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5 Northern New Jersey Locals to Watch in May 2024

by The Montclair Girl Team
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The month of May has arrived here in Essex County and we’re highlighting a new batch of New Jersey locals who continue to make a difference in our community. From allergy-free bakers to those who volunteer at retirement homes, these ladies inspire us every day. Read on for a list of five Montclair and Northern New Jersey locals to watch this May.

Michelle Fleischer | Founder of Embroidery Babes

Michelle Fleischer

Michelle Fleisher is a New Jersey resident who turned her struggle with infertility into a passion project.

The Ivy at Chatham

During one of the most difficult periods of her life, Michelle turned to hand embroidery, which served as a calming, creative outlet to escape from the anxiety and depression she faced inside. After giving birth to her daughter through IVF, she launched Embroidery Babes, an online and pop-up specialty boutique with custom and hand-crafted clothing + accessories.

Two years later, her passion has proven profitable — Embroidery Babes has collaborated with numerous local businesses for pop-ups and even hosts Stitch + Sip events, where Michelle provides the tools for guests to create wearable art pieces.

Michelle’s experience was by no means easy, but in some senses, she’s grateful for how she came out on the other end: “You never know how something challenging and unexpected can lead you to something beautiful and fulfilling.” Though she’s not a “public person,” she is a supportive person and hopes to be a guiding voice for people facing the same difficulties she did.

Michelle’s favorite local businesses: “MacMurphy’s is an Irish pub in Ridgewood owned by another IVF mama and we [held] a Mother’s Day event there on 4/25 with proceeds benefiting an IVF grant organization. I would also love to have an event with the gorgeous & delicious, Trend Coffee & Tea house right here in Montclair.”

You can keep up with Michelle on Instagram and shop the Embroidery Babes website here.

Read More: A List of Women-Owned Restaurants in Montclair + Bloomfield

Taylor Hatch Espinoza | Owner + Operator of Unicorn Bites

Taylor Hatch Espinoza

What started as a stubborn experiment turned into a thriving local business for Montclair resident Taylor Hatch Espinoza. Unicorn Bites is a vegan, natural, and minimally sweetened cookie brand, free from popular allergens like gluten, nuts, and soy.

Taylor — who works as a lawyer for Amazon by day — noticed that many gluten-free cookie brands substitute gluten with a lot of sugar, so she ventured to create a better-tasting and better-for-you option. Now, Unicorn Bites is sold online and throughout Montclair including Local Coffee, Van Hook Montclair, and the Montclair Farmers’ Market.

Her goal for 2024 is to land Unicorn Bites in major grocery retailers like Whole Foods and Kings — but beyond that, she hopes to expand the company and hire her first employees.

Taylor’s favorite local businesses: “Brookdale Park, Watchung Booksellers, Sunrise Bagels, Dino’s, Montclair Bread Co., Sukhumvit.”

Follow Unicorn Bites’ journey on Instagram and place orders on the site here.



Tanya Lashley | Creator of Meet Me in Montclair

Tanya Lashle

So much of our world is consumed by advertising these days, but Tanya Lashley, a former advertising executive, is taking a totally different approach to promoting New Jersey local businesses.

Rather than traditional advertisements, Tanya has created a series called “Meet Me in…” a sort of town-wide sitcom for various Northern New Jersey towns. Each season features residents portraying characters who frequent the businesses featured in the film. You can watch the “Meet Me in Montclair” series here

For Tanya, it’s not only about effective advertising — her unique approach “offers a fresh perspective on supporting local businesses,” and boosts community morale. She hopes to inspire Northern New Jersey locals to live their “highest [and purest] expression of themselves,” she shared with MG. “That is the magic of life.”

Tanya’s favorite local businesses: “There are so many amazing businesses in Montclair. Veroluce Photography and ChillRX Cryotherapy Montclair to name a few.”

You can keep up with Tanya’s project here

Shayna Safirstein | Founder + President of Dance for the Ages

Shayna Safirstein

Shayna Safirstein is only 15 years old, but she’s already making a big difference in the Montclair area. As the founder and president of the non-profit + volunteer-run organization, Dance for the Ages, Shanya provides movement classes for the elderly at various retirement homes alongside co-president June Martens (who is only in the 8th grade!).

Both of these ladies have been dancing for 10+ years, and said that the main goal of Dance for the Ages is to “give senior citizens something to look forward to once a week”. The classes entail 30 minutes of low-impact, dance-related exercises with music tailored to the residents’ liking. The pair has also been mentored by a professional who teaches dance to seniors with Parkinson’s Disease to make sure the participants are comfortable and safe.

“Even if it is just a simple wave of an arm, it is my and my colleagues’ greatest honor to spend time with the seniors in our community, who undoubtedly deserve so much,” Shayna told MG. “Whether we are dancing to The Temptations, twirling ribbon batons, or clapping along to Lean On Me, Dance for the Ages is beyond grateful for the opportunity to share the gift of dance and movement, and to spread love and joy to these people.”

Shayna’s favorite local businesses:We love any small business, honorable mentions to Java Love and The General Store.”

Keep up with Shayna and Dance for the Ages here and here.

See More: 10 Hoboken + Jersey City Locals to Watch in May 2024

Risa Barash | Founder of Fairy Tales Hair Care + TBH Kids

Formerly a stand-up comedian in New York City, Risa Barash is a Montclair resident who founded not one, but two personal wellness companies, specifically catered to kids and tweens. Fairy Tales Hair Care carries lice prevention shampoo and other products like conditioner, detangling spray, and more, while TBH Kids focuses on age-appropriate hair, skin, and body care with its deodorant, pimple patches, and face wash, among other items.

As the founder and owner of the two companies, Risa oversees product development and design, manufacturer and retailer relationships, business development, marketing strategy, customer satisfaction, and other duties. She said that she’s constantly inspired by customers who thank her for “keeping their sanity during a lice outbreak” with the help of the Rosemary Repel lice-prevention products her company sells.

“My goals are to continue to grow the Fairy Tales and TBH Kids brands,” Risa told MG. Fairy Tales Hair Care is sold in nearly every major retailer in the US but there is always room to grow.”

Risa’s favorite local businesses:I love to have drinks and dinner at Faubourg, we love our neighborhood coffee shop La Fontaine, scones at The Corner, and everything at Boschetto and Cafe Giotto. And let’s not forget matzo ball soup from Mikki and Al’s!”

Keep up with Risa and Fairy Tales Hair Care here and here, and keep up with TBH Kids here and here.

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