With the coming of spring, it’s refreshing to see flowers, robins — and the birth of some new businesses in our area. Amid the ongoing pandemic, they’re a welcome sign of things to come.
Say ‘ciao’ to an Italian deli
For starters, how about some caponata Siciliana, focaccia, or formaggi, including house-made mozarella, foccacia, salumi, panini, and other Italian delicacies, both classic and modern? Welcome La Vita Italian Specialties, which opened just before Valentine’s Day in the Theatre Center in Sparta.
Husband and wife owners, Wade Moises and Zan Hast, were planning to open a restaurant in New York City, where they lived prior to the pandemic. But problems arose with this plan.
“We started looking for places in the city, but the rent is so expensive, and, especially with the food service business, it just didn’t seem worth it,” Moises said. “On top of that, though we loved our apartment and it had been perfect for the two of us, we had a baby that had become a toddler and had outgrown the studio apartment. Of course, the third issue was the pandemic.”
The couple decided to leave the city, move to Sparta, and open a business.
“Zan grew up in Sparta, and her dad said, ‘What this place really needs is a good Italian deli,’” Moises said. “We decided to provide something great for Sparta that was also fulfilling our wants of owning a business together — not with a full restaurant space, but a deli setting.”
They settled on a corner next to Sparta Lanes. The space in former times has been an Italian bakery as well as a deck construction business.
“It’s has lots of light, faces the street, and has its own identity,” Moises said. “We pride ourselves on our handmade breads, meats and mozzarella as well as an extensive offering of vegetable antipasti. We offer sandwiches, salads, combination platters, catering, and full dinners for pick up daily.”
The food is a mix of northern and southern Italian cooking. With Covid protocols, though the allowed capacity is 11. They limit occupancy for pick-up food to six people, or eight if it’s a family.
La Vita is located at 83 Woodport Road in Sparta. Call 973-826-4624 for further information.
Have a no-waste life
“It’s the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities.” This line, from the song in the musical “Jungle Book,” rings true for Mikaela Molnar, an Andover native who now lives in Newton.
“I realized that the no-waste lifestyle was more than just a journey, it was my passion,” she said.
She started her online business last July, and her store, Simple Bare Necessities, will open in Sparta on or around Earth Day, April 22.
Molnar and her roommate learned about the no-waste movement three years ago and challenged themselves to abide by it. “It wasn’t easy as there are no real resources in our area,” she said. “One day I was walking around with my fiance and it hit me. ‘I’m going to do it.’”
She was off from work due to Covid and felt it was a really good time to start her online business. “It was a good time for change,” she said. “Simple Bare Necessities is stemmed from just that – necessities that are low waste and plastic-free. The framework behind solving our pollution crisis is living a more sustainable lifestyle. We can do that by minimizing our own waste, and making small yet impactful changes. I am here to provide sustainable alternatives to single-use essentials that are friendly for our environment and oceans.”
She started going to farmers markets. Thanks to online fundraising and bootstrapping and use of her personal funds, the store is coming to fruition.
Simple Bare Necessities will feature bulk bins with more than 100 different food items, including rice, beans, baking ingredients, granolas, pastas, coffee, tea, spices, bulk liquid ingredients, oils, vinegar, honey, syrup, soy sauce, personal care products, soaps, shampoo, conditioner, laundry powder, and lots more. There will also be plastic-free sponges, toothbrushes, and everyday items.
“I’ve been working with a lot of local makers,” Molnar said. “There are a lot of Jersey-made items, and everything is organic.”
She said her family is her ultimate support, as well as her fiance, Jake, and two adopted pups, Nata and Sequoia.
“We are currently crowdfunding to help fund our new store,” Molnar said. “We would love the support to help us get to our goals of bringing sustainability to Sussex County.”
The online store is at ifundwomen.com/projects/simple-bare-necessities-package-free-store.
Simple Bare Necessities will open April 22 at 17 Main Street in Sparta.
Sharpen your vision
Dr. Szilvia Peli, OD, and her husband, Alan Schwartz, a licensed optician, had a business in Rockaway for years. One day, they were driving north on Route 15 and saw the skeletal beginnings of a plaza. They loved it and started the ball rolling to open a second Peli EyeCare Associates. They are now open in Sparta, inside of Pearle Vision, in the ShopRite Plaza.
“It was very difficult to open in the midst of a pandemic,” Schwartz said. “Our builder worked with us quite well, but it was quite the endeavor to come together with building and finances. It took a lot of extra energy to put it together. We probably could have opened earlier but it was just the way things were.”
Dr. Peli has been in practice for 23 years and has established a fine reputation. Clients who had traveled from Sussex County to their primary location in Rockaway were delighted to see the Sparta location open. The business has been attracting new patients since opening in October.
“One of the things that sets us apart, besides Dr. Peli’s reputation, is our attention to sanitizing,” Schwartz said. “We use an ultra high powered UV ozone system.”
Peli Eyecare Associates is located within Pearle Vision at 10 North Village Boulevard, Suite C, in Sparta. Call 973-729-1180 to make an appointment or for further information.
“Zan grew up in Sparta, and her dad said, ‘What this place really needs is a good Italian deli. We decided to provide something great for Sparta that was also fulfilling our wants of owning a business together.” Wade Moises