BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Suburban Essex Chamber of Commerce, whose membership consists largely of Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Belleville businesses and organizations, held its annual business development and anniversary awards dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the Brookside Banquets in Bloomfield. It was an especially pleasant affair, and newcomers were welcomed with open arms.
There were three groups of honorees on the bill for the evening. Foremost were the veteran legions of Belleville. These self-composed men sat around several tables, wore military-type shirts with insignia badges and spoke quietly among themselves.
The evening’s next group of honorees were business owners, established or just starting out, who were being recognized for upgrading or renovating their sites. These individuals, at their tables with spouses, were relatively young and fashionably dressed.
Last to be honored were the business owners who were celebrating, in five-year increments, business anniversaries. In conversation, they had long memories.
The evening began with the five Belleville veterans legions being honored. These organizations were American Legion Post 105, the Sons of American Legion Squad 105, American Legion Post 299, Belleville-Nutley Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 and American Veterans Post 26.
The executive administrator of the SECC, Donna M. Pietroiacovo, said in an email to this newspaper that each year for the awards dinner the SECC seeks out businesses that have developed or redeveloped existing properties, made a complete renovation, or made significant improvements to the interior or exterior of their buildings.
“Our awards are given to both members and nonmembers who are nominated by the executive board and board of trustees,” she said.
There were 11 businesses that received business development awards. Every effort was made by this paper to contact each one for an interview; Pietroiacovo also provided valuable information. These are the 11 businesses.
As a new homeowner in Belleville in 2021, martial arts master Chris Malarkey decided to share his martial arts experience of more than 30 years with students in Belleville and surrounding towns. His teaching began exclusively outdoors during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a mental, physical and internal therapy for those struggling with the pandemic. He then began to remodel an empty storage space and transform it into an indoor space for his students. The renovations were sizable and completed in a narrow window of time, as wintry weather fast approached. This required many hours of work. The work is now complete, with brand-new mats, lighting, equipment, heating and cooling, and a clean/organized environment where his students can strive toward excellence.
Farmers Insurance Doeman Agency, Bloomfield
Gihane Shauna Doeman transformed a nail and hair salon into office space. Now the space is a professional insurance agency, with corporate signage, solid oak furnishings, new flooring, a fresh coat of paint, shelving, lighting and an attractive outdoor awning.
“The nail salon was closed for quite a while,” Doeman said in a telephone interview. “It’s a very inviting space.”
Doeman has been in the insurance business for eight years. She has two employees.
“I just did a ribbon (cutting) recently, because of COVID,” she said.
Healing Hands on Physical Therapy, Belleville
As Allan R. Mendez started his new business, he looked at several locations and knew that Belleville would be the perfect spot to build his career in physical therapy. This facility already had private rooms, to which he added his equipment, so he could provide his patients with privacy during physical therapy treatments.
Additional updating to the clinic was done to create a calming, relaxing feeling for his patients during physical therapy. He added custom artwork that is soothing to the eye, salt lamps as they are thought to cleanse the air, a calming waterfall attraction with accent lighting in the hallway, a new reception area with signage and curtains for warmth. The gym area was outfitted with furniture and decorative shelving for the equipment. Mendez also makes a point to customize the music to each patient’s likings.
In a telephone interview, Mendez’s interior decorator, Michael, said the location had apparently been an insurance office. Mendez had dark oak flooring installed to provide a high contrast with cool, white walls. The site has a small office, three rooms to accommodate patients, the doctor’s office, a gym and a reception area. The furniture is black or dark brown, as is the gym equipment.
According to Michael, the location now has a “homey, Zen feel.”
The gym, he said, is required for insurance purposes. Healing Hands moved into its present location in September 2021.
Secrets to Plush Studio, Belleville
Secrets to Plush Studio is family-owned and -operated, offering a full array of services, including brows, lashes and facials. The studio, once a dark store front, was transformed into a well-lit area sporting a new, lighted awning proclaiming the business’ name. The interior walls were spackled and a fresh coat of paint brought life into the building. The bathroom colors were changed to give a fresh new look. To give clients privacy, owner Farrah Pate added curtains to separate the spaces; she also added mirrors to the walls so the clients could see the finished product. A painted mural brings together all the colors that help bring inspiration and ideas to the clients. Pate’s goal is to give her clients a warm and comfortable experience.
Pate said the wall mural is hand-painted in silver, gold, white, black and pink. She has installed three chandeliers. There are two pink plush couches and a black couch that seats eight. The business has two levels. The top level has light gray flooring, but the black walls make it look tan. The business moved in May 2021.
Salon East, Bloomfield
Owner and stylist Marlene Azenha said in a telephone interview that she is new to Bloomfield. Also brand new is the interior of her salon.
“It was a total renovation,” she said, “a gut job. It used to be a cleaners.”
Her business, she said, has a “modern look.” The vinyl floors have a wood look and the walls are painted blush pink. The furniture is white and gold. There is a small seating area, and there are five stations for hairdressing and a retail area. The tile ceiling has a decorative, “very sleek,” 3-D look, according to Azenha, who has been a hairdresser for 22 years. Outside, there is a small circular sign, and there are overhead lights.
Other recipients of a development award were chiropractor Harry Maroulakos, Clifton; Rainbow ABA Therapy, Bloomfield; Brookdale ShopRite, Bloomfield; Signature Fitness, Belleville; the Learning Experience, Bloomfield; and the Whiskey Priest, Belleville.
There were 49 recipients of business anniversary awards. The longest anniversaries were New York Life Insurance Co.’s New Jersey General Office, Saddle Brook, 175 years; Van Tassel Funeral Home, Bloomfield, 135 years; Job Haines Home, Bloomfield, 125 years; borough of Glen Ridge, 125 years; Silver Lake Baptist Church, Belleville, 105 years; and Minor Rubber Co., Bloomfield, 105 years.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino