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August 2, 2011, 12:26 pm

An Automotive Wonderland Rises in Newark


Richard S. ChangA Lamborghini Miura S, one of the cars displayed, but not available for rent, at the Avenue A Club.

NEWARK — Two years ago, Paul Matos began renovating an old brick warehouse here in the Ironbound section of the city. The property had been in the family for a while, and he envisioned a place to store his collection of vintage cars and motorcycles.

During the renovation, his idea evolved. He decided to open his collection to the public as part of an event space, the Avenue A Club. He and Mike Ramalho, his associate, brought on two other businesses to share the space — Signature Car Collection, a luxury and exotic car rental agency, and Arena Motors, a service center specializing Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The result is something of a car aficionado wonderland.

“It’s three companies working together to build the ultimate man cave,” Marcello Bommarito, a co-owner of Signature, said during the opening party last Thursday night. He stood between a silver Audi R8 V-10 Spyder and a row of Lamborghinis and Ferraris (to rent a Lamborghini LP-640 for one day will set you back $1,950; a BMW M3 goes for $350). Ice-T, the actor and rapper, strolled through with Coco, his wife.

The three businesses are connected physically and in practice. Arena Motors services the cars in Signature’s rental fleet, and Signature customers may wander among Mr. Matos’s vehicles, which include three Pontiac GTOs, a Dodge Charger, a Lamborghini Miura S, numerous motorcycles and an odd-looking conveyance from the 1920s called a Labourdette Skiff.

“I wanted to create an atmosphere to teach people about cars,” Mr. Matos said on the second level of the Avenue A Club, which resembles a large beer hall.

Richard S. ChangThe Avenue A Club, in the Ironbound section of Newark.

He is exploring how to turn the club into a museum, but for now he considers it a gallery. He said the space will be open to the public on Saturdays with an entrance fee of $5 or $6, with all proceeds going to charity.

“We’re just car guys who loved to talk about cars,” Mr. Bommarito repeated several times to describe the automotive cooperative. And there was no shortage of car talk at the opening party.

Mr. Bommarito recalled the origins of his one-year-old rental company, which started when Matt Zolghadr, his business partner, rented his Ferrari F430 to a friend for a day (Signature’s third partner is Matt’s brother, Hamed).

“Now we have 13 cars,” Mr. Bommarito said.

Steve Arena, the owner of Arena Motors, said he had worked on cars since high school and related a story about skipping study hall to buy parts, which nearly got him suspended. “My parents stepped in,” he said. “I wasn’t suspended.”

Mr. Matos, whose family has a background in farming, talked about his collection of tractors, including those by Lamborghini and Porsche.

“You know David Brown, the DB of Aston Martin?” he said. “I have a David Brown farm tractor. It’s from 1934.”

It wasn’t on display.

February 2012