Joe Garreffa is someone you may be hearing a lot about around Nyack these days. His smile and electric energy are blessings to be around and he shares them in the many eclectic contributions he’s offering the community.
His past includes myriad jobs and life loves that he has wholeheartedly grown from seeds into thriving establishments in town. These include everything from education to theater, the food industry, and food tours.
Growing up in Detroit, Joe was involved in after school children’s theater that included puppetry, stage design and magic.
… Sitting By The River shines a spotlight on locals in Nyack and Rockland County who make a difference in their communities. Listen to the full interview with Joe Garreffa by scrolling to the bottom of this article.
”My particular style of learning had not always been met at the traditional schools I went to,” he explains, “but along the way I learned that the arts were a useful tool for helping people.” As a result, that idea planted itself firmly in Joe’s mind for future endeavors.
Joe attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, as well as The New School BFA Musical Theater in New York City, where he participated in the creative arts therapies programs. During an internship in Philadelphia in 2004 he met his husband, Scott Young, and together they moved to New York City where Joe got a job at P.S.142 as a teaching artist for theater. Joe and Scott have a son, Michael, 7, and moved to Nyack in 2017, a community that had immediately charmed them.
As a director at P.S.142, Joe worked to bring a food bank into the school in partnership with the New York food bank. While at P.S. 142, he became director of the After 3 Arts Program, an after-school arts initiative. Later Joe became director of Community Schools, a totally different operation, where he worked with federal and city organizations that bring funds into school districts. He also partnered with strategic arts organizations, such as Ballet Hispanico, to bring in professional teaching artists.
On another note, and born from Joe’s passion for food, he began giving tours for Scott’s Pizza in New York City (still a popular food tour which has been hailed by everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Oprah). He fell in love with these tours because it came naturally to him. As a kid he worked in a small pizza parlor in Detroit, and pizza connected him to his rich Neapolitan heritage.
After the life-changing event of losing his brother Tony due to mental health issues, Joe’s grief moved him in yet another direction. Sending ideas to schools for an after-school arts program, he succeeded in launching a Saturday arts program in Nyack’s public schools. After Covid, he branched out offering other after-school programs in the community, as well as opening a small studio on Burd Street that combined after-school arts and food.
And there’s more. In 2021 Joe had the idea to put together local food tours on Saturday. Thus began his walking tours in Nyack, beginning with Simard & Co., DPNB and various other restaurants.
As a result, restaurant owners got involved by offering a history of their establishments, providing samples, and laying the framework for a social experience and ideas exchange. And these tours took off! “In Nyack,” Joe observes, “what lends itself to a tour is that there is never a lack of diversity when it comes to food.”
Currently, Joe’s hub of activity centers on the Creative Arts Workshop (C.A.W.), a sprawling, innovative space located on Nyack’s Main Street. This is where kids of mixed ages can come after school, on weekends and in summer for a blended program that includes various art projects, theater, local trips and guest-teaching artists. Among C.A.W.’s many attributes, its comfortable space allows for relaxation, reading and cooking.
“And scaffolded learning is always in the forefront,” Joe emphasizes.
Scaffolded learning is an instructional practice where the teacher gradually removes guidance and support as students learn and become more competent. It emerges out of a more holistic and experiential way of learning. “And teachers do a really good job of letting the children ‘just be’ if that’s what they want,” he adds.
Additionally, Joe is a partner, along with his husband Scott, in Scott & Joe’s (formerly Simard & Co.), a cheese-lover’s paradise and wine and charcuterie gourmet bistro. It features jams, fine meats, pate and amazing salads. Classes and events are also available, such as “Red Wine and Cheese Pairings,” plus tastings combining various wines with foods. (Are you hungry yet?)
Joe, who learned how to count his blessings early on, has become seasoned in creating a world that’s peaceful, where people create their own happiness.
“I’m a dad,” he reflects, “and Scott and I are very proud to be able to pass all of this along to our son.”
For more information on Creative Arts Workshop: www.arts-workshop.com
For more information on Joey G’s Nyack food tours: www.joeygsnyackfoodtours.com
For more information on Scott & Joe’s and tastings: www.scottandjoe.co