Shop Small Jersey Style

While many are out today on Black Friday shopping on major department stores like Target and Best Buy, I find Small Business Saturday much more important.

Small Business SaturdayStarted in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday is meant to encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned stores in their communities. Small businesses generate the majority of jobs in the United States. According to reports from the U.S. Small Business Administration small companies accounted for 64% of new jobs created in the U.S. between 1993 and 2011.

Whenever possible, I make a point to “shop small.” I have found the quality of merchandise is better and the customer service is always great!

I would like to share a few different shops I frequent. They are all wonderful places to shop and I encourage my readers to do the same.

Whitewater Flies, Lafayette: Business owner Greg runs a great fly shop in Sussex County. If you need a gift for your favorite fly angler, I highly suggest you check out Whitewater Flies. He is very knowledgeable and can help you find the perfect gift.

Fiber Arts Yarn Shop, Cape May: Whenever my husband and I head “down the shore,” we visit the Fiber Arts Yarn Shop. It is a wonderful shop that offers a wide variety of yarns, buttons, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and more. A great gift might even be a gift certificate to an upcoming class!

Sergio’s, Denville: I absolutely love shopping the main street of Denville. Just about every shop is a locally-owned business. Sergio’s offers delicious imported Italian specialties. How about making a gift basket full of Italian goodies? Sounds like a perfect gift to me!

Kevin’s Fine Jewelry, Totowa: My husband and I have shopped at Kevin’s Fine Jewelry several times. Kevin and his staff are both knowledgeable and pleasant. If you need something special this is the place to go! Kevin and his team can even create a custom piece if you would like!

PhotoZone, Parsippany: Whether you are looking for a basic digital camera or a high end SLR, PhotoZone can help you. PhotoZone is a second-generation owned photography shop with unparalleled knowledge about photography. You can find PhotoZone inside SoundWaves; another great small business focused on home and auto audio electronics.

These are just a few of the many great small businesses throughout the state of New Jersey. I hope my readers will shop small on Saturday!

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Protecting the Great Notch Inn

Growing up, I went to businesses with names like “Esposito’s,” “Rosebud’s,” and of course, “Rutt’s Hut.” Little did I know as a child, supporting a small business is an important part of keeping alive a community and contributing to what continues to be the history of New Jersey.

20160420_202914Thankfully, The Great Notch Inn will continue to be part of the living history of New Jersey. The owners of the Inn have been fighting against an expansion of Rt. 46 that would have flattened the bar that has been in business since 1939.

Originally opened by Gregory and Florence DiLeo, it was run by Mr. DiLeo until his death in 1988 and the torch was passed to his daughter Florence, and her kids, Rich and Gail. This bar has been in the same spot since before Rt. 46 was even in place! The Notch’s origins can actually be traced to 1924, when the original owners opened the Green Chateau right nearby the Inn’s location.

Is it fair that Rt. 46, a road that didn’t even exist when the Great Notch Inn opened, send the bar to the bulldozer? Absolutely not!

A written statement from NJDOT reads in part: “NJDOT goes to extensive lengths to minimize the impact to residents and businesses when it designs projects, particularly when it relates to acquiring property.”

20160420_203117Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have never actually been inside the Inn. I have passed it while traveling Rt. 46 more times than I can count, but it was one of those places I was told since I was a kid, “you don’t belong there.” This does NOT mean I have an issue with bikers! Everyone just needs their own place. The Great Notch Inn is a place for bikers to take a break from their ride and relax. When I stopped by a few nights ago to take pictures for this post, I had the opportunity to speak quickly with a couple getting ready to get back on their ride and they couldn’t have been nicer!

20160420_202942The Inn did, unfortunately, lose about 30% of their property via eminent domain, but that one battle loss gave them the opportunity to win the bar preservation war!

Now I will say I hate eminent domain, but that is a complaint for a different blog.

The important part of this story is that the bar owners have been assured by the DOT that the Rt. 46 expansion will go around them so they can continue to serve their customers on that awesome front porch.

It is businesses like the Great Notch Inn that make New Jersey the wonderful place it is! Now that I am an adult, I understand fully the importance of patronizing our locally-owned businesses. Given the choice, I will always go to the local diner instead of a chain restaurant and use the local pharmacy instead of a big box store. You get a feel for the area and support a small business owner and town.

I am very happy to see that this special place will continue to offer a front porch to all who decide to stop “Inn!”

Black Bears in New Jersey

For the first time in over 150 years, there was a fatal bear attack in New Jersey. Five friends were hiking in the Apshawa Preserve when they encountered a black bear. According to the four survivors, the bear was following them and acting in an aggressive manner. Unfortunately, one of the group did not survive.

New Jersey black bear

New Jersey black bear (photo credit: NJ DEP Fish & Wildlife)

Since the incident, there has been much discussion about bear safety and what to do if you encounter a bear. How to manage the bear population is a regular point of debate in my great state. That, however, is not the point of this post. I felt I should share some thoughts about bear safety.

The American black bear is native to New Jersey. Within the most densely populated state in the nation, black bears are thriving and there are now confirmed bear sightings in all 21 of New Jersey’s counties. It is believed the current bear population is between 2,800 and 3,000 in New Jersey.

My husband and I have been enjoying New Jersey’s great outdoors for decades. In all that time we have probably encountered bears less than five times. We are, however, always prepared.

Here are some important points to keep in mind when out enjoying New Jersey’s great outdoors:

  • First and foremost, never approach or attempt to feed a bear
  • As hard as it may be, stay calm and DO NOT TURN AND RUN!
  • Make the bear aware of you by making loud noises, clapping your hands, or other noise – I keep a whistle with me. If you are camping, bang pots and pans or have an air horn handy.
  • Make sure you do not “corner” a bear – it needs to have an escape route
  • Do not make eye contact – the bear may consider it as a challenge or aggressive
  • Back away slowly and DO NOT TURN AND RUN!
  • Make yourself look as large as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand next to each other and raise your arms.
  • Consider carrying Mace or bear spray
  • When going hiking, consider going with someone else
  • They are usually most active around sunrise and sunset, so consider avoiding hiking during these times
  • If you do experience aggressive bear behavior, make sure you report it to NJ DEP Division of Fish & Wildlife at 1-877-927-6337
  • NEVER TURN AND RUN!

Do you see a theme here? As hard as it may be, NEVER turn and run from a bear. You are inviting trouble.

Also consider keeping a hiking staff with you. I use my wading staff for fishing when I am out hiking. If needed, it could be a weapon.

If you live in an area with bears (like I do), the most important step you can take is keeping your garbage well secured by using bear-proof garbage containers or keeping it in your garage.

As I mentioned initially – bear attacks are very rare. Bears are opportunistic feeders and not generally meat eaters. For the most part their diets consist of plants, berries, nuts, bird’s eggs, and unfortunately, garbage. They have been known to eat animal carcasses. They do not look for encounters with people and will usually do their best to avoid you.

Whether or not the five hikers in the Apshawa Preserve used any of the suggestions on the list I do not know. It may have not helped at all if it turns out this animal was sick or felt threatened. Hopefully these suggestions will help you stay safe while enjoying New Jersey’s great outdoors.

For more bear safety information, Fish and Wildlife’s website offers a lot of great information. You can read more by clicking here.

Independence Day Weekend Events in New Jersey

While most people in the tri-state area think the Macy’s fireworks are the hot ticket for the Independence Day weekend, we in Jersey know better! Here are some great ideas to enjoy the long holiday weekend.

Jersey City will host the “Freedom and Fireworks Festival” on Friday. Events will take place at Liberty State Park and will include a visit by the Budweiser Clydesdales and Bud Beer Gardens. Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro, is also creating a special Fourth of July cake for the Jersey City Freedom & Fireworks Festival. Country music star Craig Morgan and Kristen Redmond will perform. The live music begins at 5:30 p.m. Of course the day will conclude with an awesome fireworks display!

The battle at the Princeton Battlefield State Park on Jan. 3, 1777 is considered to be the fiercest fight during the American Revolution. General George Washington led his troops to this otherwise peaceful winter field and defeated a force of British Regulars, giving Washington his first victory against the British Regulars on the battlefield. The park is open Friday, July 4 — 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and admission is free. There will be period games will be available for children of all ages. A talk on the Battle of Princeton will be given at noon and a reading of the Declaration of Independence will happen at 1 p.m.

Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, is the site of the 1779-80 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General Washington. It will be open to the public Friday, July 4 — 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and events will be held on the Morristown Green. Music and entertainment will be provided by The Four Old Parts and Wire Harp. At noon, the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Tom Ross, superintendent of Morristown National Historical Park, followed by a NJ 350th Proclamation read by Morris County Freeholder Director Thomas Mastrangelo. A musket firing by the 2nd New Jersey Regiment and singing of “Happy Birthday New Jersey” will happen at 12:45 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., free tours of the Presbyterian Church and graveyard. The day will end with a Fort Nonsense ribbon cutting with Eileen Cameron, president of the Washington Association of New Jersey, and Mayor Timothy Dougherty, at 2 p.m.

In 1776, the third reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in New Brunswick.  Come celebrate the 4th of July with a re-enactment.  Learn about the history of the reading, tour the Historic Christ Church Cemetery at 5 Paterson Street.  Sing along with patriotic songs of the era and hear American music performed on a traditional pipe organ.  Free admission and complimentary refreshments.

Garden State Fireworks will launch an electrifying palette of pyrotechnics at Bayonne’s annual fireworks show on Tuesday (rain date Wednesday, July 2) at 9:15 p.m. In conjunction with the inauguration of Bayonne mayor-elect Jimmy Davis that day, there will be live entertainment from multiple bands beginning at 4 p.m. at G. Thomas DiDomenico 16th Street Park, giving way to fireworks. For information call 201-471-7590 or visit www.bayonnerec.com.

The State Fair Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, will stage its firework display on July 3 and July 4 at 11 p.m. The State Fair is the largest fair in the area, with more than 50 vendors, rides, racing pigs, a juggling show, an acrobatic motocross show, live performances and more. The fair will be open on July 3 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and July 4 from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Entrance to the fair is $8 and $10. All active military personnel, with proper military ID are being offered free admission to the fair and an unlimited ride hand stamp from June 20 to July 6. The unlimited ride hand stamp is not available on June 20. The fair includes performances by Larry Chance and the Earls, The Rip Chords, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Heffron Drive.

Montclair will host its 64th annual Independence Day Celebration promising attendees a host of live musical performances, parade and fireworks display. The parade, which begins at 11 a.m., will comprise of various organizations and marching bands. The parade will travel west on Bloomfield Avenue to Midland Avenue, heading to Valley Road and ending at Edgemont Park for a July 4th Family Picnic. The family picnic, from noon to 3 p.m., will include the Joe Fischer magic show, pony rides, face painting, spin art, sand art, tattoos and balloon art. In addition local bands, Black Lace Blues and Jason Didner & the Jungle Gym Jam, will provide live music. The Montclair fireworks display will take place at Yogi Berra Stadium on Montclair State University campus. The stadium admission is $3 per person or $10 per family with no charge for children ages 5 and under. Gates open at 7 p.m. and free parking will be available at parking decks surrounding the stadium.

The city of Camden has plenty of events scheduled for their second annual Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival. The Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival features the region’s largest fireworks display, live music, military displays and demonstrations,  amusements, contests, food concessions. The Freedom Festival Beer Garden will be open during regular festival hours from July 3-5, featuring local New Jersey beer. The festival will kick off on Thursday, July 3 with the pre-celebration for 102.9 FM WMGK’s 13th Annual Let Freedom Rock Fest. The festival will feature family-focused attractions, games and amusements, and a performance by WMGK’s former house band, the Sofa Kings. All events will lead up to the 6 p.m. concert at Live Nation’s Susquehanna Bank Center featuring Foreigner, Styx and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder. The festivities continue Friday, July 4, with live bands, military vehicles and armed forces displays visiting the Camden Waterfront with patriotic music and activities from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Adventure Aquarium Waterfront Fireworks Celebration features the region’s largest fireworks display and takes place Saturday night, July 5, after the Camden County Freedom Concert beginning at 3 p.m. The festival will come to a close Sunday, July 6, with special discounts for active military and veterans and their families at both Adventure Aquarium and the Battleship New Jersey Memorial & Museum.

Monroe Township will be holding it’s annual 4th of July fireworks show at Williamstown High School Friday on July 4, complete with food vendors, a balloon artisan and skydivers. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. and fireworks start at 9 p.m.

Washington Township will hold its annual 4th of July celebration Thursday, July 3 at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater.  Beginning at 7 p.m., the event will start with a flag raising and recognition of veterans. Immediately following will be a performance of patriotic songs by resident Michael Jones and a concert by Touché.  A fireworks show will held at 9:15 p.m. and will shoot off from the amphitheater. Attendees can view from the lawn or elsewhere in the park. The fireworks will be shot to medley of patriotic music. Officials suggest brining bug spray and folding chairs. Food will be available.

A Fourth of July celebration featuring a Spirit of Americana Bake-Off competition and a “Most Patriotic Canine” costume contest will take place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Footbridge Park, 79 West Crisman Road (Route 94) in Blairstown.

The 11th annual traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence will take place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Ringwood Manor, Sloatsburg Road in Ringwood Manor State Park. $5 parking.

A concert of patriotic favorites will be performed by the West Morris Community Concert Band 7 p.m. Sunday at Gardner Field on Route 46 and Savage Road in Denville. Fireworks will follow at dusk. Call (973) 625-8300.

Did a miss an event in your area? Make sure to post it in the comments below!

Jersey Icon: Rutt’s Hut

As part of my blog, I am going to include posts about “Jersey icons.” These are locations that are of cultural, historical, and popular importance. Today’s Jersey Icon? Rutt’s Hut.

Rutt's Hut

A typical meal at the Jersey famous Rutt’s Hut.

There are lots of great hot dog joints in New Jersey. My favorite, by far, is Rutt’s Hut. Since 1928, Rutt’s Hut in Clifton has made what patrons call “rippers;” hot dogs deep fried until they split open. For generations, this place has a deep-fried spot in many a Jersey heart. They have a language all their own – if an order is to go, it is “travelin.” You want an order of fries? It is a “frenchie.”

Since I was a child, this was a usual spot. Most of the time, I would be on the “to go” side, picking up huge orders for everyone at the house on a Saturday night. Nowadays, my husband and I go to the “sit down” area since we don’t live nearby anymore. They have a menu, but no one I know has ever even looked at it. Your choices are:

  • Wellers (with their famous home-made relish)
  • Fries
  • Rings
  • Burgers
  • Birch soda
  • Chili (with or without beans)

If you are going there for anything else, you are missing the point. Needless to say if you are a vegetarian, watching your cholesterol, or focused on healthy eating, then this is not your place. If you do decide to go, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. This is true Jersey Icon.