NJR Chairman, CEO Downes to retire; Westhoven named successor

New Jersey Resources announced Friday its chairman and CEO, Laurence M. Downes, is retiring.

Downes said he will retire on Sept. 30 after spending 34 years with the company and 24 at the helm. NJR also announced Steve Westhoven will be succeeding Downes and will take over as CEO and president on Oct. 1.

The Wall-based energy provider, also the parent company of New Jersey Natural Gas, said Downes will continue to serve as chairman of the board until the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

File photo
Steve Westhoven will become CEO of New Jersey Resources.

Downes joined NJR in 1985 and was named treasurer in 1986, followed by vice president and treasurer in 1988. He was then promoted to senior vice president and chief financial officer in 1990 and executive vice president of NJNG in 1994. Downes was the named CEO, president and chairman of NJR’s board of directors in 1996.

“It has been a privilege to be a part of the New Jersey Resources family for more than three decades,” Downes said. “I’m grateful to the women and men of our company, past and present, who have made us the organization we are today. Their hard work has earned us 13 J.D. Power Awards — more than any other utility in New Jersey; significantly improved the performance of our delivery system; increased the value of our company more than tenfold and helped over 1,800 community service organizations annually across New Jersey. I know our team will continue to deliver on our commitment to our stakeholders for many years to come.”

Westhoven joined the company in 1990 and was named vice president of NJR Energy Services in 2004 and senior vice president in 2010. He was then promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2017, followed by president and chief operating officer in 2018.

“Larry’s outstanding leadership has driven strong performance at New Jersey Resources for more than three decades. His passion for customers, employees and the communities we serve has delivered consistent results. On behalf of the Board, we sincerely thank Larry for his contributions over the years.” said Donald L. Correll, lead director of NJR’s board. “The board is confident, under Steve’s leadership, we will continue to grow our business, serve our customers and communities, support our employees and deliver performance for our investors.”

Downes also served as chairman of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority board until resigning earlier this year.

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Time warp: When a company works around the globe, like Certara, the clock is always ticking

The clock tells her it’s the workday’s end, but Ellen Leinfuss knows better.

That’s because, as she commutes home from her company’s Princeton base in the evening, Australia is just hitting its stride.

Leinfuss is chief corporate affairs officer at Certara, which is a leader in an industry that calls for this sort of global timekeeping: pharmaceutical drug development.

And it’s becoming more and more necessary to keep a watch on what’s going on as far off as Australia as each day passes.

The United States, and the so-called Medicine Chest the company is based in, may still headline drug development efforts, but it’s not the only story today.

A provider of solutions that assist drug development from discovery through clinical stages, Certara has spread its services and products to about 1,700 companies, academic institutions and regulatory agencies in 60 different countries.

About 60% of its work is in the U.S., 30% lies in Europe and 10 percent (and quickly rising) is in Asia-Pacific.

“The U.S. is the largest market,” she said. “The second-largest would be (Europe), if you combined all of Europe into one. And then the third, in terms of developed markets, is actually Japan. China is also starting to come on strong. So, our business follows that same cycle.”

We like to recruit the top talent to our organization regardless of where they’re located. That’s how we’ve grown globally and how we’ll continue to.” — Ellen Leinfuss

There’s a head-spinning amount of agencies (and acronyms) that make the rules and decide whether new drugs pass muster. The three big ones are the U.S. FDA (Food & Drug Administration), the EMA (the European Medicines Agency) and the PMDA (Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency).

“They all learn from each other,” Leinfuss said. “Even if the FDA sets the standard, the rest aren’t required to follow. They collaborate.”

What these agencies all have in common, she added, is that they’ve all embraced the benefits of model-informed drug development. Simply put, this is the application of a wide range of models in drug development that lead the decision?making process and ultimately secure one of these agency’s approvals of a new medicine.

Leinfuss explained that, in the past five years, model-informed drug development “has migrated from more of an academic nicety to a regulatory necessity.” Now, almost every approved drug has leveraged it in some way, she added.

Certara offers guidance on this process, as well as related software for those with drug candidates. More than 90% of FDA-approved novel drugs over the past four years were supported by the company in some way.

Besides consultative services, Certara has distributes a line of software products to emerging markets for drug development such as Korea, Israel and Australia, which Leinfuss said have built sophisticated local pharmaceutical industries.

The company has a pool of about 850 employees, but they’re scattered throughout at least 15 countries due to the industry’s global proliferation. Many of those employees communicate with teams based in other countries remotely.

So that means they, like Leinfuss, often know what time it is on the other side of the world.

“We like to recruit the top talent to our organization regardless of where they’re located,” she said. “That’s how we’ve grown globally and how we’ll continue to.”

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Reach Certara at: or 609-716-7900.

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More than (a) fair: Construction Industry Career Day has built successful comeback around next generation

Labor unions and the employers they negotiate with in the construction sector both agree: They’ve got to build better bridges with Generation Z and its millennial predecessors. 

The annual Construction Industry Career Day is just that sort of opportunity.

Like other industries, the construction trade sits on the shaky workforce foundation of Baby Boomers a few years from retirement — meaning there is a tremendous demand for replacements.

So, the annual event, held at the end of May, is when those in the industry get to tell high school students why working in the sector provides a stable career with good starting salaries and benefits. Best of all? The kids have a career path without college debt. That’s especially relevant now that millennials are lugging around tons of it.

A student, top, gets hands-on experience building a wooden toolbox from a trade professional.

Jill Schiff, the executive director of operations at Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey, the organization that hosts the event in concert with other groups, busily coordinated the affair. And busily is the right way to put it — the event has grown tremendously.

“We see the word getting out about this, and not just to vocational schools,” she said. “This year, we have 75 different school districts coming here from all of New Jersey’s counties. That’s up from about 60 last year.”

This represents a triumphant return for the event. It was first started back in 2001 but was paused eight years later — in the middle of the country’s Great Recession — and only resumed two years ago.

“We had to put it on hold when the economy plummeted,” Schiff said. “We didn’t feel it was the right thing to do to bring people into an industry with around 40 percent unemployment. We were asked to bring this back in 2017 and we’ve had a lot of success with it since.”

Thousands of Garden State high school juniors and seniors, career guidance counselors and others showed up at the New Jersey Expo Center in Raritan Center to speak to representatives of trade unions and other industry groups about job positions in the sector. 

They also got to pound nails and smooth mortar at mock jobsites, exposing prospects for the first time to what it’s like to work in the industry. Today’s attendees are also able to experience the construction jobsites remotely through virtual reality and other simulation technology.

“You have to introduce them to this in a way that appeals to that generation,” Schiff said. “And our trades go out of their way to do that.”

Robert Lewandowski, communications director at New Jersey Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, said his organization and others haul in more of these devices every year to get attendees as close as they can safely be to construction equipment. Having technology be part of the students’ first impression of the industry is necessary, he said.

“It tells these students that this isn’t your grandparents’ construction industry anymore,” he explained. “I think there was a time you hired most construction workers from the neck down, mostly due to the type of work that carpenters and other trades were doing. But these jobs are more complex today.”

A student, left, gets a lesson in welding. ­

Although youth might be attracted to tech-minded industries, union leaders admit they’ve sometimes underestimated their patience for more tactile experiences. 

During last year’s event, for example, Lewandowski’s organization came in with the idea that high school students would be glued to their phones. So, his team figured they would be entertained by activities such as photo booths with hard hats and lumberjack-like beards for silly social media selfies.

They were wrong.

“It just didn’t work at all,” he said. “Rather than having their phones out, the kids were just so engaged; they wanted to get in there and practice building scaffolding or do pipe fusion.”

What works today might not tomorrow, but Lewandowski would put his money on authenticity remaining a constant in reaching the next generation of workers.

“I think kids today are suspicious of too much of a salesman,” he said. “They want to figure things out themselves — and they get to do that here at booths not filled with salesmen, but tradesmen. That resonates with them.”

Resonating with today’s young people isn’t just important for the continuation of the construction industry as it rebuilds a fast-retiring workforce. Lewandowski doesn’t have any illusions about every high school student attending Construction Industry Career Day and going out to buy a hammer the next day.

But the trade and its affiliated unions still want to nail the first impression, because that can last a lifetime.

“Ultimately, this isn’t just for the transaction involved in getting people into these careers, but it’s also about transforming peoples’ attitudes,” he said. “So, maybe when they go off to be an accountant, they can say they know what construction trades look like: It’s impressive and it’s an advanced career.”

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Americans love fruit snacks, and that has Promotion in Motion growing

A lot has changed in the world within the last five years, said David Nenner, but one important thing that has not: Americans love fruit snacks.

Nenner, who is senior vice president, regional manager at CenterPoint Properties, was speaking as Promotion in Motion Inc., a food manufacturer based in Allendale, broke ground for an 80,000-square-foot addition to its manufacturing operations.

PIM, best known for Welch’s fruit snacks, partnered with CenterPoint on the project.

“This new addition will address the needs of the company’s growing business and will eventually allow for increased production of the company’s signature fruit snacks,” Nenner said.

A group of about 80 employees, local business leaders and city officials were all in attendance as they stared out at the flooded plot of red dirt that spanned the length of a football field.

“After many studies by our business partnership, we have the proof and the numbers to show that whatever position you want filled, from entry-level to CEO, we can fill it here in Somerset County,” said Somerset County Freeholder Deputy Director Patricia Walsh.

Walsh said the partnership works closely with businesses from small to large, and in conjunction with the county college and vo-tech, to provide the workforce Somerset businesses need.

PIM CEO Michael Rosenberg spoke to ROI-NJ about his experience in attracting and retaining talent in the manufacturing sector over the past few years.

“It has been a challenge, but we’ve hired many local people as well as recruited people from other parts of the country,” Rosenberg told ROI. “If you walked into our factory, you’d find a lot of people from the Midwest and other parts that have moved here to work at our facility because finding the skillsets has been challenging.”

Rosenberg said it’s especially difficult for the really core factory positions like mechanics, machinists, electricians and PLC programming.

“This is not a blue-collar state, it’s a state of highly educated people,” he said.

Rosenberg said the state needs to think hard about if it wants more manufacturing jobs and how it can partner with business to drive those types of disciplines in schools.

“A factory job is a fantastic thing as a high-paying and dependable job,” he said.

The addition will address the company’s growing business and eventually allow for increased production of the company’s signature fruit snacks and entry into Gummi vitamins and other products. PIM says the additional space will allow for improvements in packaging, warehousing and operations.

Rosenberg, just like so many others, doesn’t appreciate New Jersey’s high taxes and unfriendly business climate but, just like so many others, has many other reasons why he enjoys doing business here.

“It’s close to my home and our corporate headquarters. The proximity is also fantastic. I love being close to New York, Philadelphia, the local airports and other transportation. I think about one-third of the U.S. population lives within miles of this facility, so it’s easier to attract people for both factory tours and employment,” Rosenberg said.

He said that, if New Jersey wants to attract more businesses, it needs to think about its policies and understand that, in order to be attractive, the state needs to not only be a pleasant place for people to do business but also be more competitive in comparison to other states.

PIM already has two facilities in the state, one with 175,000 square feet and the other with 325,000 square feet. With the addition of the 80,000 square feet, this facility in Somerset will be over 250,000 square feet when completed. Total investment into the project exceeded $30 million.

Rosenberg said the company didn’t even own a screwdriver when it first moved in.

“From an empty building to where we are now is pretty remarkable,” he said. “We’re the third-largest privately-owned employer in the food sector in the state; year after year, our company delivers double-digit growth and consumers eat about 100 packs of our product every second.”

Rosenberg said he started the business with $150 out of his college dorm room and, if he had known it would be this successful, he would’ve invested $200. He said he’s opening up the Welch’s fruit snacks factory tour and expecting about a million visitors a year, which he said would be a big boost to the local economy.

Rosenberg, who currently has 800 employees, couldn’t say how many jobs will be added with this new construction.

He said the facility operates 24/7 and will be available for some purposes around October. By next summer, it will be functional as a manufacturing facility and, six to 12 months after that, there will be a ribbon-cutting for the factory tour.

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Selective’s staff could double Branchville’s population … but many work remotely — just one benefit

There are some large employers that haven’t yet been compelled to move by the magnetic force of major metropolitan areas.

Selective Insurance has stayed put in Sussex County’s Branchville for about 90 years.

“We laugh and say that, when our employees come into work every day, they double the population of Branchville,” said Chalina Acosta, vice president of operations for the property and casualty insurance company.

And she’s hardly telling a joke.

Chalina Acosta

Of the company’s total 2,300 employees, more than 800 are based in Branchville. The small borough’s population is about even with that, according to recent census counts.

Although it may lack the public transit options of anywhere in the shadow of New York City, the insurance company’s large employee pool has the benefit of a reverse commute through Sussex County. The difference-maker for the young talent it’s bringing in, however, has more to do with flexible work arrangements.

“A lot of people at our company take advantage of the many opportunities here to work remotely,” Acosta said. “A lot of folks are primarily based out of their homes, so that mostly eliminates the commute.”

The company has done well enough for its employees that in a Forbes magazine survey of workers at large companies, Selective was recognized as one of the highest-ranking property and casualty insurance companies, earning it the designation among “America’s Best Mid-Size Employers.”

Acosta believes that’s owed to the opportunity for internal career advancement. That’s key for employees, regardless of which generational group they fall into.

That, as well as programs to help people pay back student loans as opposed to traditional tuition assistance, have made Branchville an unlikely destination for a lot of young individuals, many of whom never saw a future in the insurance industry for themselves.

“Not everyone wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Oh, the insurance industry is where I want to work,’” she said. “So, there’s a lot of what I’ll call campaigning involving our employees that go out and help people see what’s great about working in this industry.”

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Reach Selective Insurance at: or 973-948-3000.

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How success of Kearny Point project was key to $3M infrastructure grant for Kearny

The town of Kearny has received a $3 million federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Public Works program to redevelop and improve Hackensack Avenue into a high performing “green” street, seeing as the stretch of roadway serves as the primary entranceway to Kearny Point, a collection of more than 3 million anticipated square feet of coworking and flexible-use office space on 130 acres in South Kearny.

“To say that I am impressed with the local vision and the collaboration taking place here would be an understatement,” John Fleming, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, said Thursday on site at Kearny Point. “Through your efforts, this land is being reborn as a center for the pioneering companies of the new economy, providing a flexible, modern workplace and home to a diverse community of today’s creators.”

The EDA’s investment also will be matched by $1.3 million in local funds, Fleming added.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, from left, with John Fleming, assistant secretary of commerce, Hugo Neu CEO Wendy Kelman Neu and Hugo Neu Director of Development Mike Meyer.

“This is the type of true public-private partnership that the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration is eager to invest in,” he said.

Fleming attributed the success of one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the country to Wendy Kelman Neu, chairman and CEO of New York City-based Hugo Neu Corp., with the ongoing redevelopment representing an expected $1 billion in public and private investment into the site over the next decade.

Hugo Neu Corp., a recognized global leader in recycling, is the owner and redeveloper of Kearny Point.

“It is through your commitment and wisdom that this former maritime facility is being transformed into a cutting-edge, world-class innovation district and manufacturing hub,” Fleming said.

Neu said the announcement Thursday marked the celebration of an incredible milestone not only for Kearny Point but also for the long-term economic development goals of Kearny, as the funding goes toward a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-designated Opportunity Zone.

“We would not be here today without the hard work of the many stakeholders that understand that in addressing the infrastructural needs to support growing businesses at Kearny Point, we can take critical and meaningful steps to protect and enhance our natural environment,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said the federal grant was a wise investment in New Jersey infrastructure.

“The modernization of Hackensack Avenue will not only safeguard the area from future storm-related flooding, but will strengthen pedestrian and biker safety and lay the foundation for the economic revitalization and improved quality of life that this community deserves,” Booker said in a statement.

According to Mike Meyer, director of development at Hugo Neu Corp., the redevelopment of the roadway will include the planting of more than 20,000 square feet of grass, plants and trees; the creation of designated paths for both pedestrians and cyclists; new street light poles; and the implementation and improvement of overhead electric services and underground gas distribution system piping.

Designed by Bohler Engineering and Arterial Design Studio, the project also will reduce flooding and limit nonpoint pollution of the Hudson-Raritan watershed by rebuilding the roadway’s underground water distribution, stormwater and sewer systems.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said the roadway improvements, which are expected to be completed within a year and a half, are just the beginning.

“We will be submitting more applications and we will be able to show you results,” Santos said. “Bringing old industrial centers back to life to create more jobs should be our collective goal irrespective of state or party.

“We should be about economic growth in a responsible way that creates jobs — and Kearny Point is meeting that challenge.”

Kearny Point is the modern answer to developing the new economy, Neu said, made possible by the scrap metal trading business her late husband, John Neu, started with his father, Hugo Neu, in 1947.

Through various subsidiaries, Hugo Neu Corp. had developed more than 9 million square feet of industrial properties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California over its many decades in business, including the former Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. warehouse and distribution facilities in South Kearny.

Building 78 at Kearny Point.

When Hurricane Sandy left the site under four feet of water in 2012, the Neus decided to demolish and construct newer industrial buildings for distribution and logistics purposes. But with the passing of her husband in 2013, Wendy Kelman Neu, who had been working for Hugo Neu Corp. since 1980, unexpectedly assumed complete control of the historic riverfront site.

Neu ultimately decided to partner with Steve Nislick, former CEO of Edison Properties and now chief financial officer of Hugo Neu Corp., to reposition the company to invest, build and manage innovative businesses in recycling and real estate, starting in 2015 with the renovation and construction of four floors of flexible-use office space between 200 and 3,000 square feet at Building 78, a 200,000-square-foot building at Kearny Point.

Starting at nearly $500 per month, small to medium-sized businesses now have 24/7 access not only to high-quality, scalable office space in which to grow, but also coworking space, rooftop event space, a café and bar, internet technology services, printer, scanner and copier services and package delivery and receipt services for a fraction of the cost of what they would find in New York City, Newark, Hoboken or Jersey City, Nick Shears, director of leasing and marketing for Hugo Neu Realty Management, said.

Having reached more than 95 percent occupancy within a year and a half without the use of brokers in 2017, Building 78 at Kearny Point now hosts more than 200 businesses and nearly 500 employees, Shears added, with the majority of tenants being women- and minority-owned companies.

Building 78 has proven so successful, in fact, that an annex consisting of 90,000 square feet of small flexible-use office space is currently being constructed to expand the building’s footprint by the end of this year.

According to Hugo Neu Corp. representatives, subsequent phases of the project will also involve the renovation and demolishment of older buildings on-site to create more than 3 million square feet of WELL AP-certified flexible-use office space ranging from 200 to 10,000 square feet; the construction of a gathering hall with retail and dining components; a waterfront park and living shoreline at the confluence of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers; an outdoor amphitheater; and more than 25 acres of open space for both the tenants and the public.

The goal, Neu said, is to create nearly 10,000 jobs on site.

“But this is much larger than 130 acres,” she said. “What we hope to do here is create a model in Kearny that then will be transferable to other locations.”

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EY names 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year finalists for N.J.

EY has announced the finalists for its Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 Award for the state of New Jersey, with 32 Garden State businesses making the cut.

Award winners will be announced at EY’s gala event June 20 at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick.

Regional award winners will be in the running for the national awards, which will be announced in November at a California gala. The national winner will compete for the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2020.

This year’s New Jersey finalists are:

  • Amarin Corp. — John Thero
  • — Angelo Stracquatanio
  • Charge Method Technology — Jessica Gonzalez
  • Corporate Essentials — Judson Kleinman
  • Dyla — Neel Premkumar
  • FlexWage Solutions — Frank Dombroski
  • — Mike Bryzek and Rob Keve
  • Gaming Laboratories International — James Maida
  • Health Recovery Solutions — Jarrett Bauer
  • Hetherington Information Services — Cynthia Hetherington
  • JAG Cos. — Rolando Acosta
  • Kane Brewing Co. — Michael Kane
  • Little Words Project — Adriana Carrig
  • Lorenzo Food Group — Joseph Lorenzo
  • Maestro Technologies — Kamal Bathla
  • MBS Highway — Barry Habib
  • McLaren Engineering Group — Malcolm McLaren
  • Momentum Solar — Arthur Souritzidis
  • Net2Source — Ashish Garg
  • Northpass — Steve Cornwell
  • Onkos Surgical — Patrick Treacy
  • Playa Bowls — Abby Taylor and Robert Giuliani
  • Polymer Dynamix — Veerag Mehta and Vikas Mehta
  • Rafael Pharmaceuticals — Sanjeev Luther
  • SmartLinx Solutions — Marina Aslanyan
  • Stanek Netting Co. — Jeremy Stanek
  • T&M Associates — Gary Dahms
  • Toorok Capital — John Beacham
  • Triangle Home Fashions — Jenny Cohen
  • Unitronics Systems — Yair Goldberg
  • Visual Lease — Marc Betesh
  • Voxware — Keith Phillips

The program, in its 33rd year, is founded and produced by EY, formally Ernst & Young LLP, with sponsors SAP America and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. New Jersey sponsors include DLA Piper and PNC Bank.

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More hours, dessert, success: For owner and chef Risa Magid Boyer, running Montclair’s Vanillamore means no easy days … and that’s just how she likes it

When she was 28 years old, Risa Magid Boyer said she was able to effectively combine her love for food and art by opening her popular dessert-first restaurant concept in Montclair. 

The trade-off, of course, was balance. 

“I currently work almost two employees’ worth of kitchen shifts daily,” Boyer said. 

Days off are rare and 12-hour shifts are the norm at Vanillamore.

Milk & Cookies ($12), Vanillamore’s pièce de résistance, is a half-dozen espresso hazelnut mousse, chocolate chip and ginger-molasses cookies served alongside vanilla-malted milk. ­

Boyer, however, said there is nothing else she would rather do. 

“I grew up loving food without realizing I could make it into a career,” she said. 

Boyer, owner and executive chef, said she puts extraordinary and innovative desserts at the center of the menu, with healthy and seasonal savory food to complement. 

Her sweet tooth, however, most likely is inherited. Her grandmother, Boyer said, was a cake decorator; her grandfather’s family owned bakeries in Poland for generations; and her parents founded a retail chocolate business in New Jersey in the mid-1980s. 

But Boyer initially chose to study graphic design at Northeastern University, until she realized that the line cook job she got at a nearby restaurant in her sophomore year was more fun than attending class. 

“I love tactile and tangible art, but I was studying graphic design and sitting in front of a computer all day,” she said. 

Boyer ultimately decided to leave to combine her love for food and art at the Culinary Institute of America, from which she graduated in 2011, and began working in nearly half a dozen New York City and New Jersey restaurants. 

“But, when I worked for a very high-end Italian restaurant for a very short period of time, I saw how the kitchen operated and hated the environment,” Boyer said. “I was by myself on the pastry line, I wasn’t learning from anyone and it was very male-dominated.” 

Boyer said she decided to become a pastry instructor and resident chef at Sur La Table in Canton, Connecticut. 

“I wasn’t just teaching pastry classes and I was therefore able to dabble with both sweet and savory dishes while managing the program,” she said. “And you can learn a lot about how certain methods work by having to fix other people’s mistakes.” 

Upon returning to New Jersey, Boyer became the pastry chef at De Novo European Pub in Montclair, as well as opened a small specialty desserts business while working on the concept for her own restaurant. 

Cashew Chicken Satay ($10) and Burrata + Poached Beets ($12).

Vanillamore, an open-concept, full-service restaurant and kitchen complete with a large semicircular counter and up to 50 seats, opened in September 2017. 

“In the beginning, people thought we were a bakery and people still sometimes come in here thinking we just sell desserts,” Boyer said. “But we knew there would be an educational component and we knew that we would have to really explain who we are and what we do differently.”

Yes, one still can order ahead a variety of signature 6-inch cakes for $45 each, and yes, the restaurant does still serve a variety of hot chocolates and other specialty beverages. 

But Vanillamore is exactly that — more. 

For example, one can order the $9 house-made ricotta or the $11 brie and fig toast for lunch or even make reservations for dinner to enjoy the $28 red wine braised short ribs with sautéed spinach and cauliflower-leek puree. 

One also can attend weekend brunch, afternoon tea or the monthly five-course chef’s tasting menu. 

But the pièce de résistance is, of course, Vanillamore’s dessert-oriented menu, featuring “Tapas,” such as the $12 Milk & Cookies (a half-dozen espresso hazelnut mousse, chocolate chip and ginger-molasses cookies served alongside vanilla malted milk); “Flights,” such as the $12 Winter Citrus (a sampling of desserts including a fruity tartlet, a refreshing lemon-pudding cake and a sweet polenta upside-down cake); and “Charcuterie,” such as the $24 Chocolate Charcuterie (featuring Vanillamore’s dark and milk chocolate dessert “salamis,” as well as a collection of breads, cookies, cakes, and candied fruit and nuts). 

“These days, we can flip the counter up to five times on a Saturday night and, during the dinner rush, we can turn the dining tables about three times,” Boyer said. 

Though Vanillamore employs 20, Boyer said qualified line cooks are almost impossible to find and keep. 

“Not to mention personalities are really difficult to mesh in a high-pressure kitchen,” she said. “So, I’m here basically 24/7; my mom is here almost every night; my husband is here a couple nights a week; and my dad is here all weekend.

A “Flight” of the Winter Citrus dessert ($12).

“It’s how a small business has to operate — super-lean and super-mean.”

Montclair business owners, however, also have been incredibly supportive of her work, Boyer said, including other restaurateurs. 

“It’s not about competition here,” she said. “The more options there are in town, the more people will want to visit.” 

That is why Boyer said she loves to give back to the community, such as donating 5% of Vanillamore’s sales every Tuesday to a worthy cause, including the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence. 

She also said she only would consider a new location in town. 

“We currently are only limited by our kitchen size and seating options, so, if there were an opportunity to move to a bigger space in town, that definitely would be within our three- to five-year plan,” Boyer said. 

Now 30, Boyer said she also hopes to start planning for something else: a family.  

“I would love kids,” she said. “But, while people are typically challenged with balance and child care, I could not even imagine being pregnant and doing what I am doing right now. I mean, how do you physically carry a child while working 90 hours a week in a busy kitchen? That’s not safe, healthy or realistic. 

“But there has to be a way to figure it out and make it work at some point because that is what I want in my life.” 

Conversation Starter

Reach Risa Magid Boyer of Vanillamore at: or 973-707-5373.

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Asaro-Angelo says manufacturing in N.J. is on the rise — and he has stats to prove it

Robert Asaro-Angelo, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, came to the second session of its third annual State of the State on manufacturing last Friday with good news.

“For five consecutive years now, New Jersey has added manufacturing jobs, turning around a trend that had previously lasted decades,” he said to the crowd at the County College of Morris in Randolph.

The event, sponsored by the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, brought together more than 600 manufacturing and STEM firms to connect with over 100 legislators, government departments and educators.

Asaro-Angelo said Gov. Phil Murphy is determined to help the sector grow even more.

In addition to awarding NJMEP $596,000 this year to help develop an industrywide apprenticeship model and creating a new Office of Apprenticeship, Asaro-Angelo praised the Murphy administration for reinstating the New Jersey Pathways Leading Apprentices to a College Education, or NJPLACE, program, which establishes partnerships with educational institutions to award college credit to students who participate in registered apprenticeship programs while enrolled.

“New Jersey has registered 162 new apprenticeship programs since this administration walked in the door,” he said. “Our goal is to drive economic development in New Jersey through demand-driven job and educational programs that lead apprentices to learn specialized skills, earn industry-valued credentials and start good-paying careers.

“And, perhaps more importantly, provide all of you a talent ecosystem and pipeline so this state continues to see year-over-year growth in manufacturing for the next five years and beyond.”

John Kennedy, the CEO of the Cedar Knolls group responsible for assisting New Jersey manufacturing companies in becoming more competitive and profitable, partnered with the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey to host the program.

Kennedy, a veteran of the sector, said he sees good things ahead.

“The consensus?” he asked, and then answered. “The industry is far from dead and, if we want to regain our place in innovation, we need to invest more in it.”

Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, agreed. He said advanced manufacturing is one of eight industries the NJEDA is focusing on to retain or improve New Jersey’s competitive advantage in the country.

“We know we need to be stronger and we think that we can do it,” he said.

Clean energy, for example, is a new industry Sullivan said he expects to take root in the state over the next 30 years.

“It represents enormous opportunity for the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Kevin DeSmedt, senior policy adviser for the NJEDA, said that, despite an aging workforce, everchanging skills, an increased need for access to technology and modernization and the challenge of getting young people and their parents engaged with and exposed to manufacturing, stakeholders from the government, educational institutions and the business community have come together like never before to address these issues in manufacturing.

“It has never happened before that the state has said, ‘This is our vision and plan for the industry and here is a list of all the people we need to be involved in this process,’” he said. “We want you to actively reach out because we need to hear from you, your ideas and perspectives.”

Anthony Russo, president of CIANJ, said his group is behind the sector.

“CIANJ strongly believes that when New Jersey companies ‘make something,’ no matter what that is, wealth is generated and investment comes back to New Jersey, improving the quality of lives of all citizens,” he said.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of our economy and should be protected and enhanced through sound policies and legislative vigilance. CIANJ looks forward to working with all stakeholders in growing our economy and strengthening our workforce.”

Having recently been named chairman of the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission Apprenticeship Committee, Kennedy himself will be helping move the apprenticeship process forward in all sectors of New Jersey by better facilitating collaboration between stakeholders in education and workforce development, including using the Pro-Action Education Network model to scale statewide apprenticeships via NJMEP’s contacts, resources and research.

Currently, New Jersey manufacturing produces $156 billion in annual output, with more than 11,000 manufacturing, STEM and transportation, logistics and distribution companies employing more than 1 million in the state.

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Campbell Soup board chairman retires, former CEO McLoughlin takes over

Campbell Soup Co.‘s chairman of the board Les C. Vinney has retired, the Camden-based company announced Thursday, with Keith R. McLoughin taking over the post, effective immediately.

Vinney said his retirement was due to personal reasons, but will remain a director until April 15.

“It has been an honor to serve as a director and as chairman of the Campbell Soup Company. The board is fortunate to have a strong and capable leader in Keith, whose steady direction has been indispensable over the last year. He has been an advisor and asset to me, our fellow board members, Campbell’s leadership team and our employees. His role as interim president and CEO of Campbell make him uniquely qualified and the logical choice to take on the role of chairman at this important time in Campbell’s history,” Vinney said.

McLoughlin served as interim CEO and president at Campbell following the retirement of Denise Morrison in May 2018 until Mark Clouse was named to the role in December 2018. McLoughlin has been a director at Campbell since 2015. Before joining the board, he was CEO and president of AB Electrolux and spent more than 20 years in senior leadership roles at E. I. duPont de Nemours and Co.

“I am honored to serve as chairman of a company with iconic brands and many talented employees whom I have come to know well in the last year. During my time as interim president and CEO, I gained a deeper knowledge of the company’s operations, and in working closely with leadership, believe we have made significant progress in focusing the company. I look forward to continuing to work with Mark, the Campbell leadership team and my fellow directors as we continue to transform Campbell and create shareholder value,” McLoughlin said.

Vinney joined the board in 2003 and served as chairman since 2015. Prior to that, he was CEO and president of STERIS Corp. Before that, he was senior vice president and chief financial officer at Goodrich Corp.

“Les has made many important contributions during his 16 years on the Campbell board and provided critical leadership during a pivotal period in our company’s history. On behalf of the entire Campbell board of directors, we thank Les for his service and wish him well in retirement,” McLoughlin said.

Campbell said it had also appointed J.P. Bilbrey, former CEO of The Hershey Co., to the board. Also, Sara Mathew, member of the board, has retired. Bilbrey’s appointment was part of its agreement with Third Point in November 2018, stipulating that Campbell consult with Third Point on the appointment of a third director by its May 2019 board meeting.

“We are thrilled to welcome J.P. and his 40 years of experience in the food industry to Campbell’s board as part of our ongoing director refreshment process. His extensive knowledge of the changing consumer landscape and the North American market will be a tremendous asset to our board,” McLoughlin said.

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