Businesses regroup, reopen, and reinvent during pandemic

Sparta. A goth-style clothing store stays afloat with help from online sales. A healthy foods shop with a surfer vibe inspired a change of course. A passenger transportation service decided it was time to expand. And a soon-to-open wine store will fill 17,000 square feet with popular and hard-to-find selections.

| 26 Apr 2021 | 01:19

The Rogue Cherry

The Rogue Cherry, purveyor of goth-style clothing and accessories with flare, started up in 2018. But its story really starts in 2016.

“My son was born 2014, and for two years, I was loving being a stay-at-home mom,” said owner Erin Krivulka. “By 2016, I was starting to feel like I wasn’t anything other than a mom anymore, like I was losing myself. I enjoyed making beaded leather wrap bracelets as a hobby, and I decided to make it a legit business.”

She worked fairs, conventions, and craft shows and enjoyed meeting people and making her own hours. Then, in 2017, her daughter was born. She stopped making jewelry and once again devoted herself to her little ones.

“This time I experienced postpartum depression, although I didn’t know it at the time,” Krivulka said. “I would spend hours crying and feeling completely alone. Even though people were literally tripping over themselves to offer me help — with baby-sitting/shopping/anything — I still felt incredibly isolated. I needed something for me, so I began thinking of ideas. Could I go back to work? Would my income even be worth going to work after paying for child care?”

She no longer had time to make wrap bracelets, and it was hard as she worked to keep the beads out of her children’s reach. This led her to start a retail business where she could just bulk order items and resell them.

“I have always loved all things considered dark or spooky, which can be hard to find in Sussex County,” Krivulka said. “Growing up our only choices were Hot Topic or to be willing to drive a good distance.”

She and her best friend came up with the name, and her tattoo artist, Tyler Kolvenbach of The Shop Tatoo, in Port Jervis, N.Y., designed the logo. At first, the business was an online store and Krivulka kept everything in her basement, and set up a little shipping area in her laundry room. As business grew, it was time to look for a retail space. Krivulka was initially interested in downtown Chester but rent prices brought her to Sparta.

The store opened in late February 2020, and a grand opening was scheduled for March.

It was not to be. The pandemic was upon us, and the store was forced to shut down.

“I certainly didn’t plan on opening up a retail store during a pandemic,” Krivulka said. “I’d had the storefront for about six months before the pandemic. We had a lot of work to do before it was ready.”

The biggest challenge was bringing in enough money to keep the store bills paid while the store was closed. “Thankfully, I already had a fairly established web presence,” she said. “I never had time to second-guess myself. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.”

Most of Rogue Cherry’s customers are between 25 and 45 years old and live in the tri-county area. Others travel in from Pennsylvania and Bergen County.

● The Rogue Cherry is located at 25 Center St., Suite 102, in Sparta. For further information, call 973-726-4445

Playa Bowls

A few years ago, TBCY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) was thriving on Newton-Sparta Road. But a new store in Essex County with healthy food and surf-inspired vibe impressed one of the co-owners so much, she and her husband turned the TCBY space into Playa Bowls. Local teens and adults loved it.

“When the first Sparta store owners decided to retire, we started looking into the area to re-open the store because it was always a great fit for Sparta,” said franchisee Andy Main. “The new ShopRite Plaza was an easy pick for us because of all the great companies, the location, the new neighborhoods that were built around it. The owners of the plaza did a fantastic job, and we were very happy to be back in Sparta. It’s a great town.

Getting a new store up and running in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t easy.

“We had to simultaneously make sure our other stores were getting the attention they needed during uncertain times,” Main said. “At the end of the day we believe in Playa Bowls, and we believe in Sparta, and we remained optimistic throughout.”

When the opportunity arose to reopen the store, they decided as a family to go for it. “We’re glad we did,” Main said. “We were extra careful to maintain policies to keep our staff and patrons safe and as comfortable as possible. New challenges arise all the time, and fortunately we are up for the challenge, and so is our team.”

Playa Bowls opened on Dec. 28, 2020.

“There had been no pre-pandemic business for us,” Main said. “We had an amazing grand opening, and we have been fortunate to have stayed busy since opening. We are beyond thankful for our customers.”

Sparta Playa Bowls’ most popular item is its Nutella Bowl, a blended Acai base topped with granola, banana, strawberries, coconut flakes, and a Nutella drizzle. WWe have so many fan favorites at this point because there is literally something for everyone,” Main said. “We are also very flexible, so if someone wants to make changes to a popular item to suit them, they can.”

● Playa Bowls is located at 4 North Village Blvd Ste C in Sparta. Visit for further information.


Sussexpress, which offers passenger transportation services, has been in business since 2009, operating out of Hamburg. In November 2020, Sussexpress opened in Sparta. They drive clients to all the major airports in the area, in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and to cruise ports in New York and New Jersey. The business also offers shuttles for personal and corporate events and weddings.

Kathy Ann O’Connor is the majority and managing owner with her partner and husband.

“We took the opportunity during Covid-19 to re-organize, include and market other types of passenger transportation services we can offer, as well as finding the right location for our business in Sparta,” O’Connor said.

Booking is available online 24/7 for airport service. For weddings and other transportation quotes, call 800-946-4390, email, or visit (submit a quote request from the ‘book now’ portal, and/or send a message via the ‘contact us’ form).

● Sussexpress is located at 46 Main Street in Sparta.

USA Wine Traders Club

The USA Wine Traders Club will be opening in Newton the week prior to the Fourth of July. No membership is required. Rather, “club” indicates a gathering of both popular and hard-to-find wines, spirits and beer.

“We have seven other locations around New Jersey, and thought this would be a great addition,” said Kunal Papaiya, who works for the family business, which was started by his brother-in-law Vishal Gandhi. “The first business my father purchased was in Newton, so he saw how up-and-coming the area is. We also like that it’s 30 minutes to Pennsylvania and close enough to New York City.”

The Newton store will be the largest, at 17,000 square feet. It will offer thousands of different wines, spirits, and beer at state minimum pricing with the best deals available, Papaiya said. “The store will offer tastings and will have a walk-in cooler with an automatic door so you can go right into the cooler with your cart to get cases of cold beer,” he said.

Thanks to a Broad C Liquor License, the store will be allowed to set up a bar for tasting and a growler station.

“Other stores offer your typical name brands,” Papaiya said. “With our connections, if someone is looking for, say, a really good name brand wine from Napa Valley, we can get it. The tasting option with our license will allow customers to sample new things, and we’ll switch out samples on a weekly basis.”

USA Wine Traders Club will offer both delivery and in-store pick up. It is part of Drizly alcohol e-commerce platform, which has become popular during the pandemic. Wine will also be available for purchase on its web site.

● USA Wine Traders Club is under construction at 17 Hampton House Rd, Ste 6, in Newton (the former AC Moore location). Email for further information and look for the grand opening in late June.