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MERCHANTS: TIFFANY WILL HELP, NOT HURT

Img_8228A customer tries on a bracelet at an opening-night reception at Tiffany & Co.’s Broad Street store earlier this month.

The Asbury Park Press today pops in on store owners in downtown Red Bank to gauge their feelings about the recent arrival of Tiffany & Co., and finds the welcome mat is out.

In fact, writes business reporter David Willis, “other businesses in town have showered the store with flowers and gifts.”

“They have been dropping in to see the store,” said store manager Vicky Shortland. “Just very welcoming.”

The love emanates, unsurprisingly, from owners of upmarket clothiers CoCo Pari and Garmany, but also from less glitzy competitors in the jewelry business (Quicksilver Handcrafted Jewelry, A.H. Fisher Diamonds.

And some of them foresee, and embrace, a continued upmarket shift downtown.

Alan Fisher, owner of A.H. Fisher Diamonds, welcomed Tiffany’s to Red Bank.

“I also feel that Red Bank shoppers are pretty savvy and sophisticated. If they are going to come into Red Bank to go to Tiffany’s, I feel they are going to see the other jewelers in town,” he said. “I don’t think they will make it a one-stop shop.”

In fact, Fisher said he is planning major renovations to his store next year to cater more to the upscale shopper. “My clientele has been going in that direction,” he said. “By doing this, I will be able to better service that client.”

Of course, there are also business owners who say the district still has a nice mix of stores, which will continue to attract customers from an economic cross-section, as long as landlords don’t get piggy and other chronic problems — such as inadequate parking — get fixed.

But don’t expect Red Bank to only attract the high-income crowd. “There are regular middle-class folk who do come into Tiffany’s and will spend money,” said Patti Siciliano, owner of Funk & Standard Variety Store. “It doesn’t mean that the town is specifically going to be catering to wealthy people.”

There are many other shops in Red Bank, she said. “The “luxury or high-end’ stores really are the minority.”

Vance A. Valente Sr., owner of Quicksilver, a retailer of sterling silver and American Indian jewelry, said other major retailers, not just luxury sellers, would come into town if there was more parking.

“You will end up getting a mix of everything,” Valente said. “If there is a midrange clothing store or chain store that comes in downtown, they would just clean up.”

But Valente, who is also a landlord and member of RiverCenter’s executive board, doesn’t think that Tiffany’s will drive up rents, which are already higher because of investment downtown.

Rents now are between $25 and $32 a square foot, up from about $18 five years ago, Valente said. “If they (landlords) go crazy, they will have empty stores.”

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