North Jersey is home to many things: various food spots, hidden gems, but most importantly, its people. Our area has a range of diverse people working in different fields, and to celebrate these people, The Montclair Girl is kicking off a series to highlight inspiring locals North Jersey area. From makeup artists to entrepreneurs, there is nothing stopping these North Jersey people from making their mark. Read on for our list of the 7 people to watch in the North Jersey area.
Sara Fusco | Owner of Corefire + High School Teacher
Photo Credit: Lynda Renee Photography
Sara Fusco is currently the owner of Corefire Montclair and Corefire Ridgewood with her husband Joe. She coaches and works at Corefire seven days a week — and that’s just her side gig. Sara also happens to be a full-time high school physical education and health teacher. When she is not working, Sara is a mom of two boys, Jaxon and Giovanni.
Despite her busy schedule, Sara finds inspiration everywhere. She tells MG, “To be happy and healthy for my kids. I have learned that if you don’t take care of yourself, it is extremely difficult to take care of other people. I feel that moving my body every day and staying active really helps with mental health.”
In terms of goals for her business, Sara wants to, “grow as a business owner and leader,” and wants to “be someone my staff can relate to and depend on.” In her (very limited) free time, Sara loves to spend time with family, eat good food, exercise, and build new relationships with people.
Sara’s favorite local spots: Mercado, Faubourg, Stretch Plus, Montclair Health & Chiropractic, Avenue Bistro, Lululemon, Brick + Dough, The Corner
Maria Cumella | Founder of Maria GLAMELLA
Although she hails from Bergen County, Maria Cumella has been traveling all over the tri-state area. Maria is professionally known as Maria GLAMELLA where she does makeup for all kinds of occasions. At just 26 years old, Maria has worked for events like New York Fashion Week and the Emmy Awards. She has also worked alongside names like Nigel Barker for Carrie Berk’s book launch and has grown her own shop on TikTok with over 60,000 followers.
Maria tells MG, “Makeup to me is an escape from reality, in whatever way we want to look at it. The expression ‘look good feel good’ isn’t as shallow as it seems.” With several years working in the makeup industry, she also shares that, “As a makeup artist we essentially do become therapists at one point or another.”
Recently, Maria has launched a business with her cousin and makeup artist, Priscilla Distasio called “The Glamily.” With this new endeavor, Maria has had experience working with reality star, Teresa Giudice, and Real Housewives of New York star Sonja Morgan. As for the future, Maria hopes to, “continue the line of work in every avenue.” She adds, “I have plans on getting certified in lash extensions, spray tanning, brow lamination, etc. Learning never stops and this industry is always growing and ever-changing. I would love to have knowledge of it all.”
Maria’s favorite part of living in North Jersey: “I love being from Jersey! I couldn’t imagine being from anywhere else. I’m a big Jersey Shore girl. I love paddle boarding in the bay and relaxing by the pool. It’s my favorite place to be.”
Brittney Portes | Founder of Gardens of Sol
Photo Credit: Mike Peters
Farming and gardening have been a long-time passion of Brittney’s, leading her to create her own business, Gardens of Sol. She uses her business to help people curate their own gardens and their herbs. Brittney is also a certified edible garden consultant, which is where her expertise has come into work with residents in the area. She uses her knowledge to consult with local residents looking for edible garden consulting + coaching, garden planning, maintenance, and workshops.
In addition to growing Garden of Sol, Brittney manages the community garden at Montclair State University. Her work isn’t limited to Montclair — Brittney has traveled to live + work on various organic farms, gardens, homesteads, and eco-communities. She told MG that while traveling she“became passionate about the idea of helping more people grow their connection with food, agriculture, and themselves.”
As for what inspires her, Brittney’s work is driven by a simple concept: “Everyone deserves access to healthy and nutritious food.”
Brittney’s favorite spots in North Jersey: “Paper Plane Coffee Co. in Montclair, Thumbody Coffee in Paramus, and Iris Gardens in Montclair.”
Samantha Hamer | Founder of Get2Games
Samantha may be a Jersey City resident but she has made her mark right here in Montclair. She is the founder of Get2Games, which is a nonprofit to help underprivileged athletes get the support they need to succeed. In terms of what inspires her to keep working, she tells MG, “I would say that the kids who had the skills and determination to play sports professionally but not the resources is what inspires my line of work.”
As Samantha continues to work for Get2Games, her goal is to, “ make the possibility of professional athletics a fair opportunity for everyone.” She shared with MG that she loves being “involved in the community, so to give back and make a lasting difference for minorities in the realm of athletics is my ultimate goal.”
Samantha’s favorite part about living in North Jersey: “I love the sense of unity. Formally living in NYC and DC, I have nerve felt such a strong sense of unity in the community. There are so many different events to celebrate all sorts of holidays & cultures, and it’s simply amazing. Not to mention how willing everyone is to help each other. North Jersey is truly building a beautiful community.”
Learn more about Samantha and her work with Get2Games here.
George Spitzer | Director of Rock Voices Montclair
Photo Credit: Kimberly Santiago
George currently works at Montclair State University where he is an adjunct professor of voice. In addition to teaching, he also owns a voice studio in Montclair. Recently, George has taken up a new role as a director for Rock Voices Montclair. Rock Voices is a community choir that exclusively sings rock music. With Rock Voice, George hopes ”to add and enrich the vibrant musical community in Montclair.” He has been surrounded by music his whole life and shared that his goal is always to heal “ourselves and others through music.”
George’s favorite part of living in Montclair: “Montclair is a wonderful place to live, it truly is where the suburbs meet the city.”
Learn more about George and his new endeavor with Rock Voices here.
Melyssa Murray | Founder of NO. 95 Candles
^ Melyssa with her husband, James
Hailing from Princeton, Melyssa Murray is the mind behind NO. 95 Candles, a candle business she started during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She combined her business launch with a charity event to raise money for Alzheimer’s Disease in Montclair — and she plans on doing it again this year. This event will be held at 18 Label Studios and raise money for the Fishers Center for Alzheimer’s Research. It will be hosted by Melyssa and her husband, James “Murr” Murray who happens to be a star in the reality TV show, Impractical Jokers. Tickets to this charity event can be purchased here.
In terms of what inspires her, Melyssa is “so passionate about what I do because I don’t feel like I’m ‘working.’ It took a few months to get the perfect formula to create my candles, but once I did, it’s like something just clicked.”
Melyssa envisions her business going far. She says, “Getting NO. 95 Candles into retail spaces which would be amazing. I think they’re the perfect candle for small businesses and fun pop-up stores.”
Melyssa’s favorite part of living in New Jersey: “My favorite thing about living in New Jersey is the seasons. I can’t imagine living in a place without them. The summer lasts the perfect amount of time, the fall is cool without being freezing, we get snow during the winters without constant blizzards, and the flowers that bloom in spring tie everything together. Plus, it’s the perfect zone for hardening tomatoes and corn!”
Check out Melyssa and her business through her website here.
Michelle Vale | Founder of Green with Living
With 15 plus years of working as a designer, Michelle has previously owned 2 fashion brands — which have been featured in Instyle, Vogue, W Magazine, and Elle and sold at national department stores — but has since shifted and started an online platform, Green With Living, which focuses on sustainable interior + exterior design and other products.
One of the reasons that she endeavored on this new project was because of the environment. She told MG, “One of the reasons I bailed out of fashion was the pressure to produce overseas and to launch a less expensive line with cheaper materials.”
Michelle wanted to advocate for the environment, in part because of her kids: she shared that “raising two kids in a world where their planet was suffering” just didn’t sit right with her. Her kids have been involved with her business as well — her daughter helps with social media and her son with the business’ website and analytics. As for future goals, Michelle says that she wants Green with Living to “share the knowledge and learn from the community on how to do better.”
Michelle’s favorite part of living in North Jersey: “Nature and access to more green space! The nature and wildlife which surround us is a constant reminder that we must take care of our planet.”
If you or someone you know would like to be considered for our next batch of people features, please fill out this Google Form. Looking forward to reading your stories!