Living In Verona

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


Brooklyn to Verona: One Year Later

After a year in Verona, a client reflects on his move:

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary in this house. I thought it would be a bigger transition, moving here from Brooklyn, but it’s gone a lot smoother than I expected.

I wanted more space – inside and outside – than what we had in our Park Slope apartment. This house had been bought by a developer and completely renovated to sell. There was barely anything to do inside, basically just move in.

I’ve been tackling the outside slowly over the course of the year. I had the house re-sided, built a small vegetable garden (including watermelon and muskmelon), and put in outdoor lights and plantings. Just last week they finished the stone patio in the back and I set up the bistro table and chairs that were moved from the Brooklyn patio. That set practically took up the whole “backyard” before; here it’s a little too small.

Verona is just right. We can walk to the main shopping street, the town pool is great and the school system is amazing. My middle-school-aged daughters had a very easy first year here.

I feel compelled to give a little shout out to Anthony Franco Pizza and The Verona Inn, two of our go-to’s. (Verona Inn short ribs are not always available, but they’re amazing.)

I spend a lot of time in the backyard, relaxing with a beer and the local wildlife – squirrels, bunnies and the occasional deer, something we didn’t get much of in Brooklyn. My new neighbors just moved here from Montclair with their twin toddlers. It just seems alike a great town to raise a family. 

I’d been looking for a commuting suburb, and initially Verona wasn’t even on my radar. I have to thank Lina Panza for pointing me in this direction. One year later, it feels even more like the perfect move.

--Steve from Verona


ISO Walkable Suburb with Castle!

There are a couple of places in Montclair that feel like happy secrets and when I'm reminded of them I always feel the need to share.

Kips CastleOne such secret is Kip's Castle. Sitting high atop First Mountain, this majestic structure offers an equally majestic view. There are no lords or ladies living there - in fact it's actually part of the county park system - so visitors are welcome to wander up and check out the grounds.

Kip's Castle is not too far from my home and I'm sure readers of this blog will not be surprised that I occasionally take a walk up there. I'm no castle fanatic, but I always like a good turret. That said, I'm usually most taken with the winding road that leads up there, and the stone wall that flanks the road. The whole thing feels very otherworldly, making it even more delightful that it's practically in my backyard.

There are other houses in Montclair that, while not bona fide castles, certainly look like castles. And there are plenty of charming, modest single-family homes. I think the thing that makes Montclair so magical, is that not only do we have dwellings on either end of the spectrum - we have everything in between. And all of us, no matter where we live, have created quite a vibrant and inclusive community together.

Have I piqued your interest? Call me! 973.809.5277


Victory Gardens In Montclair, Verona, and Glen Ridge

After closing on their bank-owned Colonial in Verona, one of the first "improvements" Bil and Ashli made was to add a vegetable garden to their backyard. They are predicting a prolific harvest of beans, onions, tomatoes, and Chinese sweet potatoes, of which they only eat the greens.

With 40,000 shade trees in Montclair, some gardeners have found that the backyard is just too shady to grow vegetables. A front yard flower and vegetable patch, however, is always an option, and can even replace the entire front lawn, giving the house a verdant and functional appeal. Robin of Glen Ridge has replaced her front lawn with a beautiful and bountiful combination of flowers and edibles. In her garden of Eden she grows rhubarb, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, squash, and herbs.

Montclair resident and food writer Laura has a front yard garden that is bordered by stones and integrates flowers and vegetables in the European fashion. This design, which runs along the path to her front door, works especially well because it welcomes visitors into her pleasant home and busy kitchen.

As for me, I have also established my raised-bed garden in the front yard, the only place that gets consistent sun.