Apr 152014

Down a flight of stairs is one of Downtown Cranford’s best-kept secrets: Sharon Fit Belly Dance & Group Fitness Studio. The studio is run by Sharon Sutera, who came to belly dancing after she turned 40 and was looking to get healthier. She started taking belly dance classes to get in shape and discovering that she had a passion not only for belly dancing, but also for helping other women. She became a Personal Trainer and also received certification in belly dancing and hooping.

Sharon Sutera

Sharon Sutera

Sharon believes that belly dancing is the perfect activity for women who are looking to become more active and don’t know where to start. You don’t need any experience as the studio offers both Beginner and Intermediate classes. The dances are all about muscle contractions, and the workouts offer the opportunity for the students to constantly improve. It doesn’t take long before the women notice a change in their bodies from the new movements they’re learning. Sharon doesn’t have set semesters so students can join at any time and jump right in. The price is reasonable also: $130 for 12 classes.

The studio offers a number of classes in addition to Belly Dancing including Hoop Fit, Booty Boot Camp, Yoga, and Burlesque. Sharon has about 75 regular students, whose ages range from 15-65. One of the things Sharon is proudest of is the community that’s formed among the women who regularly attend classes. The women constantly offer each other support and encouragement.
Sharon’s dancers have performed at local street fairs, Roxy & Duke’s in Dunellen, cruiser nights, and belly dance festivals. On May 10th at 4PM the dancers will be performing at the Belly Dance/Hoopin Hafla at the Jardine Academy in Cranford. The Hafla will include a number of dances and performances, and the dancers have been training for months for the big event. The Hafla is a great opportunity to see what Sharon Fit Belly Dance is all about – maybe you’ll be inspired to try it out for yourself.

Sharon Fit Belly Dance & Group Fitness Studio
29 Alden Street
(908) 370-8882

Apr 102014

Easter is just around the corner which means baskets need to be filled, treats and hostess gifts need to be bought, and families are looking for restaurants to meet up at. No need to stress – Downtown Cranford has options for you in all of these areas.

Chocolate Bunnies, Ice Cream Cakes, Wine, and More

  • Cheese…Please! and Sweet N Fancy Emporium have goodies to fill Easter baskets, everything from Cadbury Cream Eggs to regular chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies. And don’t forget to pick up some cheese from Cheese…Please to start off your Easter feast.


  • Looking to stock up on beer and wine for Easter dinner? Then stop by NJ Wine Seller or Breen’s to pick up that perfect bottle of wine or 6-pack of beer.
  • Edible Arrangements is offering up Easter-themed arrangements, many of which contain chocolate dipped pineapple bunnies.
  • Breadsmith will be selling their bunny-shaped bread which is almost (almost) too cute to eat.
  • Perrotti’s has the perfect centerpiece for your Easter table – a delicious leg of lamb.
  • There’s always room for dessert so how about a decorated ice cream cake from Vanilla Bean Creamery or cookies from The Cake Artist Cafe? These treats are both adorable and delicious.


Gifts Galore

  • Augusta Mae has a number of ideas to fill the Easter basket of the fashion-forward person in your life including hairbands, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and ice chips.
  • No need to leave out your furry family members - Just 4 Pooches has treats for both dogs and cats.
  • Belladonna’s Yarn Room is selling decorated boxes that can be filled with jelly beans, chocolate eggs, or any other Easter treat you can think of.

Easter Style

    • If you’re looking to decorate the house for Easter, then make sure you stop by Atlantic Beach Soap Co. and Periwinkle’s. Atlantic Beach has beautiful egg soaps that will brighten up any bathroom, while Periwinkle’s is selling artisan hand-painted Easter eggs.
    • Artemisia and Simply Art and Framing have a number of beautiful items would make perfect hostess gifts. Stop by and see what they have…and maybe pick up something for yourself too!


  • If you’re looking for the perfect Easter outfit for your child then check out the selection at Bebe International as owner Tamara always has gorgeous Easter outfits in stock. For less formal wear stop by Milk Money to see their selection of boy’s and girl’s clothes.

Easter Brunch

  • Not up to cooking this year? You’re in luck as a number of Cranford’s restaurants will be offering Easter Brunch, including Kilkenny House and The Office,
  • If you’re looking to head out for lunch or dinner then check out our complete listing of dining options – there’s something for every taste in Downtown Cranford!


Apr 072014

Spring is officially here, and after the winter we’ve had it seems everyone is eager to spend as much time outside as possible. So why not stop by Hilltop Bicycles in downtown Cranford and pick up a new bike or get your old one tuned up? Whatever you’re looking for related to bikes and riding you’re sure to find it there.

Owners Tom Dunn and Sam Cooper

Owners Tom Dunn and Sam Cooper

Hilltop Bicycles is owned by Sam Cooper and Tom Dunn, and originated in Summit. Their Cranford location opened just last April. The partners chose Cranford for their second location as they recognized that the downtown is going through a significant growth revival, with new restaurants, apartments, and retail spots constantly opening up.

Repair Shop
The store stocks everything one could possibly need related to bike riding. There are a variety of bikes for sale, everything from kid’s bikes to road and mountain bikes. The walls are lined with helmets, custom clothing, power gels, gloves, and other bike accessories. In addition, the store has its own repair shop right in the center of the store so people can bring in their bikes to get them fixed up. Sam and Tom pride their store on employing knowledgeable people, as well as offering a great variety and selection. They want Hilltop Bicycles to be accessible to everyone, from novices to advanced riders.

Hilltop Bicycles is also organizing group rides for all skill levels. The store offers women specific rides, as well as competitive rides. If you’re interested in joining just check out the calendar on their website. The Cranford location also plans to offer a Monthly Family Ride in the summer, which will teach kids how to take care of their bikes. So take advantage of the warm weather while you can and get over to Hilltop Bicycles. We’ve spent too much of the past few months stuck inside – it’s time to take to the open roads!

Hilltop Bicycles
30 Eastman Street


Apr 032014

Spring It On
Winter is finally over and Spring is officially here! To celebrate, Downtown Cranford will be holding Spring It On! April 4 & 5 with sales, giveaways, specials events, and free parking on both Friday and Saturday. Check out our list below to see how your favorite local stores are celebrating Spring.

  • Atlantic Beach Soap Co. will be offering up in-store specials, and luxurious soy hand massages.
  • Artemisia has a few promotions going on, including $10 off any purchase of $50 (some exclusions apply) and an extra 10% off sale items. In addition, if you make a purchase of $25 you’ll be entered to win a Tocca Gift Set.
  • Augusta Mae will have a Chavez for Charity designer in the store on Saturday from 10:30AM – 2PM. The designer will customize charms for any bracelets purchased during the event. Bracelets are just $10 and there are over 400 available.
  • Back to Nature is letting customers choose which deal they’d like: Buy 1 Get 1 50% Off for Vitamins and Herbs, 20% off one item, or $5 off $30 (excludes sale items).
  • Bebe International will have 20% off current spring styles, with additional items discounted 50% – 60% off. They will also be taking special orders for Communion dresses and will ship for free, as well as take 10% off any style.
  • Belladonna’s Yarn Room is having a big sale on yarns and furniture. You can also find handmade flower washcloths here and at Atlantic Beach Soap Co.
  • The C.A.L.M. Approach is planning to offer customers who come in Friday from 3:30PM-8:30PM and Saturday from 9:00AM-3:00PM a gift and gift certificate, with values ranging from $5 to the cost of a full one hour session.
  • The Cake Artist Cafe is celebrating their 3rd anniversary this week and they’re planning to offer samples of their delicious treats during Spring It On!
  • Cheese…Please! will be hosting wine and cheese tastings with Villa Milagro Vineyards on Friday from 4-7PM and Saturday from 12-5PM. All of the wines will be available for purchase.
  • Ciao Amici has a number of things on deck for the weekend, including chocolates and candies by Leone from Italy, samples of Italy’s famous dry red peppers, and information about Ciao Amici’s Italian lessons and cultural events, as well as about cooking lessons from Pasta e Parole.
  • Dream Kitchen Designs will have food demos on Friday and Saturday at 11AM, and a sugar scrub demonstration on Friday and Saturday at 5PM. Both demonstrations will be performed by the owner of Atlantic Beach Soap Co., Shaun Vanclief.
  • Edible Arrangements is offering $5 off 6 count dipped fruit boxes and 15% off selected arrangements all week long.
  • Elements will be selling gift cards at over a 30% discount the entire week.
  • Fire Me Up Studio kicks off their Canvas Fun Night workshops the weekend of Spring It On!, with kid drop off on April 4 from 6:30 – 9PM and the adult class on April 5 from 7 – 10PM.
  • Fresh Press Juice may not be officially open but they will be outside their store on Saturday from 10AM-1PM providing samples of their cold-pressed juice and raw granola. They will also be raffling off a $25 gift certificate.
  • Furever Friends Dog Grooming will be handing out $5 coupons as well as dog treats for your favorite furry friend.
  • The Jumble Store will be offering patrons a discount on their total purchase at the store.
  • Just4Pooches will be holding a sale. Bring your 4-legged friend and offer samples of dog food and treats.
  • Milk Money is offering 10% off everything in the store on both Friday and Saturday.
  • NJ Wine Seller will have in-store tastings on both days, with Wine and Beer on Friday, and Olive Oil, Bread, Cheese and the new summer beers on Saturday.
  • Periwinkle’s is having a Sip and Shop with wine and cheese and will also be offering special promos on their NJ Sea Glass jewelry and Spartina 499 handbags, totes, wallets, and scarves. The shop will be open until 9 on Friday night.
  • Simply…Art & Framing will be having a Jazz Night on Friday from 7-9PM with wine and cheese, and will also have items on sale both Friday and Saturday.

In addition to all of these great promotions, a number of businesses have offered up gift certificates for raffles. Visit any of these stores and enter for your chance to win a gift certificate to a number of great local businesses including Augusta Mae, Bebe International, Belladonna’s Yarn Room,The C.A.L.M. ApproachEdible Arrangements, Fire Me Up!, The Mane EventMilk Money, Periwinkle’s, Tony’s Cafe and Pizzeria and Vanilla Bean Creamery. We can’t wait to see you around town this weekend!

Mar 312014

Spring is here and you’re ready to spruce up your living space – and maybe yourself too. If that’s the case then you definitely have to stop in at Simply…Art and Framing. Gary Fletcher’s store is known for selling products you can’t find anywhere else, as well as offering custom framing.

Owner Gary Fletcher

Owner Gary Fletcher

Simply has been in Cranford for over 6 years and it often catches people off guard as they come in expecting just framing or just gift items. They’re pleasantly surprised by the variety of products Gary sells and he receives numerous compliments on how comfortable and unique the store is. Simply offers a variety of items for purchase including jewelry, furniture, pictures, and hostess gifts. Gary is constantly on the lookout for new products to carry. He focuses on handmade, one of a kind items and will check out shops whenever he travels, looking for items that will be the perfect fit for Simply.

The fact that Simply offers custom framing and artwork has led to Gary being approached by artists to carry their work. He also works with art consultants to stock his store with new and interesting artwork. He makes it a point to carry both local art and art from outside the area to showcase a different point of view. Gary’s tastes run to modern and contemporary, which is reflected in the pieces that the store sells.
Gary has a loyal following, with many of his customers returning frequently to see what new items he’s stocking. He also often gains customers when they’re given a gift from his store, and then stop by to see what else he sells. Simply has a number of events on the horizon in the next few months. On April 4 Simply will be celebrating Downtown Cranford’s Spring It On! with Jazz Night from 7-9PM serving wine and cheese. Additional events coming up include a book club in May, an art exhibit in June, and a jewelry workshop in July. If you haven’t stopped by Simply yet, there’s no better time than the present.

Simply…Art and Framing
11 North Union Ave.

Mar 272014

Dave Carracino wants it to be known that they take their beer very seriously at The Cranford Hotel. The restaurant offers 12 beers on tap every day, and these aren’t the beers that you would find at just any bar. The rotating tap list includes craft beer favorites like Lagunitas, Clown Shoes, Victory, and Kane (which is brewed in NJ). If their selection makes it hard to choose just one, have no fear. The Cranford Hotel now offers a flight which allows customers to have a small taste of 4 beers.
Beer Flight
The Cranford Hotel has also started selling growlers for people who want to take the beer home. Their growlers sell for $8, plus the price of the beer. People can also bring in their own growlers to be filled. In addition to the 12 beers on tap The Cranford Hotel also offers 50 bottles so you can definitely find something you’ll like there. The restaurant has partnered with New Jersey Craft Beer and offers members 10% off the entire bill (excluding happy hour).
One thing Dave stressed was the desire to have the same approach to drinks as they have to food in regards to offfering up seasonal selections. People tend to seek out stouts in the winter, while spring and summer will bring lighter beers that still offer plenty of flavor. If you’re not a beer drinker The Cranford Hotel’s drink menu also has a selection of wines, as well as seasonal cocktails. Dave is planning to start beer dinners once the weather turns warmer and they can take advantage of their patio space. He’s excited to pair the restaurant’s beer offerings with their food, as well as educate people on beer. If you’re looking for good food, and the chance to branch out in regards to beer, The Cranford Hotel is the place to go.

The Cranford Hotel
1 S Union Ave
(908) 276-2121

Mar 242014

Do your children need help in school, or are you just looking to give them a leg up on their peers? Then you need to check out Eye Level Learning Center, right next to the movie theater in Downtown Cranford. The Cranford learning center is run by Alexandra Smith and has been open since last May.
Eye Level Learning Center works with students ages 3-17 on Math and English. Before any student starts he or she takes a test to determine the level that they’re at. Each student has a different ability level, with most younger students working on their foundational skills. The goal of Eye Level is to help students solidify their basic skills while also helping them bridge any gaps.

Alexandra has a Master’s in Education from NYU and had previously worked at another Eye Level location. Her enthusiasm for Eye Level is rooted in the fact that each class has 1 teacher to only 4 or 5 students. This allows teachers to personalize the work for each student and provide the students with plenty of one-one-one time.

Alexandra Smith

Alexandra Smith

The Eye Level programs are viewed as supplemental to any classes the students take in school. Most students sign up for a 3 or 6 month program, though parents may choose to enroll them longer. The Math program stresses critical thinking, attempting to get students to view problems as they could be applied to real life. The English program focuses on the 4 fundamental skills: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. Students attend classes once a week per subject and are guaranteed one-on-one time with their instructor.
Alexandra is the head teacher in Cranford, and also was responsible for choosing Cranford as the spot for their latest location. She felt the downtown was very welcoming to new business owners, and also loved that the location was centralized. Eye Level is looking to increase their involvement in the downtown community, while also keeping their students engaged and entertained. The center is open year-round so if your child comes home with a report card that isn’t quite up to your standards, stop by and talk to Alexandra. She can assess your child’s needs and skills and set him or her up with the program that they need to help them do their best.

Eye Level Learning Center
21 North Ave West
(908) 858-5054

Mar 172014

If you walk past Breadsmith in Downtown Cranford you’re sure to get a whiff of the deliciousness that awaits you inside. Once you actually go inside it can be almost overwhelming when you see all of the choices that greet you. Loaves of rye, sourdough, ciabatta, and multigrain share the shelves with scones, muffins, cinnamon claws, baguettes, and dessert breads. If there is a baked good you’re looking for, chances are good that you’ll find it at Breadsmith.
Freshly baked loaves
Breadsmith started in the Midwest, which is where Kathy Vastola originally encountered it. Her family fell in love with their breads, and when her husband’s job brought them to Cranford Kathy thought Breadsmith would be a perfect fit in Cranford. Her hunch has been proven right, as Breadsmith has been a part of downtown Cranford for nearly seven years.
A normal day at Breadsmith actually starts the night before, with mixing of the breads commencing at 7PM. The employees bake the breads as the loaves proof, which occurs between 4-5AM. Many of the breads are sent out for wholesale to restaurants, hotels, and golf courses, and are picked up around 4:30 in the morning. Kathy also works closely with many of the businesses right in Cranford, providing bread to Romola’s Seafood & Grille, Urban Burger, and Cheese…Please. The schedule is different from anything Kathy knew from her years working in corporate America, but she’s enjoying the challenge. She’s always had a passion for baking and cooking, and she loves the chance to meet her customers and hear their feedback. Many of her customers will stop in a few times a week, either for a fresh loaf of bread or for something sweet like a scone or cookie.
Breadsmith is just getting over the rush for St. Patrick’s Day when loaves of Irish Soda Bread flew off the shelves. The next approaching holiday is Easter, which means bunny shaped breads will soon be available for purchase. The store also sells pizza dough, which is extremely popular. Breadsmith will once again be partnering with Dreyer Farms so you can look forward to a treat from there popping up in your CSA box every few weeks. On a normal day their most popular products are scones, baguettes, and their multigrain loaves. Breadsmith stresses that their products are baked fresh every day and made without preservatives. So whatever your baked good craving, make sure you stop by Breadsmith and take home a few of their treats with you.

32 North Avenue West
(908) 276-2155

Mar 142014

Hynes Jewelers exterior
An integral part of Cranford’s downtown since 1981, Hynes Jewelers is the place to go for anyone with an appreciation of fine jewelry and Irish culture. Owner Arthur Hynes came to the United States in the 1970′s from Ireland, and worked at O’Sullivan’s Jewelers in Brooklyn before opening Hynes Jewelers in Downtown Cranford. He was drawn to Cranford by its attractive town center, and also knew many of the people in town before the store even opened.
Window display
This time of year is very busy for Hynes as the focus is on St. Patrick’s Day, followed by Communion season and Mother’s Day. To celebrate the start of their busy season, Hynes is currently offering 17% off for the entire month of March. People picking up St. Patrick’s Day gifts are looking for everything from cuff links to earrings and necklaces. When it comes to Communion, the most popular gifts are medals, crosses, girl’s bracelets, and communion boxes. The focus turns to Moms once Communion season ends, and necklaces with birthstones of children tend to be the go-to gift.
Communion Jewelry
In the years that Arthur has been in town he’s had many customers who move away but still return to seek out the unique products of his store, as well as the stellar customer service. There’s no doubt that Arthur’s Irish charm is one of the reasons that his store is still going strong over 30 years after it first opened its doors.

Hynes Jewelers
2 Eastman Street
(908) 272-0785

Mar 102014

Augusta Mae is not a place that you can make a quick stop into. Each room offers its own little treasures and before you know it you’ve wandered around for an hour, admiring all of the beautiful and unique items. Downtown Cranford is proud to be the home of one of the most unique consignment stores anywhere.
Kim and Clara
Augusta Mae was opened nearly two years ago by friends Clara Nunziato and Kim Capece. Kim and Clara came to the business knowing they wanted to provide customers with a different shopping experience. They came with the mindset that the store would be fluid and would change as they needed it to, in order to best represent what customers wanted. They make an effort to offer quality over quantity, as well as to sell items for every price point.
Kim’s daughter is 20, which is also around the age of many of the store’s employees. The employees constantly offer their opinions and feedback on what items they feel the store should carry and proudly wear jewelry from the store even when they’re not working. Their influence, combined with Kim and Clara’s sharp eye for design, has led to the store being embraced by both moms and daughters.
Kim and Clara are constantly looking ahead and making an effort to be as creative as they can when it comes to their business. The women post frequent product updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If someone sees an item they’re interested in they can claim it by commenting on the item. The store also does business from women coming in and placing items on hold for their boyfriends or husbands to pick up. Why not take the guesswork out of gift giving and make sure you get something you really want?
In the time they’ve been open Kim and Clara have seen local residents welcome them with open arms. They say they can tell people are making a real effort to support local businesses. People love coming to their store as it is a true personal shopping experience. Any of the employees at Augusta Mae will take the time to speak with customers and help them find exactly what they need. Augusta Mae is really a store unlike any other.

Augusta Mae
35 Alden Street
(908) 370-7748


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: