new-primasThe new-look Primas features bright colors and luxurious merchandise at affordable prices, the owners say. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)



Primas Home on Broad Street in Red Bank reopened last Friday, unveiling a new, bright space laid out with a lot of the eye-catching stuff it had before. Except this time, the price tags won’t make your eyes roll into the back of your head.

Back in April, the upscale furniture and accessory shop closed for renovations, part of its revamping of the business model to keep up with the economy.

After a makeover of the open-plan, vaulted ceiling space – built as the Merchants Trust Company, and later the longtime home of Carrolls Stationers – all the high-end merchandise, including the Althorp line, was sequestered to the loft space, and the 4,000-square-foot ground floor was filled with furniture, lamps and decorations with a palatable price tag.

“It’s affordable luxury. It’s like the look for less,” co-owner Valeria Ribeiro said. “We felt we needed to adjust.”

df-cigarsDon Francisco Cigars opened Saturday, filling a void on Wallace Street. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

While Primas still caters to deep-pocketed perusers, the folks with budget restrictions, like first-time homeowners and young couples, may find more than they expected, given the store’s past incarnation. Now, it’s on Primas to get the word out, Ribeiro said.

“The big challenge for us is telling our customers and our new customers that we are here and we’re affordable. You can come in,” she said.

It didn’t take long for someone to roll into town behind the cloud of smoke left by Cigars Plus just a couple months ago.

The entry of Don Francisco Cigars fills that hole, as well as the one left by the Red Bank Bead Company when it vacated its spot at 18 Wallace and moved to Shrewsbury.

The cigar purveyor and retailer opened its doors — despite a paucity of merchandise — last weekend in order to catch the fireworks crowd and to tap into the customer base that’s accustomed to making Red Bank its spot for a stogie.

“We’re trying to fill a void,” co-owner Richard Isabella said. “People need a place to buy their cigars, so we’re here.”

Already established in East Brunswick, Don Francisco has an edge on the cigar market, being able to bring in top-shelf brands, like Padron, Fuente and Drew Estate, that have strict distribution lists that preclude just any store from bringing their products in house, Isabella said. The store also has its own line of hand-rolled cigars, including the Sweet Tip — a cigar dipped in Splenda, which caters to diabetics and smokers with sugar aversions.

Yes, Isabella and company take their cigars very seriously.

“There’s a dinner cigar, there’s a cigar for just mowing the lawn or playing golf,” said Isabella, a native of Middletown. “It’s like going to a fine restaurant.”

By mid-July, the shop should have 12 humidors and its full stock of cigars, cigarettes and accessories. Unlike Cigars Plus, though, Don Francisco doesn’t have a permit for indoor smoking. Isabella says he’s working on that. Meantime, there’s a dinner plate-sized ashtray outside to enjoy a perfecto.


redbankgreen bumped into a slightly sweaty and anxious chef near the train tracks Thursday.

Abdellah “Giovanni” Bougdour , the fiery Italian-Moroccan chef and owner of Shrewsbury’s San Remo, was down in the basement of what’s to be his eatery’s new space, the former Oakbridge Tavern at Bridge Avenue and Oakland Street. When he popped upstairs, where the two-story building was thoroughly gutted, Bougdour was feeling a bit exasperated.

“I need a new architect,” he said. “The other one, he got nothing right. I’m late.”

Bougdour is clear of the borough’s zoning hurdles, and has moved on to the permitting phase to get the new San Remo open. Assuming a new architect can help that process by building the place out, Bougdour says he’ll make the move across Newman Springs Road by the end of the year.

He says he’ll maintain the restaurant in Shrewsbury, but will rebrand it with a new menu and new name, neither of which he’s decided on yet.


A block west, on Shrewsbury Avenue, Salon Red seems to be planning an expansion, adding to a salon-saturated area in a salon-saturated town.

Chairs and window signs that read ‘Red’ and ‘Salon’ are in the space most recently occupied by Ponceno’s Records, which closed in May.

The owners couldn’t be tracked down in time for this edition of Churn, but an employee at the store, now at the corner of Shrewsbury and Oakland Street, said the salon will keep its current location and add a second location at the huge space at Ponceno’s, which is just a few doors down.