Three years before launching the makeup line that made her a household name, Bobbi Brown left the glitz and glamor of Manhattan to relocate to Montclair, New Jersey. Located in the foothills of the Watchung Mountains, it’s only 12 miles from New York — “but once you’re there,” she says, “you feel transported.” She raised three children in Montclair with her husband, Steven Plofker, while overseeing a growing cosmetics empire.
Montclair became Brown’s muse when, in 2016, she severed ties with her eponymous brand and began channeling her creativity in a new direction. The place had “everything”, she says – “all the energy, cool businesses and interesting people you can find in the city” – but at the time there was nowhere to stay for visitors.
Brown and Plofker, a developer, had purchased a 1902 neoclassical mansion designed by famed architect and philanthropist Joseph Van Vleck Jr. — which the couple transformed into George, a 32-room inn that opened in 2018. Brown’s career in the Beauty wasn’t either: In 2020, she launched her latest venture, Jones Road, with a storefront near the center of Montclair.
These days, Brown takes an early morning stroll through the quaint Van Vleck House and Gardens, up the street from the hotel, and extols the virtues of his adopted hometown to anyone who wants the to listen. Here, his choices for a cultural weekend.
“Neither of us had run a hotel before,” Brown says, but she and Plofker wanted to give Montclair a place “just as unique and design-driven as the people who live there.” The meticulously renovated iconic property is filled with world-famous decorations – and even pieces from the couple’s personal collection. thegeorgemontclair.com
Montclair is home to the flagship store for Brown’s new line of beauty products, which she calls “clean, makeup-free makeup.” (Brown bans more than 2,700 potentially harmful additives from its products.) The space also hosts events and workshops. jonesroadbeauty.com
Montclair Art Museum
“We are so fortunate to have a state-of-the-art museum in our city,” Brown said of the century-old institution, which has more than 12,000 works of American art in its collection. “From My Home to Yours,” a new multimedia exhibition by Indigenous artists Caroline Monnet and Laura Ortman, is on view until the end of the year. montclairartmuseum.org
Yogi Berra Museum
Brown says “Yogi and his wife, Carmen, weren’t just Montclair’s most famous residents—they were also my dear friends.” This museum on the campus of Montclair State University, which adjoins a minor league baseball stadium, is a destination for Berra memorabilia and artifacts from baseball history. “It’s a true testament to the impact Yogi and Carmen have had on so many of us.” yogiberramuseum.org
This brasserie “serves the most delicious French-inspired cuisine,” says Brown. (Think coq au vin with spaetzle, or barbajuan, Monegasque donuts with Swiss chard and ricotta.) “Their beautiful outdoor space is the place to be for wine and killer cocktails.” faubourgmontclair.com
Boho hair salon and cafe
“I always try to support women-owned businesses,” says Brown, who loves this full-service salon and cafe. “It’s run by three friends who believe in beauty and brotherhood. Amen! Having a latte and the biggest blast in town is multitasking at its best.” bohohairsalon.com
A version of this story first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the title “The New New Jersey.”