Skip to content

A town square for an unsquare town

redbankgreen

Standing for the vitality of Red Bank, its community, and the fun we have together.

FAIR HAVEN: DUNKIN’ AIMS FOR FRESH START

fair-haven-dunkin-122320-1-500x375-2845178The new shop as it appeared before dawn Wednesday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637After nearly two and a half years of town-splitting arguments, Fair Haven now has a Dunkin’ coffee shop.

Considering the wringer he went through to get to this point, owner Domenic Sequeira was in a pretty affable mood Wednesday morning.

fair-haven-dunkin-122320-2-500x332-4974802Dominic Sequeira in the new store. The business took the space vacated in 2016 by Laird’s Stationery, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

fh-lairds-071116-220x165-8690073

“We’re here to be part of the community, to embrace the community,” he told redbankgreen, two days after he quietly opened the shop for business in the River Road strip mall anchored by an Acme supermarket.

The sun wasn’t yet up. Outside in the parking lot, two construction vans idled, their occupants drinking coffee or napping, as the occasional customer came and went. A single car idled at the far end of the otherwise vacant parking aisle, near the Acme entrance.

Though it was early, in the midst of a holiday week and an historic pandemic, the level of activity was indicative of what can be expected most mornings, Sequeira said.

“This is a very complementary use” to the rest of the shopping center, he said. “The other stores are closed at this hour, which is our busiest time of day, and when they’re busiest, it’s our slowest time.”

Along with other family members, Sequeira, a Lincroft resident, owns a Dunkin’ shop in his hometown; two in Red Bank (on Water Street and in Riverview Medical Center); one in Shrewsbury; two in Tinton Falls; and one in Atlantic Highlands.

Last week, they closed their Sea Bright store, which was in a building slated to be demolished to make way for a new Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge. That store’s crew now works the Fair Haven counter and baking area.

In literal terms, Sequeira was a third party to the drama that preceded the opening. The “application for amended site plan and change of use” was submitted to the town planning office by Fair Haven Retail LLC, the owner of the shopping center, which had to make the case that it should be approved.

Likewise, it was Fair Haven Retail, along with the borough and its land-use boards, that got hit with two lawsuits filed by a borough resident. Before he was told by redbankgreen that both have now been dismissed “with prejudice” by the Superior Court, Sequeira was unaware of their status, he said.

But it was the Dunkin’ image that blew open a pandora’s box of doomsday predictions, as well as impassioned defenses of a small, locally owned business – a mom-and-pop that just happens to be affiliated with a universally recognized brand.

The plan prompted claims that Dunkin’ trash would litter the parking lot. Traffic would back up within the shopping center, and motorists would face a nightmare trying to pull out onto River Road, especially those headed westbound. Kids on bikes would get run over by impatient drivers.

Some opponents also argued that allowing a chain store into a town that had banned them in 1973 – and famously fought off a challenge by McDonald’s – would diminish Fair Haven’s small-town charm. That sentiment helped drive a revisiting of the borough’s land-use ordinances even as the Dunkin’ hearings were underway.

Others, however, pushed back, claiming snobbery: no one, after all, had raised a stink about Booskerdoo opening a coffee shop in a tiny space just a few blocks east in 2013, some noted.

Exchanges on the Fair Haven, NJ Facebook page got so abusive that the moderator shut down commenting on the issue for months.

Sequeira acknowledges the arguments weren’t easy to endure.

“We don’t want to go anywhere we’re not wanted,” he said. “But we felt this was a good fit. We definitely fit into the shopping center, into the neighborhood. I don’t think it sticks out, or undermines anything.”

Finally, after a series of hearings that had to be held in a school gym to accommodate turnout, the planning board approved the shop in August, 2019, on a 7-2 vote.

Now, with the store open, Sequeira said he hopes all that conflict is in the past.

“For us, it’s business as usual – we run great stores all the time,” he said. “We just hope everyone regrets all the negativity going into it and realizes, hey, it’s actually a good thing.”

Dunkin’ took over the space vacated more than four years ago by a beloved borough institution: Laird’s Stationery. The business was forced out when the landlord refused to provide a new lease, owners Rose and Bob Budnick said at the time.

Fair Haven Retail acquired the 1950s-vintage strip mall for $5.8 million in 2014, and gave the place a makeover after a number of tenants, including Laird’s, moved out.

If you value the news coverage redbankgreen delivers, please become a paying member. Click here for details about our new, free newsletter and membership information.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
Partyline
RED BANK: NEW MURAL BRIGHTENS CORNER
RED BANK: Lunch Break founder Norma Todd is depicted in a mural painted this week on the front of the newly renovated social service agency.
TULIPS TOGETHER
Spring tulips taking in the sunset outside the Molly Pitcher Inn in Red Bank Monday evening.
RIVER RANGERS RETURN
River Rangers, a summer canoeing program offered by the Navesink Maritime Heritage Association, returns this summer for up to 20 participa ...
DOUBLE DYLAN IN RED BANK
Trucks for a production company filming what one worker said was a Bob Dylan biography have lined Monmouth Street the past two days with cre ...
AFTER THE RAIN
A pear tree branch brought down by a brief overnight storm left a lovely tableau on the sidewalk in front of Red Bank's Riverside Gardens Pa ...
CONE OF UNCERTAINTY
Asked by a redbankgreen reporter why these cones were on top of cars, the owner of the car in the foreground responded: “That’s ...
RAIL RIDER’S VIEW
A commuter's view of Cooper's Bridge and the Navesink River from North Jersey Coast Line train 3320 out of Red Bank Tuesday morning.
PUT ME IN COACH!
Red Bank T-Ball kicked off at East Side park on Saturday morning. The brisk weather proved to be no deterrent to the young players, ranging ...
IT’S A SIGN!
Once proudly declaring its all-but-certain arrival in Spring 2019, the project previously known as Azalea Gardens springs to life again with ...
SPRINGTIME MEMORIES OF CARL
The Easter Bunny getup and St. Patrick’s Day hat that belonged to longtime Red Bank crossing guard and neighborhood smile-creator Carl ...
RED TRUCKS AT RED ROCK
A small dishwasher fire at Red Rock Tap and Grill was put out quickly by firefighters overnight, causing minimal damage. Red Bank Fire Depar ...
CREATIVE COVER UP
The windows of Pearl Street Consignment on Monmouth Street were smashed when a driver crashed their car through them injuring an employee la ...
THEY’RE BACK!
Ospreys returned to the skies over Red Bank this week for the first time since they migrated to warmer climes in late fall. With temperature ...
SPRING IS SPRUNG
RED BANK: Spring 2024 arrives on the Greater Red Bank Green with the vernal equinox at 11:06 p.m. Tuesday.
RED BANK’S FINEST – AND NEWEST
Red Bank Police Officer Eliot Ramos was sworn in as the force’s newest patrolman Thursday, and if you’re doing a double take thinkin ...
EASTER EGG MAYHEM AT THE PARK
An errant whistle spurred an unexpectedly early start to the Spring Egg Hunt on Sunday, which had been scheduled to begin at eggsactly 11am ...
PRESEASON DOCKWORK
RED BANK: With winter winding down, marina gets ready for boating season with some dockwork on our beautiful Navesink River.
CORNED BEEF AND DISCO FRIES?
It’s Friday, and smart Lent-observing Leprechauns know the pot of gold at the end of Red Bank’s rainbow is actually the deliciou ...
SURFBOARD DITCHED
It’s a violation of etiquette in surfing to ditch your board.  (it could hit another surfer and hurt them). But someone appears to ha ...
ELSIE, TAKE ME WITH YOU!
Soaked by pouring rain with the temperature hovering in the low 40’s, this sign in the window of Elsie’s Subs on Monmouth Street ...