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If I were the sort of person who had a bucket list of things to pick off before I leave this mortal coil, a shopping spree at Posche would be up near the top of it, behind a dirty barroom makeout sesh with Ben Affleck but above owning a signed "I'm sorry I bet on baseball" Pete Rose baseball. You see, I am a Real Housewives superfan, and the New Jersey franchise owns my heart and my soul in a way that no other 'wifely locale does.
Which is why, on a very hot Friday in late June, I rounded up two friends and drove to northern New Jersey to fulfill this long-standing shopping goal, and then some: I fashioned my very own Real Housewives of New Jersey style and beauty tour. My goal was to return home from a day spent living like the Jersey Housewives — who are the most ethnically homogenous set of 'wives, Italian all — with big hair, spangled clothing and possibly an attitude problem.
The route would take us from Cafface, the beauty bar that Lauren Manzo Scalia created with NJ OG Housewife Caroline Manzo (i.e. her Mom), to the aforementioned Posche, to Envy by MG, current 'wife Melissa Gorga's new clothing shop. Joining me was fellow Housewives superfan (and former Racked contributor) Lilit Marcus, as well as Racked's Managing Editor, Garden State native Tiffany Yannetta. It was to be a very Jersey outing.
As it turned out, before we even got behind the wheel, Jersey came to Manhattan (or at least the spirit of Jersey), in the form of a screaming match between two women at the car rental counter.
I texted my editor as the situation unfolded. "Flip a table," was her advice.
Cafface is in Franklin Lakes, hometown to Jersey 'wives Caroline Manzo and Jacqueline Laurita; the space in which it's housed was the former site of a salon called Chateau, which was featured prominently on Seasons 1 and 2 of the show. As the salon came into sight, a collective squeal went up in the car. I had chosen my traveling companions well.
Our journey from Manhattan to Jersey was exceedingly delayed, in small part because of the altarcation at the car rental joint, but mostly because Manhattan is no place to be driving at Noon on a Friday in the summertime.
When we were still on the West Side Highway 15 minutes before our scheduled appointments, I called Cafface to say that we'd be late. They were incredibly accommodating, which you should know, but isn't really the reason I'm telling you about our traffic woes. I'm tell you that so I can tell you this: When I got off the phone, Lilit and Tiffany were like, "Um Joles? Can we talk about the name of this place? Because it is insane."
So yes, let us first talk about the name, Cafface because it is, indeed, insane and Lauren Manzo knows it. I know this because on an episode of Manzo'd With Children, the Manzo family's Bravo spin-off, she initiates a renovation of Cafface without Caroline's knowledge and endeavors to change the name of the salon entirely, which led to the following exchange between mother and daughter.
"One more thing that I thought of, since I hate the name Cafface with a fiery passion, to change the name since it’s gonna be a blowout bar to Full Blown."
"You full-blown lost your mind."
"Everyone thinks that it’s ‘Cat-Face’ and it makes no sense. Someone made an appointment the other day for their cat."
"We need the money. Why didn’t you take the appointment?"
"We’re not a cat groomer!"
Anyone reading this who is in possession of an Italian mother already knows this, but for the rest of you: The name Cafface was Caroline's idea, she believes with utter certainty that it is the perfect name and she does not relent from that stance. She prevails, by the way (those of you with Italian mothers already know that).
Since there were three of us, we decided to divvy up the salon's offerings to get as broad an experience to report on; Lilit and Tiffany opted for a conditioning treatment and braid, respectively. I'm struggling through the growing out of a very short haircut (no regrets!), so I booked a blowout and asked for a little styling help.
About the list of services… the only complaint I have about our Cafface experience was that there is no list of services available online. I shall now endeavor to correct that.
That list is courtesy of the gal who answered the phone and patiently recited it when I called to make appointments. The fact of her patience entirely made up for having to make the call in the first place — as did our experience once we finally arrived at the salon. Oh man, I cannot say enough great things about Cafface.
Because the results of a conditioning treatment turn out best with the benefit of time, Lilit went first so that she could sit and marinate her hair while Tiffany and I got our hairdos. Lauren herself worked on all three of us, answering what was probably our biggest question: "Does Lauren actually do hair, or does she just run the joint?" Oh yes, she works. She very definitely works and she is very definitely excellent at what she does. For days after her conditioning treatment, Lilit exclaimed over how soft her hair was, and how good it smelled. Tiffany's fishtail braid was adorable.
My blowout also looked great, and Lauren helped me to figure out what the haircut wanted to do as it grew out. I'm hair challenged, so trying to sort out if my hair wanted to flip out, or curl under or do some other thing entirely was proving impossible, the result of which has been that I've been sporting an ugly, stumpy ponytail for the past two months.
Despite the fact that I wasn't there to do a formal interview with Lauren, she was perfectly happy to answer questions about the salon and her experience with running the business. She's busy, having just opened a second salon in nearby Wayne, N.J. The clientele is almost entirely a local one — not many Housewives fans make the trip out to Jersey — dominated by the prom and wedding set, with a healthy number of drop-ins who stop by for lashes or tans. The salon also sells products ranging from bath bombs to Stila cosmetics.
There was, I'll admit, a bit of weirdness of having my hair styled by a stranger whose wedding I wept at when I watched it on TV. As I write this, I'm watching an old episode of RHoNJ in which her mom and dad drop almost ten grand on a shopping spree at Barney's. I like to think I handled the weirdness well, by acknowledging that we were fans of the show, explaining the reason for our trip out to Jersey that day, and more or less leaving it at that. She could not have been more gracious, and was also very funny. Lauren, I hope we weren't too weird!
We left Cafface beautiful but starving, so when we arrived in Allendale, N.J., home of my personal Mecca, Posche by Kim D, we parked the car and grabbed a bite at an Italian restaurant across the street from Posche.
On a reporting trip in NJ and we're eating at a v fancy Italian joint at 4:30pm.— Tiffany Yannetta (@tiffanyyannetta) June 24, 2016
Of course, this being an Italian restaurant in Jersey, when I say "a bite" I mean that we had a three-course meal that started with complimentary bruschetta and arancini, followed by salads served on frosted glass plates, and then finally, our entrees, which we devoured like animals. We had no intention of doing anything so formal when it came to our dining plans, but it was also the perfect thing. I couldn't have planned it better, because how can you possibly plan perfection?
And, oh man, this place was beyond ideal, from the waiter who kept teasingly telling poor, famished Tiffany that he'd bring her glass of vodka right out (she'd ordered penne alla vodka, you see) to the inexplicable dual sountrack that layered Frank Sinatra classics over the Black Eyed Peas. It turned out that there was a graduation party taking place in a private room on the lower level of the restaurant, which also explained the stream of teenaged girls with perfectly curled hairdos coming into the place. I assume they'd also been at Cafface that day.
As we waited for our food, I noticed that the rack of sales clothing on the sidewalk outside of Posche was being brought in. I dunno, I was so hungry I didn't think too much of it, because why would it occur to me that the store was shutting down more than two hours before its official closing time? Well, it should have occurred to me, because that's exactly what happened.
It took a few minutes standing in front of the locked door for us to admit the awful truth of the situation. Posche was closed and was staying closed. I was crushed.
Fortunately, the shop itself was small enough that peering through the window offered us a pretty good sense of the place. There was a sequined bodysuit, a large selection of fancy jeans and embellished tops, and a basketful of sweatshirts emblazoned with POSCHE. I have never wanted an item of clothing so badly in my life.
Dejected, we headed back to the car in hopes of a better experience at Envy by MG.
The thing was, I still wanted one of those sweatshirts. They're available on the Posche website, but are currently out of stock. So I figured I'd just call and order one over the phone, and ask why the store had closed early; perhaps there was an entirely good reason, such as a family emergency, for the early closure.
Yeah, no, there was no good reason — the shopgirl had just left early to "pick up inventory." But there was no note, no indication anywhere that this closure was planned, no citation on the website to call and check the store hours because they're subject to change. Also she lied to me right there on the phone, "We closed at 5:30, we must have just missed you!" She didn't "just miss" us, I watched her close the place down well before 5:30 while I was eating tortellini bolognese. If you ever find yourself in Allendale, N.J., please do consider dining at Mezza Luna Bistro. The bathroom, in particular, is not to be missed; the tortellini bolognese isn't bad either.
"Sometimes we do close early, so you should always call before to make sure we're open." This girl had a total attitude, which actually? I was kind of okay with — it felt like the Jersey way. Acceptable 'tude aside, I decided to punt on ordering the sweatshirt. I've watched enough of Kim D in action to be a little nervous for them to have my home address.
The drive to Montclair took us from the tony Allendale/Franklin Lakes area through more working class neighborhoods. Just as I was about to observe that we were departing the land of The Real Housewives and heading into Sopranos territory, we passed Holsten's, the site of the famous (or infamous, depending on how you respond to a lack of resolution) finale, in which Tony either does or does not get killed.
Montclair itself is a place best characterized as the next stop for Park Slope parents who either age or price out of Brooklyn. It's a town, or township, if you want to be precise about things, in transition — its downtown is a mix of fading flower shops and dance studios and hip new tattoo parlors, twee stationery shops and a Lululemon.
Envy by MG is small, but beautifully designed. Where Posche had the look of a generic suburban stripmall boutique, Envy could have been picked up and dropped in any major city and no one would have noticed. Well, if it weren't for the inexplicable Rodan + Fields display toward the back of the store that screamed, "A family member is an R+F associate who offered me a cut of her sales if I put her product in my store." That part was pure Jerz.
The clothes and accessories were well-curated and can be best described as looking like they came straight out of Melissa Gorga's own closet. Oddly enough, this was not at all a bad thing.
There was a solid mix of casual and dressy clothes, from jeans and message tees to rompers and dressy tops to cocktail dresses. I tried on a peach, beaded, sleeveless top that I passed on because, in addition to be a little too snug across the bosom, it was entirely sheer, despite being lined. I may have an Italian aesthetic, but I draw the line at see-through tops. At my urging, Tiffany tried on a silver beaded romper that had caught my eye when we entered the store — I don't have a romper-friendly figure, but Tiffany gamely modeled it for me. It was adorable, and at $147, incredibly well-priced. I urged her to make the purchase but, alas, she is more fiscally responsible than I and she passed on it.
The prices, however, are worth talking about because they were all over the place. Jeans ran upwards of $300; a tee that declared that its wearer was a fan of White Wine In The Daytime was $62. Other similar tees went for $25 and $39. Nothing made sense.
We left empty-handed but satisfied, and stopped for froyo before getting in the car to head back to Manhattan, because it felt like the correct thing to do. I still want that POSCHE sweatshirt.