Water to Go strives to offer healthy alternative

Franchise allows store owner to purify water while customers wait

BY MATT AUERBACH
Staff Writer

BY MATT AUERBACH
Staff Writer


MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Nigerian immigrant Frank Obaisi, owner of Water To Go, checks a product in his health food/bottled water store. Below, he shows off the array of health foods available.MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Nigerian immigrant Frank Obaisi, owner of Water To Go, checks a product in his health food/bottled water store. Below, he shows off the array of health foods available.

EDISON — According to Frank Obaisi, when it comes to bottled water, what you don’t see is what you get.

Obaisi, a Nigerian immigrant who opened Water to Go, a health food/bottled water store in the Tano Mall on Amboy Avenue in December 2002, said what makes the establishment unique is its on-site 12-step water purification process.

Equally unique is Obaisi himself.

Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, he studied nuclear physics in his homeland before moving to London in 1988. While in England, he worked with the Energy Authority.


After moving to New Jersey in 1996, he got a job on Wall Street as an energy analyst. But still he wasn’t fulfilled.

"At that point, I decided to work for myself and get my hands dirty," he said. "I wanted to do something that was beneficial but made economic sense."

Along with his wife, Simi, a chemical engineer, he began looking for a business in which he could invest.

The couple decided that a franchise was the way to go.

"We went for a franchise business because you don’t have to start from scratch and things can take off quicker," he said.

After searching the Internet for franchise businesses, they came upon Water to Go.

After reading up on it and having their interest piqued, Simi hopped on a plane and headed to Las Vegas where the franchise headquarters are located.

"My wife went out first because she’s the more practical one," Frank Obaisi said. "If she came back excited, I’d know we were on to something."

Simi was duly impressed, so Frank made his way to Vegas to check things out. He, too, was impressed, but had his reservations.

"It seemed like a business that would do well on the West Coast," he said. "In the Northeast, people are more suspicious than on the West Coast."

After weighing all the options, the Obaisis decided to make the initial investment of $180,000 in a Water to Go franchise.

From the start, Frank’s wish to get his hands dirty came to pass.

"The contractor we hired disappeared shortly before work began on the store," he said.

So Frank Obaisi became his own general contractor, supervising construction and jack-hammering the floor to get the plumbing in order.

Business was slow in the beginning.

"People originally came in for vitamins and health foods," he said. "It was only after a few months that they became interested in our water."

The 12-step water purification machines are on display in the back of the store. In front of the machines is a row of faucets where the various sized bottles are filled to order.

The entire process begins with tap water. Before the water is bottled, all metals, radiation, chemicals, sediment, bacteria and other impurities are removed.

"Our water is much purer and fresher than other bottled water," Obaisi said. "No bottle has been sitting on the shelf."

To provide an illustration of the differences between his water and the common brand of store-bought bottled water, Obaisi brought out a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter. He filled the bottom of it with water from one of the taps. It registered 000. He then opened a bottle of the common brand and repeated the process. The meter read 021.

"Most bottled water companies use only three or four stages to purify their water," he claimed. "Our water is 100 times purer than tap water and many times purer than any competing bottled water."

Water to Go offers three types of water — purified, ozonated and oxygenated.

The purified product is the result of the 12-step process only. Ozonated water has ozone added.

"Ozonated water kills germs in your bloodstream and fortifies your immune system," said Obaisi.

Oxygenated water is ozonated water that contains condensed oxygen.

"This is fast becoming our most popular product," he said. "It pumps more oxygen into your blood, gives you more energy and decreases your hunger."

Obaisi’s Water to Go strives to be customer-friendly.

"We deliver to your home or office," said Obaisi. "We’ll even bring the bottles out to your car."

The store also offers coolers and crocks of all sizes.

"We’re the healthiest secret in Edison," Obaisi said.


Business Briefs

CEO receives industry
achievement award

Business Briefs CEO receives industry achievement award

CEO receives industry
achievement award

Building Contractors Association of New Jersey’s (BCANJ) chief executive officer, Jack Kocsis, received the "Distinguished Industry Service Achievement Award" on Nov. 15 at the Hanover Marriott, Whippany.

He was honored for the significant contributions he made to the construction industry.

In addition, two BCANJ member firms were presented with awards for the following: Wm. Blanchard Co., Spring-field, was named construction manager of the year; and Fitzpatrick & Associates, Eatontown, was named general contractor of the year.

BCANJ works to unify the construction industry in terms of labor relations, improved business methods and high safety standards.

ERA’s ‘2003 Tech Tour’

presents latest technology

ERA brokers and agents attended the company’s "2003 Tech Tour" Oct. 30 at the Victorian Manor, Edison.

At this annual event, ERA’s latest tools were presented to 175 associates. With customers relying on the Internet for real estate information, agents are expected to use all types of technology to help their clients.

To help associates utilize the technology, ERA business consultants and vendors have been presenting the most innovative programs for marketing clients.

For further information, visit the Web site at www.ERANJ.com.

Weichert office honors

two top associates

Fernando Gonzalez, manager of Weichert Realtors, 123 Lincoln Highway, Edison, recognized two sales associates for their industry achievements.

Lois Bamber led the office in listings and was named overall top producer for October. She was recognized as one of the top two percent of the company’s sales associates.

Roger Meador, a 30-year industry veteran and licensed broker, led the office in sales. His experience includes owning and operating his own real estate firm for 13 years.

For further information, call (732) 494-6800 or visit the Web site at www.weichert.com.


Metuchen financial planning firm expands

Metuchen financial
planning firm expands

Common Interests, Inc., 61 Pearl St., Metuchen, appointed an additional financial planner, Lonnie S. Gietter.

Gietter has over three years financial services experience and over 20 years of entrepreneurial business experience.

Common Interests Inc. is a registered investment advisory firm and offers its securities sales exclusively through Raymond James Financial Services, which is a member of NASD/SIPC.

For further information, contact Robert J. Goellner, CFP, (732) 906-3300.


SCORE will sponsor franchising seminar

SCORE will sponsor
franchising seminar

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) Chapter 14 will sponsor a free franchising and business-buying seminar from 7-9 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Franklin Higher Learning Center at the Fleet Bank Building, Franklin Boulevard, Somerset section of Franklin. Instructor will be Jack Armstrong, president of Franchising Network of New Jersey.

Topics will include how to identify and research a good business or franchise opportunity; understanding the major components of a franchise agreement; the legal obligations of owners and franchisers; and how to finance a business or franchise.

Fee is $25 and includes materials and tuition. Each participant will receive a copy of the book "Starting and Managing Your Own Business in New Jersey." For more information and to register, call (908) 218-8871. SCORE Chapter 14 counsels small businesses in Middlesex, Somerset and Hunterdon counties and is a part of the U.S. Small Business Administration.


Cafe Teresina — just like mom used to make

BY MATT AUERBACH
Staff Writer

BY MATT AUERBACH
Staff Writer


Cafe Teresina’s dining room holds 14 tables and offers a warm atmosphere.Cafe Teresina’s dining room holds 14 tables and offers a warm atmosphere.

EDISON — Residents no longer need to slave over a hot stove in their kitchens to experience the satisfaction of home cooking.

Cafe Teresina is a cozy Italian restaurant owned by Joseph DeSanto, who also serves as its executive chef. The establishment is named after his mother, whom DeSanto credits with instilling in him his love of cooking.

Open since April, the cafe holds 14 tables in a casual atmosphere. DeSanto hopes to attract neighborhood diners with a menu that is not limited to any one region of Italy.

DeSanto, 30, has spent more than half his life in the restaurant business. Among his credits are stints as the executive chef of Hoboken’s City Bistro, and Cafe Cucina in Branchburg.


PHOTOS BY FARRAH MAFFAI staff Joseph DeSanto is executive chef and owner of Cafe Teresina in Edison.PHOTOS BY FARRAH MAFFAI staff Joseph DeSanto is executive chef and owner of Cafe Teresina in Edison.

DeSanto is constantly tinkering with recipes.

"Nothing comes out of the kitchen that I wouldn’t eat myself," he said. "If I don’t like a dish, it will never see the light of day."

Situated in a residential area off Route 1, Cafe Teresina is not quite centrally located.

"People might have a hard time finding us," said DeSanto.

Business has been slowly increasing since April, which DeSanto attributes to word of mouth.

"We get lots of repeat business," he said. "Once people eat here, I see them come back again and again."

One of the big attractions of Cafe Teresina is Thursday night pasta night, with all pasta dishes priced at $5.95.

DeSanto makes everything from scratch, but isn’t above getting outside help.

"I wanted to serve homemade cheesecake, but I don’t have a confectioner’s oven," he said. "They’d come out good, but not good enough."

DeSanto tries to be as accommodating as possible.

"Someone might want a dish that’s not on the menu. If I’ve got the ingredients on hand, I’ll whip it up for them," he said.

Having never attended culinary school, DeSanto prides himself on his personal approach.

"I learned from some of the finest chefs in the area," he said.

And to think it all started with watching mom in the kitchen.


Open Road BMW receives award trophy

Open Road BMW
receives award trophy

Open Road BMW, 731 Route 1 south, Edison, received the 2003 BMW Center of Excellence Award from BMW North America, the most coveted award among dealerships.

The trophy, an elegant crystal vase, is presented annually to BMW’s top performing dealerships, and Open Road BMW offers its customers an unsurpassed level of service.

The dealership sold 2,700 BMWs in 2002, and the award was earned during a year of tremendous renovation and expansion, functioning superbly under less-than-ideal conditions, according to Rod Ryan, owner and president of Ryan Automotive LLC.

Open Road BMW is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. For further information, call (732) 985-4575.


Shoppers give new Wegmans top marks

BY COLLEEN LUTOLF
Staff Writer

BY COLLEEN LUTOLF
Staff Writer


PHOTOS BY Chris Kelly staff Shoppers shouldn’t have to wait in line too long at Wegmans since there are 34 lanes available for checkout.PHOTOS BY Chris Kelly staff Shoppers shouldn’t have to wait in line too long at Wegmans since there are 34 lanes available for checkout.

WOODBRIDGE — Customers gave Wegmans the thumbs up at its grand opening Sunday, but not everyone is happy with the privately-owned supermarket.

Protesters from the United Food and Commercial Workers International were toting signs on a picket line outside the store Sunday. They often are seen outside several of Wegmans’ existing locations.

"Wegmans operating a non-union store is in fact lowering contemporary community wages and benefits," said John Niccollai, president of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union Local 464A, which is a part of the food and commercial workers union.

Woodbridge manager Scott Payne pointed to Wegmans’ placement on Fortune magazine’s "Top 100 Places to Work."


Wegmans’ employee William Gregory arranges bananas during the grand opening celebration Sunday.Wegmans’ employee William Gregory arranges bananas during the grand opening celebration Sunday.

Payne, who managed Wegmans’ Bridgewater store before transferring to the Woodbridge store, said his employees are happy.

"We’ve been on Fortune’s top 100 for six consecutive years," Payne said. "We pay comparable wages and have terrific benefits packages for our employees.

"I think the best we can do here is to provide an environment that makes it a great place to work and to shop, and that’s our top priority," Payne said. "We’ve been in New Jersey for four years now. Our workers know by now what kind of employer we are."

On Sunday, union members were the only people doing any protesting.

"I liked it a lot. This is my second time here today," Laurie McClellan of Woodbridge said. "And I’m definitely coming back."

McClellan said she was glad Woodbridge now has a Wegmans, despite the amount of traffic a large store like Wegmans may produce.

"I’m glad it’s in the area," she said. "The traffic is so bad anyway, hopefully with the new road improvements it will be OK."

As far as prices go, McClellan said they are a little more than she is used to paying, but the quality of the food is worth the price.

"I’ll be spending a lot of money here. It’s expensive but it’s good food," she said.

"It’s unbelievable," Avenel resident Marina Letcsh said. "The size of it and everything that they have, it’s amazing."

Since this is only the fourth Wegmans to open in New Jersey, Letcsh, like other shoppers, had only heard about Wegmans before Sunday.

"This is my first experience," Letcsh said. "My sister-in-law has been to a bunch of them and she said if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, you won’t be able to."

Letcsh said she agrees with her sister-in-law.

"There are fruits in there I’ve never seen in normal supermarkets before," she said. "And the bakery and all the breads are unreal. They’re very tasty and very fresh and that’s what I like."

Part of what makes the bakery so "unreal" is a 2-ton brick oven that must be heated three weeks before it is even used.

"Because it’s stone, we have to be careful not to heat it too quickly or it will crack," Payne said. "So we can only increase the temperature a few degrees a day."

Payne said freshness is one of Wegmans’ first priorities.

"You can tell whether [food] is fresh in the taste and the texture," Payne said.

So Wegmans throws away its food products at the end of the day. To avoid wastefulness, he said, Wegmans is in the process of setting up programs with two or three local food banks.

"We’re in the process with local organizations of setting up a daily pickup. If we threw away everything every day, it would be a lot of waste," Payne said.

On Sunday, Wegmans’ newest customers were treated to free samples that focused on seasonal foods like apple cider raisin bread and roasted chestnuts throughout the store.

"Shoppers can always sample tastes of all the foods throughout the store," Payne said. "[Today] we have fun things like cider with mulling spices. We’re really getting into the fall harvest and allowing people to experience that inside the store."

Some shoppers sympathized with the protesters from the union, but said it’s not enough to keep them from shopping at the store.

Vivian Toporek, an Edison resident, said she didn’t see the protesters on Sunday, but she may have had second thoughts about shopping at Wegmans if she had.

"If I would’ve seen them, it probably would have had an effect," Toporek said. "I’m a teacher and I would never cross a picket line."

But the selection at Wegmans is just too good to pass up, Toporek said, pulling a bottle of hairspray usually found only in salons out of her shopping bag.

"I’ve looked for this everywhere. I can’t even find it in a beauty supply place. I’m thrilled with that," Toporek said. "It’s about a dollar more than what I usually pay, but now I can at least buy it.

"I feel for [the protesters]," she said, "but a lot of people found jobs here. I’ll definitely come back."

Alice Acevedo, a Colonia resident, said a picket line won’t stop her from shopping at Wegmans.

"It only makes me think it will keep prices down," Acevedo said. "I think it’s going to blow away the competition. The prices look very good, the people are very helpful and polite."


New concert venue to open in December

Concerts East has big plans for Starland Ballroom

BY JOLENE HART
Staff Writer

BY JOLENE HART
Staff Writer


STEVEN M. BARON  Concerts East will soon announce its first shows scheduled for the Starland Ballroom.STEVEN M. BARON Concerts East will soon announce its first shows scheduled for the Starland Ballroom.

SAYREVILLE — With new ownership comes a new name and image for the nightclub formerly known as the Hunka Bunka Ballroom.

The coming weeks will bring the grand re-opening of the venue that will now be known to club-goers as the Starland Ballroom.

The new owners, Gate to Wire LLC, comprising Concerts East Inc. and other private investors, hope to improve the club and create what was described in a press release from the company as "New Jersey’s first world-class concert nightclub."

The club, located at 570 Jernee Mill Road, will present live music ranging from rock and pop to jazz, as well as weekly dance parties, comedy nights and other live productions. The club will present a concentration of national acts, and will feature local acts as openers, according to Jon Vena, a spokesperson for Concerts East.

The first concerts being scheduled for the Starland Ballroom include a Dec. 4 MTV2 Headbanger’s Ball concert, a Dec. 6 Dramarama reunion, and a Dec. 7 appearance by former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth.

In late October, Concerts East — which is managing and booking the Starland — ceased its operation of the Birch Hill nightclub in Old Bridge. That club closed Oct. 26 to make way for the construction of a retirement community on the property.

Concerts East describes itself as the largest independent concert promoter in the tri-state metropolitan area. The company currently produces more than 500 events a year on the East Coast. It operates venues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Connecticut, and hopes to make the Starland Ballroom "the culmination of the company’s experience in the marketplace and industry."

In a statement, Concerts East likened the Starland Ballroom to such nationally recognized venues as Boston’s Avalon Ballroom, Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club, and New York City’s Roseland Ballroom and Irving Plaza.

"Like other premier concert venues, it will have graduated flooring, improved sight lines, a raised stage, higher ceilings, air conditioning and heating," said Tony Pallagrosi of Concerts East.

The club hopes to accommodate touring bands with its "state-of-the-art sound and lighting" and a re­newed presence that will attract large acts. The ballroom will also be available to rent for private so­cial or corporate gatherings.

According to Pallagrosi, the new Starland Ballroom will quickly distinguish itself as a top New Jer­sey venue because it will fill the void left after the recent closing of Tradewinds and the shut-down of Birch Hill.

"It will be everything that was and everything that hasn’t been in New Jersey," Pallagrosi said.

The club will have a liquor li­cense following the sale of the venue from its previous owners, Frank Sementa, Kip Connor and Bernie Bailey, according to Con­certs East representatives.

Bailey had purchased the club, known as the Jernee Mill Inn, in 1982.


Laughing Jack’s brings So-Cal style downtown

BY MAURA DOWGIN
Staff Writer

BY MAURA DOWGIN
Staff Writer


Laughing Jack’s employees make delicious Mexican food for the customers.Laughing Jack’s employees make delicious Mexican food for the customers.

METUCHEN — A Southern California-style taco stand is now open on New Street.

Laughing Jack’s, which opened in the beginning of September, boasts fresh Mexican food and fruit smoothies inspired by Southern California and Texas, said Michael Stern, the owner of the restaurant.

"In Texas and Southern California, [Mexican food] is pretty much what people make," he said.

Stern spent time in both areas of the country when he served time as a Navy pilot, he said. He received great lessons in how to make Mexican food from the locals there.

Stern took many of the lessons he learned and experimented to make some of the items found on Laughing Jack’s menu.

The Baja egg roll, one of the favorites among Laughing Jack’s customers, was created after a backyard barbecue by mixing Mexican influences with Eastern influences, Stern said.

The Baja egg rolls are served with an original chipotle ranch dipping sauce.

The creation of the establishment’s tequila salsa was purely accidental, Stern said. However, the end result is mouthwatering, in his opinion.

The salsa is sold with most of the meals and Stern is thinking of selling bottles of it in the restaurant, he said.

The meat in the tacos and burritos is seasoned with a secret recipe spice rub that only the restaurant uses, he said.

There are also vegetarian choices on the menu, such as the Karma Crazy Veggie Burrito.

"We tried to offer an alternative," Stern said. "A little bit for everyone."

Most of the menu is made at the restaurant, which means the food is fresh and healthy, he said. The salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips are all made on site. Most of the food is not fried.

The smoothies are made from real fruit and either fat-free frozen yogurt or soy milk. There are a variety of combinations that are designed to affect people differently, Stern said.

Smoothies like the Immuno Punch help people with colds, while Stress Zappers reduce anxiety.

The food is quick and inexpensive, but still healthy, according to Stern.

"There’s nothing like a quick taco around here," Stern said, adding that the restaurant is the only quick, healthy Mexican restaurant in the area.

The restaurant is also full of charm and character.

"I really tried to make this place a mix of Southern California surf culture and Tex-Mex," Stern said.

The colors on the walls are very vibrant, the decor does not match, and it has all been done by design, Stern said.

Business has been booming in the short time the restaurant has been open, Stern said. He even went as far as to call some of the regular customers
"fanatical."


Woodbridge native wants to put party scene to ‘Sleep’

New nightclub shoots for

BY COLLEEN LUTOLF
Staff Writer

BY COLLEEN LUTOLF
Staff Writer


JEFF GRANIT staff Waitresses Nicole Serafin (l) and Andrea Sisolak discuss how to tackle the crowd present at Friday’s grand opening of Sleep.JEFF GRANIT staff Waitresses Nicole Serafin (l) and Andrea Sisolak discuss how to tackle the crowd present at Friday’s grand opening of Sleep.

WOODBRIDGE — Those who like to end the long work week with a Friday night of clubbing can now go to Sleep.

Sleep is the area’s newest nightclub — with a twist. Instead of a server delivering drinks to your table, partygoers imbibe in bed.

The requisite tables, chairs and barstools are absent, but Sleep boasts "beds," which seat up to 10 people, in the club’s VIP room in the back.

The "beds" are not really beds at all, but large, round, cushioned seats with pillows on them.

Sleep is co-owned by Andrew Adelman, a Woodbridge native. He and his partner, Robert Watman, also own two Manhattan clubs, PolyEsther’s and The Culture Club.

"We’ll be putting Woodbridge on the map with this club," Adelman said. "It’s definitely different and it will expose a lot of people to a little New York atmosphere in Woodbridge."

At Friday’s grand opening, most patrons weren’t lounging in bed, but were sitting around enjoying their drinks.

If you reserve a "bed" in the back room, you get bottle service — which means drinks must be bought by the bottle, not the glass. The cost of bottle service runs from $40 to $300 per bottle.

Those who would like to rent a "suite" in the VIP area need to make a reservation.

The club also boasts models in aquarium-style glass tanks pretending to sleep.

How exactly does one get a job being paid to sleep?

Katie Everhard of Woodbridge is one of the sleepers.

"I was at the club opening weekend, and I was commenting on the girl in the glass aquarium. I said to my friend, ‘I would love to get paid to sleep,’" Everhard said. "The manager overheard me and asked if I was serious. I said sure, and he gave me the job."

But looking good while you sleep isn’t the only requirement for the job.

Everhard, a sales representative by day, is a dancer at night. After a half-hour in the sleep tank, she dances on stage for a half-hour shift. Then it’s back to bed.

So are the girls actually sleeping?

"Well, that’s part of the allure. Some people don’t even realize we’re real peo­ple, they think we’re mannequins. Or they’ll tap on the glass, and try and get us to interact with them."

Sleep is located at 349 Main St., on the corner of Route 9. It is open Thurs­day, Friday and Saturday nights.

The club features contemporary dance music and hopes in the future to book special guest DJs, Diane Fortier, Sleep’s public relations representative, said.

There is also a 1,300-square-foot dance floor, and lounge areas to hang out in for those who want to socialize instead of dance.

Some New Jersey clubgoers loved the idea of having a New York City-styled club in their back yard.

"I like it," Vinny Tennero, of Parsip­pany, said. "I like the vibe and the decor, and the crowd looks good."

Others weren’t so quick to agree.

"I go to clubs all over," Sonny Gam­bino, 26, of Belleville, said. "It’s not really the vibe of a New York club, it’s too ac­cessible. It’s not bad, though."

"It’s different," Woodbridge resident José Cruz said. "Everybody’s friendly — it’s a great atmosphere. I’m glad they fi­nally have something like this in Jersey. It definitely has a similar vibe to a New York club."

What does Cruz think about the sleep­ing model in the aquarium?

"I want to give her a cup of coffee and wake her up," he said.