Wellness is EVERYWHERE HERE
Scores of Montclair entrepreneurs, together with health-related
non-profits, do all they can to keep residents in tip-top shape.
By Helen Lippman
Walk along Montclair’s main streets and its commitment to health and wellness is hard to miss: Yoga studios, gyms, massage therapy centers, restaurants touting organic and vegetarian options, and practitioners of traditional and alternative medicine dot the streets. All told, Montclair has 23 yoga and Pilates studios, 32 fitness centers, 14 acupuncturists, 26 chiropractors, 78 dentists, 117 personal trainers and 200+ physicians specializing in everything from pediatrics to plastic surgery to keep you looking and feeling your best.
It’s hard to say when this movement began or how it started, but it just keeps growing, with no end in the number of health and wellness enterprises eager to serve this health-conscious community. Cyclebar Montclair and Souled Out Fitness, both on Bloomfield Avenue, recently opened for business. Juice Culture on Valley Road in Upper Montclair opened last summer, started by a Mom who missed the healthy smoothies and juice joints she left behind in moving
from New York to Montclair.
Add to this a host of non-profits working to make Montclair a healthier place for people of every age and income level. Take Bike&Walk Montclair, whose members aim to make Montclair’s streets safer and encourage kids and adults to get moving. Its motto: Bikes and Feet on Every Street.
“We ’re concerned about people who don’t have cars and those who, like my daughter, might not be driving yet but need to get around independently,” says Laura Torchio, a past president and current board member. “Speed is more of a problem than volume,” she adds. So the group works with the township to support “traffic calming” measures—narrowing lanes and adding curb extensions, for example—which work better than speed limits to slow drivers down.
Farming promotes health, too. “There are two farms in Montclair and every school has a garden,” says Angelica Diggs, coordinator of Montclair Community Farms. Since 2011, well over 4,000 lbs of locally grown produce have been distributed to senior residents, and increasing numbers of youth have gotten involved. In 2016, a mobile farm stand built with funds from the USDA expanded the farms’ reach.
Another program, Aging in Place, set out to transform Montclair “from a good place to live to a great place to grow older.” Besides addressing issues like pedestrian safety, transportation and housing, Aging in Place launched the Montclair Institute for Lifelong Learning, featuring free exercise, art and educational classes for those 55 and up.
For some older residents, Montclair’s Seniors in Taxis program is the ideal health promoter. Josie Zeman, 76, goes to the Y on weekdays. But walking there, working out and running errands is too much. So she uses the discounted taxi vouchers—“For $15, I get $30 worth of rides”—to get to the Y. “Afterwards I can walk to the library or Whole Foods or wherever else I need to go,” Zeman says.
If the destination is a health-related facility, there’s no dearth of places to go.
Some, like Montclair South Dental on Orange Road, have been in town for years. Owner Fara Azar, DMD, bought the practice in 2006 after working there for a decade, her husband and office manager, Sahba Azar, says. The practice provides full-service dentistry, including cosmetic and restorative procedures, orthodontics, periodontics and traditional treatment. “We cater to people of all ages with all kinds of oral health needs,” he says. Noting that dental problems can adversely affect overall health, he adds, “We have a caring staff who care about our patients’ wellbeing. Their oral health and general health are what we focus on.”
At Lemongrass, a store and studio on South Fullerton Avenue that opened in 2015, the focus is on healing—through meditation, yoga, rituals involving ancient Tibetan singing bowls, and more. Owners Sylvia and Dhruba Neupane moved here with their children in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Nepal.Why Montclair? “I studied several towns and thought this was a good spiritual place,” Dhruba says. “It is a pleasure to bring our authentic culture and spiritual practice here.”
Church Street’s Sweetberry Bowls—called Playa Bowls until November, when owners Desi Saran and Frankie Lo Piccolo, rebranded—chose Montclair because it’s a health-conscious town. “We believe our super fruit bowl shop, which specializes in acai, pitaya (passion fruit), coconut and greens, provides a positive addition to the varieties of health food found here,” LoPiccolo says.
The latest addition? Healthy choices for pets. Lukas and Berube Healthy Pet Markets on South Fullerton Avenue opened for business a few days ago.