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By: Melinda Stevens - Staff Writer
MAPLEWOOD — Administrators for the Township of Maplewood have kicked off the “Maplewood Retail Recruitment Campaign” and are urging local real estate agents and commercial property owners to boost the town’s efforts to bring more retail opportunities to the community.
With help from JGSC Group, Maplewood’s marketing firm for the campaign, the administration invited residents and commercial-property owners to the South Orange and Maplewood Municipal Court building on Springfield Avenue on Monday, Nov. 26, to listen to advice in an effort to bring more retail business into town.
“We recognized we need help with getting more retail opportunities,” Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said at the recruitment meeting this week. “Our intent is to talk to those who own properties and real estate brokers and tell them what we want to do.”
“We are looking to do high-end business recruitment and we are looking comprehensively at the entire community,” DeLuca said.
The town began this campaign in the hopes of “generating more foot traffic and more sales,” according to Mark Lohbauer, the consultant from JGSC Group. “The goal is to become a retail shopping and dining destination,” Lohbauer said at the recruitment meeting this week. “Maplewood has great qualities most communities don’t have.”
According to the presentation by JGSC and previous research, there are underserved and unrepresented retailers who could use some help.
Since Maplewood is situated close to major highways, including Interstate 78 and the Garden State Parkway, thousands of people travel both nearby and within the community daily.
“There are over 20,000 cars driven on Springfield Avenue daily and the town has a heavily-trafficked downtown area on Maplewood Avenue,” Lohbauer said. “We have the opportunity to get them to stop.”
DeLuca believes the town is “missing the right stores to attract people,” but maintains the town is doing what it can to create safe and attractive sites, in part by beginning various pavement projects, which will make it easier for people to walk throughout the town.
JGSC Group pointed out that there are nearly 200 retailers looking to open new facilities throughout the area, and the town wants local property owners and brokers to try to recruit these retailers.
“Maplewood might not meet all the criteria each business is looking for, such as space, but we still want to give them the idea to come to Maplewood,” Lohbauer said. “We want to get them thinking because we can create space the size they are looking for, and it becomes easier if we show the developer we have a tenant already.” Maplewood already has numerous pizzerias, nail and hair salons, so the town is “looking to avoid further development” in those areas, according to Lohbauer.
“We want the underserviced retailers,” Lohbauer said.
While the administration is looking to expand retail opportunities throughout the community, Maplewood Village and the Springfield Avenue district are the busiest areas, which most need development.
“We want to put interesting mixes everywhere in town, but those are the main areas,” Lohbauer said.
Maplewood Village is known for its upscale, boutique stores and it was maintained by both Lohbauer and DeLuca that the recruiting will “keep in that tradition,” while making the village more of an entertainment destination, especially as the movie theater is located right in the middle of the area.
According to research performed by JGSC, residents spend approximately $2.2 million yearly outside a 10-mile radius of the town, which is also outside the town’s trade area.
“Some of that can be better captured here in Maplewood,” Lohbauer said. He added that the average household income of $116,535 puts the town 28 percent higher than other trade areas in the surrounding region, which can influence owners to bring their businesses to town. The closest towns that exceed the town’s average household income are Millburn and South Orange.
According to JGSC research, the under-serviced retail categories in Maplewood are: full-service restaurants at $65.8 million; furniture at $26.2 million; sporting goods and hobbies at $13.2 million; and home furnishings at $7.4 million.
“We want to become more competitive,” Lohbauer said.
The consulting team and mayor are asking property owners to get involved by communicating with potential retailers and marketing the Maplewood community to the 200 retailers, which include a Shoppers World department and apparel store, a Benihana restaurant, LA Boxing, Billabong and many more.
The campaign has started, according to the presentation, and the main objective for the town now is to keep in contact with the potential businesses.
“Three postcards will be mailed over a period of weeks, along with a follow-up letter, telling them about why they want to be in the town of Maplewood,” Lohbauer said. “Hopefully people will start to take notice.
For more information on the campaign, contact Annette DePalma, director of community relations for Maplewood, at 973-762-8120, ext. 3400.