By JOHN T. WARD
This edition of Retail Churn reports on the departures from downtown Red Bank of two businesses and the cold feet of one that never opened: a pizzeria, a jewelry store and a barbecue joint, respectively.
Gone, quite abruptly, is Biagio Wood-Fired Pizza. Going, once its home of 21 years is sold, is Cesar’s Creations Jewelry. And never seen was the highly-lauded Local Smoke BBQ, which bailed over the expected costs and delays of setting up downtown.
All three involve Broad Street addresses. We’ve also got news about new boutique coming to Monmouth Street.
Biagio’s closed Friday, after what we’re told was some sort of “confrontation” in the restaurant. By Monday, a for-rent sign had gone up in the darkened space. On Tuesday, the pizzeria’s Facebook page had this post:
We are sad to announce we will be temporarily closed until further notice. Come visit us & the same great pizza you learned to love at Mossuto’s Market & Cafe in Wall Township, NJ.
Biagio’s was the brainchild of Mossuto’s owner Biagio Schiano and Andrew Gennusa, who owned the iconic pizzeria-slash-coffeehouse Zebu Forno. After many years at 20 Broad and a bitter rent dispute, Zebu packed up and moved to 12 Broad in early 2012.
But just six months later, after being smitten by Mossuto’s, Gennusa shut down Zebu to partner with Schiano in the newly formed Biagio’s, which featured a wood-burning pizza oven imported from Italy.
Schiano could not be reached for immediate comment.
Broker Geof Brothers tells Churn that the landlord, a group led by Nima Nili, is asking $10,000 a month for the space, and has already seen a “very, very high” level of interest for another food use.
“The overriding demand for Red Bank that I see is for food,” says Brothers. And while existing restaurants certainly aren’t crazy about additional competition, “the food use creates traffic, and there are a lot of people who spend money on food.”
The old days of downtown retailing are dead, said Brothers, thanks to the Internet, and Red Bank “is a different town” than when Prown’s, Vogel’s, Carroll’s and other stores lined Broad Street.
“Certainly, you don’t want one pizzeria next to another,” he said. “But there’s a lot to be said for synergy.”
Jeweler Joe Cerasa, owner of Cesar’s Creations Jewelers at 68 Broad, is retiring after 42 years in the trade and closing up shop.
The 69-year-old Shrewsbury resident says there’s no point in trying to selling the business: the concept of “good will” as an asset that could be valued and transferred from one owner to another is dead, he says.
But he owns the one-story building that houses his store, nestled near the corner of Monmouth Street between Nat’s Jewelers and the vacant former home of Love Lane Tuxedos. It’s 18 feet wide and 100 feet long, with a full, dry basement underneath. It’s also a veritable bunker, built with 18-inch-wide slabs of precast concrete forming the roof and floor.
“You could put a herd of elephants on the roof,” said Cerasa, whose last name is the anagrammatic source of the “Cesar.” There is no Cesar: Joe ran the shop for years with his brother Sal, who died in 2007
Cerasa declined to tell Churn how much he’s asking, because publishing the figure would draw too many “tire-kickers,” he said. But once the building has a buyer, he’ll hold a liquidation sale and turn out the lights one last time.
This one hurts if you’re aficionado of great BBQ, which is nowhere to be found in Red Bank. Local Smoke BBQ, a Neptune-based restaurant that grew out amateur wins in high-profile cook-offs around the country, has pulled out of a plan to take over the Boardwalk Burgers space at 20 Broad.
Local Smoke owner Steve Raab tells Retail Churn via email that the borough “was making us install about $15k worth of new equipment and couldn’t guarantee any type of time frame on the approval process, so we had to walk away from the deal. I think we would have been approved, but the landlord was forcing us to sign a lease before getting pre-approved and we couldn’t risk getting caught up in the red tape that Red Bank is known for.”
Raab adds that it was difficult to walk away, “but we hope to one day be open in the area.”
And yes, 20 Broad is where Zebu was for years before its short-lived move to 12 Broad and transformation, just five months later, into Biagio’s. What the prospective lease to another tenant means for Boardwalk Burgers wasn’t immediately known.