RED BANK CHURN: FOAM AND A FEATHER

Jeff Bonham plans to open the 15th store in his mattress chain in the former Surray Luggage space next month. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508A five-month-old vacancy on middle Broad Street in Red Bank is about to be filled with foam.

And in the heart of downtown, a stigma-beating consignment shop has completed its rapid move-in to the former home of Funk and Standard.

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THIRD GENERATION SETS UP SHOP IN MALL

Sandi Vilacoba demonstrates a core-strengthening device in her new Pilates studio at the Fair Haven Shopping Center. Below, Vilacoba and her grandmother, Ofelia Schwarz, who owns the center. (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

A drive down River Road in Fair Haven, with its quaint mom-and-pop shops, can be something of an escape from mainstream consumerism.

But even the borough’s most prominent strip mall, the Fair Haven Shopping Center, anchored by an Acme supermarket, has a family story to it. The Schwarz family’s story.

After nearly a decade of teaching Pilates elsewhere in Monmouth County, Sandi Vilacoba opened her own classical Pilates studio, dubbed The Pilates Project, over Memorial Day weekend. With that, the third generation of her family cemented its ties to the center.

“My grandparents immigrated from Cuba to Fair Haven in 1960 with nothing and built a business from scratch,” said Vilacoba, of Belmar.

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RED BANK COPS BACK ON THE BEAT

Patrolman George Travostino walking Broad Street Thursday afternoon. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

George Travostino has been getting a lot of double-takes lately.

Like all patrol-duty cops in the 40-officer Red Bank police department, Travostino has been spending more time out of his car in recent months, doing what he calls “old-school” beat-walking on the borough’s thoroughfares. And people don’t know what to make of it when they first see him, he tells redbankgreen.

“Some of the older people are a little…” he said, raising his eyebrows to illustrate, “and the young kids, they’ve never even seen it.”

Initial reactions aside, though, the reception appears to have been universally welcoming.

“I’ve been clamoring for this for years,” said Ceaar’s Creations owner Joe Cerasa, as Travostino stepped into Broad Street in front of his jewelry store to give directions to a motorist Thursday. “I’m going to call the chief and thank him. This is extremely important.”

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RED BANK: 7-ELEVEN CHALLENGED OVER 24/7

Planning consultant Rob Freud, representing 7-Eleven, answers a question from resident John Garofalo, left. Below, Freud with the site plan. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

proposal to convert the East Front Street Welsh Farms store into Red Bank’s second 7-Eleven hit a curb Monday night when officials questioned the conditions under which the convenience store was allowed to open in 1975.

Neighbors packed a planning board hearing on the matter, mobilized by concerns that a business that now closes by 10 p.m. will become a garishly lit traffic-and-litter generator operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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MYSTERY OBJECTOR SKEWS HOTEL DEBATE

hampton-110711Architect Lou Silverstein holds up a rendering of the proposed Hampton Inn as objector Marco Sima addresses the planning board. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Already the subject of a lawsuit, hearings on a proposed six-story, 72-room hotel at the foot of Cooper Bridge in Red Bank took another turn for the thorny Monday night when the lawyer for an objector acknowledged that a second client was paying his fees, but declined to say who.

Attorney Ron Gasiorowski’s refusal to tell the planning board whether his other client was a potential competitor with the proposed Hampton Inn appeared to set the stage for an eventual showdown, even as testimony by the hotel’s architect and an engineer went ahead.

“I’ve never seen it before,” acting board chairman Dan Mancuso told reporters after the hearing. “I’ve never seen a situation where it was unclear to the board who [a lawyer’s] client really was.”

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RED BANK RENEWS PUSH FOR LATE CLOSINGS

rb-late-nightBars and restaurants are doing their job keeping doors open late, some say, but more merchants must stay open to attract more visitors. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As Red Bank continues to claw its way out of an economic hole it hasn’t seen since the we-don’t-like-to-talk-about-it Dead Bank days, Mayor Pasquale Menna tends to periodically jab downtown’s retailers with a reminder that it’s going to take work to bring Red Bank back as a top destination in the region and beyond.

Lately, though, he’s taken a firmer approach.

At a council meeting last month, when two requests for car shows on Broad Street appeared on the agenda, he paused from the typical rubber-stamping of such requests.

“This is a chance to tickle, pinch, smack our retailers to stay open on Sunday,” Menna said, and then pointed to Red Bank RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams, who was seated in the audience. “Get the word out. Tell them to stay open on Sunday. I might start smacking instead of pinching.”

It was another lash at a limp horse he’s been flogging since before Red Bank’s business dipped with the national economy. For years, Menna has been urging merchants to move away from the nine-to-five mindset and keep the lights on after dark and on Sunday, when too many stores, he says, are closed.

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A ‘LITTLE KISS,’ THEN GOODNIGHT, IRENE

Braced for the worst, and recalling the devastation caused by the northeaster of 1992, the borough of Sea Bright evacuated all residents in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Irene Saturday. Even emergency personnel were ready to relocate to Rumson if things got as bad as forecast.

But less than 24 hours after what was supposed to have been the peak of a horrific storm, residents and business owners on the narrow spit of sand had one word to describe what they experienced when Irene, by then downgraded to a tropical storm, blew through: “lucky.”

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ANOTHER STORM DAMPENS BUSINESS

broadFew pedestrians were out on Broad Street in downtown Red Bank late Wednesday morning. (Click to enlarge)

Not to belabor the obvious, but the snowy winter of 2010-’11 is putting a tight squeeze on Red Bank stores and restaurants, owners say.

“It’s killing us,” says Gary Sable, of That Hot Dog Place on Monmouth Street. Motioning to the municipal parking lot on White Street, he says” “Look, it’s empty.”

Empty of everything but white stuff, that is. And the outlook is for more than previously expected.

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SHOPPERS SAY URBAN’S GOOD FOR RED BANK

urban-shoppers

A trio of Urban Outfitters fans, led by Middletown resident Amie Falk, walk out of the store happy on its opening day Thursday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

They  pulled the hulking glass door and trickled into Red Bank’s most anticipated business. They were greeted by a cadre of upbeat employees and set loose into a few thousand square-feet of the area’s newest hip retail wonderland.

And for those customers who hit Urban Outfitters in its first couple hours on Thursday, the experience didn’t disappoint.

“It was great,” said Amie Falk, of Middletown, summing up her shopping experience.

Falk arranged to meet with friends at the store for a morning of shopping, and by the time the group was finished, they came to a conclusion that will sound like music to local merchants.

“This store will definitely bring me to Red Bank more often,” said Darlene Weltman, of Atlantic Highlands.

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URBAN SPARKS HOPE AMONG STORE OWNERS

urban-watchers2An unidentified Urban Outfitters employee checks out a window display as a pair of passersby does the same Tuesday night.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Two young women rounded the corner of Broad Street Monday night and headed left on West Front Street, their eyes fixed on a retail medley going on behind the tall glass windows.

The twentysomethings behind the glass were putting the finishing touches on display racks and examining the trendy looks of mannequins that just days ago lined the store’s inner perimeter as nothing more than nondescript plastic molds.

“I’m so excited for you, Urban Outfitters,” said one of the women as she looked into the window before disappearing from West Front’s sidewalk.

Given the Philadelphia-based giant’s international success, it’s no surprise there might be consumers chomping at the bit for Urban to open it’s doors to the public on Thursday. But on the periphery of Urban Outfitters’ enchanting mass of real estate at 2-10 Broad Street, there’s a contingent that can match the public’s excitement and trump it with hope — Red Bank’s small business owners.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

where_081309_ir

A handful of readers correctly identified the location of last week’s image, which showed a humanoid figure made of welded-together car parts.

We were sorry to learn, though, that Tom Kilgannon, who made the sculpture, died last December. He was 53 years old.

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STAPLES TO LAND IN RED BANK’S IN-BOX

staples-broad-stThe big-box retailer will lease a space less than a quarter the size of its average store at 137-139 Broad Street.

Rcsm2_010508Staples Inc., the big-box office supply retailer, is coming to Red Bank.

But the giant seller of everything from pens to desktop computers won’t be opening one of its warehouse-sized stores here. Instead, it’ll be trying out a relatively new micro store, dubbed Staples Copy & Print, that will feature the services of the print shops in the big-box Staples plus the top 1,000 items available on their shelves.

Jay Herman, principal of site owner Downtown Investors LLC, tells redbankgreen that Staples has signed a lease for 4,000 square feet at 137-139 Broad Street, three doors up from the intersection of Harding Road.

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