Category Archives: Garwood NJ Community Information


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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Garwood NJ Welcomes Alfano Renovations!

Garwood NJ Welcomes Alfano Renovations

alfano1THE KITCHEN. It’s the heart of the home, which is why everyone wants it to be the NICEST room in the house, am I right? It’s also the room where you’ll get the best return on your investment if you renovate it. Alfano Renovations recently opened in Garwood, and they’re all about making dream kitchens (and all other renovations) a reality!

Alfano Renovations began in Monmouth County and just opened its second location at 331 South Ave in Garwood. If you’re thinking about redoing the kitchen in your home, you should take a walk through their showroom. It’s so helpful l to look at cabinets, countertops, and fixtures in person as opposed to just browsing online to get a sense of what you truly like and need for your home. Among the cabinetry brands you’ll see in the showroom are Aristokraft, KitchenCraft, Candlelight Cabinetry, Schrock, and Wolf. 

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Alfano Renovations does much more than kitchens. Their residential services include bathroom renovation, home additions, interior remodeling, and custom building, in addition to the many services they provide on the commercial level. 

I love supporting family-owned businesses, and Alfano Renovations is exactly that, family-owned for more than 20 years! Michael Alfano manages the showrooms, design work, proposals, client visits, and deliveries of materials; while his father and two brothers coordinate the installation of materials and oversee all renovations and inspections. 

Unlike some similar businesses in the area, Alfano Renovations is a licensed contractor and showroom under one roof, so you don’t have to shop for your materials and the people to install them in two different places! They handle everything from design to completion, and their results are beautiful, as you can see from the photos. Michael said, “We have made the renovation process very easy and more streamlined so people can work on their daily lives and we can work on their project.”

Alfano Renovations is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm, and by private appointments. Visit their website at or call 732-922-2020 for more information. 

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For Sale! 444 Locust Ave, Garwood NJ $379,000

This pristine Cape Cod will give you a great vibe the second you step in the door! This home offers four bedrooms, two full baths, a formal dining room with builtins, and much more! From the fireplace in the living room to the spacious kitchen that leads to the charming breezeway, attached garage, and private yard, you’ll be making memories on day one in this home. Recent updates include the addition of two bedrooms and a full bath on the second floor. The interior has been freshly painted, and the basement is huge and ready to be finished! Located on a lovely street close to parks, NYC transportation, and all that Garwood has to offer, this nicely priced house is one not to miss!


This home will not last…. Schedule an appointment today!  

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Fitness Incorporated Training Studios in Garwood, NJ

OK, we’re about two months into the year now.  How’s that New Year’s resolution coming along?  You may want to hear about this business….

Fitness Incorporated Training Studios is a personal training studio at 345 North Avenue in Garwood that offers small group sessions, semi-private sessions, and private sessions. They define themselves as standing apart from other training studios by offering a superior level of training and personalization for their clients, in order to help them achieve the results they desire.

They strive, as they put it, “to not just create a conveyer belt that pulls clients in the front door and shoots them out the back door, but to create an environment for our clients to interact with each other, with the accessibility of our studio and training we provide to our clients.”

Owners and trainers Shane and Katie are a married couple who both hold a B.S in Exercise Physiology from Rutgers University. They have been in the personal training field for more than eight years. They started their own business from scratch, (it  is NOT a chain business), and it has grown and flourished over the past three years.   They work with clients from all age groups and backgrounds, including everyone from 11-year old youth hockey players to 78-year olds who get up everyday and go to work.

During small group sessions, typically 1-8 people, trainers are walking through the studio coaching, correcting the participants’ form, and providing cues for maximum efficiency . . . NOT standing in front of the room cheering clients on with a headset attached to their ear. Clients are not pushed beyond their limits, putting them in danger of failure or injury.

In semi-private training, typically 1-3 participants, the session is programmed and tailored even more to the participants. In the semi-private session the level of observation and detail is equal to that of a private session, but with the increased motivation of having a partner(s). Semi-private sessions offer increased results due to participants accountability to the other participants, since participants drive to push themselves with the other members of the group.

Private training is not necessarily recommended for all clients, but would be recommended if a client is coming right out of rehab or is severely reconditioned.   Otherwise, most people can achieve maximum results from the small group sessions.  With all packages, unlimited access to small group training is included.

The facility offers 4,000 square feet, which includes 3,500 square feet of training space across 2 floors, private bathrooms, and private showers.  It is a safe, fun, and clean environment that clients can feel comfortable, not overwhelmed, in.

 Shane and Katie are currently launching a new Airdyne HIIT small group session. This is an alternative bike-based class to traditional spin classes offered by gyms and training studios. Pin these classes, proper mobility needed for bike training will be addressed, interval sprints will be done in proper ratios to optimize fat loss and increase cardio capacity, and the strength demands needed off the bike will be addressed to make clients stronger in their bike training. Clients will get the real results they desire from a smaller bike based session, and find a great way to improve their cardiovascular health.

They always welcome newcomers!  For more information, visit their website at , or take a look at their Facebook page at .

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Loaded Burgers in Garwood NJ Expands!

Best. Burger. Ever. Those are the words uttered by many a patron who enjoyed a meal at Loaded in Garwood. The gourmet burger joint closed last year when its proprietors sought to expand their storefront. Well, guess what? Loaded is set to reopen its doors by March, so you can once again enjoy those truly mouth-watering burgers!

LoadedOwned by Jacob Han and Kevin Conti, the new Loaded will open in its old location at the corner of Center Street and South Ave. They’ve nearly doubled the size of the formerly humble restaurant to accommodate for much more seating and greater storage capacity for their ingredients. And boy, do these guys care about their ingredients. Everything from the bread to the meat to the spices is of the absolute highest quality.

Jacob–who was previously a line cook at the venerable Huntley Tavern–confirms that all the meat for the burger patties will be ground in-house, and only antibiotic-free, humanely raised meats are allowed through the doors of Loaded. The cheese for all the sandwiches will be provided by Cranford’s own Cheese…Please, and the spices by Savory Spice Shop of Westfield. How cool is that?!

If you hadn’t been to Loaded before, here’s what you can expect of the menu: standard and signature burgers (such as a French onion burger topped with caramelized onions and shredded gruyere heated with a blow torch); barbecue pulled pork, brisket, and ribs; fried and roasted chicken; and savory waffle sandwiches. Of course, that’s just lunch and dinner. The new Loaded will also be open early for breakfast (which will include their own house-smoked and cured bacon) and fresh roasted artisanal coffees. Are you prone to late-night munchies? Fear not–Loaded will be open late on weekends!

Jacob describes the atmosphere at Loaded as “fast casual,” with a large grill in the main room where you can watch your food be cooked. Jacob’s mantra is “good food at a good price.” But take a look at the photos of actual burgers served at Loaded. “Good” is an understatement! Just don’t dare ask for lettuce with your burger when you eat at Loaded–Chef Jacob believes its sacrilege to put lettuce on a juicy burger, so he refuses to stock it. And that’s fine by me!

Follow Loaded’s Facebook page for updates on the grand reopening. As for where to park when they do reopen: free on-street parking is available on South Ave. and Center Street; there is also a free municipal lot across the street, as well as another free lot down the block on Center Street.

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Garwood Lanes Bowling Alley Offers Fun For ALL Ages!

Bowling. The sport is alive and well, people, and it’s thriving right in the little hamlet of Garwood, where a family-owned bowling alley is open seven days a week.

Garwood Lanes

Located at 346 North Ave, Garwood Lanes is an 8-lane alley with a full bar, restaurant menu (I’m told their chicken fingers are the bomb), and private party room. The lanes accommodate walk-ins and several leagues throughout the week.

It’s only 5 bucks a game to bowl on weekends (plus a nominal shoe rental fee), and it’s even cheaper on weekdays. Sometimes you’ll find package deals on Living Social and such. No matter what, it’s a very reasonably priced outing for an individual or family.

photo 2Got little ones? Garwood Lanes has those beloved bumpers that prevent your kid from getting photo 3gutter balls every roll. They also host birthday parties for ages 5 to adult as well corporate functions–you know you want to see your boss in bowling shoes! And speaking from experience, those adult bowling parties can be a BALL!! (see what I did there??)

There is some street parking in front of Garwood Lanes as well as a lot across the street. A word of advice: CALL FIRST to reserve a lane and/or make sure there isn’t a league taking up all the lanes. 908-276-2040

Check out the events page on their website for days featuring great drink and food specials, live entertainment, karaoke, and more:

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Garwood NJ’s Crème Berree

What could be better than frozen yogurt, you ask?  How about frozen yogurt POPS, that are only 120 calories a pop, (pardon the pun), and can be dipped into a hardening shell, and topped off with a variety of toppings?   Sounds too good to be true, right? Yet that’s exactly what you can get at Crème Berre – the new business located at 506 North Avenue in Garwood.

The pops can be purchased in party packs for parties, and Crème Berree can also host your party. Brochures are available at the store.  Finally – a totally unique idea with which to dazzle party guests!

Of course, they also offer frozen yogurt cups in sizes Small, Medium, Large, and Take Home Size. They even have something called “shooties”……….four smaller portions that can be ordered in four different flavors with four different toppings, essentially comprising a sampler.  There are also smoothies, (with or without a shot of protein), fruit bowls, and fruit parfaits.

There are over 20 flavors, continuously rotated for variety,  all of which are  organic, fat-free, gluten-free, and kosher.  All  flavors are made with true and real ingredients. In addition, they offer over 50 toppings, including organic choices, dry, liquid, and fruit toppings. Wow . . . I don’t even think I can NAME 50 toppings!

Crème Berree also offers a loyalty program, where customers get 5% of every dollar spent put back onto the loyalty card for future purchases. Gift cards are also available.

This Garwood shop is currently considered “location number one,” with the hopes of developing the brand into a franchise within the next two years. So keep your eyes open.  You never know where another one might “pop” up.

For more information about the business or the product, or to inquire about party pops or parties, you can call (908) 301-0506 , email [email protected] , visit the website at , or, better yet, try out the signature brand yogurt by dropping into the store for a taste!

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“Bead at the Bar” at The Station Bar and Grill in Garwood, NJ 4/9/14

I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered the perfect girls’ night happening Wednesday, April 9th, at 7:30 pm at The Station Bar and Grill in Garwood: “Bead at the Bar”! You read that right. Every gal’s favorite craft–making jewelry–combined with sipping drinks at a local watering hole equals a can’t-miss night out for the ladies.


Bead at the Bar is hosted by The Queen Bead (, a business launched recently by Westfield local Wendy Baum. Wendy has always been a wiz at fashioning unique jewelry for herself and her loved ones, so a business revolving around that passion seemed like the perfect fit. She says, “I love the idea of making jewelry over a glass of wine with girlfriends.” Wendy knew she could help women create those oh-so-trendy necklaces and bracelets you see downtown for a fraction of the cost, all while they’re enjoying quality time with friends or, better yet, making new ones.


At every Queen Bead event you’ll find a veritable buffet of baubles: glittering beads, genuine stones, and twinkling charms for you to choose from. There’s a delightful “jewelry menu” to help you decide which piece(s) to create, and the prices are far more reasonable than one would expect, considering the high quality of the materials. Wendy and her staff provide expert technical assistance as you create a piece to treasure for years to come. Worried about the quality of your own handiwork? Don’t be! The Queen Bead guarantees your finished product for 6 months!


The cost to register for Bead at the Bar is $10, and that fee goes entirely toward the purchase of any jewelry that you make that night! The first few beading nights sold out almost immediately, so Wendy now plans to run the event monthly at The Station. The Queen Bead also hosts private events, bridal/baby showers, mommy-and-me outings, and creates custom gifts.


To reserve your spot at the April 9th Bead at the Bar, visit:

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CASA Tricky Tray and Designer Bag Bingo 4/5/14 at 7pm at the Garwood K of C

I’ve been to my fair share of tricky trays, but this upcoming one really caught my eye: the second annual CASA Tricky Tray and Designer Bag Bingo. Designer handbags given away as bingo prizes? Where do I sign up?!

CASA Tricky Tray

The event will take place at the Garwood Knights of Columbus on Saturday, April 5, at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 to ensure ample time for perusing the prizes). Tickets are $40 each, which includes all bingo cards, coffee, and dessert. Tricky tray raffle tickets are sold separately that night. Attendees are encouraged to bring food and drinks–yes, even spirits for the spirited bunch. No one under 18 years old will be admitted.

In case you still don’t know what a tricky tray is: dozens of prizes and baskets will be displayed, including gift certificates galore, jewelry, wine, vacation getaways, a flat screen TV, and more. You purchase as many raffle tickets as your little heart desires and place them in the designated cups in front of every prize you hope to win. If they call your ticket number, you win that prize, simple as that! Tricky tray zealots (you know who you are!) often bring good luck charms and noisemakers . . . and clear out their trunks ahead of time.

Tricky Tray


New to the CASA event this year is the designer bag bingo, where you can walk away with a Coach or other high-end handbag if you win one of the bingo games. Hmm, I’m thinking Mama needs a new spring purse!

Proceeds benefit CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) of Union County, whose mission is to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to advocate for children in foster care.

CASA’s vision is to provide one court advocate for each of the more than 600 children in foster care in our county.


For more information call 908-527-7043 or purchase tickets here:

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Rudy’s Italian Restaurant in Garwood NJ



You wouldn’t think there would be too much one could do to a baked ziti to make it much different than any other.  I mean . . . . noodles, sauce, cheese . . . pretty basic stuff.  And yet, we had a baked ziti the other day that was nothing short of outstanding!

photoRudy’s Ristorante & pizzeria is located in the King’s strip mall in Garwood, at 300 South Avenue.  In business for almost a decade, co-owners Rick Osso and Chef Dario Fernandez offer their patrons fresh, made-to-order,  traditional homemade Italian food.  Their signature sauce, made with a variety of meats and flavors, is simply out of this world!  Osso’s father and uncle actually still own and operate the FIRST Rudy’s, still going strong in Closter in Bergen County. The Garwood location has plenty of parking, a charming eat-in atmosphere, and a ridiculously extensive to-die-for menu.  They even offer a gluten-free menu for those who wish it, a low-fat menu, and do catering, as well.  Everything from traditional pasta dishes, to pizza, to lobster ravioli champagne with asparagus (oh, YES!!!!) can be found here, and it is all fabulous!

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you can also find great coupon deals for Rudy’s in the Cranford Chronicle.  This is a great local place to take the family, a date, friends, or your lazy self for take-out if you don’t feel like cooking for everyone.

And don’t worry, ladies.  Dress Barn is right next door.  If you overeat, you can always go buy something without buttons, and then return for dessert.  (Nutella hazelnut torta . . . . ‘nuff said!)

Check out their website and mouth-watering menu at Rudy’s Italian Restaurant



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