Some businesses taking leave of downtown

By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Some businesses taking
leave of downtown
By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Red Bank — After 26 years in downtown Red Bank, Arlo Print & Color Copy at 21 Monmouth St. will close this week.

"I decided it’s time," said Lois Grossman, who opted out of lease negotiations in favor of retirement.

Following right behind Arlo is Hinck’s Turkey Farm, a Broad Street eatery also scheduled to close this week, while the owner of a cosmetics boutique ponders remaining on Broad Street. Both businesses cite the post-9/11 economic slowdown.

Grossman and her late husband Arthur opened the copy center in 1977 with one press and a small copy machine and held down full-time jobs while they grew the business.

The couple lived in Red Bank and chose to open a business there, despite the fact that the town hadn’t begun its economic revival.

"We lived here and we loved the town, but it was around the time when there were a lot of vacancies," Lois Grossman recalled.

Both stayed with their jobs until the copy center started taking off and Art joined the business full time. When Lois retired from teaching, she joined him and has kept it going since his death in 1998.

Arlo benefited not only from Art’s business acumen, but also because he was forward looking, Lois said.

"We were the first in Central Jersey to have a color copy machine," she noted. "Art swore we had to have one. He said, ‘It’s going to go.’ Today we have two presses and two color copy machines."

Arlo counts many local businesses among its clientele. "Some of them have been with us the whole while," she said.

Grossman said she could have sold the business, but that would have required updating equipment,

It’s been 26 years, and there have been ups and downs," she said. "Overall, it’s done well, and I have no regrets. I was ready to retire. I have no second thoughts about this decision."

The owners of Hinck’s Turkey Farm have decided to close the eatery after seven years on Broad Street.

William Ball, co-owner of the franchise with John Sherrod, said Hinck’s will close this week.

Cafe Everest, a restaurant featuring Russian cuisine and a coffee and pastry bar, will open in the space at 45 Broad in early October.

With its lease due to expire at year end and a sustained decline in foot traffic in the downtown since 9/11, Ball said the franchisees decided to leave town.

"We’re not going out of business, we’re bailing out of this town," he said last week. "The rents are high and there’s nobody in town."

It became almost impossible for Hinck’s to remain profitable, he said, due in part to the exodus of offices out of Red Bank to lower rent space in nearby towns, and in part to a decline in the brokerage industry.

"It started after 9/11 and then it got worse and worse," he explained."

According to Ball, the business decline is more acute for businesses dependent on daytime traffic.

"Night time business is fine, the restaurants are doing great," he noted. "It’s daytime business that’s bad."

A trial run of extended evening hours didn’t pan out because the partners found Hinck’s couldn’t compete with the town’s many full-service restaurants, he added.

So, Ball said he and his partner decided to capitalize on the "hype" about Red Bank and "get out while the getting’s good."

He said the partners advertised their location (a premium spot because it is approved for primary food use) and had plenty of takers because the town is still perceived as a desirable location.

Ball said he will keep the franchise but concentrate on private and corporate catering and is seeking a new base of operations, possibly in Long Branch.

"I’m looking at Long Branch," he said, "I’m ready to invest in the whole redevelopment thing."

Another downtown business owner contemplating a change is Eleanor Titian whose Merle Norman Cosmetics is located at 62 Broad St.

Titian said she is considering retiring when her lease runs out at the end of October, when she is due for a $500 per month rent increase.

"Business hasn’t been that good since 9/11. People have been struggling," said Titian, a former fashion model who at one time operated five Merle Norman makeup boutique franchises. "I’m 77 and I’m getting tired."

Titian said she moved her store to Red Bank from Fair Haven seven or eight years ago because the downtown then had more foot traffic.

"The business was doing great until 9/11," she said. "Things have been up and down since."

Titian is hedging her bets by having a liquidation sale.

"Sales are brisk because customers are worried. These products never go bad or out of style. People are buying products by the dozen."