Williams: You could have lived anywhere in the country. You could have been on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Why come to Montclair?
Brown: I actually moved to Montclair, New Jersey the day I got back from my honeymoon. My husband and I fell in love with Montclair. We knew we didn’t want to be a New York City couple. We didn’t want to raise New York City kids. We really wanted a normal life, and there was nothing I liked better than to leave a fashion shoot and say goodbye to everybody while they’re going out and I’m going through the Holland or the Lincoln Tunnel, and I kind of decompress, and then I go home and go to the park with my dog, or my kid or whatever it was.
Williams: And you elected to send your kids to public schools? I mean, we have a lot of fancy, expensive, private schools.
Brown: Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I send my kids to public school?
Williams: I did too.
Brown: Right? I mean, why not? Our public schools are great. And you know when people come up to me and say, ‘Oh my god, you’re so normal,’ what does that mean? What am I supposed to be? I’ve has some pretty amazing role models in my life, other people that were well-known long before I was, Yogi Berra for one. How do you mention Montclair without Yogi and who was more beloved and famous than this man.
Williams: And more generous.
Brown: And more generous.
Williams: He was also in the parks, in the streets, at the fundraisers, and always so dear and humble about it. After you built your cosmetics empire and moved onto the next chapter you decided to rebuild Montclair. You guys are building, what’s it, 18 Label sound studio?
Brown: No, 18 Label is a film and television studio, right now the Food Network about two weeks a month shoot there and it’s rented out the other times. Across the street we’re building what is going to be 18 Label the annex, with two more studios.
Williams: Because there’s so many television people in this town.
Brown: There’s so many people. And Food Network actually started shooting, it’s actually BSTV, which is this great woman named Beth Bourke. I met her at the spinning studio and I told her about this studio we’re opening. She came and saw it and she said I want this, and she started filming in the kitchen and it’s been there for a couple of years now.
Williams: And it’s right behind the Montclair Bread Company.
Brown: It’s right behind the Bread Company, which my husband is the landlord of that cool place. I was working with Rachel from the Bread Company to work on the breakfast at The George. So the cool thing about Montclair is there are so many innovative entrepreneurs and it’s really fun. A very eclectic town.
Williams: We’re sitting in The George. Now, this was The Georgian Inn which was beyond down on its luck.
Brown: That’s a nice way to say it, yes.
Williams: You took it over and transformed it into this extraordinary place with photos of Georges, famous Georges everywhere. There are two, the George Bush presidencies, the Bushs I don’t see.
Brown: George Bush has a great picture in our bathroom, which is a beautiful bathroom. It’s a picture of George Bush, the second, with his dog and it’s a great picture. And George Bush, Sr., we’ll have to find a place. It’s still a work in process.
Williams: There’s room, there’s room on the walls, but this is really spectacular.
Brown: Thank you.
Williams: The whole town thanks you. It’s about time.
Brown: You know, we did not have a place for people to stay, so there will be a lot of mother-in-laws staying here, I’ve been told.
Williams: Montclair has been called Brooklyn West, or the West West Side, the new West Side. What do you call it?
Brown: Well, when Vogue covered The George, I said that Montclair is the Brooklyn of New Jersey. It is.
Williams: Because we are cool.
Brown: Because we are cool, and we are open, and we are eclectic, and we can all live together even though we are not the same.
Williams: Incredibly diverse.
Brown: Exactly, and we all like each other.
Williams: And going to the supermarket is a political experience, because everyone’s so active.
Brown: There’s so many interesting people in this town. You know, people that you’re heard of and a zillion people that you haven’t heard of. From your hair dresser, to your trainer, to my dog walker that I see every morning, there’s just these great people that live in this town that I’ve been friends with. I couldn’t image my life anywhere else.