GARDEN STATE VISIONARIES SHARE THEIR MOST SAGE ADVICE, ULTIMATE SUMMER GETAWAYS, AND ALL-TIME FAVORITE MUSICIANS
BY SAMANTHA FARAGALLI YOUNGHANS, LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI, AND JESSICA JONES-GORMAN PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC, AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY, AND PATTY PIXELS
Owner, Avanti Day Resort / avantidayresort.com
Luda Conti’s personal approach to beauty and skin is based on an inside out philosophy that she inherited from her grandmother as a young girl growing up in Russia. “My grandmother used berries and eggs and organic ingredients that not only nourished you on the inside, but also worked wonders in improving your skin’s appearance on application,” she said. Since establishing Avanti in 1997, Conti has since built her spa and salon empire following a holistic and artistic vision, one that’s committed to all around wellness. “I believe in early intervention rather than late axes. Aging is inevitable, but being proactive at a younger age and caring for your skin can substantially stall the aging process. And ultimately, self-love trumps everything else; if you feel good, you look good and when you look good, you feel good.”
President, Garmany / garmany.com
Thanks to growing up around his illustrious father’s first store in New York City, at just 15 years old, Garmany visibly exhibited the perfect pedigree and air for putting together debonair head-to-toe looks for men. Since opening up the Red Bank location in 1989, he’s expanded Garmany’s rolodex to an extensive women’s line at the helm of an uber creative team, while still evolving his father’s initial concept to a much dressier and contemporary aesthetic. “Not to forget, more affordable,” Garmany said. “Ten years ago, nobody would’ve ever dreamt of buying a $550 suit from us. We still maintain a luxury price point; however, our opening points have gotten much more affordable.”
Director of Marketing, Landmark Hospitality / landmarkhospitality.com
From a very young age, Maddy Cretella has worked alongside her parents, Frank and Jeanne Cretella, veteran owners of several of New Jersey’s restaurants and catering facilities, dedicated to playing a hands-on role in creating life’s most memorable moments for Landmark Hospitality’s guests and team members.
After graduating with a double major in business management and public relations, Cretella found her niche in hospitality marketing, loving the excitement and creativity of the industry. Today, Landmark owns and operates a portfolio of distinctive venues, boutique hotels, and impeccable restaurants throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As director of marketing, Cretella is responsible for continuing to grow the Landmark brand as a leader in hospitality and business.
In 2018 she acquired her first venue, the Farmhouse, and brought it into the Landmark fold. Future plans for this property include a second event space and a 100-plus room hotel and restaurant. Cretella is also the founder of Morgan Stillhouse, a distillery coming soon to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. In addition to creating and executing community events for Landmark’s corporate giving program, H.U.G. (Help Us Give), Cretella is a key member to the nonprofit organization Art of Hospitality Workers Alliance, a foundation for the bene t of the industry and the people who dedicate their lives to hospitality
Chairman, President & CEO, Manasquan Bank / manasquan.bank
As chairman, president, and CEO of Manasquan Bank, James S. Vaccaro oversees the operations of 15 different offices and branches located in Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties. While he has worked in other fields, including the nonprofit sector, the majority of Vaccaro’s career has been as a leader within the banking profession, amassing more than 35 years of experience in the industry.
He served as chairman, president, and CEO of Central Jersey Bancorp, parent company of Allaire Community Bank and Monmouth Community Bank, which he helped found in 1998. For 13 years, he was employed by Central Jersey Bank and Trust Company and served in various capacities including executive vice president, treasurer, CFO, and member of the board of directors.
A leader in both civic and philanthropic organizations, Vaccaro is a member of both the board of trustees of RWJ/ Barnabas Health and the board (and former chair) of Monmouth Medical Center. He is also former chairman of the board for the Visiting Nurses Association of Central New Jersey, former member of the board of Trustees of Monmouth University, and currently sits on the advisory board of Interfaith Neighbors and the leadership council of Prevention First. Vaccaro has received the Monmouth University Distinguished Business Leader Award and the Long Branch Chamber of Commerce’s Louis G. Libutti Community Service Award for exceptional leadership, professional achievement, and stellar record of community service.
Realtor, RE/MAX The Real Estate Leaders therealestateleader.com
Since launching his career in 2003, Christopher Walsh has sold over $500 million in real estate. Known for his strong marketing skills and extensive knowledge of the New Jersey area, he has been helping clients successfully buy and sell residential and income-producing properties throughout the state for close to two decades. Recently recognized as the number one Middletown realtor in sales volume for 2019, he has remained in the top one percent for overall sales volume nationwide since 2013.
He has received the RE/MAX Distinguished Service Award, was inducted to the RE/MAX Hall of Fame in 2010, and was the recipient of the RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 at the age of 35. He also achieved the gold level of the NJAR Circle of Excellence Sales Award from 2010-2012 and excelled to platinum in 2013-2018.
A Monmouth County native, he earned a degree in business and environmental economics from Rutgers University. Without any roots or prior ties to the real estate industry, he closed nearly $10 million in sales during his first year as an agent, establishing a name for himself as an up-and-coming real estate entrepreneur.
A restaurant industry veteran with over 40 years’ experience and an extensive culinary background and training throughout all of Italy, restaurateur Joseph Cetrulo was inspired by the tastes of Italy when he opened the doors to Stella Marina on the Asbury Park Boardwalk and Sirena Ristorante on the water in Long Branch. His third restaurant, Cubacan, in Asbury Park, combines modern Cuban cuisine and contemporary Latin ambiance.
Cetrulo takes great pride in carefully crafting custom recipes for each of the nine restaurants that he has owned and operated since the young age of 22. Today, his Trinity Hospitality Group is comprised of three restaurants and Glynallyn, the Castle a century-old medieval castle t for a storybook a air and the location for many celebrity shoots and television and commercial filming. Glynallyn, the Castle is also Cetrulo’s private residence.
Owner and Optician, EYEDESIGN / eyedesignnj.com
Linda Cohen started working for an optical company when she was still in high school. “I didn’t know anything about the optical business; I didn’t even wear glasses,” she said. “But I became interested in all phases of the business. The more I learned about eyeglasses, the more excited I became. I could not see myself in a typical nine-to five grind, and this profession offered technical, business, and creative fashion aspects it had it all.”
From there, a position with one of the state’s “Guild Opticians” proved to be a perfect. “The wife of the owner was a designer for a top shoe company in Germany,” Cohen recalled. “Her interest was high fashion design. She was an innovator, and I was a quick study.”
After receiving her optical license and managing a store for years, Cohen opened EYEDESIGN in Deal. She eventually expanded to Red Bank in 1999.
“I am fortunate to have a sophisticated audience here that appreciates and enjoys the products and services we offer. All these years later I still have a passion for curating our collection of fine custom eyewear.”
Lois Nicotra and Richard Nicotra
Owners, The Nicotra Group, LLC / officespacestatenisland.com
When Lois and Richard Nicotra were newlyweds, Lois was working as an elementary school teacher and pursuing a master’s degree while her husband was building a business, Everything Yogurt.
“When we first got married, he was running his first store in Manhattan and asked me to help with the payroll,” she said, detailing the Everything Yogurt store that opened on Wall Street in 1976. “We lived in the tiniest two-room basement apartment then, and I did it all by hand, sitting on the edge of the bed using the ironing board as my desk.”
After opening a number of company-owned stores, Richard began to franchise the Everything Yogurt concept. Eventually it grew to encompass 250 stores nationwide. As the company grew, Lois had a choice – continue her teaching career or join her husband’s business. She chose the latter.
The Nicotras’ first corporate office was in Staten Island’s Port Richmond, and from there they decided to move the office to a desolate strip of South Avenue in 1993. The rest is history. After hosting conventions and sending potential franchisees to New Jersey hotels because there was no place to stay on the Island, the couple began researching the complexities of opening a hotel in the borough. After years of planning and construction, the Hilton Garden Inn opened in September 2001 four days after the horrific events of 9/11.
But in spite of the tragedy, the hotel managed to thrive. Today, in addition to the 200-room Hilton Garden Inn, the Nicotras’ Corporate Park encompasses ten Class-A office buildings, Nicotra’s Ballroom & Conference Center, Above, Above Rooftop, Lorenzo’s Restaurant Bar & Cabaret, and the 200-room Hampton Inn & Suites.
Corporate Commons Three, currently under construction, will feature 330,000 square feet of Silver LEED-certified office space and a social enterprise restaurant, “Pienza, Brick Oven Pizza Café,” which will donate 100 percent of the profits to Staten Island charities. The couple has awarded almost $1 million to non-profit organizations through their eponymous charitable foundation.
Today, the Nicotra Group is Staten Island’s largest private real estate development company and employs nearly 500 borough residents.
Dr. Peter Ferraro
Chiropractor and Owner, Ferraro Spine / ferrarospine.com
Dr. Peter M. Ferraro began his chiropractic career treating herniated disc injuries, becoming nationally recognized for his extensive work using non-surgical spinal decompression technology and manipulation therapies under anesthesia. He founded Ferraro Spine and Rehabilitation, a multi-specialty wellness practice with two locations in New Jersey, placing multiple facets of care and rehabilitation measures under one roof.
“I’ve been doing what I love for 25 years,” Dr. Ferraro said. “I was one of the early adopters of these newer technologies, and as I witnessed the relief they afforded patients, I continued to further my expertise to offer more.”
Offering chiropractic treatment, physical therapy care, nutritional counseling, acupuncture and athletic training, Dr. Ferraro’s 15,000-square-foot office encompasses a number of spaces for breakthrough sports injury treatments. The Chief Wellness Officer of the NFL Alumni Wellness Challenge, a unique wellness competition that connected NFL alumni with health specialists in promoting a health and wellness initiative, Dr. Ferraro works with a number of athletes to get them back into prime shape.
“I love what I do. Every day is a new chapter to me. I’m so happy to continually grow and expand, offering the best possible care to every single one of my patients.”
Administrator, Monmouth County / visitmonmouth.com
The first woman appointed Monmouth County administrator oversees a budget of over $490 million. She manages 65 county departments, 3,000-plus employees, a nationally accredited park system, a community college and vocational school system, and the largest library system in the state. Days are indeed busy for Monmouth Beach resident Teri O’Connor, who joined county government as a clerk in 1984. She served as deputy county administrator and acting county administrator before assuming the top title in 2010.
“I get to lead an amazing team that does so much for county residents,” said O’Connor, who has also served on the Ninth District Ethics Committee of the Superior Court as a public member. “From the highest levels and in each department, everybody pulls together every day.”
The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore recently elected her to a two-year term as chair of its board of directors. O’Connor will lead the 22-member board as they set direction and policy regarding leadership development for girls ages 5 to 18. “It’s extra special because I was a Girl Scout. It’s a tremendous challenge, but an incredible opportunity to help make young women the leaders of tomorrow, and keep them, their parents, and the philanthropists engaged.” A four-year board member, O’Connor was honored in 2011 as one of chapter’s Women of Distinction. With all that, she still finds time to volunteer with her granddaughter’s Brownie Troop.
Allan J. Sebar
Vice President, Precision Acura of Princeton / precisionacura.com
“We are one of the highest rated dealers in customer service nationwide and have won the coveted Acura Precision Team Award 21 times. I’ve been very fortunate with a fantastic team of very competent employees, right from technicians to sales staff, who work relentlessly not just to reach competitive sales targets, but also forwarding our business model, which is providing the best customer service to our clients. Our success so far has been the product of continuous communication and activities that keep my employees motivated. The business of selling cars is constantly evolving, with an obvious impact of technology. In addition to old school, loyal clients who are used to the more tangible experience, today’s millennial buyers are extremely well-educated, thanks to technology and the access to information. What it has done is amp up competition, because buyers today are spoiled for choice with options available at the click of a button. Sure, it’s kept us on our toes, but our core philosophy of providing a top-notch service that puts the clients first has been responsible for our consistent success.”
Dr. Anthony Lombardi
Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon / lombardiplasticsurgery.com
“Plastic surgery is an ever-evolving field. I attend several conferences per calendar year with some that are exclusive to board certified plastic surgeons, where we’re taught new techniques by plastic surgeons from around the world. This not only keeps our skillset a step ahead of all other cosmetic providers, but also adds to my professional repertoire a new technique or treatment that I love sharing with my sta and patients.”
“There’s been a palpable shift in patients’ needs, who are now looking for more advanced treatments with an emphasis on a youthful or physically toned appearance. ey seek more dramatic improvements, focused on ultimate results rather than the recovery time. I do a lot of breast augmentations all year-round, but they continue right into the summer months. I expect patients to be in a bathing suit and on the beach within three weeks following a breast augmentation procedure. It has a profound impact on their self-esteem and a positive body image. Add to that a few treatments with our newest muscle firming and tightening machine called Cooltone, and you just might have the summer body you’ve always dreamed of.”
Executive Chef, Owner Osteria Cucina Rustica, Brando’s, and Feast / osterianj.com / brandosnj.com / feastnj.com
Each one of Steven Botta’s restaurants is designed to feel like home. “I want all of my guests to feel like they’re dining with family,” he said. Botta, who together with lifelong friend Angelo Bongiovanni, owns and operates Osteria Cucina Rustica in Marlboro, Brando’s in Asbury Park, and Feast Italian Kitchen in Old Bridge, is a self-taught chef who learned how to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen. But before he became a restaurateur, he explored the world of finance “Everyone always told me, ‘You should open a restaurant,’” Botta recalled. “But I worked in the financial field for 12 years first.” He opened Brando’s Citi Cucina in 2012 and never looked back. Locally famous for his meatballs, Botta makes the gravy at both of his restaurants himself, filling it with small batches of his mother’s fried meatballs. “We have a huge following for it. The first time people try it, they love it,” the chef said, boasting that his meatballs are the best in New Jersey. “Everyone believes that their grandmother’s meatballs are the best they’ve ever tasted. Until they taste mine.”
President, The Marketing Directors / tmdre.com
When top developers need proven experts to design strategies that sell their properties, they turn to the Marketing Directors and its president, Jacqueline Urgo. Active in over 15 locations including Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark, Weehawken, Union, and New Brunswick, the firm has cultivated a reputation as one of the preeminent residential marketing, leasing, and sales consultants in the Northeast.
With over 30 years’ experience, Urgo is renowned for her analytical mind, leadership, and proficiency in planning and execution, proactively giving each a unique persona to stand out amongst competitors. Today, she oversees approximately 50 employees working on projects with top developers like KRE Group, Iron state Development, BNE Real Estate Group, Vornado, and 99 Hudson New Jersey’s tallest building.
“I still love what I do every day. It does not feel like a job but is a passion,” Urgo said. “I am most satisfied taking a project through its stages successfully, from architectural design to creating an impactful sales presentation, directing the strategy, and selecting the most effective sales team to ensure success. The design aesthetic must appeal to our target markets and be supported with a consistent, compelling message.”