Living In Montclair

Shopping (on foot) In Montclair

At the end of this summer, we moved to the heart of “Uptown.” By “we,” I mean Keller Williams Real Estate, and by “Uptown,” I mean the northernmost shopping district of Montclair’s five retail hubs.

My office used to be on the edge of town – a perfectly nice place, but not nearly as walkable as most of Montclair tends to be. I was excited to move, not only because I would be able to easily walk to work, but mainly because I love being in a neighborhood where I can get most of my errands done – including my holiday shopping -- without getting in my car. 

Our big, bright office space is steps away from Valley Road with its lovely boutiques like Jaffa Gems and Ampersand for home décor or gifts, and Marcel’s or Jackie’s for breakfast or lunch. There’s a Gap on one corner and a Williams Sonoma on the other. Pizza, bagels, coffee, jewelry, clothing, office supplies, sushi or ice-cream – it’s all a two-minute walk. There’s a toy store, a hardware store, a shop to buy scented soaps and another to buy baby gifts. I often stop at Gus’s for fresh fish and pop across the street for a bottle of wine on my way home. 

And Montclair’s other retail hubs are just as vital, with new, fun shops popping up among older, beloved Montclair institutions.  

The point is this: living and working in an environment where a car can be optional is a wonderful experience. You can spend time with your partner or your children walking and talking. When shopping is close to home, it feels easier to wander in and explore. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many local shop owners in this natural, unhurried way and I can say that few things make you feel part of a community more than walking into a store and being greeted by name.  

If you want to stop by our new home, we’re at 237 Lorraine Ave. The entrance is in the back, and there’s a covered bike rack back there, too. We’re steps away from the bus and the train, but if you need to drive, no worries – we have plenty of parking behind the building. 

Park Slope to Montclair – It's so much easier to play with our kids! 

“Miro and I just moved from an upper duplex in Park Slope to Montclair Avenue last July. We wanted more space for ourselves and our two young daughters – especially outdoor space. My sister has lived in Montclair for the last four years and whenever we’d come to visit, she really talked the place up. So, after researching a few different towns in the area, we decided to start looking here. One of the many things I loved about Montclair was how it reminded me of the Pittsburgh suburb I grew up in – beautiful old houses and lots of trees.

Neither of us grew up in a city, so moving to a suburb was not a hard choice, but there were specific things we were looking for. Good public schools. Someplace where we could walk to parks and restaurants. And the most non-negotiable requirement – a maximum 75-minute door-to-door commute to Miro’s job in the Flatiron District. 

We learned about Lina from her Walkable Suburb site. After one phone call, we could tell she was very level-headed and knew her stuff – not only about the area but about how houses work. She let us know exactly what to expect when buying an old house, specifically, what types of post-purchase expenses we might encounter. Lina was unbelievably knowledgeable about how to restore the chimney of one house we looked at, providing a level of detail as if she were the contractor. 

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She also prepared us for Halloween on Montclair Avenue – at least as much as anyone could have. ‘Just to let you know, you’ll be giving out a LOT of candy!’ she said. The people we bought the house from left us a stipend of 300 pieces of candy and, because of Lina’s advice, we bought another 1200 pieces. Still, we ran out by 7 p.m., but our girls had a blast handing out candy on the porch.

There have also been a few surprises that we hadn’t anticipated. For example, how much easier it is to play with the kids when you can just run out into a backyard. But also, how many awesome playgrounds are around, many strollable from the house. We found a great preschool that’s also an easy stroll. And we found a favorite restaurant – Turtle and Wolf -- that’s easy to walk to. We also found that Montclair’s BYOB culture has brought our restaurant tabs way down. 

And then there’s the leaves.

One day, we woke up and autumn had happened! It was spectacular – like a crazy technicolor brochure for fall. It seems like a little thing, but when you’re coming home from the city, it’s really great to have your own leaves to jump into.”

--Jeremy, new Montclair resident

New to the Market, 75 Essex Ave, Montclair

OPEN HOUSE

Saturday & Sunday 9/29 & 30

1:00 - 4:00

75 Essex Ave, Montclair

Offered at: $899,000

If you or someone you know is in the market for a completely renovated quintessential Montclair “old home made new," look no further than my new listing: 75 Essex Ave in Montclair.  

This inviting center hall colonial is ideally located in the Watchung Plaza neighborhood and is steps away from transportation, restaurants, schools, playgrounds and many of the walkable amenities that Montclair has to offer.

On the first floor you’ll be impressed by a large kitchen with breakfast nook that overlooks a sunny family room.  Formal, wainscoted dining room, living room with built-ins and wood burning fire place plus a bright office with french doors complete the main level. From the lush outdoor landscaping with underground irrigation system to the finished 3rd floor carpeted loft/secret hideout, no detail has been overlooked.  There are enough bedrooms, bathrooms and shared spaces for a quiet retreat or to enjoy time with family and friends -- five bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths, to be exact.

                

One of my favorite rooms in this house is the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, exposed brick wall, lighted tray ceiling and spa like bathroom.  Overlooking the back yard, this private oasis is a great place to relax and recharge.

        

Come take a look and see for yourself. You won't want to leave, but when you do, stroll over to Watchung Plaza for a coffee at Bluestone Coffee, browse the shelves at Watchung Booksellers or pick up a sweet treat at The Pie Shop.  

Open Houses on Saturday & Sunday 9/29 & 30 from 1-4 or call me to schedule a private showing: 973-809-5277.

 
 
 

Montclair is Made for New Families

Recently, I went to the Upper Montclair Sidewalk Sale – an annual event that has been going on for at least as long as I’ve lived here. I remember packing my young kids into the stroller and cruising up Valley Road, hoping there was enough to entertain them for a while before their nap. Back then, Montclair was just starting to become a popular destination for young families from the city and didn’t have as many things to do with small children. There was Kinderkickers Soccer, Music Together, the Studio Players Theater group, an art class here and there, a tumbling class that would pop up in a church, and a small “Baby YMCA” on the South End.

When I think of how much has changed, it’s hard to believe it’s the same town.

All the old favorites still exist, but there is now so much more. The new Kids’ YMCA on Glenridge Avenue is newer and more centrally located. Music Together has had a new, permanent headquarters in the middle of Upper Montclair, steps away from a great toy store, kids clothing store, wonderful bagels, pizza, tacos, and the world’s nicest fire station! In addition to more coffee shops, tea shops, and noodle shops, all over town, there’s now an inclusive movement facility uptown and a pre- and post-natal support center on Walnut Street. 

It’s actually hard to imagine walking ten minutes without running across endless places to go with young children: indoor gyms, story times, art classes, martial arts, and bake shops galore! I mention this last upgrade because a couple bake shops in town have grown into institutions.

Montclair Bread Company has become famous for their donuts (maple bacon, OMG) and also for sponsoring road races and fun runs throughout the town. 

Little Daisy Bake Shop, which may be the first place in town to specialize in nut-free baked goods, sponsored the Pie Eating Contest that captivated me over the weekend. There’s something about grown men dipping their faces into blueberry pie that can just lift your mood for the whole day.

Initially, I was going to just write about the Sidewalk Sale, how fun it was to gather on the street and run into old friends – people who, like me, were all once trying to find ways to create little communities for our young’uns. But I realized that there are now myriad places and ways to do that here – that we’ve grown even more into a town that offers plentiful opportunities to meet others in that same wonderous life stage of young parenthood.

If you ever want a tour of walkable, kid-friendly destinations, let me know. And block out a big chunk of time!

You're Welcome!

I usually stay away from anything political in my blog, but this week I am making an exception. On Wednesday, June 27, I had the great honor of attending a local reading staged to raise money to support one of the many organizations fighting to help immigrant children being separated from their parents. 

Montclair, New Jersey is a liberal town. That’s no secret. But this event, like so many initiatives – big and small -- started by residents who cannot sit by and watch people being treated inhumanely, reminds me so why I’m so proud to live here. This is a town that speaks out for families – all families.

Families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors – and that is one of the many reasons people want to live here. We all want our children to grow up in a community where families with two moms, or two dads, or no mom, or no dad, or different color moms and dads, or grandmas as moms, or grandpas as dads are all as commonplace as families with one mom and one dad. That’s the community mindset that sparked an event like Borders of the Heart: Writers Read in Support of Migrant Families.

In eight days, a few local writers put together this reading in an effort to do something to help. Donations were collected through Facebook and at the event. Nearly two dozen writers read pieces on the subject of immigration. Some readers were people I knew personally and never knew their story. It was heart-wrenching and uplifting, and I walked out of that room –appropriately, a local temple sanctuary – feeling so very right about the work I get to do: helping people find a community where their values and ideals can thrive.

I write this on July 4th, the “birthday” of my country. Today, I will dress for the heat as I walk the few blocks to Midland Avenue and take a spot on the curb to watch Montclair’s 90-minute July 4th Parade. I will cheer for floats celebrating local ice cream and local music lessons and the local Irish pub. I will cheer for organizations that provide free tutoring for kids and free meals for adults. I will cheer for the bike advocates and the football team and the Community Pre-K. And, of course, I will cheer for my home away from home, Keller Williams Realty.

Like the reading, our parade reminds me how we take care of each other here. Everyone is welcome to show up with their stories. 

Everyone is welcome.

New to Market: 107 Montclair Ave, Montclair, NJ

OPEN HOUSE

Saturday 6/23 and Sunday 6/24

2-4 p.m.

107 Montclair Ave

Offered at $989,000

 

As a Walkability Devotee, 107 Montclair Avenue is an absolute dream. It's spacious enough to grow with a family and offers premiere walkability at every stage.

The house itself is gorgeous. A 1923 Colonial with 5 bedrooms and 4 full baths. Beautiful wood floors throughout. Wood-burning fireplace. Updated kitchen and baths. A second-floor laundry room (believe me, if you’ve never lived in a home with this feature, you will count your newfound blessings with every load). An elegant master suite. 

And there’s more. New central AC. New hot water heater. New appliances. New garage. 

One of the things I love about this home is the fully renovated basement with its elegant ceramic tile floor. This is an enormous, inviting space to kick back in – and it has its own outside entrance!

The other thing I love is the bluestone patio – how the gentle curve of the low brick wall defines the space. And how it benefits from the nearby shade trees. There’s also a built-in Viking grill, a feature that many use all year long. 

True, it’s not often difficult to find a Montclair home with amenities. The challenge is finding a home with everything you’re looking for and walkability too.

If you’re familiar with the area, you will love being in the center of town. You will love the carpool ease. You will love that kids can walk to the high school. Or to the nearby ice-skating rink. Or to one of the town pools. Or the playground. Or the sports fields. 

This home also offers an easy walk to the New York City train, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, and all the restaurants and shops at Walnut and Grove. Or to Ruthie’s for barbeque and blues.

Montclair Avenue has always been one of the most beautiful and sought-after blocks in Montclair. Stop by my open house June 23rd or 24th and see why.

Open House this Saturday and Sunday, 2-4pm

Or call me for a private showing: 973-809-5277

 

New to Market: 653 Grove Street, Montclair

Open House

this Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13

2 - 4 p.m.

653 Grove Street, Montclair

I’m always excited to get a Montclair listing in the $500,000 price range. They’re not plentiful. But I’m even more excited to list a house like 653 Grove Street, because not only is the price right – everything feels right.

Set back and side-facing, this house feels private and secluded. I love the expansive, flat yard, and the entertainment patio off the great room. 

I love the open layout, the spacious kitchen, and that the master suite has its own floor. It’s sunny and bright, and feels easy to be in.

Northeast Elementary School is a short walk, but with Montclair’s renowned magnet school system, you can request one of the other five elementary schools – each with its own theme. 

Also close by: Applegate Farms Ice Cream, a Montclair institution that draws ice cream lovers from far and wide. The Alonzo Bonsal Wildlife Preserve – a 20-plus acre nature preserve that feels so “secret,” people blog about how to find the entrance. And Yantacaw Brook Park, another off-the-beaten-path treasure for long walks, scenic runs, and duck feeding. (Also, Northeast School has a great sledding hill in the back.)

Four bedrooms. Two full baths. Eat-in kitchen. Wood-burning stove and fireplace. Beautiful floors. Lots of built-ins. Detached garage. Quick walk to the New York City bus. And all that Montclair has to offer: exhibits and classes at Montclair Art Museum and Montclair State UniversityWhole Foods, CSAs and a Saturday Farmers Market. Montclair Film Festival, Montclair Jazz Festival, and the Presby Iris Gardens. Team sports for everyone – kids and grown-ups alike. Coffee shops. Tea shops. Yoga studios and independent book stores. 

Does this sound good to be true? Come visit the town I love to show off. 

Come to the Open House Saturday 5/12 or Sunday, 5/13 2-4pm

Or call me for a private showing: 973-809-5277

 

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