Somerset County News

Verve Celebrates 20th Anniversary as Iconic “Go To” Restaurant & Bistro on Main Street Somerville

648b9d14d036840ba81a_sompixverve3.JPG
Verve owner Rick St. Pierre is celebrating the 20th annniversary of his restaurant this weekend. Credits: Rod Hirsch
064eca728317962d86ce_sompixverve5.JPG
Verve owner with one of the "regulars," Raymond Brown, executive director of the Somerset County Parks Commission.  Credits: Rod Hirsch
41450c58cae3198c7b95_sompixvervehousethatrickbuilt.jpg
Visit Verve this weekend and use the code words "Tap into." Your server will take extra special care of you. Credits: Dina Portik
ccb743eb8b256927c3cf_sompixvervemasks.jpeg
Each year students at Matheny School make Mardi Gras masks which hang on the walls of Verve; the masks are sold in a silent auction, with proceeds doanted to the school.  Credits: Rod Hirsch
15b0fe9d67e2abfb7dbd_sompixverve2.JPG
Verve Restaurant & Bistro, 18 E. Main St. Somerville, is across from the historic Somerset County Courthouse and administration complex. Credits: Rod Hirsch
648b9d14d036840ba81a_sompixverve3.JPG

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Like the Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras masks that adorn the walls of his popular restaurant every year, Rick St. Pierre has several personas.

He is the unofficial ‘mayor’ of Main Street; an unflinching catalyst for change; a philanthropist and supporter of good causes; a well-connected resource who always knows who to call for answers; an astute businessman who always seems to have a workable solution, and a one-man welcome wagon eager to help new businesses share in the success story that continues to unfold on Main Street.

Verve Restaurant & Bistro is where you’ll find St. Pierre some mornings, sitting outside with a cup of coffee reading the New York Times. Built in 1905, he lives on the third floor of the historic building at 18 E. Main St. directly across from the historic Somerset County Courthouse and an easy walk from the county administration complex.

Sign Up for E-News

But he’s not there for long. There is always a long list of things to do.

His ever-growing circle of friends and regulars at the French bistro has anointed him the town’s ambassador of good will in recognition of his never-ending good deeds.

The "regulars" are a "Who's Who" of Somerset County and beyond - businessmen and women, executives, state and local officials, lawyers, mayors, artists, writers, musicians, local residents and people who drive hours to get here.

This weekend, they’re all coming together to help Verve celebrate its 20th anniversary – there will be live jazz and blues, specialty drinks all 4 days and on Sunday, “Verve Cage,” a drag queen competition mimicking the movie “Bird Cage,” held as a fund raiser by the Democratic Party in support of LGBT initiatives.

By extension, the four-day anniversary celebration also recognizes the civic contributions St. Pierre has made in Somerville since buying the former Court Café building.

More than a few of the “regulars” liken him to that drum-thumping advertising bunny – he just keeps on going.

“I don’t know where he gets his energy,” said Ray Brown, executive director of the Somerset County Park System, a charter member of the Verve family. “He’s one of a kind, that’s for sure.”

“One of the reasons that Somerville is coming together is because of people like Rick who are willing to extend themselves,” said Mike Kerwin, president & CEO of the Somerset County Business Partnership.

Four generations of Kerwin’s family have been involved in the tavern business; hospitality, good food and drink are things he understands first hand.

“’Verve Style,’ whatever that is, has been there from the very beginning,” Kerwin said. “It’s a place you want to go to. There’s a sense of belonging, an extended family, not unlike a tavern, but he’s taken it to the next level, he’s added something special to it.”

Verve Style is contagious, variously described as edgy, urban, warm and friendly, imbued with a sense of family and belonging. St. Pierre said “it” was already here when he bought the building from John Kitchen. The Court Tavern was “the” place to be long before St. Pierre stumbled upon the building when he was searching for a suitable location to open his own restaurant.

“It existed before me, it just happened to find me,” St. Pierre said.

It was 20 years ago – June 20, 1996 – that St. Pierre and his kitchen staff plated their first meal and they haven’t looked back.

The affable restaurant owner rarely looks back because he is focused on looking ahead, anticipating, planning and working to make Somerville a better place to live and do business.

 “You can’t separate the two; Rick is Verve and Verve is Rick,” offered Mayor Brian Gallagher. “Verve has become iconic; my kids from a young age called him Mr. Verve; they still don’t know his real name,” he added. “Most importantly, he’s a really nice guy,” Gallagher said.

“He never turns it off,” said Tom Genova, chairman of the Downtown Somerville Alliance.

“He gets it, from the day he got here, he hit the ground running, and it shows,” Genova added. “If you’re going to be on Main Street, you have to be part of the community, willing to give back, working as part of a team. Rick recognizes that,” Genova added.

“He has the strongest sense of community of anyone I know – it shines through in every single thing we do. His love and commitment to both downtown Somerville and his Verve Family (aka Verve Patron Saints and Sinners) is truly what makes Verve thrive and sets him apart from everyone else,” said Dina Portik of Raven Design, who has worked with Rick for 15 years on marketing and advertising and helps to perpetuate the “Verve style.”

“I like to call him the man behind the curtain,” Portik added. “He never wants to take credit, he just does it for the love of it - he wants to take care of everybody else. It’s not about him, it’s about serving the people and the community.

“He wants success for everybody; he deserves all the kudos he gets, that’s for sure,” she added.

Longtime friend Randi Pitts, who owns Evolve Clothing Gallery, a menswear boutique on West Main Street, agrees.

“His eyes are everywhere, he’s looking at everything. He’s unselfish. His attitude is ‘If I thrive, the next person thrives and the town thrives.’

“Rick is the most giving person that I’ve ever,’’ Pitts adds. “He’s always looking for ways to help, to lend a hand.

“Verve is Somerville,” Pitts adds. “Verve has always seemed to thrive. It is the pulse of Somerville, you don’t get to know Somerville unless you go to Verve; it’s like the heart beat of the town.”

Rich Reitman, who runs his own marketing and public relations agency in the borough credits St. Pierre with the resurgence of downtown Somerville.

“He’s been the catalyst in Somerville for the last 20 years; he’s been involved in everything that has gone on to make Somerville good.

“Rick knew what he needed to do to make Somerville work and he worked very hard to make sure that happened,” Reitman added. “He volunteered for committees, took leadership positions, and he has a very aggressive business sense. Nobody did it better.

He’s worked hard to draw people into his restaurant; he put his money where his mouth is. He does an awful lot for charities. He understands that in order to be a successful business you have to be a community guy.”

Sitting alongside Reitman at the popular bar was businessman Phil Decker.

“Verve has grown as the community has grown, it’s nurtured the downtown; as Verve goes, so goes the downtown. It’s an amazing symbiotic relationship.

“Rick is the ultimate proprietor,” Decker added. “He cares about the community and the people. He’s not in this for any political gain or personal gratification. He just wants to make Somerville the best place possible.

“There are a handful of businesses in town that are sparkplugs for Main Street and Verve is one of them,” Decker said.

“Pretty much everyone in town knows Rick,” said Shaun Daley. He and partner Michelle Mundt had the grand opening of their Gallery on Main antiques, art gallery and restoration shop last week.

St. Pierre offered to cater the affair. Daley is best friends with St. Pierre’s chef, James Bolitsky.

“He is nothing but generous,” Daley said. “He made the offer, he wanted to donate the food for the grand opening; he said ‘leave everything to to me.’ He and his staff brought the tables, delivered the food and set it up, it was absolutely fantastic and we couldn’t be more appreciative of what he has done for us,” he added.

As chairperson of Arts On Division St. Pierre he has worked to bring a dynamic of arts and culture to downtown Somerville. Founded as a three-day festival in 2007, Arts on Division has grown into a 501c non-profit that hosts numerous community-oriented events throughout the year.

St. Pierre has worked as the chairman of the Downtown Somerville  Allliance events committee and currently holds the position of Financial Officer.

He hosts a Crab Fest each August to benefit various local non-profits, a Mardi Gras event to benefit the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, is active with the  Taste of Somerville,  the  Tour of Somerville, and a supporter of many of the 5K road races in the borough.                            

Serving as board member for the Law Foundation of Somerset County, he developed  the Meet the Chefs event to benefit the foundation.       

Verve has earned both national and statewide recognition; first when Verve mixologist N. Bryan Mack demonstrated his cocktail “The Carlos Slim” live on the event floor at the Star of the Bar Mixology Competition International Wine,Spirits    & Beer Event 2014, and again as a finalist in Pete Genovese’s/NJ.com "Best     Bars Competition"  in 2015.

St. Pierre has received numerous awards; the  2008 Small Business Economic Vitality Award, Somerville Citizen of the Year in 2011 and the Humanitarian Award from the  Resource Center  of Somerset in 2012.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

North Plainfield/Green Brook/Watchung

Holy Savior Academy Cheer Competition

February 14, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Holy Savior Academy’s cheerleading squad is on winning streak.  Competing at the Biddy Level in the CCCANJ League, the girls took 1st place in the first two competitions of this cheer season. The 12 girl squad competed in the Immaculate Conception and the St. Mary’s competitions and came out on top beating fellow Catholic Schools, Immaculate ...

From the New York Toy Fair - Travels Reveals the Toys That Will Make You the Star of Your Child’s Life - the Oscars of the Toy World - the TOTY Awards

February 19, 2018

 As you know, we are here to encourage you to travel.  Unfortunately, the New York Toy Fair is one place virtually none of you can go.  So, unless you have been tirelessly been searching the internet, you are not up to date on what toys your children will be wanting soon.

Fortunately, with Press Correspondent credentials, we were able to go in your place.

Our ...

Coast Guard Ends Search for Fishermen Lost at Sea, Fund Established to Help Family

The U.S. Coast Guard has officially ended its search for the two crew members of the fishing boat that went missing off the coast of Barnegat Light during the early morning hours of February 8.  

“We would like to extend our condolences to the families and the fishing community affected by this tragic incident,” said Capt. Scott Anderson, commander of the Coast Guard's ...

Looking for Something to Do? Weekend Events in Somerset County

Things to do in Somerset County

A weekend celebrating Warmer Days!

1. Winter Market, Duke Farms

2. The Mountaintop, Theatre at RVCC - Friday featuring the Peking Acrobats.

3. State Theatre New Jersey - nothing scheduled this weekend - next show Feb 22 

4. Heritage Trail Association - Five Generals House Bus Tour - ...

Travels’ Pick 2 For 1 Valentine’s Day Special on Comedy and Music Tickets at the Wellmont

TAPintoTravels - We seldom post these deals last minute, but it seems to good to miss.  It’s even better that a number of great events are at the Wellmont in Montclair.

Here are our picks to take your significant other out for a night on the town:

The Muscial Box - a Genesis tribute band is performing decades worth of the band’s vast repertoire.  They ...

Third Annual Long Beach Island Job Fair Set for Saturday, March 31

SURF CITY, NJ - Need a job this summer? Look no further. Shore Fire Grille again has teamed up with local businesses in the area for a special summer 2018 Job Fair event. 

The Third Annual LBI Job Fair will take place Saturday, March 31.  Employers will be looking to hire help for the summer season on busy Long Beach Island.  The event will be held at the Surf City Yacht ...

Flying Today - TAPinto Travels Made and Here Is What You Need to Know

If you are flying today, you have likely seen the flight delay notifications.  The good news is the area airports have overcome the morning slowdown and most flights are on schedule.

TAPinto Travels made it in from Cleveland, after a short delay.  As you can see in this video, there is some turbulence.  The runways and taxiing areas have been cleared.  Do expect ...

Guest Column: The Great "Wait" of the College Process

February 14, 2018

"The Great Wait" of the College Application Process

For all the high school seniors and their parents, we are in the stressful "waiting period".  We've just finished or are finishing applications to all the schools we might possibly want to attend next year and now sit and wait our fate after the $60-$80 non-refundable application fees to at least 8-13 schools and ...

Coast Guard Ends Search for Fishermen Lost at Sea, Fund Established to Help Family

February 18, 2018

The U.S. Coast Guard has officially ended its search for the two crew members of the fishing boat that went missing off the coast of Barnegat Light during the early morning hours of February 8.  

“We would like to extend our condolences to the families and the fishing community affected by this tragic incident,” said Capt. Scott Anderson, commander of the Coast Guard's ...

Third Annual Long Beach Island Job Fair Set for Saturday, March 31

SURF CITY, NJ - Need a job this summer? Look no further. Shore Fire Grille again has teamed up with local businesses in the area for a special summer 2018 Job Fair event. 

The Third Annual LBI Job Fair will take place Saturday, March 31.  Employers will be looking to hire help for the summer season on busy Long Beach Island.  The event will be held at the Surf City Yacht ...

Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 16, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Obituaries

North Plainfield – Gail A. Kaufman – Cain, 62, passed away peacefully on Saturday ...
Read more

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Carousel_image_3d7e35618f05795eb00f_omstbydesignnew_jpeg

Tue, February 27, 7:00 PM

Cranford Community Center, Cranford

“Olmsted By Design!” Free First-Person, Dramatic ...

Arts & Entertainment Green Home & Garden

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, March 2, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, March 9, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Tue, March 13, 9:30 AM

Congregation Beth Israel , Scotch Plains

Crisis listening line volunteer listening and ...

Education Giving Back Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, March 16, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Carousel_image_ad6c3c447b5accf3e1a1_3ef0aae34bda175becfa_ptp_save_the_date_-_p1

Fri, March 16, 7:00 PM

The Grove, Cedar Grove

Susan G. Komen North Jersey

Giving Back Other

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, March 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, March 30, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, April 6, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Wrestling: 11 Warriors and Three Canucks Advance to Regions, Watchung Hills Wins NJSIAA District 16

February 17, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ - The Watchung Hills Regional High School wrestling team won its first District title on Saturday and 11 Warriors placed in the top three of their weight classes to advance to regions. North Plainfield came in ninth in District 14 and three wrestlers advance to regions.

”Congratulations to Coach Smith, his staff, and all of our Warrior wrestlers on winning their first ...

Green Brook, North Plainfield and Watchung Students Compete in County Spelling Bee

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Students from more than 30 schools in Somerset County, including Green Brook, North Plainfield and Watchung, will compete in the 3rd annual Spelling Bee Spectacular sponsored by the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey.

Participation is limited to those students up to the eighth grade.

The contest, which is a preliminary to the 2018 Scripps National Spelling ...

Wellness at WHRHS: On Stress, Wellness and Integrity at Watchung Hills

WARREN, NJ - A letter was sent to all parents of Watchung Hills Regional High School students (WHRHS) on Jan.19 addressing the school’s efforts to promote student wellness and reduce student stress. The letter also encouraged parents to review the academic integrity guidelines and have conversations with their children about health, wellness, and ethical ...

WHRHS Girls Basketball: Watchung Hills Tops East Orange, 44-40

EAST ORANGE, NJ - Julia Cunningham recorded a double-double for Watchung Hills with 21 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block to lead the Watchung Hills girls basketball team over East Orange on Monday, 44-40. 

Jayden Baltuch finished with seven points, four assists and one rebound. 

Watchung Hills is now 19-1 on the season and next plays at Newark ...

WHRHS Boys Basketball: Watchung Hills Routs Somerville, 82-54

WARREN, NJ -  Six Warriors scored in the double digits to lead the Watchung Hills boys basketball game over Somerville on Saturday, 82-54.

Mike Hopwood led Watchung Hills with 17 points, Dan Pilsbury added 14 points and eight rebounds, Steven Bressler sunk 15 points, Gavin DeFuria added 13 points, Micheal Bressler got 11 points and 10 assists and Chad Martini chipped in 10 points and ...

National Signing Day in North Plainfield: Four NPHS Students Sign Letters of Intent

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Four North Plainfield High School scholar athletes signed letters of intent notifying the colleges they plan to attend that they do intend to compete in football or soccer on National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at the school.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcOME3XFSOw

Playing football are:

Jude Okolo: Illinois State University - Division I ...

Somerset County Preparing for Construction of Finderne Avenue Bridge, Beginning Feb. 20

February 16, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Finderne Avenue bridge, between Union Avenue and Foothill Road, will be under construction from Feb. 20 for about nine months, according to a release from Somerset County.

The bridge will be constructed in three separate stages, with one lane northbound and one lane southbound being maintained, aside from intermittent single-day closures as required. In addition, ...

Bernards Police Locate Body of Missing Township Teen

BERNARDS TWP., NJ -  Bernards Township Police announced late Thursday afternoon that the body of a 19-year-old township resident, Lydia Comtois, had been located in a wooded area of Liberty Corner following a search by personnel and volunteers from numerous public safety organizations. 

A preliminary investigation indicated the young woman's death was not deemed to ...