Daily Voice reporters share with readers the gems of Bergen and Passaic Counties they've found on their beats in 2016.
These are places, people and activities that inspired us.
RINGWOOD, N.J. – Before retiring in October, Phil Selleroli, Sr. spent about 40 years cutting the hair of Ringwood residents .
His last day at the Shear Shop, which he opened back in 1976, was one of my first days at the Daily Voice.
And interviewing him was one of the highlights of my tenure thus far at Daily Voice.
I didn’t realize it, but Phil had cut the hair of three generations of my family.
When I told him my name, he told me stories about growing up with my grandfather, Jack Kidd, in Paterson, and how they both made the move to Ringwood around the same time.
Small business owners get to know the people they serve.
And just like Phil, they all have stories to tell. Hearing their stories, and sharing them with our readers, is a privilege for me.
Sometimes, I still don’t believe this is my job. It doesn't feel like work.
Here are some more of my favorite stories of small businesses and the people behind them that I found along my beat in 2016.
Garfield: Making women feel beautiful has become therapy for Christina Stec, owner of Sisters Bridal Boutique in Garfield .
“It is what keeps me going, what keeps me sober, what keeps me humble,” Stec, a domestic violence survivor and recovering drug addict, told me as we sat in her shop filled with beautiful designer dresses.
“I know this is how I can give back to other people."
Elmwood Park: After being laid off from his corporate banking job, Mike Elayan decided to follow his passion and open his own fitness studio – the Art of Self Defense in Elmwood Park .
He and his wife, Eid, wanted "to take a chance on ourselves," he told me. “Working in the banking world wasn’t exciting.”
Now he spends his days doing what he loves – teaching children and adults about physical fitness, self-defense and self-confidence.
Wyckoff: The wood plaques that adorn the walls of the All Is Well Boutique in Wyckoff are painted with phrases like “I choose joy,” “It is still a beautiful world,” and “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”
These were some of the positive words that Jayne Gilbride-Bauer, who died of cancer in 2014, would share to encourage others, her niece, Catherine Perna Saum told me.
Saum runs the boutique, and proceeds go to the All Is Well Foundation which donates money directly to local patients battling cancer.
Oakland: When my editor texted me that there was a fire at the Oakland Diner , I grabbed my notebook, got in my truck and drove to the spot that so many people love.
I didn’t find a fire, or even any firetrucks by the time I arrived. But what I did find was the diner’s owner: Harry Mihas.
He was in the parking lot and his first thoughts after the fire were for his staff.
“It is right before Christmas," he told me, "and I have so many people that work here."
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