Living In Montclair

The Arts Are Alive and Well in Montclair

It’s no secret: some of my clients start out afraid to leave the city. Of course they are! We live in cities because there is so much going on and it’s unsettling to think we’re giving that up.

For those who have already taken the leap, there was plenty going on here last weekend, as is true most weekends.

The Montclair Literary Festival launched in 2017. Given how many journalists, authors, playwrights and poets call this area home, it’s almost shocking that we didn’t have a weekend-long celebration of writers and writing before now. The festival included readings, talks, workshops and panels by writers of all genres. There were events devoted to politics and events devoted to rock’n’roll. There were lots of events for kids. Most everything was within an easy walk to everything else. And a lot of it was free!

On Sunday night, we were graced by a reading and musical performance by Patti Smith who arrived with her longtime producer Lenny Kaye. The two took the stage in the sanctuary of the spectacular First Congregational Church and captivated the audience for nearly two hours.

Being in that audience reminded most of us why we came to this area in the first place. It reminded us that we live in a community that can support two independent books stores, even in the age of Amazon and Kindle. It reminded us that, as a town, we believe that the arts are worth making room for – lots of room. And it reminded us how many of our friends and neighbors work so hard to fill our town with intellect and beauty everywhere you turn. Just like the city.

When you take the leap, you will find yourself in a town with two libraries, an art museum, a film festival, a jazz festival, fabulous restaurants, an indie movie theatre, a concert venue, a jazz club, art galleries, art walks, avant-garde dance, opera and musical theatre, and a university with lectures, performance art, and minor league baseball. You’ll also find lots and lots of coffee shops!

The other not so secret truth I remind my clients: Montclair is surrounded by plenty of great towns — Bloomfield, West Orange, Glen Ridge, Verona, Cedar Grove. If you’re looking for a community with easy access to the arts, these are towns that you should consider as well. 

Patti Smith photo by Jacqueline Mroz


Here's Why Montclair's New Hotels Are Good News for Home-Buyers

I often tell my clients that Montclair has everything they need — top-rated restaurants, an indie movie theater, a concert venue, parks and hiking trails, public pools and tennis courts, public gardens, an art museum, a jazz clubtea shops, coffee shops, ice cream shops and just plain shopping galore

But there’s one thing we haven’t had: a hotel.

As of next month, that will change. Montclair resident and celebrity make-up artist Bobbi Brown has converted a turn-of-the-century inn into a the town’s first boutique hotel. In fact, the forthcoming George Inn was featured in January’s Vogue magazine, along with some of my favorite local haunts – namely my go-to for sushi: Dai Kichi

On its heels will be a more traditional hotel right in the heart of downtown Montclair. The still-under-construction MC will be a luxury Marriot hotel that is also slated to open sometime this year. Both will provide guests the walkable experience of Montclair that we who live here so love. 

I couldn’t be more excited about these much needed additions, especially for home-buyers. When you know there are wonderful accommodations for your guests right in the neighborhood, you have more options in your home search. You can purchase something smaller, foregoing that extra bedroom. Or you can go ahead and commit the sun-room to a home office without alienating the in-laws.

If you’re coming from far off to give Montclair a look, The George will provide you lavish quarters while you’re here. Once it opens in March, we really will have everything we need.

Montclair to Montclair - There's No Place Like Home

These clients thought they'd need to leave Montclair to find the home they dreamed of. 

“David and I lived in the Bay Area for seven years, before coming back east to be near my parents when our daughter was born. I picked Montclair because it reminded me of the Upper West Side, where I grew up. 

We bought a unit in a side-by-side duplex and became very close to the family on the other side. We shared an interior wall, but also shared the driveway, the backyard, and the maintenance of the property. It was like a little commune – we even grew vegetables together! Eventually, though, we needed more space. So David and I decided to move back out west.

We’d first met Lina through our duplex neighbors and she knew what we were struggling with – loving this community, but needing a bigger place of our own. She understood all the factors that made Oregon seem like a better choice for us than Montclair. One day, out of the blue, she called and said, “I have the perfect house for you!” And she did.

I do not consider myself a religious person, but the way everything turned out was nothing short of miraculous. The new house was everything we were looking for and addressed almost every issue – issues that that had, earlier, seemed insurmountable. We were able to stay in this vibrant, creative community, and a major reason for that was Lina. She is so knowledgeable about every single aspect of the home-buying process that, each time an obstacle emerged (and unfortunately there were many), she was able to solve it. From top notch negotiation skills to being extremely well-versed in all aspects of financing, she went above and beyond when it came to helping us be able to purchase our perfect house and live in this community we adore.”

Arielle Eckstut, Montclair

Montclair: Walkable and Skateable

As I write this, the snow is falling outside my window, blanketing my bluestone patio and starting to coat the bushes in the backyard. It will snow for hours, and it will be beautiful.

The new year started cold. I don’t mind the cold, as long as I have a warm house with a fire to return to. Still, my first thought was: “How long until spring?” I’m not a big “resolution” maker, but one thing I want to try and do more of this year is notice what’s beautiful, and take the time to really take it in.

As I was driving past Edgemont Park yesterday, I did just that. 

Situated in the center of Montclair, Edgemont is one of the beautiful year-round gems of this town. Majestic trees, renovated playground, big fountain in the middle of the graceful pond. But when it gets cold — very cold — it turns into something right out of the Saturday Evening Post.

The pond doesn’t freeze solid every year, but when it does, it’s magical. The ice becomes thick enough to skate on and suddenly, the park is transformed. People come from all over town to skate Edgemont Pond, gliding past the statue or zipping around with hockey sticks, aiming at one of the goals that someone has hauled over in their SUV.  There have been years when the town provides hot chocolate on the bank of the pond — the type of memory many of us have from when we were kids. The type of memory many of us dream of for our own children.

I used to live right across the street from that pond. In fact, I taught all three of my children to skate at Edgemont. One thing I’ll admit, however, is that sometimes I took that magical view for granted. I love my new home, but my backyard is not a Norman Rockwell. 

Some clients are reluctant to put their homes on the market in the winter. They think their house will show better in the spring. But the cold has its own beauty, and there are plenty of great reasons to list before the spring thaw — the main one being less competition in the marketplace. If you’re thinking of selling — or buying — right now, give me a call. I’d love to take you through more of this beautiful place and time.

Photo credit: Michael Stahl at Portraits by Michael Stahl


My Trip to the Montclair Farmer's Market

A few weeks ago, I was headed to Brooklyn for my brother’s 50th birthday, and on my way, I stopped at Little Daisy’s Bake Shop to pick up a birthday cake and some cookies for the occasion. Before I got on the highway, I decided to swing by the Montclair Farmer’s Market -- a regular Saturday destination, although usually one that I hit on my way home, not on my way out of town. 

I can’t really explain what came over me, but the next thing I knew, I was buying my brother Brussels sprouts. For his birthday. I’d never given my brother vegetables as a gift before. I don’t think I’d ever gifted vegetables to anyone. But when I saw the giant stalk with funny little cabbages hanging from it, it seemed so preposterous and funny. (Carrots aren’t funny, certainly not in the same way.)

I left the Farmer’s Market not even considering how I might present the Brussels sprouts. None of the farmers seemed to have gift wrap, so I just brought them along naked with the bakery confections. 

If you’re looking for gifts, the Farmer’s Market has plenty of more traditional fare: pies, local honey, granola, plants, and flowers. Sometimes they have shearling throws and often they have a variety of interesting spices. I love the fishmonger and the fresh-baked bread, and I’m also kind of a sucker for the pickles-on-a-stick. That was an idea whose time could not have come soon enough for me!

In the years since I’ve moved here, the Farmer’s Market has grown into a true marketplace, where people come to meet and gather. It’s like a party. And the Walnut Street eateries complete the scene, with Montclair Bread Company, Gina’s Bakery, Le Salbuen, Ray’s, Red Eye Café, The Spot, The Corner, and Egan’s offering all manner of delectable fare. 

For me, the Farmer’s Market was a happy pit stop that Saturday, but it’s a ritual destination for many every Saturday. I love seeing people walk and bike there from all over town – singles, couples, families, pets. If you’re coming to check out Montclair one Saturday, try and stop by. The offerings may not make you laugh, but I bet they'll make you happy.

Montclair Farmer’s Market
Walnut Street Train Station Parking Lot
Saturdays  8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
June through November
And some vendors stay throughout the year!


Montclair - No Shortage of Porches

“Look at that porch!” says practically every client on our first tour of the town. “Oh, look at that one!”

Montclair and Glenridge are full of porches, and it stands to reason that my clients moving from the city would be drawn to them. A porch is the suburban version of a front stoop – it’s a way to be at home and be out in the world at the same time.

But it’s not just city dwellers who are drawn to porches. The National Association of Home Builders said earlier this month that of the 780,000 single family home constructions started last year, over 65% of them included porches – 10% more than a decade ago.

To me, there’s nothing better than a porch with a roof. I can’t think of many things as relaxing as an early autumn Sunday morning – watching the leaves dance around the yard or even listening to the rain – while sipping coffee in a big-cushioned chair on a cool, dry porch. I’ve seen many homeowners add a front porch and it completely transforms the feeling of the house. It just seems more welcoming.

A gracious front porch can be set up like a second living room, with rugs, table lamps, and ceiling fans. I have a friend who keeps a tea cart on her porch; it’s always stocked with glasses and an ice bucket for an impromptu evening gathering. Someone shows up with a bottle of wine and suddenly it’s a get-together. She says it’s been a great way to get to know her neighbors.

As you can tell, I’m pro-porch, even though I don’t have one of my own. But in this walkable suburb, I feel as though I benefit from the porches of others – for an evening chat or just a walk-by wave. It one of the many things that make a bustling town like Montclair truly feel like a tight community.

Hillary Clinton Visits Montclair

Last night at Back to School Night, I sat in on my daughter’s 8th period class and turned to a mom sitting nearby, “This class seems so empty.”

“It’s because of Hillary,” she said.

I was not one of the lucky 1,000 people to score a ticket for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book signing here at our own Watchung booksellers. Apparently, they sold out in an hour.

A friend went and was telling me about it this morning: people started showing up at 2:00 pm for Clinton's 6:00 pm arrival. Over the next few hours, the line wound around the corner to Watchung Field.  “You could feel the love,” my friend said. “Grown-ups. Children. There was such a sense of camaraderie.”

One of the things I love about Montclair is how that camaraderie shows up everywhere. Exercise classes. Library events. Town soccer. The Van Vleck Plant Sale. We have big town amenities (art museum, indie movie theater, a minor league baseball stadium) and a small town vibe.

In my opinion, Watchung booksellers contributes a lot to the overarching feeling of community. They support all the local writers (of which there are many!) through readings and book events, they host tons of book groups and children’s programs, they always have enough staff available to advise and recommend.

And last night they brought us Hillary.

In fairness, Back to School Night provides its own brand of camaraderie, especially at the high school. People you’ve seen throughout the years watching your kids play sports, serving together on PTAs, sitting against the window of Montclair Music Studio waiting for Abigail’s violin lesson to end – all come together for a few hours. Clumps of old friends convening in front of the Nurse’s Office or outside one of the stairwells during their children’s lunch period. It honestly feels like a great big cocktail party (although without any cocktails).

I’m the mom who always looks forward to Back to School Night, especially for the feeling of community. But I will admit this: If I’d gotten a Hillary ticket, I would have happily cut class.


Montclair's Magnet School System

One of the truly interesting aspects to Montclair is that there are no “neighborhood schools.” I mean, there are schools in various neighborhoods, but the student body of a school does not necessarily hail from the surrounding blocks.

Montclair is a magnet school system – one of the premiere magnet systems in the nation. When parents enroll their children, they have the opportunity to tour the schools rank their preference. In addition to their differences in size and population (for example, one school is designed only for K-2nd grade) each of the 7 elementary schools has a magnet theme around which the school day is structured. So even though all the schools teach the same district-wide curriculum, each feels distinctive, with its own “personality” or “vibe.”
Not surprisingly, clients always ask: which is the best one?

I’m sure I sound like a diplomatic mother who’s just been asked which is her favorite child. But I honestly believe all our schools are great. The real question is: which one is best for you?

Montclair’s Magnet School System
allows you to pick the home you want —
wherever it may be.

The elementary schools have varying start and end times. And depending where you live in relation to the school, your child might be eligible to ride the bus. Some families need early schools so parents can get to work. Others need a late day for their kids. Some kids thrive with a schedule where they’re on the move throughout the day, others if they’re in a more structured environment. This has never been a one-size-fits-all town and we don’t have a one-size-fits-all school system.

One of the things I love most about this system is that in the few instances where a child really is not thriving at a school, they can be moved. The other thing I love about it is that, unlike most towns, you don’t ever have to choose a house based on a school. In fact, I’ve known plenty of families that have sent siblings to different schools!

What this means for home-buyers is that you can find the house that suits your own family’s needs — commuting needs…privacy needs…walkability needs-- independent of where your child might go to school.

If you’d like to understand more about Montclair’s magnet system, give me a call. It’s one of the many Montclair offerings that make this family-friendly town so beloved.

Montclair Makes Music Today!

I discovered Make Music Day by accident, it somehow having slipped by me for the last few years. In fact, when I walked past the string duet in front of Montclair Local, it still didn’t occur to me that I’d stumbled upon a town-wide event. But then I walked over to watchung booksellers, saw the amps and microphones set up outside the shop, and became more curious.

Make Music Day has been going on in Montclair for the past three years, our own local event inspired by Fete de la Music – a “music holiday” that began in France in 1982 and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, Make Music Day is a day-(and night-)long offering of free musical performances all over town.

I got myself a schedule and was even more excited to learn that many of the free evening gigs were taking place on and around Church Street – in other words, all walkable to one another!

The other thing I loved was how many young people were participating.

If you’ve already made your home here, you’ll know that this event feels “so Montclair.” This is an artistic community with a wealth of residents committed to bringing the arts to the public as often and awesomely as possible.

If you’re considering Montclair as your future home, you’ll find that this is just one example of how festively we roll here: free music days, yoga in the street, food fests, jazz fests, art walks, and one of my personal favorites, the bus parade of high school graduates that wends its way through town after the commencement ceremony so that the rest of us can bang pots and scream out our congratulations – a spectacle that can feel like New Year’s Eve.

If you’d like to find out more about Montclair or our also-festive neighboring communities, please reach out. I love showing off my town.

New Listing: 19 Norwood Ave Upper Montclair ? Private and Walkable!

19 Norwood Ave Montclair - seating areaWhen it comes to 19 Norwood Ave, I’m not sure whether to gush first about the house itself or the location.  

This house is the perfect size for a growing family. Four bedrooms on the second floor (two connected by a sleeping porch that can serve as a playroom!) and a fifth up on the top floor that can accommodate family or guests, 2.5 baths, eat-in kitchen, central air and a beautiful, open layout that feels inviting and warm. Windows and French doors abound; gorgeous hardwood floors throughout. This house has been meticulously maintained.

The backyard is like a private park, thoughtfully designed to accommodate both play and contemplation. Private and lush with mature trees and plantings, it makes you 19 Norwood Ave Montclair - yard feel as if you’re on vacation in your own home.

But 19 Norwood offers more than grace and beauty. Situated a few blocks from Upper Montclair Village, it has a Walk Score of 81. The train and bus are about 8 minutes away on foot, as is Anderson Park, the Bellevue Theater, restaurants, ice-cream shop, toy store, clothing boutiques, pharmacy, banks, exercise studios, hardware store, hair salons – the list goes on and on.  

When you visit this home, try and schedule enough time to walk the neighborhood. It’s remarkable to experience how “away from it all” this house makes you feel while you’re so close to town.

Listed at $779,000, this home is not likely to last. Give me a call – I’d be delighted to walk you through it!