What do a fitness instructor, interior designer, dermatologist, florist, and author have in common? They inspire us, and our communities, to reach the best version of ourselves. It’s no secret to us here at The Montclair Girl that the North Jersey area is full of amazing people doing amazing things. With Women’s History Month well underway, we’re taking a moment to highlight 5 local ladies who are leading their respective fields. Keep reading to learn more about Daniela Costanzo, Diana Weinstein, Jeanine Downie, Lindsey Vandevier, and Laura Engelhardt, five North Jersey women who are raising the bar.
Daniela Costanzo — Founder + Owner of D*FIT Studio, Montclair
(Photo Credit: D*FIT Studios)
Daniela Costanzo is the founder + owner of D*FIT Studio in Montclair, NJ. D*FIT is an innovative boutique fitness studio dedicated to Personal + Group Training for everybody and every body — and it was created when Daniela transformed her passion and hobby into her career. So by day, she wears many different hats and titles, helping people feel good, healthy, and strong. By night, she is someone who loves the slower pace of life — enjoying a great meal with amazing people, lighting a fire at home, adventuring around a small town, or jetting somewhere to soak in the culture, language, food, and essence of somewhere completely foreign to her.
Local inspiration: “The D*FIT community IS my inspiration and has been what’s fueled me since opening our doors in 2011. I am constantly in awe of the creative, humble, well-versed, kind people all around me. I’m inspired by my team and our clients and seeing how D*FIT has impacted their lives, in big and small ways, and that keeps me building and creating.”
Favorite thing about living in Montclair / North Jersey: “North Jersey is where it’s at! I have many favorite things about living here, but the primary one is its access. Montclair + North Jersey is not only beautiful but centrally located — if today I decide I want to go on an adventure I can be at the beach or in the mountains or in another state all within a 90-minute drive.”
Favorite local business: “My life is all about balance so when I’m not at the gym, I love a good glass of wine and a great meal so I’d have to say The Grape Collective and Gus + Co. Seafood Market at the moment. It’s also extremely convenient that they are right next door to each other!”
Local business owners she admires: “There are a number of local business owners that I feel fortunate to have in my world. Jenn Snyder, founder of Little Daisy Bake Shop is a woman near and dear to me. I love going to see Dominique Paulin, founder of Faubourg, and having a great glass of Cremant or a cocktail and some bites. Running into one of the OGs of small businesses in Montclair, Sharon Egan, founder of Egan + Sons is always a good laugh and reassuring. The list goes on!”
On staying motivated: “One of the questions/comments I repeatedly get is, “how do you do it?”— meaning how did I create and continually sustain my small business — or “I can never do this!” — and I want to offer a piece of advice to anyone wanting or trying to start their own business adventure: it’s definitely a serious labor of love, but if you have the passion and your idea brings you joy — you can do it, you will do it, and it will be one of your greatest teachers at whatever chapter of life you’re in!”
Read More: 23 Montclair Women to Watch in 2023
Diana Weinstein — Interior Designer, Glen Ridge
Diana Weinstein is an Interior Designer based in Glen Ridge. Her career path was “definitely not a straight one.” She was an Art History Major at NYU and went from working at the Whitney Museum to a 10-year career in the fashion industry at Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger + TSE Cashmere. She then had a short stint peddling luxury paper from her home, until one day Interior Design happened. She found herself designing interiors for clients before she had even established her business.
Local inspiration: “The diversity of people that live in town inspires me to constantly think outside of the box. This area is unique, in both demographic as well as in housing stock.”
Favorite thing about living in North Jersey: “The proximity to New York City, the beauty, the charm of the homes, and the inclusive mindset of the people that live here.”
Favorite local business:
- Breakfast: Bluestone Montclair
- Coffee: Local Montclair + Cafe Skidoo
- Bloomfield Home Decor: Sons (great for finding unique items)
- Art Gallery: RIA’s in Belleville (I frame all the art I find here and they have an awesome gallery)
- Clothes Shopping: Dot Reeder
- Sushi: Aki – Bloomfield + Nami Nori – Montclair for Sushi.
Local business owners she admires: “All of them! It’s so hard and risky to have your own business. I admire anyone who has the courage to take the risk and go for it. Local businesses count on local customers which could easily choose to shop at large department stores or restaurant chains.”
How to get in touch: “If you have a space that you’re looking to design then reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view my work, follow along on projects, and find design inspiration @dianaweinsteindesign.”
Jeanine Downie, MD — Dermatologist + Founder of Image Dermatology, Montclair
Jeanine Downie, MD, is a third-generation doctor with West Indian roots — born and raised in New Jersey. But her medical genes run deep: her grandfather was a dentist back in Harlem, NY, and her mother is still a practicing pediatrician at the age of 87. True to her roots, Jeanine decided to follow in her family’s footsteps and become not only a successful dermatologist but also an entrepreneur. She founded Image Dermatology in 2000, has been in business for over 22 years, and has been featured on The Today Show and more.
Local inspiration: “My biggest sources of inspiration are my husband and my daughter; they always push me to do better, learn more and go farther. They are 150% supportive of me no matter what it is that I want to achieve, and they inspire me to be the best physician that I can be every single day.”
Favorite thing about living in Montclair/North Jersey: “What I love most about Montclair is the diversity, the restaurants, and the wonderful Montclair Art Museum. My favorite thing to do in Essex County is going running in West Orange around the reservoir. They have a bunch of new trails and paths and it is really fun.”
Favorite local business: “My favorite restaurants in Montclair include Fascino, Faubourg, and Raymond’s. My favorite boutique was Dem Two Hands, which is now closed.”
Local business owners she admires: “My trainer, Jody Sancetta, and her husband who is my husband‘s trainer, Chris Sancetta, have been in business for almost 20 years and are fantastic! I love the way they run their business and adore them both personally. They have high expectations and keep us both extremely fit.
Her health habits: “I run about 20 to 25 miles a week, and I exercise seven days a week with a combination of cardio and weights. As I said before, I drink no coffee, no tea, and no alcohol. I do not smoke, vape, or smoke weed. I do not tan, and I wear sunblock with an SPF of 30 every single day and reapply it several times a day. I drink over 12 glasses of water a day and am somewhat annoying with my health habits. On the negative side, I love sugar, especially chocolate. I also do not get enough sleep!”
Lindsey Vandevier — Owner of Rosaspina Flower Shop, Montclair
(Photo Credit: Rosaspina)
Lindsey Vandevier is the owner of Rosaspina, a boutique flower shop in downtown Montclair. Before entering the world of floral design she received an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in theater design and worked as a costume and scenic designer in Manhattan. But something was missing for Lindsey in the theater — and although she loves the thrill of being backstage, the shows that truly caught her interest as a designer were few and far between.
During a slow season, Lindsey decided to take a floral design course and that was game over. She knew she had found the thing she was meant to do. She went on to complete the floral design certificate program at Flower School New York and worked with some of Manhattan’s most prestigious florists before opening Rosaspina.
Local Inspiration: “Montclair is full of so many unique individuals and businesses it’s pretty hard not to be inspired by something new every day. That’s part of what I love about it. There’s always something going on, a new place opening, art installations going up, etc. There’s just such a love for arts and culture that I’m simply inspired by being part of it all.”
Favorite thing about living in Montclair / North Jersey: “My favorite thing about Montclair/North Jersey is that it isn’t NYC. Ok, just kidding…kinda. It’s great to be so close to all that Manhattan has to offer but to be away from the insanity that is NYC and be able to enjoy nature. I was drawn to Montclair specifically because of all its unique businesses and its clear love for the arts. All the community events, festivals, and local arts organizations remind me of where I grew up (Cleveland Heights OH) and so it feels very natural for me to be here.”
Favorite local businesses: “There are so many amazing local businesses in Montclair but I think I would have to say Sweet Kitchen. They literally keep me alive. All the staff there are so friendly, they have amazing pastries, and, most importantly, they make my iced chai perfect every single day. Going to Sweet Kitchen feels like popping over to my friend’s house to have a chat over coffee and sweets. Just good vibes all around.”
Local business owners she admires: “I would probably have to say Celestina Ando of Celestina Ando Photography. Not only is she an amazing photographer but she is also involved in so many community events and is always telling me about some new thing or off to some fun event. Her business is super successful but she also makes time (and has the energy) for so many community and personal activities. I don’t know how she does it all.”
How Rosaspina got its name: “The name Rosaspina is the Italian name for the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. I lived in Florence for 9 months and between that experience and the food Italy holds a huge place in my heart, I may also be just a tad fairytale obsessed (but in the old classics way, not a Disney animation way) and this particular fairy tale name had the word Rose in it, so it seemed such an obvious choice. I love that the name is actually a fairy tale but no one really knows that, it just sounds floral. Our vibe is artfully whimsical so what better than a name that harkens to classic fairy tales and the birthplace of the Renaissance?”
Laura Engelhardt — Author, Chatham
After growing up in Summit, NJ, Laura Engelhardt spent a few years in upstate New York, Hamburg, Germany, northern California, and New York City. She graduated from college with a degree in German and Theater, and then joined a playwriting group in Hoboken. She says the highlight of her early 20’s was “debuting my one-act play off-off-Broadway with the Waterfront Ensemble.” While Laura loved the arts, she knew she “didn’t want to live in my parents’ attic forever,” so headed off to law school in California in 1997.
In 2000, she moved to New York City, first working as a lawyer, then as a compliance officer on Wall Street. Now, Laura and her husband are raising our four children in Chatham. In 2016, she became active with the League of Women Voters, moderating debates, manning voter hotlines, and designing an educational program to commemorate the 19th Amendment Centennial. Since quitting her full-time job a few years ago, Laura has published three novels, written and produced a documentary about U.S. feminist history, and started volunteering at her church.
See More: A List of Women-Owned Hoboken + Jersey City Businesses
Local inspiration: “This community is full of active people who want to make the world a better place. I feel uplifted when I discover the kinds of charitable initiatives people are involved with – there are so many different causes, with really talented individuals lending their skills to try to make a difference in the world.”
Favorite thing about living in North Jersey: “I love the Northern NJ area. We are a fast-paced community. There’s a dynamic spirit about the people from New Jersey that Silicon Valley just can’t beat. We don’t beat around the bush — and are open and upfront about our opinions. We can be a challenging group of people, but we aren’t fake. I missed that a lot when I moved out of state.”
Favorite local business: “I have a soft spot for the Montclair Book Center. Browsing in bookstores and libraries is one of my favorite things to do, and this is one of the best, used bookstores around.”
Local business owners she admires: “The owners of Wool and Grace in Summit have a knack for connecting with their customers… Summit is a tough place to do business – the rents are high, and a lot of stores aren’t able to last. The fact that a handcraft store has been able to succeed is a testament to their skills.”
More about her writing: “I write epic fantasy with an urban twist. My books are character-focused stories. It’s not every day that you see the words, “magic” and “fMRI” in the same sentence — but that’s what my book offers readers. So much fantasy is written for a YA crowd, I wanted to write the kind of books I wanted to read: stories about grown-up characters put into difficult situations in a fantastic world where magic and technology co-exist.”