Builder Mike Rovere uncovered turn-of-the-century signs in gold leaf on either side of the facade at 18 Broad, home to a series of shoe stores dating back to 1883. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Summer doldrums? Not in this installment of redbankgreen’s Retail Churn, which finds downtown Red Bank abuzz with Churnage, as usual.
We’ve got renovation work uncovering history at the site of a planned restaurant; progress on two other new businesses; and more news, right around the “read more” corner.
The wraps are off at Chocolate Works in anticipation of an opening early next month. Below, a workman drilled through the lock on the front door of the shuttered Sassy Chic Boutique Monday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
• The scaffolding is off 18 Broad Street, the former home of If the Shoe Fits, revealing a refurbished facade on the upper floors that restores the original look on the circa-1880s structure.
But there’s a for-rent sign in the window, which surprised us, give that the new owner, Ralph Notaro of Colts Neck, was planning to open his own restaurant there when he won borough zoning board approval for a food use in June.
Building contractor Mike Rovere tells Churn he persuaded Notaro to fish for a tenant restaurant first. Rovere’s own dream, he said, is an old-fashioned, all-night diner, complete with counter stools and a soda fountain.
Meanwhile, Rovere, whose previous work includes converting the longtime Prown’s store on on Broad Street to Chase Bank a decade ago, is moving ahead with the planned renovation to the first-floor facade. In the process, he’s uncovered two signs for Ford and Miller Shoes painted onto the brick in what was once a recessed area exposed to the elements. Wetting one down with a hose to show off the gold leaf, Rovere said both are in near-pristine condition, and he hopes they’ll be retained.
No such luck, however, for the curved-glass Art Deco entryway that preservationists had hoped to save. Rovere said he tried without success to find a local taker for the two bent-glass panes, which he said are worth at least $5,000 apiece, and then one of them cracked during construction, and will have to be discarded.
If the Shoe Fits closed a year ago, ending the continuous run of a shoe retailing operation that began in 1846 as John R. Bergen Shoes and operated under various names. The business moved to 18 Broad in 1883, a year after its store on the opposite side of Broad was destroyed in a fire that destroyed the entire block between East Front and Mechanic streets.
• Speaking of diners, the old Broadway Diner on Monmouth Street appears to be in its final stages of remodeling before reopening as Toast. Following issues with the flooring that delayed the gut-job renovation of the gleaming railcar-style structure, the booths and counter are now in.
Toast is owned by Amy Russo, who also owns restaurants by that name in Asbury Park and Montclair. Her father, Ralph Russo, co-owned the Broadway Diner, which closed in July, 2014, less than a year after his death, and she acquired the building.
• And speaking of footwear, Doc Shoppe owner Dean Ross, fresh from having won a borough council OK to test out a sidewalk display in front of his Broad Street store two weeks ago, is slated to return to the council Wednesday night with a fresh request: to hold a tent sale this Saturday. That’s according to the meeting’s draft agenda.
Though the store was among the relatively few retailers to participate in this year’s annual Sidewalk Sale — Ross estimates just 15 percent did — his store apparently did killer business, aided by a tent.
• The sign is up and the paper is off the windows at Chocolate Works, which is now within just a couple of weeks of opening, owner Randi Garfinkel tells Churn.
The shop, which was originally to have opened at 65 Broad Street, instead takes over 34 Broad, the longtime home of Reussille’s/Ballew jewelers, and briefly the home of Tesserae.
• Rumson China and Glass posted this on its Facebook page on August 4:
After 46 years in business in Monmouth County we have closed our retail location in Red Bank. We would like to thank our loyal customers for their patronage throughout the years both in Rumson and Red Bank.
The shop relocated from Rumson to 105 Broad Street in 2012, sharing a building with Tiffany & Co.
• The triangular property formed by the intersection of Maple Avenue and Broad Street in Red Bank has changed hands. Bromap LLC of Morganville sold the site this month to Broad St. 368 LLC for $800,000, according to a deed recorded with Monmouth County.
The property, long used as a gas station and most recently tenanted by a dealer of used, upscale autos, was approved for a deli in 2010, but that business was never created. There’s no immediate information on what the new owner plans to do with the place.
• A week after a burst of unflattering media attention directed at Sassy Chic Boutique over unfulfilled wedding dress orders, workmen were seen drilling through the lock on the front door Monday.
Unopened mail lay on the floor just inside and an eviction notice was still pasted to the door, at 13 Monmouth Street.