momentum kept going throughout the year. By the next fall, a typhoon had devastated the Philippines and this was the concentration project for Track Friday 2013. Each year, Eric and his friends found more and more organizations and areas that needed help. In 2014, Track Friday was established as a non-profit organization and is now recognized at the national level! Last year, Track Friday raised over $50,000 in approximately seven states!


Eric’s goal is to make Track Friday a National Day and his 2017 intent is to have “one team in every state”. He currently has 25-30 individuals throughout the United States working toward this dream. Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia…let’s keep it going!

Do you know someone who would love to set up their own team? Have them contact Eric at [email protected]


So, what exactly is Track Friday and how can you get involved? The website for the organization,, is extremely user-friendly! Everything you need to know for participating and donating is right there!

The idea of track Friday is very simple. You don’t have to be an athlete or even in good shape! You can pick anywhere you’d like to walk or run – your local track, trail, or school parking lot. The possibilities are endless! This is a non-competitive event – there are no clocks! You can commit to 5 minutes or 5 hours. A participant can be a baby in a stroller, a toddler, a dog, or even a great-grandma. The point is that you can be anyone! One of Eric’s favorite stories from this event is a friend who took her two nursing home patients to a local track for a “walker” race! (see the awesome picture)


Get Moving (

Find or start a local meetup – or participate virtually! Simply click “Get Moving” and search for a team in your area or far away! You can join anyone, anywhere – your local town, an organization, or somewhere you’d always like to visit!


Guidelines for Track Friday Meetups
Track Friday meetups should be free of pressure or expectations. To keep meetups fairly consistent and aligned with the goals of Track Friday, they request that all meetup coordinators follow a few simple guiding principles:

  • The meetup must be free and open to the public.
  • No registration fees; only suggested donations to charity may be requested.
  • Participants may support any charity they wish.
  • No distance or pace requirements; participants may run or walk any distance, at any pace.
  • Supporting 501(c)(3) charities is encouraged.  We do not endorse the use of our brand for political or unverified private causes.
  • The event must take place with permission from the venue. The local Meetup Coordinator should obtain permission from the venue to host a Track Friday event and must adhere to any and all requirements of the venue
  • The event must be Zero-Footprint – leave the venue as you found it, if not cleaner!

Donate (

The reason this is a separate link is because donating is discretionary, non-obligatory, and completely your choice! Where you decide to “give your miles” and where you “give your dollars” is completely separate! For example, you may want to participate at a track in Cranford, but choose to donate to a cause/charity in a completely separate town. You can even register your own charity on the website! The possibilities are endless and completely unique for each registrant.


T-Shirt Fundraiser and Donating (fundraising/trackfriday)

It’s okay that you may not be around on Black Friday, November 24th…or that you really want to go shopping!! If you like the idea of Track Friday and want to support this organization, you can purchase a Sport-Tek Long Sleeve Logo Shirt or simply donate to the cause!


Spread the Word (

This is now a national organization and the goal is “One in Every State” – so please help Eric and his team and share the news about Track Friday to everyone you know! They need your help to get the fire lit throughout all communities! Coaches, teams, charities, businesses – let’s help them “Turn Black Friday into Track Friday”!


Be sure to post all of your pictures strutting your stuff at the track and make sure you use hashtag #TrackFriday


Local Efforts:

In addition to Eric Rubinson – Arthur Hearns (Cranford Jaycees) and Patrick Giblin (Deputy Mayor of the Cranford Township Committee) have been huge motivators to push the Track Friday movement in the Cranford area. Here are just a few of the local organizations that are contributing to this national campaign…


Cranford Jaycees will head up two separate fundraisers for Track Friday 2017 – “Musical Instruments for Cranford Middle Schools” and “Hurricane Relief Fund” for all areas affected by recent hurricanes. Visit their homepage here CranfordJaycees2017 to donate or join their team!


The Newcomers Club of Cranford is running/walking for “Friends or Puerto Rico” – you can join their team or donate here Team Cranford Newcomers


Track 5 Coffee for Track Friday! Thanks to Kevin, the fabulous owner of Track 5 Coffee, for coming up with a signature “Track Friday” coffee blend for this event. During the month of November, you can purchase a bag of this unique coffee or order one freshly brewed at the store! Proceeds from the sales will go directly to Kevin’s favorite charity – New York City Relief and their Relief Bus!


As you can see – the purpose of Track Friday is very easy and super fun! Before you head out to the stores on November 24 – consider carving out a small portion of your day and doing something healthy and helpful. It’s so easy to walk around the track once and donate to your favorite cause. Do something to make you feel good about yourself AND burn off a little Thanksgiving calories!


Eric Rubinson continues to ask everyone in the communities to redirect their money and attention to the community base and national fund-raising efforts:


“I want to make a network of people to take this idea and run with it in every state. My philosophy is that there should be a thousand of these across the county! They are easy to do and cost literally nothing to start. If we can get 5 in New Jersey – think how many can get started in California! Get out and do something that day!”


Your heart and your body will thank you!

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Open House List

The Nosy Neighbor Reports: Cranford/Westfield NJ Area Real Estate Market Activity October 2017

Let’s talk turkey… the right time to make a real estate move is when it is right for YOU! Our local Real Estate Market is still going strong, and there are many people looking to make a move this Fall! I hope you enjoy my “October Nosy Neighbor Reports!” (information from GSMLS 10/1/2017-10/31/2017) Let me know if you would like a No Obligation Market Analysis of your home…..I would be happy to help!

Call me at 908-447-3579 cell Or email me at [email protected]


Broker of Record: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (Harold Maxwell) 908-233-0065
Privacy Policy & Terms Of Service – Copyright 2014, Sharon Steele, All Rights Reserved
Sharon Steele – Licensed Realtor® #0789515 – 600 North Ave. West, Westfield NJ, 07090 – 908.518.5287


Oct 2017 - CranfordOct 2017 - WestfieldOct 2017 - Scotch PlainsOct 2017 - GarwoodOct 2017 - MountainsideOct 2017 - FanwoodOct 2017 - Clark

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513 woodland

Live in a Fairy Tale Home in Westfield NJ!


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This picture perfect Colonial/Cottage is a wonderful place to call home! Live your life in a fairytale setting!

513 Woodland Ave, Westfield, NJ Price $1,700,000

You can see all the pictures and floorplans by clicking this link:  513 WOODLAND AVE WESTFIELD

Call or text 908-447-3579 (cell) to schedule a private tour! Or contact me via email for more info:

Broker of Record: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (Harold Maxwell) 908-233-0065

Privacy Policy & Terms Of Service – Copyright 2014, Sharon Steele, All Rights Reserved
Sharon Steele – Licensed Realtor® #0789515 – 600 North Ave. West, Westfield NJ, 07090 – 908.518.5287


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Playa Bowls

GRAND OPENING!! Cranford is Crazy for Playa Bowls!!


Cranford is crazy for Playa Bowls and our newest Playa Bowl spot just opened at 102B North Union Avenue! The smell of the salty air, the waves crashing, the sound of seagulls, the wind in your hair…anyone who has been to this blissful place knows that you are immediately transported back to the shore! Not only is Playa Bowls known for their fabulous acai bowls and smoothies, but it’s how they have recreated the feel at the beach that keeps everyone coming back for more!


Playa Bowls was founded in 2014 after owners Robert Guiliani and Abby Taylor discovered that the people of the Jersey Shore had yet to savor the nutritious and delicious acai bowls like they had discovered on their many surf trips to the West Coast. They went to work to create their own version of a healthy acai bowl at small stand at the corner of 8th Ave and Ocean Ave in Belmar, New Jersey. Of course, they were an immediate sensation and soon after they opened their first store right behind the original stand!


Playa Bowls is now known throughout New Jersey and they have expanded into Rutgers Campus and up into North Jersey! Abby is so excited that they have been so welcomed throughout the state as more cities are going “bowls deep”! Abby described for me how much conscious selection goes into each and every ingredient in their bowls, smoothies, and other menu items. She said, “We have the best quality around – we don’t blend our acai with anything else to add sugar!” Abby also contributes the success to the “vibe” inside each and every Playa Bowls. She said that it’s truly a “culture” – people want to order and then actually hang out because of the “chill atmosphere”.


Playa Bowls is now a franchise and the Cranford restaurant is owned by Alan Valenti and nephew Stephen Valenti of Morristown’s Olive Lucy’s Kitchen Table. They are excited to bring Playa Bowls to Cranford! Alan initially fell in love with this acai shop as a customer. He wanted to pursue the franchise and his wife, Allison (originally from Cranford), drew him into this close-knit community. Alan and Stephen see Cranford as an “up and coming town” and love the momentum of the small businesses in downtown. (Hat tip to our fabulous Downtown Management Corp!!)  From families to young professionals – it’s truly the best town to introduce a hot new spot!


From our conversation, it was evident that Alan is excited about this venture. He mentioned that their acai bowls only have 10 grams of sugar and the highest quality of acai that no one else is providing. It’s such a thick acai bowl and “once you have your first bite you can taste the difference!” Playa Bowls appeals to those who are health conscious. You can add the best ingredients such as fruit, coconut, Nutella, pitaya, and chia! They will abe providing Fall Bowls all season long! Customers can add autumn flavors to their smoothies and bowls such as pumpkin granola, pumpkin butter, cinnamon, and caramel apple!


Alan feels that Playa Bowls is a big family and loves that Abby and Robert are 100% “hands on” with every store that they open. Abby does all the artwork for each and every Playa Bowls. Alan commented that her pieces are “beautiful and personalized for each store” – you will never see the same thing twice! Each creation of Abby’s is unique for a particular town and their energy! Even the flooring and lighting at the Cranford shop will be different and customized for Cranford!


Alan, Stephen, Rob, and Abby look forward to being a “part of the fabric of the community” of Cranford. I know that the area will be flocking to their gorgeous, beachy shop! Make sure you keep updated with their stunning Instagram feed and posts at playabowlscranford ! We are all ready to “go bowls deep”!

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Fish Stand

Cranford Fish Stand: Fresh, Sustainable, and Local!

Fish StandEveryone is excited for the opening of Cranford Fish Stand, located at 200 South Avenue East, this Thursday, October 19! We spoke with owners Jill Sabochick, John Sabochick, and Kevin Pipchick earlier this summer to find out how they differ from other markets, why they chose Cranford, and how they plan on making fish fun! While talking over coffee about this new fish adventure – I quickly realized that this group of friends are seriously having a great time working together! Jill, John, and Kevin all worked at a small business software company prior to 2014. They moved around from city to city together and finally ended up in Jersey City! While living in JC, the friends realized that they craved fresh seafood. Fish markets in NYC were in an abundance, but they found a lack of fresh fish in this downtown area. John commented, “We just said, we should do this!”


They all wanted to provide a product that was sustainably sourced. They found local people in the industry who were able to inform them where the fish came from and where it was caught. Since everyone was in a small business together, their entrepreneurial spirit was a huge asset! The friends began their fish business at the local farmer’s market in Jersey City. Their fresh product became in high demand and the business expanded in 2015. They opened up their first store, Jersey City Fish Stand, approximately one and a half years ago. Because of the popularity of fish markets and consumers craving to know more about where their meals come from – Jersey City Fish Stand was recognized locally in a Summer 2017 issue of USA Today!

Cranford Fish Stand


The owners are now ready to take their exploding business to other areas of New Jersey and Cranford is lucky enough to be the site of their second store! Jill attributes the popularity of the fish market business to the fact that “people are obsessed with sustainably-sourced fish –where it came from and how it was caught.” “The industry is so interesting right now with customers wanting to be informed with purchases!” she remarked. The goal for their Cranford Fish Stand is to truly provide the customer with a unique shopping experience.


They want you to embrace the concept that “fish is fun!” There are so many types of fish to encounter, that over the course of the year -over 200 could make their debut at Cranford Fish Stand! The menu will rotate based on the season and “what’s catching”. John explained that there are a lot of fisheries that they work with and they hand select from those distribution sites. “Everything is provided fresh, never frozen. We only bring in enough to sell within 24 hours. This is what makes us very unique – the fact that our menu is changing daily!”

Their staples will be salmon, bass, and scallops. Clams and oysters will often come from Barnegat Bay, NJ as well as other fisheries in Point Pleasant and South Jersey. The owners will supplement local fish with selections from Southern Atlantic, Gulf, West Coast, and Alaskan fisheries. Each day there will be approximately a dozen varieties in their front case.


So, what can you, the customer, expect when you walk through the doors of Cranford Fish Stand? Jill remarked that they want you to have a “personal walk-through experience”. The employees will guide you through your selection, the origination of the catch, and provide cooking techniques for each choice! She commented, “It’s a true personal shopping experience when you walk in the door – with fish!”


Fish StandCranford Fish Stand will also have specialty grocery items and oven-ready, prepared sides. Customers will be able to select side dishes, produce, marinades, soups, dips, and spreads. The owners want you to enjoy one-stop shopping for your meal. Once your fish has been chosen, you will be able to leave the store with everything that will complement the highlight of the meal! Jill commented that “people may not know that seafood is extremely easy to cook. We make it so you can choose a simple recipe or a more intricate version!”


Why did they choose their second location to be in Downtown Cranford? “We chose Cranford because it was a destination spot”, mentioned Kevin. It just so happens that Kevin grew up in Cranford and his family and friends still reside here! However, it wasn’t just the hometown draw that landed them their fish market in quintessential Cranford. Kevin commented that the “cultural and food scene is thriving!” “Everyone, young and old, is invested in the town. Small businesses are welcome and everything is local and unique. Hopefully the trend will continue on an upward swing! We feel the town will support us in this movement and this is our total motivation!”


Please join Jill, John, and Kevin as they open their doors to Cranford this Thursday, October 19. All information can be found at their Facebook Page, Cranford Fish Stand FB. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony that begins at 4:00 pm followed by a reception from 5:00 until 7:00 pm. New customers can enjoy light hors d’oeuvres, prizes, and of course…FISH!! The fun of fish is picking it out – let them make it an experience for you! In Cranford – everything is fresh, sustainable, and local!

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Porchfest 2017

Cranford Porchfest 2017: 24 Bands, 8 Porches, 1 Epic Celebration! 10/21/17 2-5pm

Porchfest 2017

I am so very excited that Cranford Porchfest is almost here and  even more thrilled MY PORCH is going to be part of this momentous event! How could I resist when I love this town and an epic collaborative music event is making its inaugural debut! My whole family, including my dog Lucy, has geared up to get our porch ready for three amazing bands in three hours! I sat down again with Randy Geis from Cranford Community Connection to find out everything concert-goers need to know for October 21. Here’s what to expect for the day of the event, how to plan your porch time, and what artists will be featured on the big day!


Randy explained that this is a FREE musical event and completely powered by the “do-it-yourself” concept. It is orchestrated by local volunteers, space provided by homeowners, entertainment performed by musicians donating their time, and a day enjoyed by the community! He commented that “every porch host, performer, and attendee is a co-creator and real-time manager of the event.” It’s meant to be an afternoon of families walking around Cranford “enjoying time together and the music we have put together.”


Porchfest 2017How to Plan Your Afternoon: Cranford Porchfest 2017 will take place on Saturday, October 21 starting at 2:00 pm. You can view all of the musical groups and porch locations throughout Cranford here at their Interactive Porchfest Map. Simply click on an icon and see everything happening at a particular home! Keep this map handy and use on your mobile device for the day of the event. Make sure you leave your home in plenty of time to make the first musical acts that start at 2:00 pm and then find what other performers you would like to watch at 3:00 and 4:00 pm! There will be 8 porches participating in Cranford Porchfest with 3 performances at each home. The set up and take down will all occur within the hour. At 5:30 pm the “big act” will perform at Eastman Plaza in front of Track 5 Coffee! (more about that at the end of the article). The road right in front of Track 5 Coffee will be blocked for this performance in order to accommodate the large crowd.


What to Bring: There will be no streets closed during the concerts, no outside food vendors brought in, and no souvenirs for sale. The committee encourages everyone to put a chair on their back, bring a stroller, ride a bike, run, or walk the town! They are committed to the sharing of public space! The Cranford Community Connection and Cranford Police would like to remind everyone that this is a family event and public alcohol consumption laws still apply. You are welcome to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy throughout the day. Please keep in mind that these are neighbors’ homes – so please take your trash with you!


There will be increased police presence during the day and areas directly in front of each participating house will be sectioned off to allow groups of people to enjoy the music. Each house will have a yard sign saying “Future Cranford Porchfest Location”. If you have any questions at all, you can quickly identify a Porchfest Staff member by their black “Roadies” t-shirt!

Performers: The Porchfest committee has been spotlighting performers on their Cranford Porchfest Facebook Page. They received an outpouring of applications over the summer and are pleased to announce an amazing variety of musical acts. In the mix of performers are artists in the areas of Rock, Folk, Blues, Piano, Irish Rock, Motown, Guitar, Song Writers, and DJs. Some band/solo highlights are Lovehandles, Tam Garcia, Dave D’Amico, Binge, Atomic Jam Band, and Elan Varner. Check out their inspiring stories throughout the different posts! At my porch you can find the highly anticipated Tom Molfetto, Vin Moretti, and Band Substances. The crew at my house can’t wait to hear all of them – and maybe Lucy will surprise everyone with her own one hit wonder!


The grand finale of the evening will Cranford’s own Alden Street Band playing at 5:30 pm at the Clocktower at Eastman Plaza! After enjoying the music at the porches, everyone is invited to come together to enjoy this local band! They will be playing your favorite classic rock and pop cover songs. What a way to go out with a bang!


Everything you need to know for Cranford Porchfest 2017 is at their website at Cranford Porchfest Website – including the interactive map! The best advice Randy gave was to plan your day and try to visit different porches in town. The committee consciously chose porches within the four quadrants of town – so make it a point to tour Cranford! I can’t wait to see all of your pictures throughout the day using #cranfordporchfest and of course, #coolerincranford! Don’t forget to visit my porch at 7 Hamilton Avenue! The whole community is excited to be out and about in this glorious fall weather and enjoying “24 Bands, 8 Porches, 1 Epic Celebration”!

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Little Free Library 07090

Message in a Bottle: A Feel-Good Story at the Perfect Time!

Like many of us this past week, Sara Liptack of Little Free Library 07090 in Westfield and her family were saddened and upset by the recent violence in our country. A message from two best friends in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina quickly changed Sara’s mood and she felt the need to share her incredible experience with the entire community!

Little Free Library 07090

During a fun night out with Cross Fit friends over the summer – Sara decided to keep a unique bottle of coconut rum that her friend had brought back from his hometown in Puerto Rico. Being an Earth Science teacher at Westfield High School, she was fascinated by ocean currents and how messages in bottles have been used in scientific studies. Sara, her husband, and her daughter Lyra decided to take that bottle and have some “good old-fashioned fun!”


They wrote a letter on August 18, 2017 and told of the location of drop-off in the sea, their excitement to see how far the letter would travel, and shared their contact information. The family rolled it up tightly and placed it in inside. Sara’s father “Pop-Pop Steward”, an avid fisherman, went out on his boat about 6 miles from Manasquan Inlet and tossed the bottle into the sea on September 7.



Time passed and heavy tropical storms came and went. Sara said she was talking to her husband just the other day as they were collecting sea glass at the shore. Both wondered when or if they would ever find out about the bottle. She anticipated it could be even a decade before she would hear anything. Sara worried that perhaps someone would just see it and think the bottle was trash.


Literally one week later she received an amazing text. Best friends Wende and Christine from Kitty Hawk, a very small beach town in the Outer Banks of NC, had discovered the bottle during one of their morning walks on October 5! This was less than one month from entry into the ocean! They thought the bottle was cool and then realized there was a message inside. They fell in love with the fact that someone was on the other side of a heartfelt story and quickly texted Sara.

Sara was utterly amazed that these two women had not only found the bottle – but in the exact opposite direction as she had speculated! She was so happy that they were also happy to connect with her! She figured the intense tropical storms were the cause for the interesting direction of the message’s path into NC. The crazy part of this whole story is that Sara’s aunt, uncle, and cousins live in this small town of Kitty Hawk yet neither family knew each other! Maybe now they can all remain friends and visit!


Sara commented that this has been such an exciting experience. Wende and Christine wrote a new letter and included everyone’s contact information. They tossed the bottle back out to the sea. Sara was able to share with her class the interesting news and her students have been eager to investigate the history of using communication and science experiments through bottles. She feels that in this digital age, it’s a true “old school adventure”. She wants her students to realize that there is more to experience in life than just on an iPhone or iPad.


This is definitely a “stay tuned” type of story. I can’t wait to see where the bottle turns up next! With the craziness in the news this week, Sara’s impression on this story is one that we can all take to heart – “it happened to the right people at the right time”. Perhaps one small story of connection can motivate others to do the same.


You can visit on Facebook at Little Free Library 07090 or stop by to grab a book at 710 E Broad St in Westfield!

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