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Fritz Rethage. · Posted February 26, 2006
Mary Ellen Remembers
By Justin Watrel
As an adult, one of the most
meaningful and rewarding experiences is when you buy your first home.
Its a place of lasting
memories when building a family, celebrating a holiday and growing comfortable in your
Its also a key to
todays financial portfolio. In a sense, the purchase of a home is the
gateway to the good life that lies ahead. This is the foundation of Gateway
Realtors at 464 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights.
Gateway Realtors, one of
the leaders in the real estate community of Bergen County, was founded in 1983 by Martin
and Mary Ellen Courtney of Hasbrouck Heights.
The name "Gateway"
comes from the original location of the business. It stood on the borders of Hasbrouck
Heights, Lodi and Hackensack. Now its location stands as the first commercial building as
you enter Hasbrouck Heights from Hackensack.
While Martin grew up in Maywood
and is a Bogota High School graduate, Mary Ellen Courtney (nee Pagliei) grew up in
Her father, Rico
"Henry" Pagliei, grew up in Hasbrouck Heights, was an alumnus of Hasbrouck
Heights High School and served as our councilman for nine years back in the 60s. Her
mother, Susan, grew up in Passaic.
Mary Ellen remembers, "My
sister, Susan, worked in Spindlers Bakery; so did my cousin Carol Ann. I too wanted
to earn my own money.
The day I was able to get my
working papers I was hired at the Hasbrouck Heights Shop Rite. All of my siblings worked
"in town" when they came of age. Vinnie and Rico were also at Shop Rite and Dean
washed the school buses that were stored at Villa Exxon which is my office today!
During the summertime, at the
playground behind Lincoln School, I must have made over 100 potholders and key chains. The
4th of July Childrens Parade was a favorite of mine. I dressed up my brothers and their
friends (Jack and Jill, The Girls from Auntie). Another favorite was the bike
marathon. My friends and I baked cookies for the guys who camped out at "the
race." So glad that they are doing this again. What great memories!
In winter when the snow fell and
we would imagine taking all of the snow from our homes and piling it at Mrs. Mohairs
house (she was the superintendent of schools) (Ed. note: Now the Central Avenue parking
lot across from the Senior Center) so she would look out her window, think there was a
blizzard, and call off school. We would listen for the horns to blow to signal school was
When it was very cold we would
look for "The Flag" with the big red circle on it flying on the High School flag
pole. It was our cue to get our ice skates on and head for the tennis court / ice rink
behind the high school.
As a teen, hanging at "The
Center" (CYO Center) was one of my favorite past times. Painting backdrops for
plays, rehearsing all summer long for our big performance, was so much fun. I can still
remember the time I had to baby-sit for my brothers Rico and Dean, and although Rico said
he didnt feel well I brought him along; it turns out he had chicken pox. I hope I
didnt cause an epidemic but back then I didnt care.
Wednesday nights we had Canteens
at the CYO Center. I was the "social director" with the job of being a band
scout. I would go listen to them play if they were good and willing to work for
half the door proceeds - they were hired. These summertime Wednesday night events were the
highlight of the week for many of us teenagers.
I also remember a fabric and
pattern store on the Boulevard. I enjoyed sewing my own clothes and making costumes, so
this store was very handy."
Mary Ellen, her sister and three
brothers are all Hasbrouck Heights High School alumni. She grew up on Central Avenue
surrounded by family, many of whom still live in town.
"Memories and recollections
act as the gems that we pass on to our children; they are our silent smiles as we sit and
remember our past, they shape us and motivate us, maybe subconsciously, to create our own
personal set of values that are a part of who we eventually become.
The memories and experiences I
recall of growing up in Hasbrouck Heights greatly influence me to this very day.
When I see the orange blockade on
Central Avenue near the Boulevard I think of when I grew up on the 200 block of Central
Avenue. I remember my family home and my neighbors and I know that just a few of these
families are still there.
As children we drew chalk houses
on the street pavement and laughed when the cars rode over all of our specially designed
rooms. The Central Avenue block parties, camping out in neighborhood back yards, lemonade
stands, back yard bocci tournaments, and Mrs. Mohairs demolished house are just
memories now - but great ones.
Walking up to Ziffs
Pharmacy, Henrys Deli or the corner candy store to run an errand for Mom always
resulted in a nickel or dime to spend in town at one of my favorite spots -- Trash and
Treasures (a penny candy store on the corner Terrace and Washington Place), or the
store we called "Pops," (a five and dime on the Boulevard). Small
change could buy a lot back then.
My friends and I would go from
door to door in our neighborhood to scavenge for bottles that we could return to
Bennys Market for the deposit money. I truly cant remember the womans
name but she always gave us her "returns" with the stipulation that we pick up
some cat food for her while we were there. Away we went pulling a wagon full of bottles.
We worked hard to earn some spare change. I sold flower seeds, magazines, Stanley products
and many more items all before the age of 12 way before I could earn
I enjoyed doing errands for my
Mom, walking to the Milk Jug for milk or ice cream or to "The Italian Store" (I
cant remember its name anymore) for fresh grated Locatelli Romano cheese. The
adventure gave me an opportunity to see the world.
When I was 9 or 10 years old at
Christmastime, I would spend all of my savings buying presents for my family. A $1.00
brooch purchased at Pops for Grandmom Pagliei was an extravagance to me. I
could not wait to see her smile and see her wear it. Mom and Dad got a clock for a few
bucks that I purchased at a local vendor. A Matchbox car for my brothers and some Coco
Frapie lipstick for sister Susan -- all purchased in-town -- and this made me proud."
On top of her responsibilities of
helping run and grow a business, Mary Ellen also serves as the Second Vice-President of
the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce. "As a business owner, its good to be
We are trying to address the
parking problem we have in town as well as working with the Beautification Committee to
spruce up downtown," Mary Ellen said. "Weve started with decorative
benches along the downtown corridor and planting flowers near the trees. We are also
trying to build up the annual Farmers Market. We are approaching new business owners
about joining the Chamber, so that we can strengthen our focus on the downtown area.
In my business I see the
importance of a strong downtown shopping area and the value of local businesses for a
community. People want this advantage.
Hasbrouck Heights is fortunate to
be one of the few towns with this amenity. The Boulevard has been changing, just a handful
of the old-time stores I remember remain. But change is good, its part of our
evolution. I hope people see our conversion of the closed down Villa Exxon to Gateway
Realtors as a positive improvement.
Hopefully, our downtown is
creating happy memories for the people of Hasbrouck Heights today. The safety and
convenience of local shopping not only is a great amenity, it helps to keep our children
away from the malls and close to our homes.
The local businesses create jobs
for our children, mothers, fathers and grandparents. So support your local businesses,
they are not only vital to your property values, they are vital to creating happy
The pride she has in the town
translates to the care she has for her customers.
"Growing up in Hasbrouck
Heights," said Mary Ellen, "the town is like my family. We want to be able to
point our customers in the right direction. A lot of people have lived in town for awhile
and want to move up to a bigger home."
The first way the Courtneys
wanted to provide this service was building a new building that would be welcoming. Their
new building is well landscaped and inviting. "We wanted to add to the
community," Mary Ellen added.
One of the keys to the success of Gateway Realtors is their agents. "The agents that work here are part of the
community and have roots in the town.
We also have agents from
surrounding towns and this provides a team effort when selling a house. We have a lot of
pride when selling a home and we like to provide a human touch to the business," Mary
They also continue to back their
agents with expert training, in-depth support and excellent technology, so that they can
focus on what they do best: providing excellent service and guidance to their clients.
With in-house mortgage
representatives, and a relocation department, to a vast network of professional services
throughout the area, to 24 hour availability with www.gatewaytohomes.com, Gateway
Realtors is an excellent resource in the Bergen County real estate market."