Colorful cozy chair and embroidered pillows at Jafajems. (ROBIN WOODS / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

For Montclair Local

It’s been a hot and glorious summer, but now we’re moving into the fall season. The kids are back to attending school in person, we’re back to the office, getting out more and ready to explore.

Paul Giordano, president of the Upper Montclair Business Association since 2019, suggested places for me to visit uptown from my downtown home. The association operates on yearly membership fees paid by property and business owners, merchants and professionals in that district. 

Giordano has a long history of doing business in Upper Montclair, in various locations such as Sweet Home Montclair, and owns White Rabbit Black Heart on Glenridge Avenue. He explained the function of the association, saying, “We help new and old businesses by listing them on our website, assisting with social media and holding our annual sidewalk sale, this year on Sept. 18.  It’s always a huge success. Walk around the neighborhood, meet your friends, eat and shop.”

Faux fall mums store display at White Rabbit Black Heart. (ROBIN WOODS / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

My first stop was to Jafajems on Valley Road, opened 24 years ago by Carol Jafferjee. She said, “I opened the business when my kid went to kindergarten. We have many repeat visitors, and I feel a part of the community.” 

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Carol showed me some of the new seasonal items. Glassware in autumn hues of amber, orange, blue and green make for a beautiful tablescape, and colorful throw pillows will brighten up your bedroom or living room. Cozy chairs invite you to sit and read or do your homework in comfort and style. 

For something different for gift-giving, there are handmade paper earrings, jewelry pieces, photo frames and origami creations crafted by Carol and exclusive to Jafajems. Items are carefully curated, and Carol said, “We make sure to carry Fair Trade items, with 40 countries from around the world represented. Everything is ethically manufactured. Choose from super soft quilts and throws made in India, or bracelets made by women in Nepal. We also have velvet totes from Turkey.”

Beautiful bow ties in rainbow colors, using naturally shed feathers, are made in the U.S.A., as are cute and tiny collectible paper mache animals. Store manager Beth McFarlane took me to the back display area, where I discovered the largest collection of Mackenzie Childs plates, bowls, cups and serving pieces that I’ve ever seen for sale in one place. It’s a fun spot to browse in and buy, with Beth saying, “I work in a calm and beautiful place, and my customers make it all the better.”

Looking for a way to be creative? Head over to Hammer and Stain on Bellevue Avenue. Owner Gretchen Orsini said, “It’s a DIY workshop studio, opened in June of 2019, and I take reservations in advance for individuals and groups to come in, seven days a week. The pandemic changed everything. People come in with their pod and people they’re used to being with. I call it functional art. It’s fun to create with family and friends.”

There are projects to put your own special stamp on, including wooden trays, hanging wall art pieces and mobiles, and seasonal projects, such as staining and painting pumpkins or using fabric to make jack-o’-lanterns.

Birthday party guests age 2 and up can paint with sponges or paint brushes and make seasonal garlands, using stencils as design guides. Gretchen also creates custom pieces for weddings, making one-of-a-kind cake toppers and gifts for brides, grooms and wedding parties. Everything made at Hammer and Stain is as unique and different as you are.

Montclair Stationery owner Sharai Mutasah waiting to greet her customers (ROBIN WOODS / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

Going back to school again calls for getting ourselves and our kids stocked up with what’s needed for a successful school year, and Montclair Stationery is what I consider to be a Disneyland of a store. 

Backpacks hang on hooks from the ceiling, and a rainbow collection of Sharpie pens waits in slots for you to pick up to put in your pencil case. Each aisle in the store is filled with shelves and bins of paper, notebooks and more. 

Owner Sharai Mutasah took over the business in 2017 after coming to Montclair from her native South Africa. She said, “I’ve been told by neighboring business owners that Montclair Stationery has been open for 30 to 40 years, and I wanted to work in a business with easy hours without disrupting my kids’ schedules.”

Displays change by the season, with the current focus on fall and back to school. I loaded up with pencils, notebooks and big boxes of Crayola crayons. There’s no better smell than new crayons to me. Store all of your supplies in a new backpack, and get ready for a great school year.

Robin models her new reversible cropped puffer jacket from Dot Reeder for fall, early winter or spring. (ROBIN WOODS / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

Don’t forget to get yourself some new clothes to wear to those important meetings, or to incorporate into what’s already in your closet. Laura Barker opened Dot Reeder on Watchung Avenue, the store name inspired by her grandmother, Dorothy Reeder Goddard, and Laura still has many family members living in Upper Montclair. 

With her background in fashion and costume design, and having worked with brands as a wardrobe stylist in New York, Laura said, “I’ve always wanted to bring an N.Y.C. sensibility to the suburbs. There’s been an influx of new clients who have never shopped here before and want to immerse themselves in some retail therapy.”

Laura’s keen eye for styling and fashion is evident in the way the clothing and accessories are displayed, as inviting as stepping into someone’s home or walk-in closet.

It’s fully fall-ready in Upper Montclair, and we can’t wait to meet you there.

In this article:

Robin Wood

Robin Woods is a local girl-about town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award of the Essex County Legacies Essay contest.