CHOPSTICKS, WATER PIPES, SCISSORS & MORE

phole-2Vietnamese eatery Pho Le opened on Broad Street last week. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rcsm2_010508Middle Broad Street in Red Bank appears to be pulling itself from a retail malaise. It wasn’t all that long ago that for every business in the area, one or two storefronts were empty.

More recently, though, there’s been an infusion of new businesses — and diversity — on the blocks between Monmouth Street and Harding Road, with the addition of two new pizzerias, a gourmet Chinese sit-down, a beauty boutique and two upscale consignment shops.

The latest to join the mix is one-of-a-kind. At 90 Broad, Vietnamese restaurant Pho Le set out the chopsticks and noodle bowls late last month.

More info on the recent churning below.

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CUT THE ENGINE OR PAY, COUNCIL SAYS

bud-truckThe Red Bank council will direct police to crack down on delivery trucks idling in town. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

park_it_021At four bucks a gallon — and more for diesel — the economics of leaving the engine running on a delivery makes little sense. There’s the environmental-damage factor, too.

But members of the Red Bank council, after receiving complaints from tenants downtown, say the fumes from idling delivery trucks are wafting into the above-business dwellings and spoiling sweet spring breezes.

So the governing body, in hope of clearing the air, is directing police to enforce a state law against idling in town, specifically targeting delivery trucks, which Mayor Pasquale Menna said are the main offenders.

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THE WEEK IN REARVIEW: MAY 8-14, 2011

dinerA painter finishes off a welcome sign in the window of Broadway Diner. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A roundup of articles appearing last week here on redbankgreen is below.

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VALET, ROOFTOP DINING ON SUMMER MENU

park_it_021By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sticking to their “open for business” push, Red Bank officials are working to roll out the red carpet for diners and drivers this summer season.

At Wednesday night’s council meeting, Mayor Pasquale Menna introduced two proposals to separate Red Bank from its primary Shore competitors, Asbury Park and Pier Village in Long Branch, and align itself more closely with places like Georgetown and New York City: valet parking and rooftop dining.

“It’s another step we’ve taken to indicate that Red Bank is open for business,”said Councilman Mike DuPont, who is leading a “red tape review” committee to make it easier for businesses to move into town.

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RED BANK RESTAURANTS PLAN PUSHBACK

rb-restaurantsTom Fishkin of Readies Fine Foods, Valerie Aufiero of Front Street Trattoria, Dan Lynch of red and the Downtown, George Lyristis of the Bistro at Red Bank and Anthony Ferrando of Dish are among the restaurateurs planning a new marketing effort. Click to enlarge)

Asbury Park and Pier Village in Long Branch have been eating off Red Bank’s plate for too long.

That’s the message from a group of borough restaurant owners who have banded together in an effort to recapture a bigger piece of the Monmouth County dining-out pie.

After three years of slow build-up, the no-name group is ready to bust out of the Red Bank RiverCenter crib with its own marketing effort aimed at bringing some sizzle back to the downtown.

“Red Bank has really fallen behind,” says red and the Downtown owner Dan Lynch. “We have a really great grouping of restaurants that needs to be showcased.”

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CLUB AWASH IN PINK ON GIRLS NIGHT OUT

It was Girls Night Out at Red Bank’s Downtown nightclub Wednesday, one of a series of events in the annual Paint the Town Pink celebration to raise awareness about, and funds for treatment of, breast cancer. Proceeds from the $60 tickets went straight into the Pink Fund, which provides free mammography for uninsured women at the Jane H. Booker Women’s Center at Riverview Medical Center.

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CUPCAKE CRUSH IN RED BANK

mrMr. Cupcakes is one of two new cupcake purveyors in Red Bank, making three in total. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The batter’s going to start flying in Red Bank.

Just months after Chris Paseka and Jesse Bello-Paseka opened cupcake-centric Sugarush on Front Street, two new niche bakeries plan to open in town, waging, if nothing else, a serious cupcake competition in town.

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THE WEEK IN REARVIEW

pink-linePink striping down River Road in Fair Haven in celebration of Pink Week, which continues this week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

You’ll notice the redbankgreen masthead’s looking a more on the red side than green these days. That’s because last week kicked off Pink Week, Riverview Medical Center and Red Bank RiverCenter’s annual push for breast cancer awareness, detection and treatment.

We’re not here just for supportive graphics, but on this Monday morning to keep you abreast (couldn’t help it) of what that’s all about, and other news from the end of April. Click on.

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SPRING 2011: LAYING DOWN THE LINE

alert-linesA worker from Red Bank-based Alert Traffic Lines, contracted by the borough, does striping to curbs and asphalt downtown Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

MENNA GASSED UP OVER REGULATOR PLAN

gas-regulatorImagine 80 more of these downtown. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Mayor Pasquale Menna can’t say enough how much he objects to a plan by New Jersey Natural Gas to replace aging equipment in town, although he’s trying his best.

“New Jersey Natural Gas decided they wanted to be modern day Vandals of Red Bank,” he said of the company’s proposed “gas pressure regulator relocation project,” which “sounds very fancy but it’s very ugly.”

The plan, to open up downtown sidewalks and remove old gas regulators, then install new ones above ground, has sent Menna into a whirling tirade against the company, saying it’s acting out of corporate greed and counteracting years of work to preserve the historic downtown.

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AFTER 50 YEARS, STILL AFLAME FOR DUTY

wm-stratzFifty of Bill Stratz’s 80 years have been with the Red Bank Fire Department. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s an unlikely warm Saturday afternoon in Red Bank and Bill Stratz is waiting for his four-year-old great-grandson to barrel through the front door of his McLaren Street home at any time. Stratz is on babysitting duty for a few hours, after which he’ll try to do some cleaning in the basement.

There isn’t much for Stratz to do these days on account of a bum knee that’s kept him in physical therapy the last few weeks, and will continue a few more. He’s not happy about this. It gets between him and a passion he’s had for a half-century: chasing fires in Red Bank.

At 80, Stratz, who for the last 18 years or so has stayed active with Relief Engine Company as a member of the fire police, is still eager to answer the call of duty in Red Bank — a call that seemed unavoidable when he moved to town in 1961.

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FOR MARRIAGE NO.2, WEDDING WALK NO. 1

wed-walkPhyllis Merola and Dennis Evanchik, who plan to marry in May, took in Saturday’s Wedding Walk through Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Though they were tucked at a table in a corner of a ballroom filled with young women teeming with excitement, Phyllis Merola and Dennis Evanchik were the standouts.

At 50 and 60 years old, respectively, they could have been the parents of just about any of the prospective brides sipping coffee and chatting at a soft roar in the Molly Pitcher Inn Saturday. And the story of how the two ended up at the Molly, to plan a May 7 wedding at the Shadowbrook in Shrewsbury, is one ripped from the pages of a Hollywood script.

They were friends for 30 years and had their own families. But within about a year of each other, the two went through divorces and, some time after, Evanchik made a proposition to Merola.

“He said, ‘if you can date a perfect stranger, why not date me?’ ” Merola said.

In November, another proposition: Will you marry me?

And so on Saturday, when 10 o’clock hit, the couple followed the procession out of the riverside hotel and headed for downtown Red Bank for the borough’s third Wedding Walk, ready to spend a full day tying up loose ends for their springtime nuptials — just like many of the 200 others who registered for the event.

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GET THE RICE READY: WEDDING WALK IS BACK

wed-wlkWedding Walk strolls back into town Saturday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Seems like only yesterday that Red Bank was flooded in white satin, with sparkly-eyed women peering over jewelry cases and trolleys carting hordes of hungry brides-to-be to and from the wedding wonderland that the downtown has become.

Yup, it’s been just four months since the marital merry-go-round last spun in Red Bank, but don’t get used to this being a frequent bridal bacchanal.

Wedding Walk 3.0 gets into action tomorrow — the first and last of ’11 — so, ladies, if a rice cooker isn’t on your registry, this is the chance to find all the essentials for that special day in a one-stop tour through downtown Wed Bank, New Jersey.

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MURPHY: PUT IT IN YOUR OWN CAN

art-murphyCouncil President Art Murphy says the borough will crack down on residents and business owners dumping their trash in municipal containers. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The snow is just about melted away, and while that erases a lingering reminder of the pain from this winter, another icky problem is revealing itself in Red Bank.

Trash. Lots of it.

And Red Bank isn’t going to let it stick around, nor will it take a lenient approach to the people putting it out there, officials indicated Monday night.

Council President Art Murphy sent out a warning to businesses and residents, who he said have taken liberty with the borough’s trash containers on the sidewalks downtown, leading to overflowing cans and streets littered with waste.

“We had a tough winter, the snow is melting and there’s a lot of trash out there,” he said. “We do have a problem with tenants above a commercial property using our cans. I’ve seen some of the people from the businesses go out and throw their little white bag in the garbage.”

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SURF’S UP: TACO CHAIN TO OPEN NEXT MONTH

surf-taco-hiringSurf Taco held open interviews for its Red Bank location Saturday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rivers-edge-cafeRob Nagel had Red Bank on his wish list for seven years, but few opportunities to expand his wildly successful Surf Taco chain to this end of the Jersey Shore arose.

“It’s always been a goal to get up here,” Nagel told redbankgreen. “It’s high-energy, an urban feel. There’s always something going on in Red Bank, and I think it’d be a great fit for us.”

Nagel’s chance to get into town came when Bob Guido, owner of River’s Edge Cafe, packed it up and moved out to Ocean.

“Once I walked into here, I felt the vibe,” Nagel said. “We knew we had the right location.”

A month after signing a lease for the 3,000-square-foot space at 35 Broad Street, Nagel is shooting for a March 1 opening, and appears to be on track.

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NOW WAS THAT SO HARD?

Tom Fishkin of Readie’s Fine Foods and activist Cindy Burham took it on themselves to clear off some ice-encrusted benches in downtown Red Bank Tuesday. “Nobody will sit on them, but they’ll look nicer,” Fishkin said. (Click to enlarge)

BALLEW BIDS ADIEU TO RED BANK

ballew1Ballew Jewelers closed its doors Saturday, 124 years after opening in Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Ballew Jewelers is now a Red Bank memory.

After 124 years, the downtown landmark, known as much for its ‘lollipop’ clock on the sidewalk as its cases of diamonds and Rolex watches, closed its doors Saturday, leaving a hard-to-believe void.

“It’s sad,” Kate Ballew said. “You can’t picture anything else in here.”

But something else will be, eventually, she said.

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LOCALS WEIGH IN ON PARKING DECK

dscf3003The White Street municipal lot will be discussed as the site for a revamped parking area. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Earlier this week, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna said he would “stick his neck out” and restart talks on the possibility of a new parking deck getting built downtown, an idea that has proven highly divisive in the past.

More specifically, he talked about appointing a committee to examine alteratives to “surface parking” at the White Street municipal lot, as well as new metering technologies and green initiatives.

What that all means isn’t quite clear yet. But redbankgreen responded by sticking its notebook and camera out to ask people what they think of the suggestion.

On the official front, Red Bank RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams said the borough needs to address the parking shortage while adding much-needed revenue.

“Of course, we would be supportive and work with the borough to achieve that long-awaited parking garage,” she said. “We want it to be something that would be a benefit to the business community, but also the residents.”

Responses from locals and business owners after the jump.

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ON DECK, MAYBE: NEW DOWNTOWN GARAGE

menna-010111Mayor Pasquale Menna says Red Bank has an “extraordinary” parking shortage that is crimping downtown businesses. (Click to enlarge)

After idling for several years, the possibility that Red Bank may get a second downtown parking garage is back in gear.

Though he never mentioned the word “garage” or “deck,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said Saturday that he would appoint a committee to explore ways to address what he called a perennial problem: “surface parking.”

“Everybody talks about parking, and they all say the mayor doesn’t talk about it enough, so let me stick my neck out,” he told an audience that packed the council chambers for the annual borough government reorganization . “Beginning this year, the council will be discussing initiatives that will carve out initiatives for parking on borough-owned properties in the business district.”

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BALLEW JEWELERS TO END 124-YEAR RUN

ballew-111610The ‘lollipop’ clock outside Ballew Jewelers has been a Broad Street fixture since 1902, when the store was known as Reussille Jewelers. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Ballew Jewelers, a Red Bank staple since 1886, when it began as Reussille Jewelers, is pulling out of town, leaving a gaping hole, both symbolic and tangible, in a downtown struggling to tread water in a difficult economy.

News of the closing hit some of the nearby merchants like a sucker punch.

“It’s horrible. Horrible,” said Zebu Forno owner Andrew Gennusa. “For a business that’s more than a hundred years old to close here, it’s like a death.”

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RED BANK TRIES ON A SHORT-TERM RENTAL

syndicated-111610Syndicated Clothing moved into Red Bank on a temporary basis, but wants to make the borough a permanent home. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The idea isn’t particularly new in the world of retailing, especially around holidays: a store sets up in a vacant space for a few weeks or months, does some hasty business, and then makes a planned exit.

But in Red Bank, the pop-up store phenomenon now has a twist, with the addition of Syndicated Clothing to West Front Street. Rather than packing up and leaving after a stated period, the store’s owners are hoping a short-term lease will give them a toehold on a permanent place in town.

If landlords are amenable, short-term leases could not only fill some of the empty storefronts in town, but more importantly, could help jumpstart economic activity, says Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, which promotes the downtown.

Problem is, not all landlords are into it.

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GOT AN EXTRA TREE LYING AROUND?

tree-litYes, folks, it’s that time of year. The book is closed on Halloween. Jim Bruno’s crew from Powerhouse Signworks has started stringing lights in trees downtown. And the event planners at Red Bank RiverCenter are sniffing around for a tree.

No, not one of Bruno’s trees. This one needs to be 20- to 25-feet tall, evergreen, full-bodied and ready to give its life for the joy of the multitudes expected to jam Monmouth and Broad Streets on Friday, November 26.

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PARKING TICKETS? NOT ON TUESDAYS

meter-cartNo parking meter tickets have been written all summer on a Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Since July, Sunday has been the only day of the week you could park in downtown Red Bank without feeding money into the borough’s parking meters between 9a and 6p.

Or so we’ve thought.

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A RANDOM WALK THROUGH A TODDLIN’ TOWN

A hot summer night, dazzling smiles, an irresistible rhythm, a bit of flesh revealed…

Saturday nights have been hopping in downtown Red Bank of late, so redbankgreen dispatched photographer Peter Lindner to the streets and bars last Saturday to capture the post-sundown vibe.

He filed this set of 102 shots, from the couple enjoying a quiet dinner to the guys and gals on the prowl to to the folks who make it all happen in an orderly, law-abiding sort of way. Enjoy!

To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.