Business & Finance

Local Fare, Longevity Highlighted at 6th Annual Taste of South Plainfield

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ –On the eve of winter storm Stella, approximately 250 borough residents ditched their snow boots, albeit temporarily, and gathered at the senior center for South Plainfield Business Association’s 6th Annual Taste of South Plainfield. 

The event, sponsored by the South Plainfield Business Association and held at the senior center, attracted a standing room only crowd and provided attendees the opportunity to sample food from various local eateries while raising money for graduating South Plainfield High School seniors.

Among the local establishments providing samples of their fare were Ciccio’s Pizza, HomeTown Heros, Imperial Deli, La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppe, Mr. Subs, Sherban’s Restaurant, Rodolfo’s Pizzeria, Little Nicky’s Italian Hot Dogs, Marie’s Sweet Designs, In and Out Bagels, Kenny’s Empanadas and Nanking Restaurant.

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There were also craft beer and wine tastings provided courtesy of Wine Country and numerous vendors on hand, including DoTerra Oils, Scentsy, IDLife, Touchstone Crystal, and Thirty-One along with AristaCare and the South Plainfield Field of Honor. Support was also provided by Investors Bank and the Knights of Columbus Squires.

Additionally, this year’s Taste also served as an opportunity for the borough to pay tribute to the nearly two-dozen businesses whose roots in the community date back 30-, 40-, 50- and even 100-plus years.

“As many of you know, we just recently celebrated 90 years as a borough and thought this was a nice way to give back to the business community and celebrate some of those who have been here from the very beginning along with those who have called the borough home for 30 or more years,” said Mayor Matt Anesh who, along with Council President Derryck White presented proclamations and pins to the following 23 businesses:

100-plus years in operation: Nitschwitz Feed & Fuel and Harris Structural Steel

90-years in the borough: Coppola’s Garden Center

60 or more years in the borough: South Plainfield Sheet Metal, Inc. and the Frank P Licato Agency

50 or more years in the borough: Giakas Cleaners, JT Penyak Roofing, Peter Pan Pharmacy, R&C Auto Body, Hall’s Warehouse Corp., Tony’s Pizza & Restaurant

40 or more years in the borough: Twin City Pharmacy & Surgical, Mohn’s Flowers and Fancy Foods, McCriskin-Gustafson Home for Funerals, Liftec Forklifts, and Sportworld

30 or more years in the borough: Cindy Michaels Jewelers, HK Truck Center, Presto Printing, Salerno Pizza Ristorante, and (based on current ownership) Paul’s Stationary.

“It’s nice to be recognized and we appreciate the town honoring those businesses who have been here a long time,” said Kevin Brown, who along with fellow South Plainfield native Tom Kiczula, will celebrate 40 years this August as owners of Sportworld. Initially established in 1977 and located in a storefront at the Golden Acres shopping center, the business moved to its current location on South Plainfield Avenue in 2002.

Tom Cassio, a lifelong resident who opened Twin City Pharmacy & Surgical back in 1972, was on hand with his family to celebrate being honored for 48 years in the community. Initially located on Park Avenue across from its current location, the pharmacy is currently second generation run by Cassio’s son Tom, niece Sandy Cassio, and nephew Bill Ashnault.

“We care about people and know them by their first name,” said Cassio of the company’s longevity. “We are generally concerned about them and involved with people’s every day lives.”

Established in 1895 in North Plainfield, Nitschwitz Feed & Fuel relocated to Front Street in South Plainfield in 1921 in an effort to be in an area rich in farmland and close to the railroad tracks. When Harry Popik purchased the business from the original owner, he kept the Nitschwitz name. Today, the company remains family owned and run by Harry’s son, Jeff.

“I think it is great the borough is recognizing us. We have been serving the community for 100-plus years,” said Jeff Popik.

Location was also a key reason Hank Knabe chose to open his truck dealership in the borough. Established in 1982, HK Trucking moved from Piscataway to Hollywood Boulevard in South Plainfield in 1988 and, a decade later, settled in its current site on Hamilton Boulevard.

“I stayed in South Plainfield because there was a lot of trucking and commercial business and the proximity to 287 and Route 1 was ideal,” said Knabe, whose business was recognized for 35 years. “I feel honored to be honored. I think it is really nice. South Plainfield is a nice hometown and really supports its businesses.”

One of the oldest businesses in the borough, Harris Structural Steel Company has been run out of South Plainfield for just over 100 years. Founded in 1887 by English immigrant George Harris and known as Harris, Silver & Baker Company, the business originally operated out of a facility in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. In 1915, Harris purchased the old Blackford farm on New Market Road and relocated the business to South Plainfield.

According to Mary Ellen Wilson, who has worked at the steel fabricating plant for 56 years, Harris Steel played a role in the construction of such landmarks as the Brooklyn Towers, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Meadowlands Race Track in Newark, the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. and, most recently, the new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, the Barclay Center, and a handful of buildings at the World Trade Center.

“It’s an honor and exciting to be recognized and to call the borough home for so long,” said Wilson, who resides in the community and began her tenure at Harris in the payroll department. “At one point, you didn't talk to someone who didn't have someone who worked at Harris at some point.”

“We employ a lot of people from South Plainfield,” added Dale Jayne, who along with his brother Bill, are the second generation of Jayne family members to run Hall’s Warehouse Corp. First established by Henry Hall, the Kentile Road business was purchased by Jayne’s father William Jayne, Jr. in 1965.

“The town has been a great partner. They are always here for us and we try to be involved as much as possible,” said Dale, noting that this past February marked his family’s 52nd year as owners. “The success of any business is to surround yourself with good people.”“It’s nice to live and work and own a business in the community I grew up in,” added Georgeann Cochrane, whose business Mohn’s Flowers and Fancy Foods has been operating in the borough since 1977. Cochrane, who purchased the Plainfield Avenue shop in 1990, said she 'honored to be included among the business the borough has chosen to recognize.'  

"It's been an honor for me all these years to be involved in people's lives," said Cochrane. "I’ve seen kids grow up - provided flowers for their prom, then their wedding and next, a baby shower and christening. Now, their kids are coming in."

In 2016, the Borough of South Plainfield celebrated the 90th anniversary of its incorporation while Coppolas Garden Center marked its ninth decade in the community. Located at 1600 New Durham Road, Coppola’s began as small, working roadside farm where fresh fruits and vegetables were grown and sold at local markets and, in 1965, a retail store was opened. Throughout the year, flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruits are available along with holiday items such as pumpkins, Christmas trees, centerpieces, grave blankets, poinsettias, and more. Today, Coppola’s is a three-season business operated by third and fourth generation family members.

In 2015, Giakas Cleaners celebrated its 50th year in South Plainfield. Currently run by three generations of Giakas family members, the business was established back in 1964 by brothers George and William Giakas and initially located on Oak Tree Road in Edison. George moved his business to its current location on Plainfield Avenue the following year and, in 1997, Giakas’ son Brett took over. On any given day, George, Brett and several of George’s grandchildren can be found behind the counter.

“We are so fortunate to have been in South Plainfield and to be here so long,” said Giakas. “The honor is possible thanks to all our past, present and future customers. Without them, we wouldn't be here this long. They are all very loyal and we are very thankful.”

Several other businesses also recognized at the Taste included Penyak Roofing and R&C Auto Body, two companies who have been family-owned and run for 50 years. “We are honored to have received this recognition and are proud to be a part of the business community in South Plainfield,” said Joe Penyak, Jr. who currently runs the Kennedy Road business his father Joe established in 1960.

Carl Adlassnig of the Park Avenue-based R&C Auto Body business established by his father Carl and uncle Rich back in 1960 added, “Our biggest thing here is to help people and do a good job for a fair price. I think it is great of the business association for them to recognize the businesses here who want to help and give back.”

James Gustafson, who along with Richard W. McCriskin, II, run the McCriskin-Gustafson Home for Funerals, added, “We are grateful the borough has chosen to honor us.”

Established in 1976 by South Plainfield brothers Richard and William McCriskin, the funeral home will mark its 41st anniversary in the borough this year. “We are honored to be a part of the community and pride ourselves on giving back as much as we can,” said Gustafson. “This is a beautiful town with lots of great people and it is wonderful to be recognized.”

“This was our sixth Taste of South Plainfield and the turnout was tremendous. I want to thank everyone who came out,” added Debbie Boyle, financial secretary for the South Plainfield Business Association and chair of the organization’s Taste Committee. “It was a wonderful way to honor the businesses of South Plainfield and for our food establishments to provide residents an opportunity to sample some of their wares.” 

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