GARDEN STATE LUMINARIES SHARE FAVORITE FASHION DESIGNERS, WHY THEY LOVE FALL, AND WHAT EXCITES THEM FOR THE FUTURE OF THEIR INDUSTRY
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI, JESSICA JONES GORMAN, ARCHANA AITHAL ROSE, AND AMANDA MCCOY • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC AND ERIC COLEMAN
Jim Caruso was working in the restaurant industry in the early ‘90s when he came across an advertisement for a position with an automotive dealership. Charmed with the idea of trading his onerous 80 hour work weeks for a little more stability, he applied.
“Nearly 30 years later, and here I am,” laughed Caruso, who has spent the last 18 of those years with Paul Miller, an authorized Rolls Royce Motor Cars Dealer and Bentley Parsippany.
Now the general manager, Caruso’s daily responsibilities center on managing the ulta luxe inventory (where the average starting price on a new set of wheels exceeds $300,000) and ensuring complete customer satisfaction. To the GM, this sacred duty extends far beyond making sales.
“What makes us stand apart is the personal touch. We have a very unique clientele, and we focus on the customers’ needs and what really works for them. We customize the car to their lifestyle. Our clients are such a pleasure to work with; we develop real relationships with them, and it’s so much more than selling a car.”
Michael and Matt Duru
Owners, Michael Duru Clothiers, michaelduru.com
His personal philosophy is, “Never forget to support your community around your business. One of the key things to remember is who helped you get to where you are today,” and Duru’s actions hold true to this duty. The owner of the successful made to measure men’s clothing boutique is also an avid philanthropist his most recent generosity was providing masks to the medical community during the peak of the pandemic and strives to continue to give back to his local Monmouth County.
As clothiers, Duru and his brother and business partner, Matt, focus on creating an inclusive experience that unearths and honors each client’s personal style.
“Fashion should be an in person experience involving touch, feel, and try on,” he noted. “Nothing wrong with getting inspiration and ideas from social media platforms, but the final purchase should be made in person with expert tailoring.”
Co-Founder, R3 Ventures, r3ventures.com
In the early ‘90s, brothers Kosta and Demetri Rexinis changed the face of nightlife in New Jersey with the launch of Club Abyss. Enticing an entire culture of club kids to cross two bridges and journey deep into the state to dance in a 15,000 square foot nightclub on Route 35 in Sayreville wasn’t an easy task, but they did it.
“Our business was built the old fashioned way hard work and honest work ethic,” noted Kosta Rexinis.
Born in Greece and raised in Staten Island in a very traditional Greek family, Rexinis credits his parents as his inspiration.
“My parents are at the core of who I am today. They always taught my brother Demetri and I that ‘laziness is a disease.’ My family is my driving force.”
The Rexinis brothers soon put NJ on the nightlife map, and after expanding their empire to include other boutique properties, they launched R3 Ventures, a marketing company that encompasses all the brothers’ brands and produces/promotes events throughout the tri state area. In recent years, the Rexinis brothers have added some restaurants to their lineup, including Over Easy Kitchen in Marlboro, Holmdel, and soon to be Fair Haven.
“We took what we learned from the nightclub world and applied it to these restaurants. It’s a whole different type of experience you don’t just come here to eat or watch a game. You come here for the great menus and for the social experience.”
Founder & Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action cleanoceanaction.org
Born while her parents moved from Staten Island to Middletown, Cindy Zipf ’s love of the ocean began as she sat in a bucket of seawater while they fished from the family boat. Growing up, her favorite television show was The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. By sixth grade, she decided to become a marine biologist. While attending the University of Rhode Island, Zipf interned with the National Marine Fisheries Service at Sandy Hook, where she experienced the impacts of offshore drilling.
“The suffering and harm I witnessed taught me an invaluable lesson I did not want to be a scientist, but rather use science to protect marine life,” she said. Contact with the coastal advocacy group American Littoral Society, and related organizations fighting ocean dumping (now over 120), led to the birth of Clean Ocean Action in Zipf ’s apartment over a Sea Bright hardware store in 1984. With a staff of eight today, COA works the New Jersey/New York coastal region as well as on the state and federal level through science, research, and education, blocking offshore drilling and industrialization.
“Our mission is to clean up the ocean with action,” she explained, calling her crew “incredible, feisty, fearless, and relentless.” Once small groups doing annual beach sweeps have grown to thousands conducting myriad activities annually. Today, the Jersey coast supports thriving marine life, including whales and dolphins, and, “Swimmers can see their toes, which was once considered an unfathomable dream,” said Zipf.
“Thanks to COA, our region has gone from being the ‘Ocean Dumping Capital of the World’ to a premier international destination with a value of over $20 billion. Life on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. It’s where we live, work, and play, and is only as clean as the next generation makes it.”
Clean Ocean Action will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a virtual event October 22. The next beach sweep is October 24.
Vice President, Coldwell Banker New Homes cbnewhomes.com
Early in life, Schoner was drawn to “save our cities.” After studying public administration and urban planning in college, he went to work for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Community Development and managed a downtown revitalization program. “I was enamored with the outward change in towns and the corresponding quality of life it generated,” he recalled.
Five years later, he entered the private sector conducting market feasibility studies for builders and banks, where he was “impressed with the development team collaboration process and the ability to be a part of something exciting and new. It also paid better.”
The Denville native embarked on a 30 year career leading successful teams in acquisition analysis, product development, marketing strategy, and sales and leasing of residential developments in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York State. As the former president of Schoner Research, he also owned the New Jersey Home Guide, winning a Media Excellence Award in 1996. The awards kept coming, including Marketing Director of the Year by the NJ Builders Association in 2003, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018. He has been featured in the New York Times, Money Magazine, Builder Magazine, and is a member of several organizations, including the National Association of Home Builders, the Sales and Marketing Council, and more.
General Partner and Co-Founder, Urban Coalhouse urbancoalhouse.com
This Brooklyn native was always enticed by the idea of opening a restaurant and bar, but his vocational journey would first lead him to Wall Street. He found success, and after amassing enough capital to realize his ambitions in hospitality, Cameron opened Urban Coalhouse in Red Bank along with his three partners. It was 2009, but even amidst the foundering economy, the venture was a hit with Monmouth County patrons, and the restaurant has since expanded to two additional locations, with plans for more in the works.
“It’s the type of place where people can go wearing a suit or shorts and flip flops,” explained the Urban Coalhouse co-founder. “It’s a family oriented restaurant, and I think the quality of the food really sets us apart.”
While the rustic chic eatery is famed for its bubbling coal red pizzas, Cameron implores first time diners not to ignore the wings, made with the restaurant’s signature dry rub and smothered with oven roasted onions. Just about everything on the menu is made from scratch, from the marinara to the salad dressings.
Executive Chef, Beach Tavern, beachtavern.net
Mansfield first started cooking in his teens under the tutelage of an Italian chef who owned and operated his own restaurant. Working first in the front of house, he really found his passion once he moved into the kitchen.
“I think the business chose me,” he noted. “My father told me to get a job I did, in a restaurant, and the rest is history. Luckily for me I have a love of food; I honed my craft, and I still enjoy it.”
While working in the gourmet room of Medici at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Mansfield attended the Academy of Culinary Arts. His first professional gig was at Il Giardino Ristorante in Lacey Township under Chef/Owner Giovanni Crescenzo and Mans field has cooked and worked in several notable locations since. He spent time at Medici with Salvatore Cristofaro then at Scalini Fedeli in Chatham with Michael Cetrulo. Jobs at Le Mer at the Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii with Yves Garnier, Tribeca and Basil T’s (now Birravino) with Victor Rallo followed.
Mansfield opened Sirena Ristorante, Stella Marina, and Cubacan as working partner and executive chef. Together with George Chrysanthopoulos he crafted a menu for Beach Tavern in 2015, where he is currently at the helm.
“At Beach Tavern we wanted to appeal to everyone and my menu does exactly that.”
His cooking style is best defined as simple and well executed, and Mans field enjoys working seasonally.
“Classic food and current trends all inspire me,” he said. “I love cooking, so choosing a ‘favorite’ dish is hard I gravitate toward the classics.”
Co-Creator, Great Restaurants NJ greatrestaurantsnj.com
Since conceiving his first concept restaurant, Cafe Colore with partner Robert Kash in 1992, Joseph Mosco has expanded his culinary repertoire with nine more sizzling spots with the Great Restaurants group across the Central Jersey area. Says Mosco of catering to a variety of palates, “When I was first starting out, I remember dining out in the city at Becco, Blue Water Grill, Union Square Café, and Cocco Pazzo in the Paramount Hotel. Their menus, décor, and service style have absolutely played a part in shaping some of the concepts within our own company.” Managing a cluster of revered, upscale restaurants successfully takes more than dedication and drive, as Joe opines. “It involves many moving parts and at peak times can become quite overwhelming. Day to day planning and team meetings help to keep things manageable and in perspective.”
President, Oceanside Service Inc. and Air Doctors oceansideserviceinc.com, air doctors.com
Even as a teenager, Nelson had clear goals for his professional future. Th e natural born entrepreneur knew he wanted to open his own HVAC business in the community he grew up in, so after finishing high school, he immediately enrolled in a technical institute to learn the ins and outs of the trade. After sharpening his skills with two HVAC companies, he opened Oceanside Service in Allenhurst, and his vision for serving Monmouth County neighbors came to fruition.
“We have the ability to make our clients’ indoor environment more comfortable and lower their utility bills,” explained the Jersey Shore native. “95% of our business is within 20 30 minutes of drive time from our office in Allenhurst, and that gives us the ability to see our clients out socially. They feel comfortable asking you a question whether you are in the supermarket, restaurant, or the gym.”
Oceanside offers sales, service, and installation for air conditioning, heating, ventilation, and commercial refrigeration systems, plus custom services. Its sister company, Air Doctors, opened in the mid-1990s and specializes in air duct cleaning and sanitization. Looking ahead, the owner is excited to continue growing the business along with his son.
“He’s in his tenth year with us, and we are starting to help make him the face of the business.”
Founder, Livoti’s Old World Market livotisoldworldmarket.com
The son of Italian immigrants, Livoti grew up with an ardor for food and the ways it brings people together, and he knew it would one day become an integral part of his career. “Food is love,” he noted. At a mere 11 years old, Livoti took his first job at a food market in Brooklyn, vowing one day he would open a supermarket of his own. at dream became reality in 2010 with the launch of Livoti’s Old World Market, his mission to bring an authentic taste of Italy to central Jersey.
A decade later, and the specialty Italian market has grown to three locations and expanded its gourmet selections to Italian cornerstones like brick oven pizza and sprawling olive bars. Other offerings include in house fresh made mozzarella, fresh baked bread, muffins, pound cakes, cookies, and more.
“It was always my dream to open my own market,” he explained. “And now that my children are adults, they all help me run the business. It’s a great family atmosphere that customers really enjoy.”
Owner, Indian Motorcycles of Monmouth indianofmonmouth.com
Mitro’s passion for motorcycling started at the ripe young age of five, when, “My mother took me for a ride on the back of her Honda Dream. Both my parents were riders.” It’s this insatiable need for speed and love for the machine that fuels the success of his partnered dealership, Indian Motorcycles of Monmouth, which celebrates the “long and distinguished heritage of a brand founded in 1901,” according to Mitro. His motorcycle shop fashions itself as a cool hangout spot for fellow enthusiasts with state of the art bikes, sports lounges, and even an outdoor cigar patio.