It was the chartreuse Galliano for Dior dress Nicole Kidman wore at the 1997 Oscars that ignited a then 13-year-old Jenessa Cintron’s passion for design. It was “the first dress that sort of put me under a spell,” Cintron recalls. “Once I discovered designers, how collections are made, and how … art is woven into it all, that changed my world.”
Described as the “curator, creator, artist, and go-to style advisor” on the company’s website, Cintron is the manager at Ode women’s clothier in Northampton. She’s also described as being one of the founders of the hip, upscale retailer on Main Street.
“I was Kristin’s first interview and first hire,” she says. ”We’ve been together ever since. She’s a mama of Ode and I’m its Titi J.”
A mother of two, Cintron was raised in Springfield and graduated from Cathedral High School. Armed with her passion for design, she journeyed to Pennsylvania to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia. There, she studied fashion merchandising, a program that prepares students for the business of fashion. “That was a fun and experimental time!” Cintron remembers. “I met some of the best ‘sister-friends’ during those years”
In Philly, she also honed her creative and business skills at a Japanese-inspired fashion and design shop in Center City. But it seems as though Ode was the place where Cintron’s combined love of fashion, music, makeup, and activism could be put to use.
Ode isn’t just any retailer, Kristin Kelly’s business is designed to weave fashion, philanthropy, art, and community together in order to create an unique and inspiring place to shop. That’s quite a model, and it was right up Cintron’s alley.
“Ode is definitely my ‘happy space,’” she says. “I’m constantly re-merchandising. We have the best customers — our tribe. I truly love working with them. And the staff are a group of hard-working, inspired, creative forces. I feel lucky to be in their company.”
As manager, Cintron says she takes care of Ode’s day-to-day operations. She explains, however, that her position as manager is quite different than other retail managers. “The store is more than just a retail space. We host a range of events….” Events that include artist-led workshops and musical performances.
Of course she assists in the buying, as well. Described as being the sartorial love child of Bianca Jagger and fashion house Rodarte, Cintron says, “we are always on the lookout for new lines we love.” She also styles models and does the makeup for Ode’s look book photos.
When she’s not at Ode, Cintron is taking care of “home base” which includes her husband and two children. You may also find her exercising her right to free speech. “I’m passionate about social issues like discrimination and feminism. I want to do as much as I can to make a positive impact and be an example for my kids.”
Cintron recently helped deliver hundreds of pounds of supplies to hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico and encourages everyone to help if they can. “Half of our supplies … were … medical and hygiene items most of which were donated from the Holyoke Health Center,” she says. “It was definitely one of the most important experiences of my life.”
Regardless of where she is, Cintron is probably the life of the party. When asked how she would describe herself, she replies, “living my best life … I’m a busy body so I’m always looking for some adventure.”
A Renaissance person is someone whose expertise spans various subject areas. Teri Skinner, the owner of Nosh Cafe and Restaurant in Springfield, might not be versed in painting and sculpture, but she’s the ultimate Renaissance woman as a chef, an entrepreneur, and even at times a carpenter.
“I have been cooking my entire life. I didn’t go to culinary school; I went to the school of life,” Skinner said. “I worked with my grandmothers who were both excellent cooks and then my mom who’s more of a traditional cook.”
Skinner said that she spent many years working in food service and catering in the Worcester area until eventually the amount of work was exhausting.
“I ended up leaving because I just got tired. It was exhausting; I kind of just got burnt out,” Skinner said. “I said I’m not going to do this unless I’m doing it for myself.”
It wasn’t long after she left the Worcester area that people in her community in Monson started asking her to cater private events, and her first food business, TLS Foods, was born in 2012. Skinner said that at the time, she knew she didn’t want a brick and mortar shop.
“I knew that having a storefront means that you’re at your store all the time, and I had four kids so I decided not to do that,” Skinner said.
Skinner’s catering business eventually led to a regular spot at the farmers’ market selling bread at The Shops at Marketplace in Springfield in 2016.
“I came down here and sold bread and it was very well received,” Skinner said. “I had conversations with people where they were telling me that there’s no place to have lunch that’s really great around here. So then I started bringing sandwiches and soups, and then other people started taking notice … By the end of October I was doing like a pop up restaurant every week.”
Skinner’s ability to roll with the punches continued to serve her well when a storefront in The Shops at Marketplace opened up around Thanksgiving 2016. By that time, she was ready to take on the space. It was small, but Skinner knew right away that she could make it work.
“(A neighboring business owner) brought me up to this door and I looked inside and there was just this giant wall and I visualized my menu on it,” Skinner said. “I was like ‘yes, I can do something with this.’”
Skinner said that she converted the space into a workable restaurant within three weeks.
“The first six weeks we were just working out of the refrigerator. We had a really extensive menu, I don’t know what I was thinking. We just jumped in and just went,” Skinner said.
The menu at Nosh includes sandwiches, soups, and salads that change with the seasons. Skinner said that she wants her menu to be accessible to many different tastes, including for “vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores.”
The menu will continue to expand later this season to include breakfast foods once Nosh finishes its expansion into a new space at The Shops at Marketplace. The new space has windows looking out at the courtyard, making Nosh a little easier to find and giving them more space to improve their kitchen and seat customers in a dining room.
“We’ve been doing all the remodeling. At the end of the day I take off my chef’s hat and put on general contractor and tear down walls and paint and sand floors,” Skinner said. “Now our kitchen looks like a real kitchen, and we typically have four to five staff every day because we have such a volume, not only people coming in for lunch but we’re doing catering all over the city.”
Being a jack-of-all-trades has helped Skinner to make her dreams a reality, and she said that she wouldn’t have been able to make it happen if she hadn’t conquered her fears, both big and small.
“We had scaffolding in here and we had to get all of this painting done. I was on the very very top of it and I’m deathly afraid of heights,” Skinner said. “I was like well, this is when your dream is bigger than your fear, I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant.”
Tara Brewster is warm and funny, stylish and energetic, but she confesses, “I have two kids, 5 and 2; they kick my butt everyday.” You would never know it. Armed with Greenfield Savings Bank schwag and a folder of materials, Brewster makes another confession: “I just love my job; I love working for GSB.” And from the looks of it, the feeling is mutual.
In December of 2016 Brewster joined Greenfield Savings Bank as a Business Development Specialist, and in just over a year, she advanced to Vice President of Business Development. That’s a meteoric rise in the world of banking, but then Brewster is not your ordinary banker.
“I’m a recovering entrepreneur,” Brewster says and readily admits that a profession in banking was not on her radar. Business, however, is in her blood.
While attending Smith College, Brewster rose through the ranks of men’s store Taylor Men and eventually became the regional sales manager. She later moved to Manhattan continuing her career in men’s apparel, and again found success. “….I was a sales rep on the road, my territory was the entire east coast. It gave me a lot of experience … a lot of practice going after new accounts and meeting new people. It was fun.”
After four years she returned to Northampton and found Taylor Men had gone out of business, and to her surprise, no one had opened another men’s clothing store. “I saw this huge market opportunity for men’s apparel and I found a business partner, and in 2008 we opened Jackson and Connor.” For five years they maintained the successful menswear specialty shop in downtown Northampton.
It was after she sold the business in 2013 that Brewster began contemplating her next professional step. One thing she knew: it had to be somewhere special. Her dream job would allow her to maintain her active volunteerism and keep her engaged in the community. “I love this place; this place is my home,” she says of western Massachusetts.
So when GSB’s Senior Vice President & Senior Commercial Lending Officer Mark Grumoli approached her with an opportunity to join the GSB team, she accepted and became the Business Development Specialist.
“It was amazing how it all came together,” she says. “My position at GSB allows me work for a great employer that is very involved with the community, and I’m able continue doing my volunteer work.”
Upon her promotion to Vice President of Business Development earlier this year, GSB president and CEO John Howland commended Brewster’s accomplishments. “Tara’s 20-plus years in small-business management has given her great insight into the needs of local businesses.”
As VP of Business Development, Brewster’s position includes formulating long-term strategies for business development and outreach to prospective customers, including lending and account services for individuals and small businesses.
Brewster has made a smooth transition from independent business owner to employee; she sees her 150 co-workers as a team and a source of inspiration. “I love GSB because I feel we all have a voice and are listened to.” Moreover, she believes in GSB’s staying power. “We’re able to change and grow and pivot in ways that benefit our clients. There are so many possibilities.”