Talents of all ages captivate Montclair Center.
Talk about free enterprise: it was the perfect weather for ambling aimlessly down Church Street with an iced tea from Cha Ma Gu Dao (back en force at 17 Church St.), surveying the best that Montclair Center stores and vendors had to offer. An eclectic array of entrepreneurial ingenuity lined the streets: Dylan Dog Studios, Montclair Made by Claire of Montclair, and One Savvy Design. The acts on center stage, however, stole the show and brought the crowd to life with electrifying performances. We’re shining a spotlight on two stellar performances by Drums of Thunder and Izabelle the Amazing, because their thrilling energy was contagious.
Drums of Thunder is a performance group made up of Hillside Elementary School students grades four and five, and they drew the biggest crowd of the day. You cannot stand still when these kids rock out. Huge sounds came from the young performers and their early age makes it all the more inspirational to the audience. They are a visual act as much as a musical one. Their dramatic stance formations increase from regimental to brilliantly dynamic. The group regularly appears at prestigious venues such as NBA and NFL halftime shows, and NBC’s Today Show. Their talents and ability to control a crowd proves the children’s dedication in addition to the skills of the band’s founder and leader, Louis D’Amico.
Dressed like an ‘80s futuristic valley girl (so cool!) Izabelle Dean dazzled the large crowd with her effervescent hula hooping stunts. The hip whirling virtuosa took center stage in the early afternoon and performed to tunes like Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” and the acoustic guitar stylings of John from Satchmo Pops. Izabelle the Amazing compels the audience to let their hearts soar free and dance like nobody (or everybody?) is watching, just as she does. The creative and innovative performer kept the energy hyped on full blast.
The performances may have been showstoppers, but the shops deserve a round of applause, as well. Dylan Dog Studios (not associated with the film or comic book) offers an exciting combination of handmade fashion and wall art. Owner Robert Puchkoff does most of the work solo, but also employs young talents from the area. Puchkoff is all about DIY fashion, which he says is big for the fall. His hand-painted denim jackets, ranging $125-250, display vibrant renditions of rock icons, including Kurt Cobain, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Good news: Dylan Dog Studios is coming soon to 41 Church St.!
The fun and whimsical Montclair Made, is a small boutique owned and operated by Claire Cohen, a.k.a. “Claire of Montclair.” She repurposes vintage towels and into adorable clutches and accessories and turns pages of antique field guide handbooks into decorations, like paper-heart garlands. Montclair Made delivers creativity and rarity in sustainable folk-fashion accessories and hanging art. Claire can be found on Etsy (her store is adorably unique) and will be vending at the Walnut St. Artists Market in August and October.
One Savvy Design at 74 Church St geared up for the day by hiring DJ Kyle Toomer, who spun EDM/house tunes by artists like Aya. One Savvy Design sells non-labels and labels, including Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Dolce and Gabbana; they have a price-point for every customer. They also custom design shabby-chic antique furniture.
Perhaps the beauty the Montclair Center is its ability to provide the community with engaging events and shops to entertain any individual’s weekend. Take a stroll through town on any given day for an afternoon of blissful fun and window-shopping.