An excerpt from my upcoming book, “On the Guest List”
Working in Montclair I soon discovered a unique health food store called Over the Rainbow – not to be confused with the nursery school of the same name.
Turned out, the owner, Bob Farina, was an old acquaintance, the Plasmatics fan. He didn’t remember me, even though I showed him some pictures of me as a teenager, over 20 years ago. I was now 38, but Bob thought I was only 24 so he had a hard time putting two and two together.
Bob Farina and his assistant Andy Loria were the salt of the earth. They kept their prices very low, which was unheard of in Montclair. They also fed the homeless and always sold cheap clothes for the homeless.
Over the Rainbow was like a shrine to the Plasmatics. Pictures of the late Wendy O. Williams, who died in 1998 due to a self-inflicted gun wound, were all over the place, including a copy of The Vegetarian Times, when Wendy O. was on the cover.
Bob shared with me that Wendy O. was the reason he got into health and she inspired him to open his store. Bob knew Wendy very well because he was not only known as the biggest Plasmatics fan, but he also did pyrotechnics for their live performances.
In addition to having all the Plasmatics memorabilia, Bob ran cool videos of movies such “The Wizard of Oz” and Laurel and Hardy flicks such as “March of the Wooden Soldiers” throughout the day. Bob also allowed a homeless woman to stay in his store during the cold winter months. He even set up a table and chair for her in the window store front.
It was so cool going to this bizarre punk rock luncheonette on a regular basis. This was something you just didn’t see – not even in New York City!
I decided it was a “must” to write an article about Bob Farina and Over the Rainbow for The Montclair Times. After my article was published, Bob offered me free lunches every day as a thank-you. I only accepted once. I wouldn’t possibly take another free lunch from a struggling business that often fed the homeless!
Bob said he loved the article, that it was well-written and accurate. “I’ll cherish the article,” he added.
I was honored.
I spent so much time at Over the Rainbow that Bob started ordering me around as if I worked there. It was hilarious! If it wasn’t, “Mare get the phone!” it was me teaching customers how to prepare seaweed, or putting napkins on the table. I would have loved to officially work there part-time if they were thriving as a business, but sadly they weren’t.
Within a year, Over the Rainbow went out of business.
I think the problem with Bob, as a business man, was that he was too honest, selling everything at cost. I brought shampoo there for $3 that would have cost $9 in another store.
After “Over the Rainbow” closed, I cringed at the thought of what stuffy, over-priced ugly “upscale” clothing store would replace the old spot.
I almost cried as I shook hands with Bob and Andy and said “good-bye.”
It was the end of something special, devastating, really. And I wondered, Where will the homeless lady go to eat now?