The Spirit of Small Business: Riverview Wine and Spirits

The Heights of Jersey City is a burgeoning community atop the New Jersey Palisades. Once regarded as merely the cheaper residential neighbor to Hoboken, The Heights is now a destination of its own but with a distant familiarity. It has the culture of NYC, the positive energy of LA, and ‘all the grit, salt, and earthiness of New Jersey.’

Over the course of only a few years, this Jersey City sub-sector has grown into a diversified locale boasting farmers markets, a trendy food scene, and a redesigned landscape. Along with the wave of new business, and influx in population, comes an era of reinvention.

Many local residents recall 43 Bowers Street as the long-time home to Mahnke’s Deli. So, when Riverview Wine and Spirits took over the space in 2019 owner Laura Marchetti opted to keep a piece of the buildings history by adding the original signage to the store’s decor— an integration of the past into the present and, hopeful, future.

“Wine is quite literally in my blood,” Laura Marchetti, owner of Riverview Wine and Spirits said. She is an Italian expat from the central, eastern coast of Italy in Le Marche, who moved to The Heights in 2018. “We grew up drinking it at every meal. Many of the people around me were directly involved with growing grapes and making wine.” When Marchetti came to to New York for the summer of 2006, a Parisian fashion career in her pocket, she ached for change.

A few years later she met friends who lived in The Heights and fell in love with the areas up and coming feel. At her partners suggestion, she decided to apply her intricate knowledge of the wine industry into a business endeavor. That’s when she opened her own store. “I had a head start with an Italian agrarian basic understanding of it all. Wine taps into a primitive part of the brain where language often comes up short. Sharing that with people means they are also sharing that with you, which I think leads to deep connections.”

Riverview’s selection is niche, curated based on Marchetti’s taste but rooted in diversity. While another store might decline ‘some disheveled’ salesperson that ‘walks in the door with a portfolio of obscure wine,’ it’s that unique personality that captures Riverview’s attention most. Labels as distinctive in their name as the artwork that grace the bottle, matchmaking in both taste and character for consumers. But the majority of the selection has one thing in common— it’s regional. Including the mural on the exteriors New York Avenue wall, a painting by Asbury Park’s Neil O’Brien.

Laura Marchetti, owner of Riverview Wine and Spirits

Artisanal, farmer made wine is an agricultural product and, like other products, sometimes they run out, especially if they are a small business. As a result, the inventory at Riverview rotates, which makes browsing the shelves all the more exciting. Customers never know exactly what they’ll be getting, which opens up possibility to a new discovery. Further, it maintains a dialogue between the staff and the community— sharing desires, offering expertise, and learning about one another. Each bottle on the shelf has a story and the employees understand the intricate details of the products they carry.

Despite the pandemic forcing early closures or social distancing regulations (for a while they were only doing walk-up orders), Riverview has seen business soar, on both a financial and a personal level. Wine, beer, and spirit sales have all gone up but, in addition, the average customer has become more knowledgeable in their purchasing power. It isn’t just a bottle of wine, it’s a thought out decision based on learned taste and availability.

“It’s about loving what I do, passing that love to my customers, and being able to pay the bills as a result. It takes passion, knowledge, and an ear to the pavement,” Marchetti explained of her success. Beyond bottles, there’s a sector of carefully selected foods, typically crafted or sold locally, to go along those wine and cheese nights. In essence, Riverview Wine and Spirits is more than the local liquor store. It’s the first stop towards creating a communal experience.

“If they fictionalize this place it would fall short,” Marchetti described the personality palate of The Heights. “Everyone has something to say and they will give it to you unsolicited. There’s a certain faith in that. I came to love it. People assume that if they go too far you’ll tell them and forgive them. It’s insane, but it works. They support me, they push me, they’re honest with me, and they roll with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better community.”

To get into the spirit of things, whether it be the holidays or to simply cure the COVID crazies, Marchetti shared some of her recommendations. A Dufaitre ‘Premices’ Gamay 2018 is a crowd pleasure for those who enjoy a full body red; Les Vins Pirouettes orange wine is a fruity alternative to the overly sought after white or rose; Forthave amaro Marseille is a digestif with old forged ingredients suitable to commence or conclude any meal; Breucklen New York Wheat Whiskey is a young, smooth but complex whiskey with a peppery flavor; and The Referend This Is Just to Say sour beer is brewed in New Jersey but inspired by Belgium craftsmanship.

“Considering this is an endless Groundhog’s Day we’re living in, the ‘season’ I’m in is the one I can be in 365 days a year. Not to sound too hyperbolic, but don’t most of the important exchanges in the world take place at the table or the bar?”

Riverview Wine and Spirits is located at 43 Bowers Street, Jersey City.

Love Coffee, Love People

Since the mid-1600s coffee shops have been cultural hubs for connectivity, a place to unwind and think. As the centuries have rolled on the technology may have changed but the allure of a cozy café remains prevalent.

owner Evan Santiago holding a flat white with oat milk

Hybrid Coffee + Kitchen is the newest coffee shop to open in the Jersey City area, at 110 Cambridge Avenue, but many locals are already familiar with the name. Less than a year ago, owner Evan Santiago debuted Hudson County’s only mobile coffee cart on Exchange Place, which he custom built from a converted 1970s horse trailer. After only a few months of proven success, he decided to expand to a brick-and-mortar location, which opened in late November of 2019.


“My desire is to create a coffee culture that is outside of your standard norm and my brand overall is inspired by my travels and things that I went through in life,” Santiago expressed.


As an art director by trade, the decor of his new location is certainly reflective of said attitude. A hand blown glass neon sign that reads Love coffee, love people; an original wooden 1970s Pac-man with over 60 games; a display case with plant life; reclaimed wood; a real fireplace with colorfully upholstered antiquity furniture. Then there’s the eye catcher, tables made from old cast iron Singer sewing machines, a touch Santiago refers to as his signature style, creating and cutting out the wooden tops himself. 


“I wanted to create something that was a conversation starter. I curated the space as a little piece of my mind. I wanted to make it feel like home. Each space has a purpose.”

Even the location itself has a deeper purpose. Hybrid is in the same building as the Hope Center, a modernized church. Santiago is the centers acting art director and media director, taking part in over 20 free community events annually. While the center technically owns the space and licenses the brand, Santiago owns the brand itself. But it’s all filtered through the non-profit, adding real heart to this home.

“I’ve always had this desire to open up a coffee shop and to be in the service space industry. When you’re doing something like this you’re not only serving people and pleasing people, but you’re pleasing palates as well.”


In addition to the lattes, teas, coffee, and espresso, currently the food menu lists items such as avocado toast, eggs-in-a-blanket, a hybrid waffle, brioche French toast, stew sandwich, and latin style chicken soup, made by Santiago himself.

It’s rare to walk into a new place and immediately feel at ease, but Santiago has an innate capacity for empathy, a likely reason why he’s seen such success.

Hybrid brings in the local community in every aspect of business. The coffee is from Jersey City’s own ModCup, where Santiago was a consumer for many years prior to owning his own piece of the culture and various delicious pastries are sourced directly from Choc-O-Pain on Palisades Avenue.


“Coffee is full of science and full of art, to create a great drink. I want to pair good coffee with good product.”


All the dishes, cups, and stoneware are handmade from Union City based artist Jono Pandolfi, and in the corner customers can purchases pieces from missionary group, Traveling Thrift, and leather by Billy Kirk. For the future Hybrid plans to dig its roots even deeper into the community, selling local art work, product, even flowers.

“I want a space you can walk in and you feel like you can get everything. Where you can work, you can eat, you can buy a card. A place that fulfills all the needs, all the things that you need to get through your day.”

With the new year will be a new opportunity to grow. Hybrid aims have a calendar of events for the whole community to enjoy, including live music and open mic nights.

“I’m planted here. I want to grow where I’m planted. My wife and I, with our kids, wanted to build in the location where we live. It’s easy to go out, but why not invest in the city that you walk in every day?”

Hybrid Coffee + Kitchen is located on 110 Cambridge Avenue in Jersey City. Find them on Instagram.

Spotlight: Antonella Bertello

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


The Baker House 1650 celebrated its 15th summer under the ownership of Antonella Bertello. She originally purchased the property as a 1031 exchange (redo and resell) but couldn’t let it go. When the doors officially opened to the public on Valentine’s Day in 2005 she likened the experience to inviting strangers into her home, having become incredibly attached to her project.

“There’s so much history that goes with this house and that’s why I love it so much. I even saw these beautiful trees and tried to work around them. What right do we have to knock them down when they’ve been around hundreds of years before us?” Bertello expressed of her passion for the existing elements on the property. From the trees outside to the Sandra de Ovando flower artwork inside The Baker House, she looks for the unique and interesting in everyday life.

Her passion for design, and life, is an inherited trait from her father, one that continues to run through her blood in everything she does. Born and raised in Peru, Bertello recalled going out with her father, mother, and two younger brothers on Sundays after lunch, driving past the buildings and admiring their structure. “From the moment I was born, my father would take me everywhere with him,” she reminisced, from car rides to Formula One races.

Her father, Lucho Bertello, was a pioneer in banking, “a frustrated architect,” and an avid polo player, a tribute with tin-foil polo artwork throughout the property. However, his life was cut short at age 46, in 1992, due to cancer. While the primary cancer was never discovered, he ended up suffering from lung, lymph, and bone cancer, an atrociously painful experience. At only 22 years old, Bertello flew back to Peru from Spain to help her younger brothers and was in charge of buying her father’s morphine.

“It was very difficult because he started sounding very normal, and then he would go off into crazy things and you didn’t know where he was.” Looking into her eyes, a strong woman on the verge of celebrating 51 years of life, the memory of “a brilliant man, big and strong” remained as clear as the day he was breathing. She would always be his little girl and he would always be her hero. “Is he nice to you? Does he respect you? He asked the normal questions,” she recalled of his dating advice. “It was very funny because my father knew exactly how to handle me in the sense that he never imposed anything on me, yet I did exactly what he advised me to do all the time.”

After her father, Bertello lost her aunt to pancreatic cancer, which swiftly took her in five months after she complained about stomach pain. When Bertello was 35 she lost her cousin, age 36, to a birthmark that grew into melanoma. She left behind two children that Bertello still watches over today. In addition, Bertello’s best friend lost a daughter, at 18, to a brain tumor. “It’s anti-nature for a parent to have to bury a child,” she said. And finally, without children of her own, Bertello lost her 14-year-old yellow lab to melanoma. “Cancer doesn’t only affect people. It happens to animals too,” she said.

As her 14-week-old puppy, Bella, and nine-year-old dog, Sophie, played in the Italian styled backyard, Bertello recalled the best advice she has ever been given. “A wiser man, like a grandfather, told me ‘You need to switch the perspective. You cannot just focus on what you’re feeling and how sad you are, you need to focus on what the person that passed would have liked for you to do. How would he or she have liked to be remembered?’ Smile, with all the love in our hearts.”

Maserati To Montauk

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Independent/Amy Kalaczynski

Maserati: it’s not a car, it’s an experience.

I’d never driven a car with an MSRP reaching six figures. Purchasing my 2011 Hyundai, straight from the showroom post-college graduation, was about the biggest sense of automotive accomplishment I’ve achieved. So, when the opportunity to drive around a Maserati Quattroporte GranLusso for 24 hours presented itself, I was zero to ecstatic in 1.5 seconds.

The symbol of Maserati is a trident, the weapon of choice for Poseidon/Neptune, God of the Sea in mythology. Symbolically, Maserati is already connected to the East End, a place surrounded by water and those who have based their livelihoods off of it. And the sleek design of Quattroporte alone begged to be photographed. These waves of thought, in my mind, created a connection to the car that goes deeper than luxury. A car takes you from point A to point B. In this case, rather stylishly so. But at the end of the day, a car, no matter what the price tag, is about those in it and the adventures it drives us to.

Having the car wasn’t enough. I had to be seen in it. I needed to be noticed. I put on my red one-piece bathing suit as a top, with white jeans, to patriotically compliment the blue shimmer of the exterior. It reminded me of Montauk, blue like the ocean with subtle sparkles like the clear night sky.

Holiday House Hamptons with DanceBody and Paddle Diva. Below, Memory Motel, with Bella Ornaf of Fin Montauk. Independent/Amy Kalaczynski

Aiming to be mildly boastful yet inclusive, I sought out as many local businesses as I could to photograph with the car. Holiday House Hamptons in Bridgehampton, benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, with Paddle Diva and DanceBody; The Lobster Roll in Amagansett; Gig Shack and Fin jewelry in Montauk. I dropped by The Montauk Beach House, Deep Hollow Ranch, The Montauk Lighthouse, and, concluded the day at John’s Drive-In. By including these establishments, with their teams or a just quick snap-shot, the car transformed from a solo experience to a communal one. I was the one behind the wheel but the gas pedal took me to the places that

Independent/Amy Kalaczynski

I felt invincible driving such a power piece of machinery, gliding my hands over the wood-accented leather steering, blasting throwback music, opening the sunroof and all the windows. My Maserati hair was complemented by the salty air as I went back and forth on the stretch, from place to place, smiling to every passerby. However, nothing could overpower the joy that came from sharing my experience with others.

Not everyone has the means to drive such a lavishly designed car, not even myself (yet). But for a brief moment, we all shared in on a dream. The Hamptons is globally recognized as a place for people with money, a place to be seen. Underneath it all, year-round it’s a small town based on community support. For 24 hours, my Maserati was just that. A vehicle bringing people together.


Park Place Wines: A Business Throughout The Generations

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Donald McDonald purchased an empty lot in East Hampton in 1969 on Newtown Lane, long before the days of luxury retail stores. A high school teacher at the time, McDonald built a discount liquor store, a party store, and the offices above it, all after the dismissal bell rang, and throughout the summer months, to open up his family business that very same year. Today, that discount liquor store has become better recognized as Park Place Wines & Liquors.

“For us growing up, the family business was there and the whole community came in. Especially around Christmas time. Everybody knew everybody else,” said Donald’s daughter, Donna McDonald. Her brother, Tom McDonald, chimed in, “It was almost better than the local barber shop.”

The McDonalds are a family rooted into East Hampton from the ground up. Donald was born in East Hampton, in a house, not a hospital. He later met his wife, Alice, while he was lifeguarding at Main Beach, a marriage that would last 54 years. Although Donald had begun to delegate responsibilities to their children around 2008, it was in 2011, after Alice passed away, that both Donna and Tom took over management of Park Place. Donna handles the staff and Tom handles accounting. Together, they’ve refreshed an old family business into a thriving business model for the future.

At 89 years old, Donald still comes into the store on a daily basis. “He’s an old fixture in the community. He has a mindset where he cares about people and East Hampton,” said Donna about her father. It’s become a synchronized routine, both endearing and lighthearted, as the staff pulls all the bottles to the front of the store and leaves them out so Donald can see them upon arrival. While Donald has stepped back, he certainly hasn’t tired out, she said.

“It’s been such a wonderful experience to work with my brother,” said Donna. She moved to San Francisco in 1996, but still spends her summers in East Hampton and during the holiday months, where she always sees Tom, who has remained a local. She said she relishes “the joy of having people come in, and the cultural experience of not just meeting people, but helping them with the history of a wine, how it pairs.”

Park Place has evolved from a discount liquor store into more of a wine shop, with sommeliers and industry experts that bring knowledge and value into the area. There’s even a tasting table in the store where patrons can partake in sampling different products before buying, from wine to tequila, whiskey, and more.

courtesy of Donna McDonald

As the McDonalds, and the entire East Hampton community, commemorate 50 years of Park Place Wines & Liquors, it’s also a celebration of life and the family that has brought moments of happiness to those around them. A bottle of wine, or liquor, is more than the alcohol by volume listed on the label. It symbolizes a gathering of friends, family, and perfect strangers. It’s date night at home, toasting to a new promotion, sipping while watching beach sunsets, a barbecue, a Tuesday night, a memory.

“When my dad was courting my mother, who was in New Jersey at the time, he would drive to her from East Hampton. This is before the Long Island Expressway was built. He would take Sunrise Highway all the way to the G.W. Bridge, just to have lunch with her family on Sundays,” Donna said of her maternal side of the family, who were all from Italy. “Italians had lunch on Sundays after church, and they’d all drink Manhattans, or Negronis. So, we drink those two things to remember my mother.”