By JOHN T. WARD
Downtown Red Bank is losing one restaurant and gaining another, redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn has learned.
Also in this roundup of comings and goings at street level: a signmaker has a new space, though you wouldn’t know it given the absence, so far, of any signage on the storefront.
Readie’s owner Tom Fishkin is closing his Broad Street deli to concentrate on catering. Below, a print shop has moved into a storefront vacated almost four years ago by a mattress retailer. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
• Readie’s Cafe, at 39 Broad Street, is leaving town, a victim in part of its own success as a caterer of corporate events, says owner Tom Fishkin.
Readie’s (pronounced ‘REED-ies’), opened in 1957 as the Village Pork Store and became Readie’s Fine Foods under owner Jack Readie in the 1980s. Fishkin acquired the Monmouth Street store in 2001, and operated it as a takeout-only business until moving it to Broad Street 10 years later, in a bid to create a New York-style deli with ample seating.
In the intervening years, however, the already crowded restaurant market downtown only become more so, eating into Fishkin’s sit-down trade. A wave of openings included the arrival of Shapiro’s New York Delicatessen just a few doors away in early 2017.
But Fishkin, who serves as vice chairman of downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter, said competition wasn’t the only factor driving his decision to close the restaurant and move its catering operation to Hazlet.
“I’ve seen erosion to a degree of walk-ins, but at the same time, there’s been growth in catering,” he told Churn Wednesday. In the first three days of this week, he said, he and his staff handled 11 catering jobs, and not one of the clients had ever set foot in his restaurant.
Also contributing, he said, is the fact that retail stores open later than they did a generation ago, meaning there are fewer merchants to sell breakfast and lunch to, not to mention fewer customers of those businesses to feed. Parking was a factor, too, though Fishkin believes the nighttime shortage Thursday through Saturday nights fed a perception — mistaken, he believes — that the problem is present during the daytime, too.
The restaurant will close May 1.
The plan, for 66 seats, was approved by the borough planning office without the need for variances Thursday.
In an email, Foy told Churn it’s too soon to talk about an opening date or hours of operation. The 24-seat d’floret is open for dinner only, Thursdays through Sundays.
As for the what he has in mind here, “Café Loret will be of the same caliber of restaurant that has been associated with us in all our endeavors,” Foy said. “Great food, white table cloth, flowers, correct service, no pretense.”
According to a 2013 review of d’floret in the New York Times, Foy was “the onetime lord of Tarragon Tree, the ’70s and ’80s destination restaurant in Chatham that helped give birth to the farm-to-fine-dining aesthetic.”
The Red Bank space, with an ample brick patio, has been a microcosm of Churnage of late. Sicilia Café had it for five years, closing in December, 2015, just six months after computer salesman Mark Arabajis bought the restaurant from the founding Sorriso family. Arabajis reopened the space as Global Eatery early the following year, but that business quickly failed. JJ”s Organic opened there last August, but closed in January.
• Just a few doors south, at 132 Broad, a nameless — and so-far signless — signmaker and print business has set up shop.
Formerly operated as Concord Companies, the business was previously tucked away in the office building at 21 East Front Street, said principal Eric Doehler. He said a name change is in the works, with proper signage to follow.
On a nickel tour to show off the fume-free inket machinery capable of large-format printing of posters and banners, Doehler said the decision to relocate the business to a storefront was driven by the capacity to do even tiny orders at a suitable margin.
“We want the walk-ins,” he said. “No job is too small.”
The storefront had been empty since the May, 2014 departure of Monmouth Mattress. That business lasted just 16 months there. In 2016, a restaurateur from northern New Jersey filed plans to convert the space to a sushi restaurant called Red Lantern, but did not follow through.
The business opened two years ago as Wish28 and changed its name to Pirates and Unicorns last September.