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:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

Obituaries

Chief Michael J. Cleary, Sr. 66, of South Plainfield, died suddenly on July 14, 2018. Born and ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Carly Kensey Graduates from ECU

July 13, 2018

GREENVILLE, NC -- Carly Kensey of South Plainfield graduated with a BA-Psychology from East Carolina University during spring commencement exercises May 4 in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The fireworks capped off a new format for ECU's 109th spring commencement ceremony, which was held in the evening for the first time.

The keynote speaker for commencement was Linda McMahon, administrator of ...

Community Happenings

Adult “crafternoon” at the South Plainfield Public Library

July 15, 2018

Crafting isn't just for kids anymore!  Come to the South Plainfield Library on Saturday July 28 at 2pm for a fun filled “crafternon” for adults with crafter Patricia Dahl.  Crafters will be decorating a wine bottle. We will supply all the materials, just come and enjoy! If you have a glue gun at home, if you could bring it to the craft program.  Registration is ...

Frist Baptist Church of South Plainfield to Host Annual Vacation Bible School

July 17, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - First Baptist Church of South Plainfield will be holding their annual Vacation Bible School program the week of August 6-10 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. This free VBS program is open to children entering Kindergarten through entering 6th grade. Children will participate in this exciting experience learning how God is faithful and keeps His promises through Bible stories, songs, ...

South Plainfield Police Hiring Per-Diem Dispatchers

The South Plainfield Police Department is accepting applications for Per-Diem Police Dispatcher.  The following are the minimum requirements for applicants:

Must be at least 18 years of age
Must have a High School diploma or GED
Must be certified in 9-1-1, EMD and CPR
Must pass a background check and a computerized Dispatch test
Must be able to multi-task while using Police, ...

Columns

Diegnan Bill to Establish Asset Forfeiture Reporting and Transparency Requirements Passes Senate

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD) – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. that establishes asset forfeiture reporting and transparency requirements passed the full Senate today.

“Across New Jersey, law enforcement can confiscate cash, cars and other property from people, often without ever charging them with a crime,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex) “While ...

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little (Dog Ear Publishing, 2015)

 

Rich Little is a national treasure; a living encyclopedia of movie stars, comedians, and former presidents all wrapped into one dynamic package. Recently, my husband and I had the good fortune to see Little perform at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, where he has been doing his uncanny ...

Bookmarks

Come join us Monday, July 23 at 6:30 PM for Monday Night Movies.  This week’s selection stars Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren, and it follows their characters as they journey across the country in a RV, rekindling their passion for life and their romance.  It is rated R.  If you cannot make it to the Monday night showing, there is a second screening on Wednesday, July 25 ...

Press Releases

ICE ERO Newark Arrests 37 Individuals in Middlesex County During Enforcement Surge

July 18, 2018

NEWARK, N.J. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Newark Field Office arrested 37 individuals during a five-day operation that concluded Friday, as part of the agency’s ongoing public safety efforts. The operation targeted criminal aliens who were previously incarcerated at the Middlesex County Jail (MCJ), and who were subsequently ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...