A LITTLE SUPER SHRINKAGE

In the ever-chipper language of public relations, this year’s “Shopper Bowl Shuffle,” a downtown sales push in conjunction with the Super Bowl, is “bigger and better,” says a press release from RiverCenter.

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The “better” remains open to interpretation, but in fact, Shopper Bowl II is shaping up as somewhat smaller than last year’s version. And the falloff in participation among downtown businesses illustrates the challenges that organizers face in corralling large numbers of merchants for themed, collective efforts.

RiverCenter, the nonprofit administrator of the downtown Special Improvement District, lists 41 stores, restaurants and salons that plan to be open and offering discounts of 20 percent or more this weekend. A year ago, there were 53. And only 38 of this year’s participating stores are expect to be open both days of the two-day event, down from an estimated 48 last year.

Nineteen businesses that were on last year’s list aren’t on this year’s, a drop partly attributable to store closings and relocations. Furnishings retailer Vizzini & Company, for example, moved from Monmouth Street to the Galleria, which is outside the district. Old Monmouth Candies, on Broad Street for the past two years, recently retrenched to its original Freehold location. The Paper Rose, a card store on Broad, is closing for renovations.

But it’s not only a matter of the steady churn of retail faces that accounts for the decline. A dozen businesses that held sales last year and still operate in the district didn’t re-up, even though nearly all of them plan to be open Saturday anyway. They are: Agostino Antiques, Coco Pari, Mustillo’s, Primas Home & Cafe, Surray Luggage, Maxwell & Sophie, Drummer’s Alley, Readie’s Fine Foods, Seldin’s Jewelry, Cigars Plus, Grieco’s Bakery and Quicksilver Handcrafted Jewelry.

What gives?

Vance Valente, owner of Quicksilver, on White Street, is a RiverCenter regular who was on the sale committee last year. This year, though, he’ll be on sidelines. Or, more accurately, he’ll be home getting ready for the game.

“We gave it a shot, but we realized that it’s really not a shopping day,” Valente said. “People want to get ready for the Super Bowl. That’s the problem.”

Tom Fishkin of Readie’s Fine Foods said his participation last year was nominal. The event, he said, is really geared toward merchants selling products that appeal almost exclusively to women, not a category his deli is in.

“Food is a whole different thing” than shoes or lingerie, he said. But he’ll be open both days, as he is for every year’s football championship, busy filling catering orders for Super Bowl parties.

At Maxwell & Sophie on English Plaza, owner Cynthia Lennox said she must have tuned out when she got the notice of the sale because it seemed to involve opening her store on a Sunday, though that was optional.

“For me, it was probably just an oversight,” she said. “Call it inertia. Not apathy, inertia.”

Doreen Jolly of A Peaceful Home furnishings on Broad Street told redbankgreen she might have participated, as she did last year, but doesn’t recall getting any literature about the event.

Still, the sign-up effort did bring in seven new recruits, including recent downtown arrivals Rok + Lola, What’s That Smell and Sunshine Daydream. Organizers also landed Gaetano’s restaurant, which has deeper roots in town. RiverCenter Executive Director Tricia Rumola said she expects a few more shops to join by the end of the week.

And there are fans of the sale among its veterans.

“I feel it’s a valid event,” said Ellen D’Amore, owner of Soapmarket, on Monmouth Street, and co-chair, with Wooly Monmouth’s Dori Kershner, of this year’s edition. “My feeling is it needs some time to grow. The sidewalk sale in the summer has been around for 50 years, but I bet that probably needed time to grow, too.”

Like many of the customers she attracted last year, D’Amore said she, too, has been a Super Bowl widow, one whose husband hosted an annual game party for his buddies. So she and her friends would spend the afternoon shopping and dining. That impulse to flee the house is one that the sale aims to capitalize on, she said.

The event is not a top-down dictate from RiverCenter. Rumola said last year’s sale, suggested by Kershner, was hampered by poor weather, but a survey of merchants afterward found strong interest in a repeat. So a committee was formed to provide tweaks for this year.

“It has always been RiverCenter’s mission to support the business community and, with their feedback, plan our programming,” she said.

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The sale is this Saturday from 10a to 6p, and Sunday from 12 to 5p. Parking is free Sunday. Here’s the list of participants, as supplied by RiverCenter, with links where we could find them.

BROAD STREET

A Time to Kiln – Sale

Backward Glances – Sale

Chelsea Home – Sale

Funk & Standard Variety Store – Sale

If the Shoe Fits – Sale

Jace Jewelers – Sale (Saturday only)

Jack’s Music Shoppe – Sale

Jonathan Salon – Product promotion

LJ’s Total Man and Today’s Woman – Sale

Lavish Kids – Sale

New York Trends – Sale

Ricky’s Candy, Cones, and Chaos – Sale

Sunshine Daydream – Sale

T. Berry Square – Sale

Tesori Jewelry – Sale (Saturday only)

What’s That Smell? – Sale

ENGLISH PLAZA

Faire Tails – Sale

The McCulloh Sampler – Sale

MECHANIC STREET

Fitness Together – Signup for a no obligation week of training (3 sessions) and free fitness evaluation. Also enter to win drawing to win 25 sessions of personal training.

MONMOUTH STREET

Barbizon School of Modeling – Free tote bag with enrollment.

Beacon Fine Arts Gallery – Sale

Bella Soul – Sale

Bellie & Katrina – Sale

Better Housekeeping – Sale

Cocoon – Sale

Downtown Antiques – Sale

Esoterica Ltd. – Sale (Saturday only)

Fameabilia – Sale

Margaret’s Accessories – Sale

Red Ginger Home – Sale

Soapmarket – Sale

Stokaboka – Sale

The Wine Cellar – Sale

Wooly Monmouth – Sale

FRONT STREET

ROK & Lola – Sale and a chocolate kiss or cocktail while you shop

4B – Sale

4B The Collections – Sale

Paw Palace – Sale

WALLACE STREET

Gaetano’s – Three-course $25 Prix Fixe menu from 1 to 6p

Red Bank Bead Company – Sale

WHITE STREET

Face FX – Sale and complimentary make-overs, exfoliating hand massages and raffle prizes

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