These businesses have serviced the community for nearly a hundred years and are iconic landmarks of the town’s cultural and historical landscape.
What makes some of these businesses stand out is not only their longevity, but that six of them are still family-owned and operated! The funny thing about these businesses is that no matter which local resident we asked- most could easily locate them and had a personal story related to them as well.
Coach House Diner – 1939
It’s almost fitting that The Coach House opened shortly after White Castle depending on where you grew up in North Bergen and which one you prefer as the best late night restaurant. Clearly more than just another New Jersey diner, The Coach House has been serving up top notch meals since 1939. Founded by Clem Pappas, a Greek immigrant, his story is similar to many other immigrant stories out there, and the result of his hard work and courage was a small stainless steel diner which would grow into an undisputed landmark. This place was a family affair, Clem, Helen and their two boys would help out if their parents or just sit at the counter and have a bite to eat while their parents were working. In 2008, the Coach House expanded and reopened its doors. If you are looking where to eat lunch in North Bergen The Coach House is your best bet. Now the building may have changed a lot since 1939 but the spirit of the place is very much the same as it ever was. Today their dedicated staff works hard to create the tastiest food with the best ingredients and a cozy, inviting atmosphere. Get the Thanksgiving of a Roll, you’ll thank me later.
James Vincent Bicycles- 1936
Seems like every kid in North Bergen has either purchased a new bike or at least had a flat tire fixed at James Vincent Bicycles. I remember myself going into the shop once a week just to look at the Standard Trail Boss, a bike which I must regretfully admit I never purchased. Jimmy Vincent’s has been a staple in the North Bergen community for the last 83 years. Opened by James Cerullo Sr. during the Great Depression, his son, James Cerullo Jr. who took over the shop in 1968, said of his father, “At that time you did whatever you had to do to survive, and [my family] was mechanically inclined.” Cerullo continued “He knew what he was doing and he would fix bikes for people, replace tires, and it just grew from there.” Cerullo said that during those hard times, people couldn’t afford gasoline and began to ride their bikes more. James Vincent also served as a driving school for some time. Today James Vincent’s is under new management but the legacy of excellence continues. Through their commitment to customer support, knowledgeable staff, honesty and integrity makes this shop the go to for cycling enthusiasts, and remain a neighborhood icon for years to come.
White Castle – 1935
This is the one, perhaps the most iconic business in North Bergen…White Castle. Located at Nungesser’s since 1935, the sixth White Castle location which was model after the Chicago Water Tower, is the home to countless North Bergen stories. North Bergeners fell in love with those little square burgers immediately. The Porcelain Palace is a staple in the community. Lovingly dubbed Murder Burgers, residents can all recount a time they ate there. Whether it was during their childhood, a midday lunch or the ever popular 2 am stop, it seems almost a right of passage to say you’ve visited White Castle. What makes this eatery a classic is nothing has really changed in the last 84 years. Bun, burger, onions, cheese, pickles, ketchup, bun and done. It’s often hard to describe the relationship residents have with this place, and the appreciation for it seems to strike out-of-towners with confusion.
James Nolan Insurance – 1928
Opened in February of 1928, Nolan Insurance has been servicing North Bergen for the last 91 years! The insurance agency was established by Cristine Nolan and former Mayor James Nolan. Mrs. Nolan was an influential member of the community working to establish North Bergen’s first public library. The business was in the hands of the Nolan family until 1965 when it was taken over by another influential member of the community Mrs. Theresa Ferraro. Mrs.Ferraro started working at Nolan Insurance at the age of 23 in 1948. She was always involved in local issues and made time to hear and make every effort to improve the state of mind and spirit of our residents. It should be noted that she became the first female Commissioner in North Bergen’s history. After her passing in 2015 the business is now operated by her son Anthony. Mr Ferraro carries the duty of providing quality insurance and top notch service for the residents of town and beyond.
Reuther Material – 1925
This business is very much an institution in town. Rumor has it Reuther Material has supplied some material to every house in North Bergen, I know for a fact the cinder block that makes up my back porch came directly from Reuther in the 1960s and is still standing strong. Reuther Material has been a family owned and operated since 1925. Originally renting a location on the Hudson River, the business moved in 1927 to its current location. The company grew over time and now encompasses much of the land we know as Reuther’s today. Founded by three North Bergen brothers, Andrew, John and Joseph, the business is still very much a family affair some 94 years later. Over those years the company has seen 5 generations work in every aspect of the business. Reuther’s has been able to provide service where you need it and how you need it. Reuther Material has always stood for customer service which is a testament to their success The company has adapted with the times and continues to be a leader in the construction material industry. No job is too big or too small for them, which will continue to keep them a cornerstone business of the North Bergen community.
Dominic Colonna came to America in 1902 to fulfill his dream of owning his own business. In 1918, Colonna Brothers, Inc. was founded. Dominic started in a small grocery store and in the stores back garage, he grated and packaged cheeses. The original location of his shop was in Six Corners. The response to his endeavors was instantaneous, as people from his neighborhood flocked to his grocery store to buy his cheeses. Although he did not realize at the time, he had tapped into something big. By the 1940’s the Colonna Grocery store had evolved into a substantial food distribution company, servicing both consumers and the trade. The company moved to its present location in the 1950s. Dominic lived to see the success of his ventures through his 100th Birthday. Following in their father’s footsteps, sons Leonard and Joseph Colonna took over the family business. They continued to build on their father’s enterprise through their constant efforts to keep business ideas fresh and productive with the addition of flavored and plain bread crumbs. Over the course of years, Leonard’s three children Peter, Diane and Mark joined in the family business and continued to build on their grandfather’s legacy and helped develop new products, packaging, building private label programs, updating their facility with cutting edge technology. Now four generations later, Dominic’s great-grandchild Janelle, is committed to continuing his vision by keeping up with modern day trends and expansion of the business while holding on to tradition. They await Dominic’s other great grand-children to join the family business. Over time, Colonna Brothers, Inc. has grown to include other items such as: Pasta Sauces, Italian Specialty items, spices and sprinkles. All items are supplied to supermarket chains, distributors, specialty stores, food service companies and restaurants across the United States and abroad. Their goal at Colonna is to “provide only the best products and services to our customers, caring for our staff and always keeping in mind that Family Comes First!”
K-H Machine Works – 1918
Founded in 1918, it is one of two of the oldest family-run businesses in North Bergen, and oddly enough both were founded in the same year. Dedication is what differentiates them from other machine repair shops. Our nation was founded by entrepreneurs and intellectuals and that spirit lives and breathes in North Bergen at K-H Machine Works. K-H Machine Works can turn your ideas into reality. According to their website, they will “transform your old or new machines into specialized tools of production to produce specialty products that could make you the leader that others try to catch!”
Garden State Crematory – 1906
Formerly the home of Louis Becker, the New York and New Jersey Crematory purchased the castle and property in 1907. By 1908, the home was converted into the first crematory in the state of New Jersey. The rooms were divided with niche walls to display urns. There was also a chapel added with a motorized lift to raise and lower caskets. In 1959, the crematory changed its name to the Garden State Crematory. The building was resurfaced in 1971 and stands as most residents recognize it today. Today there are anywhere from 15 to 19 cremations a day. The crematory services all religious faiths, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and more. Several celebrities were cremated there including, Sid Vicious, Joan Rivers and Kate Spade. The crematory is the oldest business in North Bergen operating for 111 years! The structure itself may be one of the oldest in northern Hudson County estimated to be 170 years old!
Michael Maring is a history buff turned history teacher based out of North Bergen, NJ. He has lived in North Bergen his entire life and enjoys spreading the unique history about our town. His goal with North Bergen Time Machine is to spark interest in the history of North Bergen.