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September   8

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Over_the_rainbow The signs read "All You Can Eat Crock-Pot Buffet $3.99" and "99-Cent Specials: Veggie Burger, Veggie Hotdog, Veggie Submarine Sandwich, Eggplant Parm and Rice." Where else on Church Street -- or in McDonald's-free Montclair for that matter -- can you get eat so healthy for so little?

Now there's another sign: "Donations Helpfull (sic) to Large Rent Increases." And other signs that things aren't right at Montclair's 25-year-old health food store: a color TV for sale for $5, customers standing around with long faces as if they were at a wake.

Bob_farina Owner Bob Farina says rent on the store is going up from $1,700 to $2,500, and although it's not Dick Grabowsky raising the rent, Farina does blame the yuppification of Church Street for his plight.

"If you're a tenant on Church Street, you'd better be a millionaire," he said. And the answer is not to raise prices, he added. "We're not going to be charging $10 for a tossed salad."

Farina insists that no decision has been made to definitely close the store, but there's isn't enough money to move the store to a cheaper location, either. It might depend on how many dollar bills wind up in the tip bar. "We might just have to get jobs."

We think that would be sad. Even as Church Street becomes the Rodeo Drive of New Jersey, we wish it could retain a little Berkeley.

September 8, 2005 in Controversy | Permalink


Bad ass!!

Healthy budget eats.

Posted by: lc | Sep 8, 2005 1:50:06 PM

I've only been in there a couple times...I never understood how their food was so cheaply priced? Or the whole store concept? Anyone know?

Posted by: butchcjg | Sep 8, 2005 2:00:19 PM

I was never crazy about their food. I once bought vegetarian chili there it was ice cold. Never went back after that.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Sep 8, 2005 2:01:47 PM

Yeah, that place is a mess. When the menu is written on paper plates in crayon, you know your in trouble.

Posted by: ccc | Sep 8, 2005 2:37:09 PM

I gotta agree -- the owners of this place seem to have wonderful intentions (healthy food at incredibly reasonable prices) but the cluttered atmosphere is offputting. They do have great frozen yogurt though!

Posted by: htb | Sep 8, 2005 3:23:11 PM

Their old store on Bloomfield Ave about where Udupi is was the BEST. Many fond memories of going there with my mom and indulging in the lunch bar's toffuti machine.

While I would be very dissapointed if Over the Rainbow were to dissapear and be replaced by a boutique or eatery way outside of my budget, like most shops on Church St. at this point, I have wondered for awhile what the deal is because that donation jar and its accompanying sign warning that the store is in danger of closing has been present for over 2 years. Just wondering how they've hung on for so long if the situation has really been so dire for so long.

Posted by: meghan | Sep 8, 2005 6:09:50 PM

Bob has been a great neighbor & friend during the 18 months we've been on Church Street.

I can understand why people might find the vibe a little too funky for their currently buttoned down lives - probably embarrassed because it reminds them too much of their own lifestyle back in the day. Also, probably a little uncomfortable with the riff-raff (oops, I mean those less fortunate) that Bob let's into his store & his life.

What I can't understand is how people can walk right by the beautiful fresh produce he displays out front year round as they head off to the supermarket to pay double. Over the Rainbow could probably be supported by the produce business alone if anyone cared to support this guy.

I would be very sad if Bob were ever to leave Church Street.

Posted by: Greg Spinelli | Sep 8, 2005 9:21:05 PM

Last (and only) time I went in the Samantha's juice in the fridge was two weeks past the expiration date. Thanks, but I have taken my business elsewhere. (Maybe that's why the prices are so cheap...)

Posted by: Ug | Sep 8, 2005 9:42:33 PM

Greg Spinelli said
"I would be very sad if Bob were ever to leave Church Street."

I agree. I always liked stopping by and picking up a piece of fruit as a snack, or maybe a banana smoothie, and a couple of veggies to bring home for supper.

Didn't he provide the power for the concerts on Church Street?

Posted by: Bitpusher | Sep 8, 2005 9:47:54 PM

I can't tell you the number of times when Kings has sold out of date dairy, by at least two weeks.

Bob is one of those icons that defined Montclair. A little quirky? Sure. But a heart of gold.

When he was on Bloomfield I used to eat there with my son regularly. What a treat! Next best thing to Ann Arbor in the early 70's.


Posted by: carya | Sep 8, 2005 10:03:51 PM

Off beat atmosphere - but great vibes in a great store!

It adds much to the Church Street environment as long as Dick G. doesnt get his hands on it!

Posted by: Franklin | Sep 9, 2005 5:13:36 AM

Off beat atmosphere - but great vibes in a great store!

It adds much to the Church Street environment as long as Dick G. doesnt get his hands on it!

Posted by: Franklin | Sep 9, 2005 5:14:09 AM

Ok Carya, so it is an excuse to sell out of date food because somebody else does it? That is warped logic indeed.

Another interesting quote: "Farina does blame the yuppification of Church Street for his plight." Nice. I blame the lousy attitude of the owners to their customers, the dirty and disorganized store, and the rotten food. Come on, a $700 rent increase is not that much. If they made an effort to provide fresh food with a smile, the "Yuppies" he disparages would become loyal repeat customers. But an odd snobbish elitism prevails...

See ya to these guys. Hopefully they will be replaced with a shopkeeper that is interested in serving their customers a decent product with a smile.

Posted by: Ug | Sep 9, 2005 11:59:18 AM

I hear ya, UG. I'm willing to pay a little bit more for a "clean, well-lighted place" myslef.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Sep 9, 2005 1:04:44 PM

"A $700 rent increase is not that much."

It is when you're trying to feed the homeless with 25-cent cups of hot cocoa and resonably priced fruits and veggies.

I can see where he's the snobbish elite in this equation... the man's performed an invaluable service to the community and he's getting harped on over bottles of Fresh Samantha that people could find just as easily for about a buck more at the most overpriced Whole Foods in the state just up Bloomfield Avenue.

Bob does smile, and with a great smile at that. He smiles when somebody he least expects drops money in the rent jar. He smiles at some of the films he allows people to watch on his $5 color TV on late winter nights when folks can come in out of the cold. Bob cares for his community... all of it.

As highlighted by Hurricane Katrina, there's a tendency to pretend the poor aren't there or, worse, to push the poor to someplace they're less visible. Bob sees them every day and, instead of patronizing them, shunning them, or only giving when he's feeling charitable, he treats them with the same respect he would any of his customers.

If any of your well-lit Fresh Samantha venues ever decides to pay more than lip service to the poor and takes up the mantel for Bob, I'll be the first to applaud them. But the fact is I don't see any other store or eatery west of Willow street even attempting to do the same thing.

$700 isn't such a big increase... maybe not in your America.

Posted by: Notteham | Sep 10, 2005 11:37:53 AM

"When the menu is written on paper plates in crayon, you know your in trouble."


maybe the kids with crayons know grammar.

"your" sic

Posted by: teacha | Sep 10, 2005 11:11:59 PM

"When the menu is written on paper plates in crayon, you know your in trouble."


maybe the kids with crayons know grammar.

"your" sic

Posted by: teacha | Sep 10, 2005 11:12:40 PM

If merchants can’t face the rising rents/inflation then we should move them out to make space for another chain type store, perhaps a McDonald’s Express would work well there.

Posted by: Ron | Nov 13, 2005 1:20:08 PM

I went there once. I was with my friend and he wanted juice. When I stepped in there, I was like, uh, let's go. It looked like there were bags of laundry on the floor and there were plastic lawn chairs and the floor was dirty and there was someone who looked like she could be homeless. I appreciate his efforts to help those less fortunate, but I think it would make everyone feel a little better if he cleaned up his store a little.

- Jen

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