Nature’s Emporoium is closing after 40 years in the same location, and will be replaced by a women’s clothing boutique displaced from Sea Bright. (Click to enlarge)


As though hit by an economic hurricane, Fair Haven’s historic downtown is reeling from the abrupt loss of four well-established River Road retailers.

• Eclectic gift and clothing shop Nature’s Emporium is closing after 40 years. A women’s clothing boutique is expected to take over its space by early spring.

• Gourmet Picnic closed on Monday after a sale, according to a notice posted on the 10-year-old bakery’s front door.

• Eight-year-old Java Stop closed two weeks ago, and its cozy space will be taken over by two-year-old coffee roaster Booskerdoo, in its first expansion from Monmouth Beach.

• Write Impressions, a custom stationery and wedding invitation shop, packed it in after 32 years this weekend and downsized to a corner of a florist shop in Middletown.

Owners of three of the outgoing businesses cited the effects of a seven-month closing of the Oceanic Bridge, ending last May, among the reasons for shutting out the lights.

“There’s just no traffic,” said Write Impressions owner Christine Ancona.

A handwritten sign announces the closing of Gourmet Picnic. Java Stop, below, will give way to another coffee shop, Booskerdoo. (Click to enlarge)

“The major factor was a rent increase, but the bridge closings hurt us, big time,” said Nature’s Emporium owner Priscilla ‘Perk’ Bahr, who began her fortieth year selling jewelry, gift cards, soaps and more in October.

Like the other owners who spoke to redbankgreen, Bahr counted the reduction in business attributable to the bridge shutdown among other factors, including general economic conditions, a disinclination among new residents to shop downtown and big-box and online competition.

“There was a big demographic change here after 9/11,” she said. “We lost a lot of people, and a lot of the people who moved in I don’t think were used to small-town shopping. People don’t really take the time to walk around.”

Bahr and Java Stop owner Bob Henry said they’re now looking to re-enter the workforce as employees, if they can find it. She envisions herself as a receptionist or office manager, or dog walker; he last worked in hospital finance.

Henry said he threw in the towel on his tiny coffee shop because he found customers were no longer buying lattes, settling for the lower-margin coffees, and was losing others to lower-priced competition.

“You’re up against McDonald’s advertising 99-cent cups of coffee,” he said.

Gourmet Picnic owner Suzette O’Brien could not be reached for comment. A post, dated Monday, on the shop’s Facebook page says only, “Thank you for all the support through the years. We have sold our business and are moving on to new chapters in life.”

Bahr’s space, in a century-old former residence owned by Blue Stone Antiques proprietor Ike Burstein, will be taken by Chelsea Delaney, a former helper at CocoTay Design, who’s opening a store called Sadie James. Delaney said she hopes to open by early May.

Thirty-one-year-olds James and Amelia Caverly, the husband-and-wife pair behind Booskerdoo, plan to take over the Java Stop space by early March while retaining their Monmouth Beach location. They’re also juggling a family expansion with a baby due in February, James tells redbankgreen.

Ancona has relocated Write Impressions to Fine Flowers, at 549 Route 35, in Middletown.