CHOPSTICKS, WATER PIPES, SCISSORS & MORE

phole-2Vietnamese eatery Pho Le opened on Broad Street last week. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rcsm2_010508Middle Broad Street in Red Bank appears to be pulling itself from a retail malaise. It wasn’t all that long ago that for every business in the area, one or two storefronts were empty.

More recently, though, there’s been an infusion of new businesses — and diversity — on the blocks between Monmouth Street and Harding Road, with the addition of two new pizzerias, a gourmet Chinese sit-down, a beauty boutique and two upscale consignment shops.

The latest to join the mix is one-of-a-kind. At 90 Broad, Vietnamese restaurant Pho Le set out the chopsticks and noodle bowls late last month.

More info on the recent churning below.

• There may be a pipe fight downtown.

Directly across the street from Tobacco Paradise — a convenience store with an abundance of (cough) tobacco paraphernalia — Inner Eye, a “hippie shop,” opened up last week at 19 West Front Street.

Though her store, like Tobacco Paradise, carries a robust line of products intended only for tobacco use, including water pipes, the two shops “are nothing alike,” said the owner, who only wanted to be identified as Kathleen.

Red Bank’s Inner Eye is the second location for Kathleen and her husband Don, who inherited the 40-year-old Montclair business from a family member, who opened the North Jersey shop after traveling with the Grateful Dead. The shop also sells jewelry, clothing, hacky sacks, incense and one item not for sale, but proof that it is, in fact, Dead-icated: the Raggedy Ann doll Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia posed with for the cover of Relix magazine.

“We sell peace, basically,” Don said. “It’s a very California-style shop, and we’re just trying to keep the tradition going.”

• Agostino Antiques hit the market last week, the latest sign of merchants’ struggles to stick it out in the tough economy, owner Sal Trupiano said.

“To make it simple, business has been very slow and we decided to sell the building and move,” he said.

The three-story building at 21 Broad Street is priced at $2.7 million, he said. Trupiano, who owns the building with his family, said they’ll stay in town until a sale goes through, and will continue to operate their New York location.

• Also on the way out of town are White Street children’s boutique Filakia and Shrewsbury Avenue’s Ponceno’s Record Shop.

Filakia Owner Eleni Thermos tells redbankgreen the shop came in to town about two years ago, right in the middle of the economic recession. Foot traffic was practically nonexistent despite the shop’s proximity to two municipal parking lots, she said.

“I just need something with more visibility,” Thermos said.

If something becomes available, she’ll stay in Red Bank. If not, Thermos said she may end up in Manalapan. Her lease is up in July.

A man who did not want to be identified but said he was the owner of Ponceno’s said bluntly, “the music business is dead,” but said he’d repurpose the space, at 109 Shrewsbury, for something more sustainable.

• Down the street on Shrewsbury, Rigo Castillo is looking for a barber.

Castillo opened up Rigo’s Barber Shop at 123 Shrewsbury about two months ago, he said. Amid an area full of hair shops, it hasn’t been a customer base he’s lacking, but a steady hand at the clippers. A former barber in Freehold, Castillo’s been working long hours behind the chair.

“There’s a lot of salons, but no barber shops,” he said. “The only problem is I don’t have a barber.”

• Finally, a couple weeks ago we reported on dueling cupcake shops downtown. Cupcake Magician, at 54 Monmouth Street, is now open for business, and Mr. Cupcakes is due to arrive soon, according to signs in the window of Ricky’s Candy, Cones and Chaos at 86 Broad, where it will share space. Adjust your belts accordingly.

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