Double up. We’re matching your Newark First Fridays Indiegogo contributions March 23rd through 25th!

Newark First Fridays are coming to town in May. Part street festival, part art walk, and part market, it promises to be the coolest monthly party in town. Contribute to First Fridays Indiegogo campaign March 23rd through March 25th, and will double our collective impact up to $750!

Curated vintage clothing and lifestyle shop opening at The Gateway Project in Newark

culture cardSince its launch last year, Gateway Project Spaces has been home to art exhibits, a culinary show, writing workshops, parties, and performances.

Now the spaces will add a new category to their roster: vintage clothing shop.

The new Reginald Parks Men’s & Women’s Vintage Shop will open at Gateway Project Spaces, located on the main concourse of 2 Gateway Center, next Friday, February 26th. The shop is the brainchild of Peter Winstead, Jr, who is both an accomplished recording artist and the creative director of brand strategy firm The Honors Program, which has produced the successful Guard d’Avant festival for two years in a row at Military Park (the festival will return this summer), and curated music events and programming for the 2015 Open Doors arts festival, The Gateway Project’s Winter Fête, and the Newark Business Hub’s launch event.

The name of the shop is an homage to two of Winstead, Jr.’s personal heroes who together represent the top tier in commerce and taste: Reginald Lewis, the first black person in America to build a billion-dollar company, and Gordon Parks, a renaissance man of the arts who was the first black American to direct and produce major motion pictures.

Although Winstead, Jr. and the Honors Project are perhaps best known for music and event production, Winstead, Jr. actually worked first as a fashion stylist, as a marketing consultant for brands like And 1, and in sales and management for high-end labels and boutiques including Schott Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and Pieces NYC. “Its been a long-time dream for me to one day open my own shop, and now here we are!” he said in a recent email announcing the pending opening.

In a callback to his music and event production chops, Winstead, Jr. will also be infusing his own taste into a curated series of live music and other events, one of the benefits of co-locating his shop at The Gateway Project, he said. (Another: direct connection to Newark Penn Station, which offers potential channel to customers and audiences further afield of Newark.) The February 26th kickoff event, dubbed “The Kickback,” will feature live music performances and DJs.

In the runup to launching, Winstead, Jr. has hosted a series of “Cocktails and Garments” preview events at the location on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. With music, cocktails, and Winstead, Jr. himself on hand to walk patrons through the various vintage sartorial choices available at the shop, the events are meant to project the vibe of store once it’s fully launched.

Reginald Parks Vintage Boutique is located at Gateway Project Spaces, Suite 201 in 2 Gateway Center.

Financial expert Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche’s free “Live Richer Challenge” is back with a focus on savings

Personal finance expert and educator Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is back to help people fix their finances for the new year. Aliche will launch the 2016 Live Richer Challenge: Savings Edition on January 4, 2016. The 2016 Live Richer Challenge is a free, online financial challenge created to help thousands of women work towards their savings goals in 22 days.

As part of registration for the previous 2015 Live Richer Challenge, all participants were required to complete a comprehensive survey that identifies their demographics, current financial status, and financial goals. The number one financial goal chosen by women who participated in the 2015 Live Richer Challenge was to increase savings. As a result, savings is the primary focus of the 2016 Challenge.

“In 2014 women across the country began reaching out to me asking for help.  I spent a year creating a resource that would teach them how to shift their mindset, budget, save, pay down debt, increase their credit score, adjust their insurance, and begin investing,” said Aliche.

“In 2015, I launched the Live Richer Challenge in response to their request. The Challenge is more than money, it’s a movement, it’s an online community, a positive change and a supportive environment,” she continued.

The 2015 Challenge exceeded expectations by reaching over 20,000 women internationally. These women collectively saved over $4 million and paid off more than $500,000 worth of debt, and one-third of participants opened a new savings account. The Challenge’s success granted Aliche the opportunity to participate in three national tours: her 10-city Live Richer Tour, MSNBC “Know Your Value” Tour on behalf of Prudential Financial Inc., and Chevrolet’s Money Wise Tour.

To date, the 2016 Challenge has over 40,000 participants signed up, with over 1,000 sign-ups daily. All participants will receive daily Challenge emails with financial tasks and reminders in the New Year. There is also a 24-hour online forum for participants seeking assistance, motivation, and accountability.

For additional information on the Live Richer Challenge, please visit

Latest exhibition at The Gateway Project put the ‘art’ in culinary arts

This past Thursday, creative entrepreneur and branding consultant Abbi Yeboah treated attendees to an artistic display of food from local restaurants and culinary artists. Amongst the ongoing art exhibition at Newark’s Gateway Center, Yeboah curated her own food-oriented art show as the chefs turned what would normally be a conventional meal to a full-on art display.

Culinary Arts at The Gateway Project

Attendees and restauranteurs mingle at The Gateway Project, September 17, 2015.

“I wanted to do a mini art exhibition with the food, and then after looking at the art, people can eat the art. It’s just my fun twist on having an art show,” said Yeboah.

In order to achieve this, Yeboah instructed the featured chefs to let go of any inhibitions in order to create a drool-worthy art spread with their food.

“I asked the chefs to get really crazy and very creative. I told them to pick any theme that they wanted and to go all the way with it,” said Yeboah.

This resulted in nautical themed fruit platters and cupcake shaped meatballs, a testament to the dexterity of food and the creative minds of Yeboah’s selection of chefs. With cuisines of varying specialties and chefs with different backgrounds, attendees were treated a bevy of food options to admire and ultimately eat. As guests sampled the art, they were serenaded by the musical stylings of Jazz artist, Anthony Pocetti and singer, Lucine Yeghiazarryan.

Instead of focusing on hugely popular food franchises, Yeboah sourced some of Newark’s hidden culinary gems. From a mobile café with a kink for specialty coffee, to a confectionary company with an aim to put a healthy spin on your favorite sweets, the selection was a homegrown representation of the city’s dynamic culinary offerings.

“I wanted people in Newark to realize that there were some talented chefs in their area. Newark is growing with so many new tastes and cultures, and I wanted people to sample that,” said Yeboah.

Featured restaurants:

The Greater Newark Conservancy offers access to fresh produce, essential skills, and community

With supermarkets few and far between, access to fruits, vegetables and other naturally sourced food items are limited for Newark residents.

The Greater Newark Conservancy isn’t a supermarket by any stretch, but it is finding a way to help close the fresh produce gap in the city, while also engaging residents in environmentally conscious education and community farming programs.

“Community gardening and growing fresh food isn’t a new subject, it’s something that has been going on for a long time in Newark and in other parts of the country,” said Robin Dougherty, executive director of the Conservancy.

But with an influx of fast food availability, some residents found it easier to eschew homegrown food for greasier fare. That is, until a new consciousness encouraged some to seek out much healthier alternatives.

“I think many things happened at one time to revive the community gardening movement,” said Dougherty, who credits food contamination issues that plagued the country in the 90’s, economic instability and, more locally, former Newark mayor Cory Booker as some of the reasons for the resurgence of interest in produce grown in the community.

HarrietTubmanGardenCelebration2015 033

Harriet Tubman Garden Celebration, 2015

“Mayor Booker supported a lot of community gardening initiatives. He wanted people to make good use of the land in the city because it belonged to the community,” Dougherty explained.

The conservancy’s Plot-It-Fresh program does just that. With farms scattered all over the city, most notably the Court Street Urban Farm behind the Krueger Scott Mansion, the conservancy took some of the city’s open land and turned it into community farms where resident’s can rent a plot of the land for a yearly fee of $10. The fee also covers access to gardening and farming education to help residents make the most of their new plots.

“It’s a very positive use of the land because it brings the community together, and it gives people who don’t necessarily live next door to each other the opportunity to get to know each other,” said Dougherty.

The community gardens also give the residents a chance to be involved in the beautification of their own city. According to Dougherty, this sense of ownership and responsibility is one that has yielded fruitful results in the fight to make Newark a little cleaner.

“For example, bringing a community garden into a neighborhood often means that dumping stops in that area. There are many ways you can use community gardens to help neighborhoods,” Dougherty explained.

“Gardening is more than planting food, it’s also exercise. So we’re promoting good health not just by encouraging clean eating, but also by the process of producing your own food,” she continued.

Alongside clean eating and physical activity, the Conservancy works with the city’s youth and at-risk adults by involving them in programs like Clean and Green and the Newark Youth Leadership Program. Both programs employ Newark residents on an internship or employment basis and expose them to landscaping skills, horticultural activities, and other educational programming.

“Although the space is a community garden,” said Dougherty, “it is also a space to gather people together for all kinds of intergenerational activity.”

Images courtesy Greater Newark Conservancy


Celebrate the Art of Food with Newark restaurants and culinary experts at The Gateway Project this month

The fall series “The Art of …” kicks off in downtown Newark next Thursday, September 17 with “The Art of Food,” the first of four events hosted by local artistic event creator Abbi Creative.

The Art of Food, co-hosted by Food Snobbery and Brick City Eats, will have attendees sample new dishes, popular menu items, and catering options from Newark restaurants. The event is meant to spotlight “the amazing culinary opportunities that the residents, employees and visitors of Newark have around them to partake,” The Gateway Project said.

Some of the restaurants that will be featured at The Art of Food include Commerce Downtown Kitchen, Mama WaWa’s sweet Eat’n, Mercato Tomato Pie, and SugarCoated Affairs. There will also be some giveaways from restaurants including Eat Me up Cuisine by Chef Alexia Grant, and Dinosaur Barbecue.

The event will also provide networking opportunities, and include a live band, a cash bar, and games such as “Food Bingo,” and “Guess the Ingredient.”

“The Art of…” series is a project created by creative entrepreneur Abbi Yeboah, inspired by her new location operating out of the Gateway Project, an art gallery and studio space. The series will follow with events featuring the art of shoes, beards and wine.

The Art of Food will be held at The Gateway Project, located at 2 Gateway Center in Newark. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and tickets are $20. You can RSVP online here. For more information, call (973) 977-8799 or email

Featured image by John Tornow via Flickr, Creative Commons 

Alfred “King Pikeezy” Dill curates culture and mentors youth in Newark

Newark native Alfred Dill is a man who wears many hats: artist, community organizer, and mentor. But as diverse as his titles may appear, they are all an extension of his multifaceted relationship with the city of Newark.

Dill, or “King Pikeezy” as he is known to many, is what one would call a renaissance man or, in his words, a “griot.” In addition to identifying with the term personally, 32-year-old Dill stamps his latest musical endeavor, Young Griot EP, with the term as well.

“Griots were like the keepers of culture. These were people who went out and traveled and came back to the village to tell people about the stories of their travels,” said Dill.

“A lot of them were musical, so I just repurposed that idea. With all the things I’m doing I was like, ‘I’m going to be the young griot,’” he continued.


Alfred “King Pikeezy” Dill, center, wields a bullhorn at the Occupy the City rally on August 8, 2015. His daughter, right, holds a placard proclaiming “Peace” and “Love,” inscribed in a peace sign.

Dill is a graduate of Morehouse College, or “The Black Mecca,” as he calls it. His time at the historically black institution only intensified his innate inclination towards social awareness, one that was seeded during his childhood growing up in Newark’s West Ward.

“Growing up, I was just like every other teen. I got involved with the stereotypical things that were going on in the community. But being involved in different things helped me find myself,” said Dill. “I went to Newark Boys Chorus School and I was traveling a lot [with the school] from the 5th grade [on], so I was also exposed to a different lifestyle. So when I would come back home from these trips, it was like night and day.”

Performing at bar mitzvahs and black-tie events at such a young age showed Dill how far his talent could take him, and inspired him in his adulthood to pay that experience forward by cultivating young talent and encouraging at-risk youth in the city.

Enter Dill’s non-profit organization, Stop Shootin’ Music.

“Music is my forte, and I just wanted to do something positive for the community. I wanted to use music to bring some positive energy to at-risk teens,” he explained.

The organization, which functions as a collective of Dill and his friends, brainstorms creative community events to keep teenagers engaged and off the street. “We want to make it popular to be positive, you know?” said Dill.

A scroll through the group’s Facebook page will surface a public service announcement from 2013, in which Dill implores community members to attend a Toy Gun Exchange program organized by the group. Children and parents are expected to exchange toys that promote violence for basketballs, books and other positive material. Then-mayoral candidates Ras Baraka, Shavar Jeffries, and Anibal Ramos, among other Newark notables, make cameos in Dill’s video to promote the event.

With branded gear, engaging events and musical stylings that are sure to pique the interest of millennials, Dill wants to show that positivity, community involvement, and fun aren’t mutually exclusive.

“I want to be the balance. I want to use my music and my talent to stir the community in a good way,” Dill said.

Dill’s youthful foray into this realm was somewhat accidental. After a happenstance meeting with then-mayor Cory Booker, Dill became actively involved in the “Fathers Now” initiative. The program helped prepare young black men for fatherhood and ultimately an active role in the community. Dill excelled in the program, and was honored with the title “Father of The Year.”

fathers nowDill, center, shakes hands with Lavar Young, then president of the now-defunct nonprofit Newark Now, at the Father’s Now awards ceremony in 2011. Educator Dr. Steve Perry poses on the right.

“I saw how people were responding to me after I got involved [in the community]. It was a great feeling to be recognized by people for doing something good. It showed me that you don’t have to be on the street for the community to recognize you,” said Dill.

Dill’s musical endeavors are laced with the same awareness that is alive in his activism. During a performance at the weekly Co-Lab Open Mic at downtown Newark’s SEED Gallery, where Dill is a curator, Dill’s evocative words and spirited performance permeated the room. He delivered charged lyrics with deft movement, while eliciting responses from the crowd ranging from vigorous head nods to claps and brows furrowed in deep thought: all an affirmation that his audience identified with the stories Dill told.

“I want people to say, ‘I’m thinking when I’m listening to Keezy,’” he explained.

Dill uses the city’s storied and varied history with everything from art and music to crime as the building blocks of his work. In one of his recent videos, Young Renaissance, viewers get a glimpse of Newark’s downtown area, with the city’s infamous arcade making an appearance.

Dill said he hopes his love affair with Newark will one day manifest into a tangible space where he can continue to do the work he’s doing now, but on a larger scale.

“I would like to create a community center, but not just any community center. With everything that’s going on in Newark and the resurgence of the art community, I want to create a space for kids where they can get a balance of education and art,” said Dill.

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have that. You got off the bus after school and you went home. I don’t want that. I want to do something different.”

All images provided by Alfred “King Pikeezy” Dill

Scene: Co-Creating in Newark at Co-Lab Open Mic

Work by Newark artists line the exposed brick walls of Seed Gallery, located on the third floor of a Market Street walk-up downtown Newark.

But Seed doesn’t just showcase the work of Newark’s visual artists. At 8 p.m. every Tuesday night, Newark-area singers, instrumentalists, spoken word artists and rappers trudge up the gallery’s steep and narrow stairs, some with instruments in tow, to participate in Co-Lab, an event that is parts open mic, art show, and concert.

seed gallery tableau

Above: A sampling of Co-Lab’s weekly flyers

Seed Gallery founder Gizem Bacaz describes the weekly event as “a fusion of different vibes, all created by chance.” Since the gallery’s inception in 2007, Bacaz and her team have used the space to encourage local artists of all genres to showcase their work. Co-Lab is a weekly manifestation of Seed’s mission.

“Seed is not your cookie-cutter art gallery,” said 33 year-old Bacaz before last week’s open mic. “It’s more involved, and there’s more life to it.”

In addition to their gallery setting, the key appeal of the Co-Lab open mics is that audience members and performers can’t predict how the evening will take shape. Instead, both parties co-create the show as it goes along.

This particular night, dim lights and the seductive sounds of R&B set the tone for the evening as performers take the stage. The mix was eclectic: soulful musings about natural hair in one performance; stories culled from the streets of Newark and reenacted on stage in rap form in another.

“What happens at Co-Lab is the turning of your life into art. That’s really what it’s all about,” said Bacaz.

Co-Lab is intended as a safe space where the line between art and life is blurred and where artists find themselves dissecting history, politics and society in the name of performance. According to Bacaz, this differentiates Co-Lab from any other open mic on the scene.

“Co-Lab isn’t just an open mic, it’s a full fledged experience,” Bacaz concluded.

R. J. Hoppe continues 40-year-old legacy of custom wood furniture making in Newark headquarters

On North 5th Street near Park Avenue, there sit a slew of multifamily homes, mobile fruit and vegetable trucks stocked with jeweled green avocados, and a warehouse, nondescript except for the yellow “R. J. Hoppe, Inc.” lettering adorning the squat building’s flat, brown awning.

But what the building lacks in outward appeal, the carefully crafted, high-end wares and deep history inside more than make up for. R. J. Hoppe is a 40-year-old woodwork and furniture making company here in Newark, and its 12,500-square-foot warehouse is where Rolf Hoppe, the company’s president and only son of its now-retired founder, can be found on a weekday afternoon, perhaps working on a coffee table that he will ship to a customer in Nantucket the following week.

Hoppe is a graduate of New York’s Pratt Institute, one of the world’s foremost higher education institutions for design and architecture. But his woodworking education started at his father’s company, where his “entry-level” work entailed sweeping floors in the warehouse when they set up shop at their current location in 1975 (the company was incorporated in 1968). Sixteen years later, Hoppe assumed his current position as the company’s president.

Rolf Hoppe 5

“I’ve been working summers and winters since I was ye big, sweeping floors, picking up nails, rolling up extension cords, the whole thing. That’s kind of how I grew to know architectural woodwork,” said Hoppe.

At a time when consumers are quick to go the Ikea route, companies like Hoppe’s, which employs the use of mixed metals and exotic wood veneers, can have a difficult time connecting with the average furniture shopper.

“There are few architectural woodworking contractors out there that do what we do. A lot of them have already gone under,” Hoppe said. “I don’t know what the future holds for the business. There are spots here and there in terms of work, but from what I can tell, this area has been hit hard,” he continued.

Rolf Hoppe's Father

Rolf Hoppe poses with his father.

As Hoppe thumbed through images of past work, it became clear why the herd of bespoke furniture outfits like his has thinned out. Hoppe’s portfolio boasts high-end commercial and residential projects that can set a customer back a couple thousand dollars.

From systems furniture for companies like Goldman Sachs, to residential projects for international celebrities, R. J. Hoppe’s work definitely suits customers of a particular taste and budget. Customized display cases, built-in bookshelves, and outdoor metal installations are among the types of projects the company takes on for its customers, which have included schools, banks, and retail stores, in addition to residential work.

“What really sets us apart is a particular attention to detail,” Hoppe said. “I think that the only reason we aren’t getting the work we should be getting is because we’re being underbid by contractors and people who will do a cheaper job — but not as good a job as us.”

Hoppe credits his dedication to craftsmanship to his roots. His father relocated to New Jersey from Germany after the Second World War, and quickly began work as a cabinetmaker in Newark.

“My father was about 15 when the war ended, and at that time you only had two choices – go to school or learn a trade,” said Hoppe. “He knew he had a gift for working with wood, so he explored it. And when there were still no jobs in Germany, he moved here.” Forty years after the founding of R .J. Hoppe, the warehouse still houses work created by Hoppe’s father.

Hoppe said that although the company’s core values around hand crafting, sharp attention to detail, and workmanship remain the same, he is infusing his own modern-day acumen into the family business, with hopes of staying ahead of the continuously changing industry. While his core customer territory radiates 50 miles from his Newark furniture shop, Hoppe said he hopes in particular to partner with local architects and designers in Newark to help source more local jobs, and to add texture to more of the city’s interiors with some of his company’s homegrown, custom-made style and craftsmanship.

R. J. Hoppe is located at 340 N. 5th Street in Newark, and can be reached online at, and by telephone at (973) 485-5665.