Millburn & Short Hills June 2024

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Millburn & Short Hills








Barbers With an


June 2024
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Contents JUNE 2024 18 6 22 28 ON THE COVER Drew Le, owner of Original Sharp Barbershop & Shave Parlor in Millburn. PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA SPECTOR 14 FEATURES 14 Making the Cut Three local barbershops prove to be havens of relaxation. 18 Banner Moment Daniel Cannon helps bring attention to the importance of military service members through a community flag project. 22 Forever Young Neighborhood House’s Deb Sobelman reflects on what the school means to the community. IN EVERY ISSUE 4 Publisher’s Note 6 Around Town BITE-SIZED UPDATES 10 Q&A HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR NANCY SIEGEL 28 Local Tastes BOXCAR BAR & GRILL 32 Photo Op PEACEFUL PATTERNS 2 | MILLBURN & SHORT HILLS

Publisher’s Note

In this issue, we honor the wonderful community flag project that has moved our hearts by honoring our veterans. We also shine a light on longtime high school counselor Nancy Siegel, who has touched the lives of so many students in our community.

The 104-year-old Neighborhood House Nursery School has a new director, and we think you will enjoy learning more about this community member, who is ready to uphold the school’s long tradition of stellar early childhood education.

I’m looking forward to the town’s many upcoming summer initiatives, like the 5K race. Even though I fancy myself an avid jogger, it’s been a few years since I have done a 5K. But, with some trepidation, I am planning on participating. See you out there!

I am also looking forward to alfresco shopping, dining and milling about listening to the summer music series, during which the streets will be closed between Essex Street and Millburn Avenue.

One of the nicest compliments I have received recently about the magazine is that it is both informative and interesting. We love interfacing with the community about engaging story ideas that will appeal to our readers. Thank you to all who have reached out. We are a fun bunch so don’t be shy! Please email me at or direct message us on our Instagram. Happy Summer to all!

Millburn & Short Hills



Mary Lima

Editor and Lead Writer

Elaine Paoloni Quilici

Art Director

Sue Park


Stacey Gill

D.W. Hirsch

Photographer Melissa Spector



Carroll V. Dowden

President and CEO

Mark Dowden

VP, Group Publisher, Regional

Thomas Flannery

VP, Content Strategy

Maria Regan

Creative Director

Kijoo Kim

Advertising Services Director

Jacquelynn Fischer

Operations Director

Catherine Rosario

Production Designer

Chris Ferrante

Print Production Manager

Fern Meshulam

Advertising Production Associate Griff Dowden

Millburn & Short Hills magazine is published by Wainscot Media. Serving residents of Millburn and Short Hills, the magazine is distributed monthly via U.S. mail. Articles and advertisements contained herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher.

Copyright 2024 by Wainscot Media LLC.

No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written consent.



Around Town

Summer is ready to kick off with a bang. Get ready for some patriotic pride in town to celebrate July 4. Then enjoy some outdoor music, exercise and reading to keep you entertained all month long. Among the happenings in town are many innovative and engaging programs organized by Explore Millburn-Short Hills and its numerous partners.




One of the great traditions in town is the celebration of America’s birthday. The volunteers of the Millburn-Short Hills Fourth of July Committee have once again put together an exciting all-day celebration at Taylor Park (100 Main St., Millburn) and Millburn High School (462 Millburn Ave., Millburn).

The day starts with a flag-raising ceremony at Taylor Park at 9 a.m., followed by the annual Patriot Award ceremony. This year’s recipient is long-time community volunteer Chris Drucker. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., guests can enjoy free family entertainment including a magician, kids’ DJ, face painting, stilt walker and train rides around the park.

The fireworks extravaganza kicks off with music and food at 7:30 p.m. at Millburn High School. Fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit

Photograph courtesy of Millburn-Short Hills 4th of July Committee

It’s time to do a little alfresco shopping. Sidewalk sales are officially permitted in town through September 29 during regular business hours. Shoppers can take a relaxing stroll through town, browse at their leisure and find some great deals along the way.

Photograph courtesy of Vicky Powell



After three years of live music, food and games on Main Street, the team from Explore Millburn-Short Hills is moving the show to Town Hall Plaza. The street between Essex Street and Millburn Avenue will be closed from July 1 through Labor Day, and will be a family-friendly and pedestrian-oriented space for everyone’s enjoyment.

Opening night is schedued for July 2, and there will be live music every Friday and Saturday night. Explore has added more yard games, seating options and décor, including gazebos and overhead lighting.

The Open Streets program will also be back for 2024. Visitors can expect outdoor yoga and exercise classes, chess tournaments and art programs. Local restaurants will offer special takeout menu options and on-site cooking on select nights. For more information, visit www. and follow on Instagram @exploremillburnshorthills.

Photographs courtesy of Explore Millburn-Short Hills


Summer reading isn’t just for students. Children, teens and adults can sign up for Millburn Free Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s program, supported by Friends of the Millburn Library, runs from June 17 through August 9 and has the theme Adventure Starts at Your Library. Participants earn raffle tickets for the books they read, which are then entered into weekly prize drawings. Last year, the library reported 1,341 readers who read 41,675 books. Photograph courtesy of Sarah Pardi


The 43rd annual Millburn President’s Cup 5K race will be held on June 24. It will kick off at 7 p.m. with a kid’s fun run, followed by the 5K race. All are welcome to attend—runners, walkers, volunteers, supporters and cheerleaders. After the race, stick around for music, pizza and a beer garden, which will be set up until 10 p.m. in lots 19 and 6 by Town Hall. Photographs courtesy of Matthew Kass


Explore Millburn-Short Hills is the 501(c)3 nonprofit established to support and promote businesses throughout the five areas of the Special Improvement District that was established in 2020. It organizes numerous events, musical performances, educational programs and networking events. The organization also is responsible for various public art and streetscaping projects in town, including the Millburn Art Alley.

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Guiding Light

Nancy Siegel has been an influencer for longer than the term has been used to describe social media celebrities. A counselor in the Millburn Township School District for about 50 years, she has guided numerous students through everything it takes to be a high schooler—from the college application process to navigating social circles to their overall well-being and success. Millburn & Short Hills magazine recently spoke with Siegel to learn what it has taken to be so successful in her job for so long.

& a
Nancy Siegel (center) enjoys working alongside her co-workers in Millburn High School’s guidance department. INTERVIEW WITH NANCY SIEGEL Longtime high school counselor Nancy Siegel knows how to reach teens today.

How did you come to work in the Millburn Township School District?

Though now a resident of Springfield, I spent most of my life in Millburn, where I grew up and raised two children. I went to grammar school at what was then Hobart Avenue School, where Dr. Charles King was principal and my mother was one of his teachers.

After I completed college, Dr. King, then superintendent, asked me to be an English teacher. Later that summer, he told me he really needed a counselor at the high school instead. Although I pleaded that I knew nothing about being a counselor, he asked me to try it for a year. Some 50 years later, I am still here.

How has your position changed, and what has kept you here?

The job itself has not changed very much. Getting to know kids, listening to them and talking with them is what makes each day worthwhile.

What is the greatest challenge for children these days?

Kids today have grown up too fast. They don’t seem to have spent much time being kids— playing with toys, running around outside after school, listening to stories at bedtime. Technology has undoubtedly played a part in that. It’s now all about getting a head start. Kids have had to learn how to live in a world that is forcing them to become adults way too early.

What are some of the most important qualities school counselors can have in today’s environment?

I think all counselors feel that if they had the time to really get to know their kids, it would be wonderful. But caseloads are higher and testing, scheduling, meetings and other necessary parts of the job have made that more difficult to do. Understanding that every student is a unique individual, encouraging each one, truly believing in each student’s worth, and creating an atmosphere that permits honest conversation, promotes trust and provides security are a few of the things counselors must try to accomplish. It is not an easy task.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your career?

My mother was my role model as an educator, and I followed in her footsteps. My daughter, who is the current chair of the English department at the high school, is the third generation in my family to work as an educator in this district. Nothing has made me prouder than having a daughter whose love for the classroom and whose talent as a teacher amazes me. The only one who could possibly be prouder would be my mother.

Elaine Paoloni Quilici is a freelance lifestyle writer and editor based in Verona. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, amNewYork, New Jersey Monthly and Mommy Poppins.

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Making the


Three Millburn barbershops prove to be havens of relaxation.

In honor of Father’s Day, we looked around for a way to treat the men in our lives to a little pampering and “me” time.

With welcoming staff, stylish spaces and old-school charm, these modern barber shops fit the bill. They offer luxurious amenities, including reclining barber chairs, calming hot towels, spa-like steam machines and precision cuts. Patrons may never want to leave these contemporary sanctuaries, but after just an hour or so of attention, they’ll feel refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to re-enter the world.

Millburn and Short Hills magazine recently caught up with three local barbers to learn their secrets to success. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and let the barbers take it from here.

Stacey Gill is a freelance writer and contributing author to two books in a New York Times bestselling series. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping websites, among others.


315D Millburn Ave., Millburn

Owner Drew Le has been cutting hair since he was in high school. He’ll admit he faced a learning curve with his initial attempts using friends as guinea pigs. But he didn’t give up. As other friends who cut hair grew successful, Le felt inspired.

“If they can do it,” he thought, “why can’t I?”

After high school, Le earned a degree from Rutgers University while continuing to sharpen his barbering skills on the side. When he graduated, he decided to pursue a career in internet marketing. But his love of barbering never left him.

Le found his way to barbering school, and in 2016 decided to focus full-time on his true calling by opening Original Sharp. He has no regrets about the circuitous route he took. In fact, he believes the marketing experience has provided him a competitive advantage.

“I was able to use those marketing skills to take my shop to the next level,” he says. And next level it is. With a modern black exterior and black interior accent walls coupled with rustic wooden herringbone paneling along the station wall, the shop has a distinct vibe—modern and masculine yet warm.

Original Sharp works with all hair types and textures, offers classic hot-towel shaves and serves all ages.

“I’ve always been so impressed by the quality of the service,” says client Kevin Kelly, who travels about 40 minutes round-trip to get a haircut and beard trim at Original Sharp. “It’s a level up from any other barbershop.”

From the interior design to the shop’s playlist, Kelly says no detail is overlooked in creating a soothing atmosphere for clients. As a father of two young, energetic boys, he appreciates the thoughtfulness that went into creating the oasis.

“It’s an hour or so that I can really relax,” he says.

Kelly adds that, without fail, he receives a compliment after every haircut. As a client for seven years, he has racked up a ton.

Top: Original Sharp Barbershop & Shave Parlor has a modern, masculine vibe. Photograph courtesy of Original Sharp Barbershop & Shave Parlor. Above: Owner Drew Le cuts longtime customer Kevin Kelly’s hair. Right: Le pivoted his career from internet marketing to barbering in 2016. Below: The staff of Original Sharp Barbershop & Shave Parlor offers quality service in a relaxing atmosphere.
JUNE 2024 | 15


359 Millburn Ave., Suite 4, Millburn

For owner Katie LaVecchia, barbering runs in the family. Her stepfather was a barber, and the family kept an antique barber chair in the house.

“I grew up hearing about how much he loved the barbershop culture,” says LaVecchia.

After a brief stint in college, LaVecchia was encouraged by her parents to enter the field.

“I just fell in love with it,” she says. “It became my passion.”

As a female barber, LaVecchia is a bit of a rarity, but she believes female barbers have an advantage, and she’s seen opinions

quickly shift after customers sit in a woman’s chair.

“It’s a little bit of a softer touch and a little bit more relaxing as an experience,” she says.

LaVecchia has created a classic barbershop with a modern twist by incorporating a luxury experience for her clients. Aside from haircuts, shaves and beard services, The Presidents Club offers mini facials, light waxing and hair color for kids and men.

It also offers traditional straight-razor shaves, a lost art according to LaVecchia, and one she was determined to master.

Performing the perfect straight-razor shave was, for her, the ultimate accomplishment, distinguishing her as a master barber.

She adds a spa steamer machine to this traditional service, to create a truly relaxing, 30-minute shave that, according to LaVecchia, “feels like hitting a recharge button.” To enhance the relaxation factor, she throws in a hand massage.

The shop, which is celebrating its seventh anniversary this year, occupies a bright space with an exposed brick wall, pressedtin ceiling and chocolate tufted-leather bench. It exudes her aesthetic and sense of artistry.

Top: The Presidents Club Barber Shop is a classic shop with a modern twist. Right: Owner Katie LaVecchia is a master of straight-razor shaves, which include a steam treatment.


509 Millburn Ave., Short Hills |

This shop’s solid five-star online rating shouldn’t come as a surprise given its owners. Steve Naftaoui and Adam Aoujil, have more than 40 years of combined experience.

The two met while working at the same barbershop over a decade ago. They became fast friends, connecting over a shared

dedication to the craft and a passion for barbering.

In 2022, this bond led them to open a shop together, where all services are performed by either partner seven days a week. “We do everything,” Naftaoui says.

In the two years since their shop opened, the partners have developed a reputation for

friendly and efficient service. Precision scissor and buzz cuts, traditional straight-razor shaves with a hot towel and hot towel head shaves are a few of their specialties.

They also are known to welcome children and teens and offer discounts to kids under 18 and students with a school ID.

JUNE 2024 | 17
Children and teens are welcome at Classic Cut Barbershop.
Scoutmaster Daniel Cannon poses with members of Pack 17 on Veterans Day in 2023. Opposite page: Everyone featured on a flag in town is or was a resident of Millburn.

Banner Moment

Daniel Cannon helps bring attention to the importance of military service members through a community flag project.

For many people, Memorial Day means heading down the shore, going to barbecues and watching fireworks. But for Daniel Cannon, commander of Guy R. Bosworth Sons of American Legion Squadron 140 in Millburn, it is also a time to reflect on one’s sense of country.

For years, as Scoutmaster of local Troops 17 and 19, Cannon has had strong ties with the Millburnbased veterans organization Guy R. Bosworth American Legion Post 140 and its commander, Robert “Burt” Brown. In 2023, he was inspired to recharter the affiliate Sons of the American Legion, which welcomes veterans and nonveterans alike.

“The organization is a way to bring in the next

generation and preserve Americanism,” he says. “It’s about patriotism and the American way, honor and service. We try to raise money for the benefit of veterans.”

Last fall, Cannon joined forces with community servant Karen Bigos and Gary Walz, a Coast Guard veteran and 2023 Millburn Township Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal, to launch the Hometown Heroes banner fundraising initiative.

“These are hometown heroes, so everybody has lived in Millburn at some time,” says Cannon, a Millburn resident since 2003. “We felt it was very important to honor these people personally, as a community and as a country.”


The Importance of Remembering

Though Cannon was not in the military, he has been surrounded by heroes his whole life. His father was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and several of his uncles served. Some of Cannon’s former Eagle Scouts have enlisted, and his brother survived 9/11 as a New York City fireman. Getting involved with the Hometown Heroes program was a way for Cannon to pay tribute to them all.

“My father told me many stories of friends who did not come back from Vietnam,” he says. “As a child, that resonated very much.”

Growing up in Brooklyn, Cannon also was surrounded by a patriotic community. He feels that today that sense of country has been somewhat lost. “Our children don’t necessarily have parents who served,” he says. “Maybe their grandparents served, but it’s so distant now that they don’t understand what it really means to serve your country.”

Cannon believes that disconnect is affecting the organizations’ ability to raise money. At the Fourth of July celebration last year at Millburn High School, Cannon’s scouts collected much less than in years past.

“There’s a cyclical effect,” he says,

“because the donations we collect go to sponsoring the Fourth of July committee.”

A Town-Wide Tribute

Last fall, the Hometown Heroes banner project committee started reaching out to the community with an offer to purchase flags. Cannon’s daughter, one of the first female Eagle Scouts in the country and a public relations/strategic communications major at Purdue University, helped by creating a website for the project. Once orders were received and the banners were printed, the Department of Public Works installed the banners that now line the main streets of town.

“We’re very grateful for the township’s partnership,” Cannon says. “We sold just over 100 banners, which have been up since Veterans Day, but the idea is to showcase them every year from Memorial Day to Veterans Day. Right now, we’re not selling any more due to space constraints.”

To kick off the program, there was a ceremony on Veterans Day where the 100 or so featured veterans were honored in the presence of their families and the community. Many families even traveled from out of town to attend.

Top left: Captain James E. McKenna is celebrated for his years with the Army. Middle left: U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Gabriel Liwschitz, a 2020 graduate of Millburn High School, has a flag hanging across the street from the school. Bottom left: Pearl Harbor veteran Francis Day is remembered proudly in Millburn. Above: Millburn Avenue is lined with patriotic banners.

“Being on this banner is a symbol of the unity and strength of our community, honoring all those who have served and sacrificed for our country,” says Captain James E. McKenna, U.S. Army, who has a banner. “It’s a reminder that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.”

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Gabriel Liwschitz, a Millburn High School graduate, also has a banner hanging in town.

“I cherish the roots of my military journey, anchored by the banner on Millburn Avenue, across from Millburn High School, where my aspirations first began to sail into uncharted waters,” he says.

Honoring Forgotten Heroes

In 2019, the Navy identified the remains of Francis Day, a former Millburn resident who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Though Day’s ship, the USS Oklahoma, sank that day, he was able to save 15 sailors by helping them escape through a porthole.

“It’s surprising, but no one in town knew of Day or his family, even though he was one of six children,” Cannon says. “It’s like he was a forgotten hero.”

Day received a proper full military burial in Hawaii this April. After reading about Day’s story, Cannon reached out to the Navy who put him in touch with the veteran’s family. The family was invited to take part in the Memorial Day Parade, where Day would be honored by the Sons of the American Legion in the town where he was born, raised and went to high school. The mayor read a proclamation and one more banner was added to the town’s collection in his honor.

“This is a son of Millburn,” Cannon says. “We can’t forget these individuals for their heroic actions. We’re standing here today because of that individual and the part he played in history.”


Paoloni Quilici is a freelance lifestyle writer and the editor of Millburn & Short Hills magazine. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, amNewYork, New Jersey Monthly and Mommy Poppins.
JUNE 2024 | 21
Top: Commanders Daniel Cannon and Robert “Burt” Brown have worked closely together for years on veteran initiatives. Middle: Daniel Cannon; his daughter, Katelyn “Katie” Cannon; Karen Bigos; and Gary Walz all helped to make Hometown Heroes a reality. Bottom: Veterans who have banners hanging in town attended the kickoff ceremony on Veterans Day in 2023.
A former Neighborhood House Nursery School parent, Deb Sobelman joined the school’s administration as executive director earlier this year.

Forever Young

Neighborhood House’s Deb Sobelman reflects on what the school means to the community.

Deb Sobelman is invested in the youth of Millburn and Short Hills. Earlier this year, she took over as executive director of the 104-year-old Neighborhood House Nursery School on Taylor Street in Millburn. But this isn’t her first encounter with the institution.

Sobelman, who has lived in Millburn for the past nine years with her husband and two sons, discovered Neighborhood House in 2016 when her oldest son enrolled. From 2018 to 2021, she served as PTA president. After her youngest graduated in 2021, she continued to stay active in the school community and was a member of the board of directors from 2023 to 2024.

In addition to her work at

Neighborhood House, Sobelman is currently the president of the Wyoming Elementary PTO. She has also coached soccer, basketball and track through the Millburn recreation department.

“My husband jokes that if there’s a role with kids in this community, I raise my hand for it,” she says. “When the role became available at Neighborhood House, it was serendipitous. I love this school so much, and it’s at a point in its journey when it needs a leader to re-energize the Neighborhood House brand.”

A Rich History

The Neighborhood House building dates back to the 1860s when it was a

private home. It was purchased in 1918 by Mrs. John Taylor and donated to the Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township, an organization of social welfare founded by Mrs. Stewart Hartshorn. It became the headquarters of the Neighborhood Association and home to counseling services, the community garden and a nursery school.

“We have photos of Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Hartshorn at school, and it’s humbling to think that we’re carrying on the tradition they began so many years ago,” Sobelman says. “I look at those women on the walls around my office and hope they’d be proud of what we have here today.”

JUNE 2024 | 23
Neighborhood House Nursery School has been educating children in Millburn for 104 years.

A Focus on the Whole Child

The school’s team of experienced educators is focused on the whole child and united in a common philosophy: preparing children to begin their elementary school years with confidence and the skills they need to succeed.

“In addition to reading and counting, it’s important to us that a child walks into kindergarten excited to learn, can sit at the lunch table and navigate a social situation, is able to take turns, and can sit to listen at circle time,” Sobelman says.

The staff works closely with parents to truly get to know their child and their family and to make sure children receive exactly what they need during their preschool years. From hands-on activities and learning opportunities to acclimating children to the classroom experience, students receive a well-rounded education.

“The teachers and administrators create a warm atmosphere where the students are encouraged to explore and grow, while also providing the perfect amount of routine, enabling the children to pick up things quickly and steadily,” says Kylie Moghadam, a Neighborhood House parent. “Our daughter’s favorite part of school is seeing and learning from her teachers every day. They encourage her to experiment and provide her with a safe environment to learn more about herself and the world around her. She also enjoys the mix of indoor and outdoor time, especially the school’s playground and garden.”

The play-based curriculum is a combination of classic preschool and modern education philosophies. Sobelman hopes to enrich that with more technology moving forward. She aims to retain the essence of the school while remaining relevant to what parents and preschoolers need today.

Students enjoy taking care of plants in the community garden.

Entwined in the Community Neighborhood House enjoys its strong ties to the surrounding community. Teachers regularly plan field trips into town, students have plots in the community garden, and the school prioritizes participating in town events. The school organizes trips each year to Paper Mill Playhouse and has its holiday parties at the Bauer Community Center. Sobelman has also been making plans to collaborate with organizations such as the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary, Millburn Free Public Library and One River School.

“We recently went to Millburn Earth Day, and our table was crowded with past students running up to say hi to their former teachers,” Sobelman says. “I bump into our students at the library and Millburn Standard, and they run up to my own kids and know them by name. Millburn is a small town, and the Neighborhood House experience reinforces that.”

The Next Generation Sobelman is proud to see off her first class of graduates this June. As she reflects on the school year, she remembers how it felt to watch her own son’s journey while at the school.

“I remember how my son began with tearful goodbyes and separation anxiety,” she says. “Then two years later, shortly before graduation, he was

confidently standing in front of a group, engaging the audience in a talent show. He came into his own here, and I knew he’d take that confidence with him to elementary school. I hope this year’s families feel a similar sense of pride at what their children accomplished here.”

Elaine Paoloni Quilici is a freelance lifestyle writer and the editor of Millburn & Short Hills magazine.
JUNE 2024 | 25
Deb Sobelman supports the mix of academics and socialemotional development that Neighborhood House Nursery School provides.
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All Aboard LOCAL

Boxcar Bar & Grill owner Shaun Ahern strives to make a local connection with the community.

Menu items such as Boxcar’s tacos incorporate locally sourced ingredients. 28 | MILLBURN & SHORT HILLS

When is a train station not just a train station? When it’s also a restaurant.

Welcome to Boxcar Bar & Grill.

In May 2020, owner Shaun Ahern bought the restaurant located inside the historic Short Hills train station at 25 Chatham Rd. Unfortunately, the pandemic shifted work habits and commuting became less common, which affected his business. “It was a long couple of years trying to navigate life in a train station when nobody was going to work,” he says. “That was a little bit of a challenge.”

But it was a challenge Ahern was willing to ride out. With 35 years in the food and hospitality industry, he had a clear vision of what he wanted. He envisioned the 12-year-old Boxcar Bar & Grill to become a family-friendly, food-focused destination not only for commuters.

From Depot to Dining Room

The Short Hills train station, built in 1879 and rebuilt in 1907, is an active train stop on NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex Lines. The eastbound ticket office and waiting room by day transforms into the restaurant, which is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday nights.

Ahern was familiar with the building from doing consulting work there years ago.

“I remember rolling in for the first time and thinking, ‘Wow! What a cool spot,’” he says. “Thankfully, I was able to acquire it years later.”

Train stations evoke romance and adventure, and the surroundings of Boxcar capture that same vibe. The warm wood and brick building lends to the dynamic energy.

The bar area transitions to a comfortable dining room that has two huge benches as its focal point. There is also space for outdoor dining.

Servicing the Community

Ahern conducts his business by focusing on the heart of the area: local produce, community and people. He obtains ingredients from food producers in Essex, Morris, Union and Sussex counties. A trendy twist on appetizers: the sweet and spicy roasted cauliflower baked with chili glaze and micro cilantro from a local farm. The pork chops are a hearty neighborhood favorite. The restaurant’s Neapolitanstyle pizza, which has a minimum dough fermentation of 48 hours, is another popular menu item.

Ahern also embraces the local community by supporting events like Millburn’s annual Rocktoberfest and Fourth of July festivities.

“We just did the Millburn baseball team’s second-annual wing-eating contest,” he says. “I donated the wings and our space. That was a fun event.”

The restaurant is closed to the public on Sundays and Mondays, when people can rent the unique space to host a party or other celebration.

“I’ve been catering for at least 20 years, and I have a big staff that has been with me for a long time,” he says.

Acoustic music by local talent plays during the summer on Boxcar’s outdoor patio on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Indoor bands are also featured every few months.

“We’re excited to be in this market and in this town,” Ahern says. “The four years we’ve been here, people have really embraced us.”

D.W. Hirsch is a feature writer based in Union. She is the author of the memoir “Star Trek, Mom and Las Vegas: A Grand Adventure” and a haiku collection “Haiku In The Life Of You.”
JUNE 2024 | 29
Boxcar Bar & Grill owner Shaun Ahern fell in love with the space the first time he saw it.
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Peaceful Patterns

Carol Nussbaum, who has lived in Short Hills since 1990, is a photography-based artist who digitally manipulates her images. Her work centers on the patterns, textures and dimension seen in her travels through marketplaces, antiques shows, vintage toy stores, botanical gardens and more. Her photographic images change character when she transforms them into mandalas— circular works of art that traditionally signify a sacred space.

For example, in VV Seashell Blues (pictured here), her original photograph was a box of seashells in Barnegat Light’s Viking Village. Using Adobe Photoshop, she took a portion of the photograph, pushed the color, cropped, altered saturation, upgraded the focus and added about 30 layers to achieve her final mandala.

Locals might recognize Nussbaum’s work from walking around town. She currently has 10 floral mandalas on display in the windows of the former

Priscilla Bridal Shop building at 565 Millburn Ave., Short Hills, as part of Explore Millburn-Short Hills’ public art initiative.

Nussbaum also organizes the annual LBI Artist Studio Tour. Now in its 18th year, this is a free, self-guided tour of local artist studios and galleries on Long Beach Island. Thirty artists and galleries participated in 2023. For more information on this year’s event, which takes place August 10-11, visit

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