By Steve Sears
Robak feels that the reason The Scribble Garden – where creativity grows – lasted during the “teeth” of COVID19 is that she is accommodating and is not afraid of change. “I will figure out a way to get it done, and I get it done. And I have everything I need here to do that.”
“This is like my happy place.”
In 2007, Robak founded The Happy Dance LLC, which is now under The Scribble Garden roof. It started in 2005, when her daughter wanted to be a fairy princess, so Robak created her first fairy costume. “I’ve been covered with glitter and feathers ever since,” she says. She then started making school spirit wear which people loved, and then she started doing fairy programs in and outside of Pequannock. ”In 2007, I was like, ‘The Fairy Lady.’ I was doing costumes. Then, it just kept going and going and going. I just kept saying, ‘Yes.’ I still don’t know how to say, ‘No.’ It makes me feel good to be able to do what I can. I can’t afford to give money, but I can make and give products.”
Those products included her popular witch hats, which she started making and selling every October in Salem, Massachusetts since 2008. In March 2020, Robak pivoted from hat making into COVID mask making for selling and for donation.
Initially, her whole operation was out of her home. The basement and garage packed with her supplies, she then bought a shed and started piling things in there. “It’s crazy,” she says with a laugh. And it’s all centered around kids and helping families. “That’s what I like to do,” she says.
Finally, in September 2019, she secured her current location, and she claims with a laugh that the day she signed the lease, her husband John was at the back door, arms full, ready to shoulder it open and move her stuff in. “He was so happy,” she says of her husband’s eagerness to move the operation to a new location. “With fairy costumes, there’s feathers, there’s glitter…it’s a mess, and it grows, and it doesn’t go away, ever. We still have glitter at the house.”
Memories for her customers – and her – are now being created at 163 Newark Pompton Turnpike in Pequannock. “I had kind of an opening on December 12 (of 2019),” she says, unveiling her store for the holidays for two weeks in
December after locals kept asking when she’d be open. “And then I closed and opened in February, and then I closed in March.” The pandemic halted on-site operations as some events were moved to Zoom. “And I was booked until June. It was so exciting; everyone, the outpouring from this community, and Wayne, and wherever I’ve been ‘The Fairy Lady…’ Robak starts to cry. “I was so amazed at how many people came to support me.”
She then opened to the public again in August 2020. She says, “I’m still here, which is amazing to me. “
Regarding COVID19, comfort and safety are a top priority. Masks are worn at The Scribble Garden, and an air purifier runs 24/7. If over 8 people are inside the location, fans are turned on and windows are open. There is a minimum of 5 people to reserve space at The Scribble Garden, where cooking classes, craft and painting workshops, learning skills, enjoying cocoa, tea, ice cream treats and more all make happiness. Robak also bakes; there is a certified kitchen for baking on site. “I found out I like making chocolate,” she says, “so, for Easter, we’re going to have chocolate here as well.” Robak cares, has a good heart. Some local businesses she gives free shelf space to market their goods, she invites local artists to schedule events and exhibit their skills, and a fondant cake expert will head in to teach classes in April. “Everything we do,” she says, “is to try and help people. I try to give people an opportunity to do something and further themselves.”
Robak is school sponsor for the Pompton Plains Pre-School, runs the Pequannock Street Festival, and she also runs the K-Fest in Kinnelon. “Plus, I’ve been doing my own event, the Shop ‘n Drop, which gives back to the community. I donate coats, food, and gifts for the community.”
Consider the one day when a young girl tried on a fairy costume that Robak had made especially for her. The young girl turned to her father and said, “Daddy, I’m pretty.” “That keeps me going,” Robak says, and then continues, “and a woman comes in here a lot and says, ‘We love what you’re doing. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And I keep going. This,” she says, while looking all around her realm’s interior, “keeps me going. When people come in and they say that they like the place and they want to stay and do other things, and they get excited about some of the things I’m offering, that’s all I need.”
In addition to her husband, who Robak says is an amazing man and a wonderful father (“He takes care of the kids, the house, and everything so I can make this happen”), she also has support from her daughters, Alexandra, 21, and Corinne, 18. “They have also been very supportive, and I have roped them in to helping me every step of the way.”
What’s best about Robak is what’s best about The Scribble Garden. “It’s just everything I love in one place,” she says. “So, it’s not like work for me. And when people come in and tell me how happy they are and say, ‘Oh, I love this…’” She tears up again, then gets to the core of it all. “I want everything and everyone to feel good about themselves. And happy – and they can be.”
Visit www.scribblegardencafe.com for more information.