For nearly 13 years Anthony Fonti has owned a valet parking company that contracts services to hotels, restaurants and events.
He has worked in this industry since graduating high school, learning the ropes by working his way up from parking attendant to general manager on his first job.
When he decided to open his own company six years later in 2004, it would be one that he’d ultimately expand from Northern New Jersey into Central New Jersey. In 2014, ten years after he began, he took his Carcierge Valet services beyond New Jersey into New York and Connecticut.
Last year, Fonti decided he needed a new challenge — and in a whole new realm. So he bought a dilapidated three-family building in Jersey City.
“My parking company was running so efficiently that I found myself very bored,” said Fonti, who lives in Edgewater. He had developed an interest in home renovation and rehabilitation while updating his own homes in Freehold and elsewhere.
The Victorian row house he purchased last July was built in 1895, showing it age and mantled in neglect. But the units, each about 975 square feet, showed promise.
“I kept hearing how Jersey City Heights was the next up and coming neighborhood,” said Fonti. “I caught it at the right time. I paid $782,000 for it, and I invested $550,000.” He said he hopes to sell the entire building to an investor or individually as condominiums.
Each unit has three bedrooms, one bathroom and one attached garage. All were fully gutted in the project. “I updated all the plumbing, all the electric, all the roofing, all the siding,” Fonti said. He brought in various crews to do the work. Outside, they replaced the crumbling masonry. They paved and landscaped the property’s shared backyard, and carved out four additional parking spaces.
“I was the general contractor. I was there every single day, basically making sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to do,” said Fonti. “My guys were there every single day.”
The project was completed earlier this month, about eight months total. “Sometimes I had guys working on top of each other because I wanted to get it all done,” Fonti said.
Behind the building’s newly modernized facade, he improved and brightened the formerly dreary entry hall. A skylight is installed in the roof to shower light down on the staircase between the building’s three main floors.
The main door is now surrounded by windows, with sidelights and a transom above. A torch-style chandelier brings five ceiling lights where there had been one, and sconces with matching tops of frosted white glass are anchored to the walls.
The entry was further refined by crisp white trim in a ceiling edged by crown molding, and sand-colored walls lined with chair rail. These stand in contrast to the dark flooring, doors and staircase.
The same color combination was taken into each unit. Walls were removed around the kitchens, opening each up to the joint dining and living area. The remaining walls have the same dark flooring and neutral paint as the entry. White kitchen cabinetry is complemented by granite counters and stainless steel appliances from Samsung and LG.
In the bathrooms, clear glass surrounds the bathtub with a rain-style shower. Each unit has an ebonized double vanity topped with pairs of sleek white vessel sinks.
Fonti had initially planned to restore the property as a rental and to outfit it with basic materials. But as he made choices for the various fixtures and surfaces, he was selected what pleased him most. “I just couldn’t help myself, and I went all out,” he said. “It’s a funny thing. I used the exact same floors I used in my own house, I used the same molding, I used the exact same doors. I basically used the same things I used in my own house.”
What he renovated
A three-unit 1895 row house in Jersey City
Who did the work?
SDM Painting and Remodeling, Edgewater; World Class Kitchen & Bath, Matawan; Ace Home Improvements (siding and railings), Manalapan; Dykes Lumber, Matawan and others
How long it took
About 8 months, from July 2016 to March 2017
What he spent
$782,000 to purchase, $550,000 to renovate
Where he splurged
How he saved
“By haggling with everyone,” Fonti said. “I saved money by never paying what the contractor was asking.”
What he did himself
He acted as the general contractor
What he likes most
“I have to say I am extremely proud of the entire project,” Fonti said.
What he’d have done differently
“I did hire a contractor in the very beginning who did not do a good job,” Fonti said. “I would have been done a month sooner, but I was going back and fourth with him.”