Not only firemen shop here
Specialty shop at 24 Broad St is about to change
By linda denicola
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| Chuck Henderson and the Babe are making room in the storefront of the Firehouse Specialty Shop, Red Bank, for a new cooperative venture and a new name.
RED BANK — It’s a family affair, the Firehouse Specialty Shop at 24 Broad St. It belongs to Chuck Henderson, his wife Eileen, and their two sons, David and Teddy.
Eileen works in the embroidery shop stitching custom-embroidery orders. They also do silk screening and engraving.
The name, Firehouse Specialty Shop, is somewhat misleading because as Chuck Henderson says, "You don’t have to be a fireman to shop here."
But it does seem as though you have to be a man, or buying for a man, in order to fully appreciate the ambiance of the store which is a man’s man kind of place, replete with a 6-foot tall plaster statue of Yankee baseball legend Babe Ruth.
The Babe stands sentinel in front of the store alongside a sign that says "Danger Men Working," a case full of hot sauces and another long case full of baseball caps embroidered with the name of just about every athletic team there is in the country.
"Most of the hats came from the Clayton McGee store when it closed," Henderson explained.
The look of the store is about to change though and so is the name. Henderson is looking for artists, crafters and antique dealers to help him set up a concession-type area in the front of his store.
"The vendors would not have to be present, but they would have to maintain their booths," he said.
He also plans to change the name to "24 Broad" by the end of June.
The Hendersons purchased the large building three years ago. The two-story building used to house Vogel’s Department Store. Henderson said he did not need that much retail space, so he built two apartments on the second floor, leaving a small area for his retail products which include T-shirts, silk-screened clothing, plaques and samples.
He will continue to provide a smaller sports section and a Jersey Shore souvenir section, in the back of the 2,500-square-foot first floor, he said.
Born in Rumson, raised in Middletown’s River Plaza section, Henderson now lives in Rumson again, with his family. A Vietnam vet who spent 1969 in Nam, he was drafted in 1968 and became a chaplain’s assistant at a Medical Evacuation Unit.
For 14 years he worked in the county Traffic Department. In 1979, while still working, he opened the business on Canal Street across from the parking lot of what is now The Bon Ton department store.
He focused on firemen’s needs, embroidered T-shirts, mugs and gifts. "My theory was to provide one-stop shopping for fire departments. Now business is 90 percent not fire related. We do work for organizations, beach clubs, restaurants and other businesses. All of it is done in-house with the help of computers," he said.
Three years ago he gave up his county job to focus on the business full time.
"Now it’s a lot bigger than I had planned so I’m making these changes," he said. "With arts, crafts and antiques in the front of the store it will have more of the look Red Bank seems to be going for."
Henderson’s location on Broad Street is working out very well, he said. "There’s a lot of foot traffic and a lot of them seem to be tourists," he noted. "I don’t know where they come from, but I remember when I knew just about everyone that came into the store. That’s not the case anymore."