GARDEN STATE LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE THEIR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODELS, FAVORITE WINTER SPORTS, AND TOP DESTINATIONS ON THEIR BUCKET LIST

BY ERIK SCHONING, ELIZABETH HAZARD, AND AMANDA MCCOY PHOTOS
BY TOM ZAPCIC, ALEX BARRETO, AND VIOLET KARYN PHOTOGRAPHY

Viral Chokshi

Founder, Monaco Experiences / @monacoexperiences

Six years ago, Viral Chokshi noticed a void in the car rental industry when his brother was getting married. At the time, luxury cars were only available for rent for an entire weekend rather than per event or by the hour. Chokshi recognized a niche market, and with the purchase of his first Ferrari, Monaco Experiences was born. He now has a feet of over ten exotic vehicles available to rent for weddings and other special events. A self-described passion project, Chokshi said the name reflects the glitz and glamour of Monaco. “When you think of Monaco, you think of beautiful people, exotic cars, wealth, and prestige,” he said. “I wanted our company to reflect that image as well.”

Today, the business owner said Monaco Experiences receives inquiries from all over the country, spanning everything from million-dollar Bugattis to elephants. To stay on top of trends and client interests, he’s constantly updating his feet of exclusive vehicles. It’s a true concierge experience, too, Chokshi pointed out. He ensures that the client chooses a car that won’t clash with their out t, an important aspect when choosing a luxury vehicle for an event. He noted that Monaco’s success has so far been attributed to word of mouth, but he is focused on reaching a broader audience and growing the brand even more.

VJ SPREAD

WHO IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODEL?

I have a few role models that have inspired me over the years. The first has to be my father and mother. My parents started their own small business about 25 years ago, which I later took over. They built something that’s withstood two recessions and laid that foundation for generations in our family. They both sacrificed a lot for their children, something I have come to admire. My other role model would be my business coach Mr. Rushab Kamdar of ThinkBusiness360. I think everyone who is in any industry should look into business coaching. I personally know that Mr. Kamdar helped me overcome many hesitations and fears I had in growing the business and helped implement a new strategy to help Monaco Experiences move forward. Sometimes you need an extra set of eyes to see your vision come to fruition.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINTER SPORT (TO WATCH OR PLAY)?

My favorite winter sport to watch is football. The teamwork and camaraderie is something that has always fascinated me. As any business owner knows, you are only as successful as your team around you. Everything has to move like a fine-tuned machine. I wouldn’t have been successful without the help of my team.

WHAT IS ONE BUCKET LIST TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU HOPE TO VISIT THIS YEAR?

I really have two places that are on my bucket list for this year. One is Paris. Although I’ve been to Paris a few times, this year will be the first time I go with my son and wife. My son wants to eat the chocolate desserts and my wife wants to reenact her favorite scenes from Emily in Paris. My second destination has to be Monaco. Maybe it will inspire me to get that Bugatti!

Mark Beriault

Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer Manasquan Bank / Manasquan.bank

Mark Beriault has always felt at home in a smaller bank. The senior executive VP and chief lending officer for Manasquan Bank is no stranger to the downsides of the mega-bank. He started his career in 1983 working for United Jersey Bank, which through a series of expansions eventually became Bank of America. Beriault joined Manasquan in 2004 and was put at the head of the bank’s lending department, which at that time was a staff of two with $20 million in loans. Today Beriault leads a team of 37 with $1.4 billion in loans. Over almost 20 years with the company, Beriault has been able to grow his business without sacrificing the people-first mentality that has made Manasquan so successful.

“We’ve been very successful building a portfolio and a brand,” Beriault said. “A lot comes down to people and stand everyone focusing on going in the right direction.”

Even today, the backbone of Beriault’s commercial lending is the long-term client. Beriault and his team have been able to help small businesses grow and expand in a lending landscape that often prioritizes big players. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, for example, Beriault and his team were able to finance the rebuilding process with client-friendly construction loans. It’s an old-school, people-focused approach to doing business, and it’s led to nothing but success.

WHO IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODEL?

That would have to be my current CEO, Jim Vaccaro. He works extremely hard and isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves. Jim gives me the freedom I need to successfully do my job. And he’s very supportive.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINTER SPORT (TO WATCH OR PLAY)?

I’ll definitely watch football. My passion is playing golf, but that’s not really a winter sport, is it?

WHAT IS ONE BUCKET LIST TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU HOPE TO VISIT THIS YEAR?

This year, we’re traveling to Greece. Greece has always been on my bucket list, and I look forward to experiencing all it has to offer.

Anthony Esposito

Co-Owner, Via Sposito / viasposito.com

Though Anthony Esposito took his first official restaurant job as a dishwasher in the 6th grade (where he would spend nearly a decade, working his way up the ranks), his fervor for the kitchen was born long before. The great-grandson of Italian-American immigrants, Esposito recalled cooking alongside his father before he was tall enough to peer over the stovetop, learning how to craft family recipes that had been passed down for generations. After college, he dabbled along the corporate route for a few miles, but eventually, all roads led him back to the restaurant industry. Today, he and his brother Vincent serve modern interpretations of their treasured family recipes at Via Sposito, a rustic-chic Italian eatery famed for bubbling margherita pizzas, authentic pasta Bolognese, and a family-centered dining experience. Esposito noted that guests will always find at least one of the brothers on site, greeting diners by name and sharing the day’s specials.

“It was the oven that sold us on the place,” said Esposito, detailing the old school, coal red pies topped with fresh mozzarella and pomodoro sauce, both made by hand each day. “We don’t use anything in cans, and we only use the best. All our tomatoes, prosciutto, and cheeses come directly from Italy.”

WHO IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODEL?

I have two: my dad and the owner of Portofino, Sal, who gave me my first job. I was under his wing for a long time as a kid, and he taught me so much about the restaurant business.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINTER SPORT (TO WATCH OR PLAY)?

Football.

WHAT IS ONE BUCKET LIST TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU HOPE TO VISIT THIS YEAR?

Italy. I still have family there, and I would love to experience the culinary culture firsthand.

John Coscia

President, AJC Advisors / ajcadvisors.com

For John Coscia, an independent financial advisor, and tax preparer since 1996, his fascination with numbers began at the dinner table, as a kid on his father’s lap, doing taxes. Coscia would one day grow up and inherit his father Angelo’s business as owner and president of AJC Advisors, but not before proving his mettle as a top-tier performer at a previous firm, where he was first registered. Some of his early career influences, Coscia said, were, “Initially my dad and one of his lifelong friends, George Krause, who was an accountant. Between the two of them, I knew that financial planning and tax preparation is what I wanted to do as a career. The business evolved from doing taxes into a full-edged financial firm.” With an unmatched work ethic and a keen knowledge of the financial markets, Coscia is registered in nine states with Series 7 and 63 registrations, while also holding insurance licenses in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida.

WHO IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODEL?

My dad Angelo Coscia who started the business.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINTER SPORT (TO WATCH OR PLAY)?

Football.

WHAT IS ONE BUCKET LIST TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU HOPE TO VISIT THIS YEAR?

Florida.

Joe Hernando

Co-Owner, Wahoo’s / wahoos.com/new-jersey

Restaurant ownership was never on the game plan for Joe Hernando, a seasoned accountant with two decades of experience in the business, working for big firms and prominent names like MTV Networks. But one bite of a fresh fish taco at Wahoo’s in 1998 changed everything, and for years Hernando and his wife dreamed of bringing the California concept back to the Garden State. “It was the first time either of us had ever had a fish taco,” noted Hernando, who stumbled upon Wahoo’s in Manhattan Beach while visiting his sister. “There was nothing like it on the East Coast.”

Two decades later, that dream came to fruition. Hernando introduced New Jersey to the famed fish tacos in January 2019, after teaming up with an old friend and restaurant industry pro, Remo Duchi Jr. Hernando knew numbers, while Duchi was skilled in restaurant operations. It proved to be quite the auspicious partnership. Located in Middletown, Wahoo’s serves hyper-fresh, Cali-style tacos, bowls, and burritos in vibrant, beach-chic digs. Everything is made from scratch and to order, explained the co-owner, and the tacos pair perfectly with an ice-cold margarita on the rocks.

WHO IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODEL?

I have three but they are more mentors than role models: Frankie Brusco, Victor Kuo, (formerly of Temple in Red Bank) and Eddie Mattiloi of IBO Construction.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINTER SPORT (TO WATCH OR PLAY)?

New York Giants Football.

WHAT IS ONE BUCKET LIST TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU HOPE TO VISIT THIS YEAR?

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Diane O’Friel

Chief Operating Officer, JAG-ONE Physical Therapy jagonept.com

Diane O’Friel never expected to find herself in the shoes she fills. She fell in love, though, with the relationships she made and the impacts she could have working in management, specifically in a practice that centers itself on recovery and helping people make progress toward a stronger, healthier life. She was able to use the business and communications knowledge from her formal education in order to move into a position where she was most needed.

O’Friel said she’s drawn to the ways in which her work allows her to help people find their place in their careers. She sees herself in a position of linking people, inspiring them to collaborate and learn from each other, even when their ideas may seem divergent at first. She uses her authority not to impose her ideas, but rather to understand and synthesize her colleagues’ different perspectives in the pursuit of catalyzing collective strength.

WHO IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODEL?

At this stage in my career, my professional role model would be our chief marketing officer, Kayla George. In today’s society, there is so much more demanded as professionals and in terms of role models, I really look to who inspires me to be the best possible version of myself. Kayla has done a great job navigating both her personal life as a mom of three and being a professional who continues to grow and evolve in the workplace. To see someone in a position like that, being a young woman in that position with all the hurdles thrown at her, it is truly inspiring to see the positivity, teamwork, and true dedication that she brings to work every day.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINTER SPORT (TO WATCH OR PLAY)?

My favorite winter sport to both watch and play is skiing. My husband and I have four children and from a young age we really bonded over the sport of skiing because it is something that we can all do together as a family.

WHAT IS ONE BUCKET LIST TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU HOPE TO VISIT THIS YEAR?

One bucket list travel destination that I hope to visit this year is Utah. I would love to travel out to the beautiful mountains of Utah with my family to hit the fresh snow tracks.