BIZ WATCH: WHO’S COMING, WHO’S GOING

dscf3010The lauded Broad Street Filling Station ran out of gas in Red Bank. And it wasn’t alone. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rcsm2_010508The continuing trend in downtown Red Bank: good news mixed with not-so.

First with the bad: A few more businesses have been picked off by the slumping economy since redbankgreen last took the temperature of downtown businesses.

The good: Potential tenants are looking to snag some of those vacant spaces, we’re told, and a couple of businesses are either opening up or expanding in the borough.

At the north end of Red Bank’s main vein, Broad Street, the Firehouse Specialty Shop is having a what-do-we-do-next moment. Firehouse, customers know, has occupied the back end of 24 Broad for years while the niche boutique The Bee’s Knees filled out the front floor and dressed up the windows with lots of Jersey Shore apparel and women and children’s clothes.

David Hendrickson, owner of the Firehouse, which will continue business as usual, says the Bee’s Knees is out. Kinda.

Hendrickson’s sister, Kristin Winters, was the owner of Bee’s Knees, and left the business after Memorial Day weekend, but Hendrickson will continue to sell her stock until it runs out (storewide sale going on now).

The shop’s departure was accelerated by a prolonged drop in foot traffic, some parking problems and this down economy, Hendrickson said.

“It came down as not cost-effective to do it,” he said. “It’s been a year they were running flat.”

Once the inventory sells, Hendrickson said the Firehouse will likely move in to that space, but said he’s open to bringing in another business to split the spot with his custom apparel company.

“We’re going to stay and keep plugging away,” Hendrickson said.

Farther south, the Broad Street Filling Station appears to have stopped pumping out creative sandwiches in the last month or so. Last we heard from owners Pete Burr and Glenn Saldarini, they had two potential buyers for the eatery and were waiting to see which would come through first with a check. Barring that, though, a shutdown was likely, given that the pair were tapped out on their investment, Burr said. At the moment, customers craving the shop’s lobster BLTs can only wait, droopy jawed, outside the locked door.

Over on Mechanic Street, Studio 325, a creative design group, has booked for a new location. But Nancy Adams, executive director for RiverCenter, says a new company similar to 325 is moving in.

Among those planning to set up shop, as previously reported: Dor L’Dor, a women’s casualwear store that’s taking over the former Chelsea Home spot at Broad and Mechanic.

Space has opened up in English Plaza, where Selve called home for the deepest part of the recession — and thus, its demise. The high-end, custom shoe boutique was victim of bad timing, Adams said, and couldn’t sustain itself here any longer.

“It was just the economy was not in the right place,” she said, adding that owner Karin Lund fought hard to keep the store going. “I’ve never seen a business owner work so hard. It’s a real loss.”

A bit less of a shocker here, but Bleach Bright, the one-stop shop for a sparkling smile, has packed up its peroxide gels and left West Front Street. No explanation there.

Just a few doors down, IC Gold Boutique went dark — and brown paper went up in the window. Adams tells redbankgreen that Old World Shaving Parlor owner Patricia Gilmartin is looking to balance the rustic with rouge. She’s starting a new venture called New World Cosmetics where IC once was.

The downtown churn is steady, it seems. But Adams says there’s a tremendous amount of interest from prospective property and business owners to plant stakes in Red Bank.

“There are people looking,” she said, and is working with them to find fitting locations.

The country is still muddled in this recession, where discretionary spending is down and there’s still a certain amount of mistrust in the market, she said.

“The reality is that retail is in a lot of trouble right now,” Adams said. “I’m naturally concerned and we’re doing all we can to bring new tenants in and do what we can for tenants that are here and make it through this tough time.”