Five South Jersey Mavens


From navigating the post-Sandy landscape down the shore to picking the perfect wedding venue, these South Jersey mahoffs have got the advice you need.


5 Things to Know Before You Buy or Rent a Shore House this Summer

Renting a shore house is a summer ritual in South Jersey. And there are a lot of choice properties for sale. But Superstorm Sandy damaged many homes in ways invisible to the amateur’s eyes. Anthony Cappuccio, owner of Boardwalk Design and Development in Margate, has first-hand, hands-on experience in dealing with Sandy’s aftermath. His company has spent the last six months repairing homes and businesses. Who better to give advice on what questions people should ask before they rent or buy?

• Has there been any water damage to the property? Don’t be afraid to ask and don’t accept a simple answer, Cappuccio says. Water damage doesn’t mean that a house is unlivable — as long as it was repaired. “Can the owner document by permit application that all the wet materials have been removed and replaced?” Cappuccio asks. Find out.

• “Was the air conditioning condenser or hot water heater damaged?” is the next question Cappuccio suggests. “If so, can the owner document — by permit application or invoices — removal and replacement of these appliances? It would be a bad vacation to lose either item during a hot summer and have to wait for repairs!” Another bad scenario: a leaking hot water heater can cause a flood in the house. 

• “Make sure the owner guarantees a valid CO inspection from the city,” Cappuccio insists. CO is not for carbon monoxide (although you need to have the house tested for that, too). In this case, CO refers to Certificate Of Occupancy. After a house is renovated, it must pass inspection by local officials to obtain a CO. Electrical outlets, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other hazards are checked. Even if the CO checks out, consider installing your own smoke and CO detectors in the house, even if you are only renting it. Better safe than sorry.

• “Make sure you are not responsible for the house’s landscaping,” Cappuccio advises. “Much of the landscaping has been ruined by the salt water flooding and will not survive the summer.” áá

How to Deal with Bat Mitzvah Dress Divas

Shopping for a Bat Mitzvah dress is supposed to be one of those memorable mother-daughter moments. But the bonding can all too quickly descend into brawling when the Bat Mitzvah girl wants one thing and her mother wants another. Paul Virilli, owner of Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill, has seen plenty of dressing room divas. Virilli and his managers, Judy Francesco and Sharon Colangio, offered these strategies to keep the lovefest from turning into a slugfest. 

•  Shop first thing in the morning. “Our store, and every other, is very crowded in the afternoons, especially on the weekends,” Virilli says. “The sales staff is busy, the dressing rooms may be full and there is a lot of activity. That’s fun, but it may not be productive for serious shopping. Come in the morning before the chaos begins. Better yet, make an appointment. That way, you won’t be stressed or rushed and you’ll have the full attention of a sales associate.”

• Be open to different colors. “Sometimes, a girl comes in with a specific color in mind for her dress, but the best dress for her body might not be available in that color,” Judy explains. “We see girls who look stunning in certain dresses but refuse to get them because they aren’t the color they set their heart on. It’s better to get a fabulous dress, no matter what the color, than get a so-so dress in the color you love.”

• Not age-appropriate? Let her try it on anyway. “There can be a world of difference between what the daughter wants and what the mother thinks is appropriate,” Sharon says. “We have found that when the daughter has the dress on — and she’s tried on others that are appropriate — she will see the difference herself. If you push, she might dig her heels in. Let her come to the realization on her own.”

• Bring Bubbe. “Shopping for the Bat Mitzvah dress can be a great experience for the daughter, mom and grandmother,” Virilli says. “And very often, the grandmother will act as the peacekeeper and chief negotiator.” While anyone is welcome, Judy suggests leaving the girlfriends at home. “Too many opinions are not helpful,” she says. “Mom and Grandmom are all you need.”

Six Anti-Bullying Strategies

On May 5, Temple Emanuel becomes the first synagogue in New Jersey to be an ADL No Place For Hate®. The congregation, its staff, teachers, students and parents partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to tackle the problem of bullying. “Rabbi David was the spark of our anti-bullying program because he was bullied as a child,” explained Tracey Graeff, the synagogue’s director of membership and programming. What advice does Graeff have for kids who are being bullied? 

• Walk away. “If possible, remove yourself from the situation immediately,” Graeff advises. “Try to avoid ‘danger zones’ where bullying is likely to take place and where there are few adults who can help.”

• Say, “Stop.” If it feels safe, Graeff says, tell the aggressor to stop in a firm but calm way. “If you feel confident to do so, use humor or a clever response to weaken the effect of the mean behavior.”

• Prepare yourself. “Think about how you might react to bullying in the future,” Graeff says, “and rehearse those responses with a trusted friend or adult.”

• Keep cool. “Try to control your emotions in the moment. Showing fear or anger may encourage the aggressor.”

• Don’t fight. “Try not to fight or bully back,” Graeff says. “That may just continue the cycle of bad behavior.”

• Tell an adult. “Don’t keep the bullying a secret,” Graeff says. “Tell a friend or trusted adult what happened. Remaining silent will not make things better and could worsen the situation. It is important to express yourself, especially when you are going through a tough time. Try to surround yourself with supportive friends.”

Award-Winning Wedding Wisdom 

The hot hotel for South Jersey weddings is Aloft Mount Laurel. It received a 2013 Best of Weddings award from The Knot magazine. “Being nominated as a best of weddings venue in South Jersey is an exciting honor,” says Joshua Paul, Aloft’s general manager. “We have a great sales and catering team in place that allows us to bring our brides’ most innovative ideas to life.” Chenoa Lane, director of sales, and Desiree Ligotti, catering and convention services manager, share their wedding wisdom. 

• “Talk to your significant other before you start the planning process on what you both want out of this special day,” Ligotti advises. “It’s very important to be on the same page before your friends and family get involved. Everyone will have an opinion and, if you two are not on the same page, it could get very overwhelming.” 

• “Fall in love with your venue,” Lane says. It may take some time to visit different locations, but don’t settle for anything less than thrilling. “If you don’t love your venue,” she says, “then why host the most important day of your life there?”

• Personal touches matter. They tell the story of the bride, groom and their families. “There›s nothing better than a couple uniquely distinguishing their wedding by adding intimate pieces of themselves to create a signature event,” Lane says. 

• Don’t micro-manage the venue’s staff. Let them do their jobs. Obsessing about details is unnecessary and creates stress for the bride and everyone around her. “It is easy to get lost in the mix of all the wedding details,” Ligotti says, “but at the end of it all, the most important thing is that you are marrying the love of your life.”

How To Go Greener

Earth Day is April 22, but every day is Earth Day at Congregation M’Kor Shalom. Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Kahn named the synagogue an It’s In Our Power Energy Champion — the first congregation to receive that honor. Leading the effort is Anne Simonoff, a retired environmental protection lawyer who recycled her prowess into M’kor’s Green Council. 

Simonoff and her fellow congregants made big changes at M’Kor. They invested in a new HVAC system, an automated energy management system, new LED lighting in the sanctuary, lighting sensors throughout the building, and eco-friendly landscaping. M’Kor’s new educational wing is environmentally responsible down to its screws, which are made with recycled metals. 

“Keep in mind that we did this over a period of time and that it was a group effort,” Simonoff said. “We started in 2006 and many people in our congregation helped. But there are simple things that people can do in their own homes to reduce their carbon footprint.”

• Change your light bulbs. LED lights are eco-smart options. 

•  Stop using plastic bags. “We created canvas bags with the M’Kor logo and sold them as a fundraiser,” Simonoff says. “My husband, who does the food shopping, said at first that he would never use them — and now he doesn’t use anything else.”

• Stop buying plastic water bottles. Get reusable bottles. 

• Install a programmable thermostat in your home. 

• Place recycling bins throughout your home, office and synagogue. “The more bins available,” Simonoff says, “the more people remember to recycle.” 

This article appeared originally in "Bridges," a special section.



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