Local volunteer art house celebrates 10 years in Townley Presbyterian church basement

Photos courtesy of Joy Ann Lara and Bruce Tangowski
The Salem Roadhouse Cafe in the cellar of the Townley Presbyterian church in Union provides life music and showcasses local artists on the second Saturday of every month.

UNION, NJ — The basement of Townley Presbyterian Church, located on Salem Road in Union, transforms into the hub of Northern New Jersey culture on the second Saturday of every month, when the crossroads of music, art and gourmet coffee collide.

Mayor Cavadas honored and congratulated volunteers of the Salem Roadhouse Cafe for its 10-year anniversary at the Aug. 22 township committee meeting. Additional praises for the cafe’s work came from committeemen and women, who thanked its volunteers for their many years of service to the town.

“It is wonderful that our residents are able to experience the variety of music, variety of sounds, the genres, that are presented at the Roadhouse Cafe,” Committeeman Manuel Figueiredo said.

The gathering spot initially started as an idea to bring the church closer to the community. The first show that took place nearly 10 years ago vastly differed from the monthly show it is today.

This evolutionary result is due to the incorporation of opinions and ideas that volunteers, attendees and performers have contributed over the years, constantly molding and concretizing plans.

“Occasional shows very quickly wound up becoming regular monthly shows by demand. Performers and audiences offered ideas and opinions which we considered and incorporated into our persona,” Director of Salem Roadhouse Cafe, Bruce Tangowski, said in interview with LocalSource on Aug. 24.

Through a grant via the Presbytery Of Elizabeth, the cafe invested in quality improvements in sound equipment and lighting controls, putting it on the lips of residents and performers throughout New Jersey.

While featured on Union TV34’s music series, “Union After Dark”, Union residents are not the only people to come through the doors, Tangowski said.

“Audiences come from all over. Some have come from Brooklyn, some from eastern Pennsylvania and even as far as Ohio. Most come from all over northern New Jersey,” he said.


To match the diverse audience, a diverse variety of performances range from the many forms of jazz to rock, pop, hip-hop and bluegrass.

These musicians are highlighted by newly enhanced stage sets, lighting and a first-class sound system, which creates the intimate experience for both audience and performers.

“Performers come from all over. Most are from northern New Jersey, but many have come from New York City, upstate New York, Philadelphia, California and even one from Australia. This October will feature musicians from Brazil accompanying singer/songwriter Melanie Mitrano from Nutley, who will be performing Brazilian-style jazz,” Tangowski said.

While music is at the foreground of the monthly events, local artwork is featured on the walls in a gallery like setting to be enjoyed and purchased.

For the cost of a small fee that sponsors both local and national charities, attendees are able to grasp musical entertainment, while benefitting humanitarian causes.

Some charities the cafe supports are Monarch Housing, Union County YWCA domestic violence programs, Community Food Bank, Making It Possible To End Homelessness, Inc., MS Society, Angel Paws Animal Rescue, Haiti Relief Fund, Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, Presbytery Of Elizabeth Center, Camp Johnsonburg, The Children’s Music Institute and more.

“It’s a safe, family friendly place to enjoy music,” Tangowski said. “Young people are always encouraged to attend the shows so they can witness live music performed right in front of them.”