Milk delivery? Chimney sweeps?

Some are still plying their trade at old-fashioned professions

Gone are the days of reaching outside your front door and picking up a glass bottle of fresh, creamy milk – or are they? On a regular basis, Rosemarie Romano of Bergen County delivers milk bottled the night before to two dozen homes in North Bergen, Secaucus, Weehawken, and West New York.
“Every customer that she adds to her list says, ‘I can’t believe someone like you still exists,’” said Romano’s warehouse manager John Abrams.
She took over the company, Organic Milk Corp., 10 years ago, and has grown it from six basic organic products to well over 100. She started as a young mother because she wanted to give her kids the best quality organic dairy products, but didn’t have time to shop for them.
She is one of many area residents who engage in a profession that is dying out – but not completely gone just yet. Some people like the old-world charm of old fashioned businesses and trades.

Chimney sweep

Not quite the world’s oldest profession, but pretty close, chimney sweeps have existed prior to the Victorian age. Chimney sweeps are now trained and respected technicians who not only clear your chimney of blockages for the colder months, but can also install a wide range of venting systems.
Vinny Marino of East Orange, “The Chimney Man,” says right now is his busy time of year, because the warm weather is gone.
Though based in Essex County, Marino serves between 20 and 30 Hudson County customers. He has gone on calls to Bayonne, Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York.
Marino said chimney work in Hudson County presents its own set of unique challenges.
“Some of these old flues are off center, shrink down really small, and make it difficult to work on,” he said. “Everything is like a hundred years old.”
Homeowners are not only looking for chimney cleaning and repair, they’re also looking for things like wood stoves and pellet stoves, and someone to install them.
Marino’s advice: Don’t wait too much longer. Fall is not the best time to get your chimney worked on, but it’s better than the winter, when there’s a waiting list.
A job can take as little as 20 minutes to do, or as much as two days. Marino has to sometimes work with animal control if live animals are trapped in a chimney.

Piano tuners

Piano tuners make house calls, because, well, they have to. Though they make a decent living out of it, some say they do it just almost as much for the satisfaction as for money.
Don Burke of Bloomfield, a certified master piano technician, said piano tuning can be very gratifying for him when he gets complimented.
“It comes mostly when I’ve done a keyboard overhaul for an experienced player and after I’m done they sit down at the piano say, “Wow, thank you so much,’” he said.
Burke comes to Hudson County monthly to serve three dozen clients in Bayonne, Hoboken, Jersey City, Secaucus, and Weehawken.
Piano tuning for 25 years, Burke said it is a way to extend his love for music. In addition to the keyboard, he plays drums and bass guitar.
Adam Brenner of Clifton also has been tuning pianos for 25 years, and like Burke, full-time.
Brenner services between 25 and 50 pianos in Guttenberg, Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York.
His entry into the field came accidentally. He was in a car accident, was injured severely and could not play his saxophone, so he learned piano tuning during his recovery.
“I really enjoy this work,” Brenner said. “It’s nice to meet people. I hear good stories.”
A jazz musician, he has rubbed elbows with many in his field by tuning their pianos.
“I tuned for one of the original members of the Count Basie Orchestra; Buddy Tate,” Brenner said. “It’s enabled me to mingle with many celebrities.”
Winter, when it’s dry and cold, affects the piano. So do summers, when temperatures are higher. Both Brenner and Burke suggest getting your piano tuned at least once a year.

Knife sharpeners

Scott Jennings of Bergen County has a skill that will never go out of style. Jennings, through his X-Calibur Knife & Scissor Sharpening, sets up shop at various Whole Food stores and farmers markets throughout the area, including the one at Van Vorst Park in Jersey City. For three years he also was a vendor at the Bayonne Farmers Market.
He sharpens items for at least three or four dozen Hudson County customers.
Jennings also makes mobile calls, depending on the amount of knives to be sharpened. He goes to textile factories a couple of times a year, and “hair salons every now and then.” He also serves a few privately owned specialty restaurants.
“There’s not very many of us anymore,” he said.
Not as many people cook like they used to, he said. They go out to eat. Plus, others use cheaper knives and just get new ones when they are dull.
Lenny Binelli, owner of the Edge Grinding Shop in Fairview, just above North Bergen, said his business mainly sharpens knives for restaurants and butcher shops. His van can often be seen traveling around Hoboken, where he has about 50 clients.
He said knife requests outnumber scissors 10: 1. But that was not always the case.
“I used to do scissors from the embroidery factories, but now that work’s gone, out of the country,” Binelli said. “Union City used to be the embroidery capital of the world. We used to get a lot of business from there. They’d bring in boxes full of scissors. I used to sharpen scissors for tailors, but now they’re gone too.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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