Aug 262014

Stores and restaurants in Downtown Cranford are so plentiful that it’s easy to forget there are a variety of professional businesses who call Cranford home. One of those is Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects. You may know them from their incredible creations for the scarecrow stroll, but if you ever wanted to learn more about this business, now’s your chance. Thomas Connolly and Margaret Hickey are the Principals Architects at Connolly & Hickey and share a passion for historical preservation and restoration. Their clients include religious organizations, towns, and municipalities, all of them looking to save a building that has historical significance. Tom and Margaret found that the needs of historical clients are so specific that they ended up starting Straightline Restoration & Construction to fill that need with both clients and residential owners. The contractors for Straightline understand historical construction and that their goal is not to drastically transform the buildings, but to restore them to their former glory.

Tom and Margaret

Tom Connolly and Margaret Hickey

The projects Connolly & Hickey undertake aren’t ones that can be completed in a matter of months. Due to the work that needs to be done, as well as the fact that money is raised over a period of years, projects can take as long as ten years from start to finish. One of the biggest projects the firm has undertaken is the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth. The project involved doing a new steeple, roof, and restoring the cemetery. The job was started in 2003 and is nearly finished.

Tom and Margaret are extremely passionate about their job. They have the opportunity to see a real transformation in the buildings they work on. They also enjoy working with their clients as everyone shares the same goal of saving the historical buildings.

Connolly & Hickey’s office was previously located in Montclair, but Tom and Margaret decided to relocate to the Cranford area as they both live nearby. They love the fact that the town is close to the Parkway which gives their clients easy access. Connolly & Hickey’s employees are fans of the new location too, as Cranford offers a number of places to eat and is extremely walkable. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects /Connelly&HickeyHistoricalArchitects
2 N. Union Ave.

Aug 192014

Local residents have been eagerly waiting for Pastosa Ravioli to open its doors, with people stopping by frequently to check on the progress. We’re happy to announce that the big day is finally here and Pastosa Ravioli is now open in Downtown Cranford! The family-owned business is beloved in Brooklyn, where the first store opened in 1966. Since then the family has opened stores throughout the metropolitan area, with the only other New Jersey store located in Manalapan.

Pastosa Storefront

The manager of the Cranford location, Vinny Vallely, has been an employee for 15 years, since he was in high school. Vinny and his brother Bill approached the company about expanding the business to Cranford as they have family in town and felt it would be the perfect location for Pastosa’s next store. They singled out the small-town feel of Cranford, as well as its walkability.

The company sells not only fresh pasta such as ravioli, stuffed shells, and manicotti, but also numerous products imported from Italy like canned tomatoes, olive oil, and vinegar. Pastosa has also added a selection of prepared food including lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and grilled vegetables. The most popular items at Pastosa include their ravioli (of course), fresh mozzarella, homemade sausage, olive oil, and vinegar. The menu also changes seasonally, and foods like pumpkin ravioli, soups, and prime rib will be offered once the weather turns colder. Anthony Ajello, a 3rd generation member of the founding family, has made multiple trips to Italy to source the goods they sell as well as to make sure the quality is up to their standards.

The family behind Pastosa places a big emphasis on providing their customers with the highest quality goods. Anthony loves talking to the customers and even works behind the counter frequently. He firmly believes that if you don’t wake up and want to go to work each day then you’re wasting your time. The family, and the employees they hire, have a true love for what they do. Anthony made a point of saying that the Cranford location will offer the same experience as other Pastosa stores in respect to fair prices and excellent quality. Great food, good prices, a loyal following – what more could you ask for?

Pastosa Ravioli
200 South Ave East

Aug 122014

Pairings first opened its doors in Downtown Cranford just over 3 years ago and in that time owners Carol Murphy-Clyne and Vincent Clyne have truly been embraced by the community. Repeat customers are frequent at the restaurant and thanks to Cranford’s transformation to a restaurant destination, new customers are constantly walking in. The restaurant brings people in with its well-respected dishes and keeps them coming back by offering a Prix Fixe Menu on Wednesdays and Tapas Menu on Thursdays.

Carol and Vincent have created a restaurant that brings customers back again and again with their focus on food and hospitality. Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch and the cooks don’t shy away from accommodating guests’ dietary restrictions such as gluten intolerance. If you stop in there’s a good chance you’ll see Carol or Vincent there on any given night, welcoming the guests and ensuring that everything is running smoothly. Carol also brainstorms with the Chef de Cuisine and the two Sous Chefs on their seasonal menus. Pairings incorporates seasonal produce as much as possible into its dishes and also works closely with a fishmonger to offer the freshest seafood available.


Photos from Modern Buffet Presentation, 2014 by the Culinary Institute of America.

Carol and Vincent may not have very much free time but they did manage to publish a cookbook earlier this year titled Modern Buffet Presentation. Carol worked on the cookbook for five years but had dreamed of writing it when she first started her catering business. The book includes not only 200 family recipes but also all of the lessons Carol and Vincent have learned in their years in the restaurant industry. Each recipe is accompanied by extremely detailed instructions which Carol views as her way of holding the cook’s hand while they create one of her beloved dishes.

The cookbook came about due to Carol’s love of teaching, which is something she frequently puts to use at the restaurant. In August, Pairings will be offering Kids Pasta Making classes which will show children how to make their own pasta. The concept was so popular that both classes sold out and Carol is hoping to run more sessions in the fall. We hope you agree that Cranford is extremely lucky to have a restaurant of Pairing’s caliber, and also to have owners who are as dedicated and passionate as Carol and Vincent.

1 South Ave East

Aug 052014

When you talk about long-time Downtown Cranford businesses, you many not think of Rekemeier’s Flower Shop. However, the flower shop has been in its current location on North Ave since 1954. The business is currently run by Jack Rekemeier, whose grandfather started the business. Jack joined the shop in 1971 and his son is also a part of the business and manages their Summit location. The store manager of the Cranford location, Stanley Lapinski, has been with the company for 43 years.

Stanley and Jack

Stanley and Jack

In the years that the store has been open things have changed significantly. People now order fewer flowers for funerals or holidays but that’s been offset by an increase in the demand for events, including weddings and other occasions. The company recently took a trip into the city to provide flowers for an event at the United Nations. Rekemeier’s now goes into New York City frequently as word of mouth has spread about their beautiful and eye-catching arrangements.

Jack and Stanley have found that people continue to return to their shop to purchase flowers because of their expertise, guidance, and the quality of flowers. A bouquet you get at Rekemeier’s is something very different from what you can just pick up at a grocery store. Rekemeier’s also has a website which makes it that much easier for husbands and boyfriends to pick out something while at work that can be delivered to their significant others.

One of the store’s biggest sources of revenue is wedding arrangements. Jack views their job as one of guiding the brides and grooms in the right direction depending on their taste and budget. With the advent of Pinterest many brides come in with pages of ideas and the employees need to help them pare it down into something that meets with the couple’s approval.

Jack has nothing but positive things to say about Rekemeier’s experience in Cranford. In the years that the store has been open it’s received endless support from locals and is known by many of the families who live in town. Rekemeier’s has done flowers numerous times for a child whose parents also received flowers from Rekemeier’s for their wedding years ago. There is no doubt in Jack’s mind that Rekemeier’s will be a part of Downtown Cranford for many years to come.

Rekemeier’s Flower Shop
116 North Ave West
(908) 276-4700

Jul 292014

Does your pooch need a summer makeover? Then head over to Furever Friends and give your dog a new leash on life. Owner Jennifer Acuna-Alfaro has been grooming dogs for over 25 years and came to the profession because of her love of animals. Jennifer had worked for the previous owner of Furever Friends and took over when the owner left.

Owner Jennifer Acuna-Alfaro

Jennifer underwent training for dog grooming where she learned the standards for each dog breed, as well as how you have to adapt those standards for pets. Many times people will be looking for a style that’s easy to maintain, so many of the dogs’ coats are cut shorter than if they were show dogs. In Jennifer’s opinion the most difficult breed to groom is the Standard Poodle because of its size and coat. For a regular grooming session Jennifer requires about three hours to get the dogs looking their best.


Jennifer’s favorite part of her job is spending time with the dogs and seeing their transformation. She said some of the dogs seem to know that they look good once she’s finished with them. The biggest piece of advice she gives to dog owners is to make sure that their dogs are trained well and socialized. It makes her job much easier and it’s a better experience for the dogs.


Many of Furever Friends’ customers discovered them through word of mouth and the business has numerous repeat customers. Jennifer also has private customers whose pets she’s been grooming for years. All of the grooming at her store is done by appointments which are available Wednesday-Saturday. So don’t delay – give Furever Friends a call and help your dog put his best paw forward.

Furever Friends
25 North Ave West

Jul 222014

Looking for a creative outlet for you or your kids? Then your next stop needs to be Fire Me Up! Studio in Downtown Cranford. Owner Tammie Crispino first came across the concept on vacatoin in Florida and when she realized there wasn’t anything similar back home she decided to open Fire Me Up. Tammie came from a business background and was currently staying at home with her children. She already had a love for working with clay and was excited to shape her business around one of her passions.

Owner Tammie Crispino

Owner Tammie Crispino

Fire Me Up believes that anyone can be an artist and they offer 4 mediums for people to express their creativity: Glass Fusing, Pottery Painting, Clay Handbuilding, and Canvas Painting. Both children and adults can create projects at Fire Me Up. During the day the studio is filled with families creating pieces together, and with children holding birthday parties. Once the sun sets adults are the main customers, whether it’s a group of Moms looking for a night out or a couple out on a date. Fire Me Up offers a unique experience and a fun atmosphere that’s hard to replicate and keeps people coming back.


Tammie schedules a number of events at Fire Me Up throughout the year. This summer the studio had six weeks of camp for children including My Doll and Me, Movie Week, Welcome to the 70′s, and Create Like the Masters. The response to the classes was extremely positive, with the majority of them selling out. For adults Tammie has Canvas Fun Nights where customers can bring their beverage of choice and paint a picture while enjoying food brought in from a local Cranford business. Once September rolls around Fire Me up will have enrichment classes for kids twice a week, as well as storytime and Sunday morning adult classes. Tammie is also excited about the Battle of the Artists she has scheduled in August. Each of her employees has created a piece of artwork and customers will then vote on their favorite.

Dancing canisters
Tammie sought out Cranford as she was looking for a downtown that offered a good mix of restaurants and businesses, with a location near the center of town that also offered plenty of parking. She’s found that Cranford has been a perfect fit as it’s extremely family friendly. Tammie holds fundraisers at the studio regularly and many of the local businesses have donated baskets filled with goodies. Tammie also makes an effort to have local restaurants cater her events and has made Fire Me Up a true part of the Cranford community.

Fire Me Up! Studio
117 N. Union Ave.
(908) 272-2600

Jul 152014

If you’re looking for an escape this summer then why not dine at Cafe Paris in Downtown Cranford and be whisked away to France? Owner Marie Fuller grew up in Paris before coming over to the United States after meeting her American husband. She opened Cafe Paris back in 2001 and it’s been serving delicious French fare ever since.


The restaurant is most well-known for its crepes and galettes. For people unfamiliar with French cuisine Marie explains that crepes are used for sweeter dishes while galettes are made with buckwheat and are used with savory ingredients. In addition to those French staples the restaurant also serves a number of authentic French dishes including QuicheBoeuf Bourguinon, Salade Nicoise, and French Onion Soup. Marie is especially proud of her salads as they fall in the category of lighter food that she loves. The Salade Nicoise is filled with tuna, corn, green beans, and tomatoes and is a perfect summer dish. Another favorite salad is Salade Aux Asperges et Au Jambon De Parme which contains asparagus, goat cheese, prosciutto, and apples.

Owner Marie Fuller

Owner Marie Fuller

In the time that she’s been in Cranford Marie has seen the demographics change as younger families move to the area. She also has regular customers who have been coming to the restaurant since it first opened its doors. A number of customers come to Cafe Paris after traveling in France and are looking for some French food authenticity at home.


Marie likes to stress that her food is lighter than traditional American fare. Her dishes have a big focus on fresh vegetables and she even tries to buy organic produce when she can. Her dishes are especially popular with women as their preferences run towards lighter dishes. However, no meal is complete without dessert and Marie makes pies, fruit tarts, and cookies in house. If you’re looking for a taste of France right at home then you need to go to Cafe Paris, yet another business that we’re so lucky to have in Downtown Cranford.

Cafe Paris
106 Walnut Ave.

Jul 112014

Have you heard of The Giving Keys? The company has been covered extensively in the press and Augusta Mae is one of few places in the area chosen to carry them. The Giving Keys were started by a musician in California who had started wearing a key around her neck, and then had the idea to put an  inspirational word on it. She also wanted to incorporate the idea of “Paying it Forward” so she asks that customers pass on their keys when they’re done with them to someone they feel could use inspiration. The company also has a charitable focus as it hires homeless people to hand engrave the keys.

The popularity of The Giving Keys is so great that Augusta Mae has had to reorder them 3 times already. Many of their customers come in after seeing someone wearing the keys, or after seeing the keys featured in the press. Kim and Clara believe deeply in the message of “paying it forward” and feel their store is the perfect fit for the product. Kim contacted the company when she was looking to purchase a key for her daughter who will soon be going abroad. The company suggested “wanderlust” as the perfect phrase for this stage of her daughter’s life.

Every key from The Giving Key is unique and most of them are donated. The company posted a story on their Facebook page about a father whose son had collected 5,000 keys and then passed away. The father had held onto the keys since 2009, just waiting for the right opportunity to donate them, and he found that when he heard about The Giving Keys.


Augusta Mae has found that about half of their Giving Key purchases are gifts, while the other half are people purchasing them for themselves. The keys were especially popular for graduation and Mother’s Day gifts. Some of the phrases available on the keys are “Believe,” “Grateful,” “Faith,” and “Courage.” Customers can also pay a little bit more and have a key customized with a phrase that speaks to them. When it comes time to give the key away people can give it to someone they know, or even to someone they don’t really know but who they feel could benefit from the key’s message.

If you want to learn more please check out The Giving Keys website and Facebook page, and to see them in person stop in to Augusta Mae.

Jul 082014

If you need an adjustment (of the spinal kind) then make an appointment at A&W Chiropractic Center. Doctors Alex Lyubarsky and Wendy Menneg-Lyubarsky have had their business in Downtown Cranford since 2005 and they now raise their children in town. Alex and Wendy came across the space when they were walking downtown one day and saw the chance to have their business in a thriving downtown.


Alex and Wendy treat a variety of patients, everyone from runners and athletes to grandparents, parents, and children. The doctors stress that while some people have been patients since the practice opened, their goal isn’t to have people come continuously. Instead they want to treat people so that they know how their bodies should feel when they’re well. Many patients will have a gap in care and then return if something doesn’t feel right down the line. Alex and Wendy want their patients to enjoy their lives, whether that involves coming back after a sports injury or just being pain-free as they play with their grandchildren. Many of A&W Chiropractic Center’s patients come to them via word of mouth. The doctors treat a lot of moms, teachers, cops, and fire fighters, all of whom tend to spread the word among their friends and co-workers. The three biggest ailments people look to treat are lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches. The center also offers Cold Laser Treatment which helps with inflammation and is used to treat plantar fasciitis, nerve pain in the face, and neck and back pain. The treatment is completely painless and can often times help patients cut back on medication.

Doctors Alex and Wendy

Doctors Alex and Wendy

The doctors treat children and will even adjust babies shortly after they’re born. For older children they find that adjustments help with colic, allergies, and constipation. The doctors will also treat the children as they grow and injure themselves playing sports. In fact, Dr. Wendy was named in 2012 as one of NJ’s Favorite Kids Doctors.

Doctors Alex and Wendy have truly embraced living and working in Cranford. The business sponsors the Jaycees Firecracker 4 Miler as well as local golf outings. Their family will often eat out and shop in town. Alex and Wendy love being in Cranford and getting to be a part of the community both personally and professionally.

A&W Chiropractic Center Chiropractic Center
126 South Ave East

Jul 032014

As if you needed another reason to love Downtown Cranford, our downtown provides everything you’ll need for a sparkling 4th of July celebration. Need proof? Here’s everything you can pick up at our downtown businesses.

Grilling It Up

Perrotti’s Quality Meats sells everything you could possibly need for your BBQ. Steaks, burgers, kebabs, sausages, hot dogs – they have it all!


Breadsmith hamburger buns are the perfect accompaniment to Perrotti’s burgers.


Not a meat eater or want to offer your guests some meat-free options? Back to Nature has a number of meat and gluten-free burgers that you can toss on the grill.

Veggie burgers

Cooling Down

To keep the heat at bay why not pick up a few pints of homemade ice cream at Vanilla Bean Creamery or a pack of their ice cream sandwiches? You can also take the family to Sweetie Frozen Yogurt and let them fill up a cup with the frozen yogurt and toppings of their choice.

Ice cream sandwiches
You can also serve up a beautiful (and delicious) bouquet of fresh fruit from Edible Arrangements.


Other Food Options

Need something to put out for guests to nosh on when they get there? Pick up a cheese platter from Cheese…Please! and start your BBQ off on the right foot.

If you’re planning to offer sandwiches and salads then you have a bunch of choices in Downtown Cranford including The Gourmet Deli, Mr. J’s, Mr. Wrap’s Bistro, Smiley’s Bagels & Deli, and Sub-ology.

Sandwich collage

For a festive and delicious treat pick up some patriotic cookies or cupcakes from The Cake Artist Cafe. Make sure you get enough – they’ll go fast!


We have two liquor stores in town to ensure that you won’t go thirsty this 4th of July weekend. Stop by either NJ Wine Seller and Breens to pick up beer, wine, or any other beverage of your choice.

Beer and wine
Please check with businesses regarding their holiday hours. And above all, have a wonderful 4th of July!


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