RETRO FASHION OUT, ASIAN EATERY PENDING

43 broad 020414Backward Glances’ owner cited rising rents and diminishing cool as factors in her decision to leave Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508After 28 years in Red Bank, vintage clothing and accessories boutique Backward Glances has departed for Asbury Park.

Also in this edition of redbankgreen Retail Churn: an Asian restaurant hopes to open in English Plaza, just a few doors away from a new hair salon that’s readying for its debut.

54 English pl 020414Eastern Empire hopes to win approval to convert retail space in English Plaza for use as a sit-down restaurant. (Click to enlarge)

Backward Glances owner Cindy Wolfson Ciullo spent 16 years selling her eclectic mix of era-specific clothing with a distinctive rock ‘n roll flavor on Monmouth Street, before relocating a dozen years ago to Broad Street.

That gave her a seat on the downtown’s economic rollercoaster ride over the past generation. Not long after she opened her store, the town earned the moniker ‘Dead Bank’ for it’s gloomy air of abandonment by shoppers and retailers, who found malls more magical.

But she hung on, benefitting from the town’s widely hailed revival, before the subsequent second dip following the 2008 financial crisis.

Still, despite the district’s recovery from that more recent downturn, Ciullo has struggled. Every time her Broad Street lease was up for renewal, the rent rose, she said.

“High rent, number one,” she said, reviewing the reasons for her move. Two years ago, she sought a rent reduction from her landlord, the Ten Company. “I got another increase instead.”

But it’s not just rent, Ciullo said. Had rents stabilized, she might have stayed in Red Bank, “and I probably would have been sorry.”

Why?

Fundamentally, she said, “Red Bank’s changed over the years I’ve been there. Red Bank’s not the hip, artsy place it used to be. And I think Asbury is.”

While there are plenty of places to eat, and more opening all the time, “I’ve had customers say to me that there’s no place to shop here – no affordable places.” She counts Jack’s Music Shoppe, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash and Ten Thousand Villages as exceptions to the trend toward upmarket retail.

By contrast, she said, “Asbury’s on the upswing. The vibe in Asbury is more well-suited to my clientele,” she said.”

Ciullo hopes her clientele will follow her to her new location, in the multitenanted Shoppes at the Arcade on Cookman Avenue. Even on the lower level, far from a storefront, she thinks she’ll be better off than at street level on Broad Street.

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Also in the Churn, possibly: Eastern Empire, an Asian restaurant in the Oakhurst section of Ocean Township, hopes to expand with a second location in Red Bank.

The restaurant has an application pending with the borough planning board to take over the space in English Plaza recently vacated by PS Poppyseeds, a women’s boutique that was there for about three years.

A hearing on the request, which requires an OK to change retail space to an eat-in restaurant with 26 seats, was snowed out earlier this week and is now tentatively scheduled to be heard on February 17.

Eastern Empire’s online menu is divided into two categories: familiar Chinese dishes and aThai menu.

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Just a few doors away in English Plaza, a Rumson business called Victoria Total Hair is preparing to open a second shop, called Victoria Salon, according to landlord representative Samantha Bowers, of Philip J. Bowers & Company. The hair styling salon could be open as soon as late February, she said. [CORRECTION: Victoria Brewer, owner of Victoria Total Hair in Rumson tells us she is not opening a salon in Red Bank. redbankgreen regrets the error.]