Updated: Maplewood Launches Business Recruitment Campaign

Township plans strategic approach to attract a successful retail mix to meet estimated $2.2 billion customer demand. Read the full report of retail prospects, attached.


What will Maplewood look like in the next five, 10, 50 years?

That question is at the heart of a new initiative the township is launching to fill what elected officials see as a vast, unmet retail demand, while taking a proactive approach to shape the business landscape for decades to come.

The township unveiled its plan at a breakfast gathering of the local business and real estate community on Monday. Mayor Vic DeLuca and Mark Lohbauer, a principal at JGSC, consultants hired by the township, led the meeting.

"Too many shoppers, not enough stores," said Lohbauer, summing up his firm's overall assessment. Lohbauer said JGSC had calculated a $2.2 billion unmet retail demand among people living within a 10-mile radius of Maplewood.

He singled out the advantages of the township's two main retail corridors — Maplewood Village and Springfield Avenue — including improved streetscapes, surrounding affluent populations and strong business improvement districts.

But, he said, "we need a better mix."

The township will try to attract retailers in certain categories such as home furnishings, sporting goods and restaurants.

"We can work with property owners to recruit these types of stores rather than another salon or convenience store," said DeLuca. 

Lohbauer said the plan included a strong push for "high-end" business recruitment. 

"We are looking to avoid check cashing, tattoo parlors, nail salons and pizza places," he said. "We have plenty of those."

A list of preliminary retail prospects includes a wide variety of retailers such as HomeGoods, The Container Store, Pier 1, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizza, T.G.I. Fridays, Five Guys, Chipotle's, Hale & Hearty Soups, Curves and EMS. A complete list of prospects is attached as a PDF to this article. 

The township is currently reaching out to a number of these prospects by postcard and letter. Lohbauer asked the brokers in the audience to also be proactive in reaching out to retailers.

The plan calls for fashioning the village into an "entertainment destination" with a mix of high-end boutiques, while attracting larger retailers and chains to Springfield Avenue to make it a viable alternative to a shopping mall.

"One of the things we want to convey to both property owners and real estate brokers is that they can seek high-end retail establishments and do not have to take the first offers that come their way," said DeLuca in a follow up interview.

Lohbauer noted while Springfield Avenue doesn't currently have a space for a big box store such as a Target, the township is willing to talk to developers to create the right space for a suitable tenant.

He said the Maplewood Village Alliance and the Springfield Avenue Partnership could offer financial and other incentives to attract the right kind of retailers.

"This retail recruitment campaign is designed to focus on Maplewood as a whole – One Maplewood – rather than its parts," said DeLuca. "It talks about the vitality of the entire town, recognizing the unique characteristics and strengths of each commercial area."

Verjus owner Jane Witkin expressed concern about Springfield Avenue's "impediments to success" which she listed as a lack of contiguous properties, no tax incentives and the current 35-mile-per-hour speed limit.

DeLuca emphasized Maplewood should attract shoppers that reflect the area's economic diversity.

"We are not just a white, upper-class community," DeLuca said, noting the area's large Caribbean population as an example.

"Walgreens is a case in point," said DeLuca later. "It serves people from Maplewood and adjacent towns...if we can bring in a national, full-service, family chain restaurant or national brand furniture store, that will help all of us and meet the needs of Maplewood's already economic and racially diverse population."

KIM November 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Would love to see a Chipotle, a pharmacy, a coffee shop & a French restaurant come to Maplewood!
Julie Doran November 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Just to expand upon the comment "The plan calls for fashioning the village into an "entertainment destination" with a mix of high-end boutiques" -- the plan recognizes that we already have a theater, an arts center and excellent restaurants, all of which could be enhanced, when the opportunity presents itself, with additional upscale browsing boutiques, additional restaurants/bars and marketing efforts to support and leverage what already exists.
Victor De Luca November 27, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Clarification: The consultant made the following comment: "We are looking to avoid check cashing, tattoo parlors, nail salons and pizza places. We have plenty of those." Maplewood does not permit check cashing facilities and does not have any tattoo parlors. The comment "we have plenty of those" is not accurate because we have none now. Mayor Vic De Luca
Carolyn Maynard-Parisi (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Julie, thanks for that clarification!
Andrew Lee November 27, 2012 at 04:56 PM
This is a good initiative. But I would love to see the data and reasons underlying the conclusion that there is "$2.2 billion unmet retail demand among people living within a 10-mile radius of Maplewood".
Lee Navlen November 27, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Moving forward, I would be skeptical of anything this consultant has to say. Already, the Mayor had to make corrections to his comments regarding tattoo parlors and check cashing facilities. More money being flushed down the toilet all in the name of finding more ratables. 2.2. billion. The guy is an idiot.
Carolyn Maynard-Parisi (Editor) November 28, 2012 at 07:33 AM
Andrew, I have attached a PDF of the power point the consultant presented at the breakfast. As soon as I receive more information and details, I will post them as well.
Taxed to Death November 28, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Now they want chain stores? Didn;t this town have an extreme anti-fast food ordinance not too long ago? This town should have looked at these options many years ago. Also, not sure why the Mayor looks down his nose at nail salons etc. while consistently allowing these mom and pop failures like cupcake shops and endless bakeries that nobody goes to. There's a reason franchises work, because they're proven business models.
Stockard Channing November 28, 2012 at 05:35 PM
we already have two french restaurants in maplewood and an endless litany of coffee shops.
Mikel Frank December 04, 2012 at 12:43 AM
One small but looming question: where the heck is everyone going to PARK!?????
Bob Renshaw December 04, 2012 at 01:14 AM
While I would like to see higher volume ratables to create non property tax revenue for the town I am also troubled by this Idea. It is the very absence of national chains like Chipotle and Pier 1 that contributes significantly to Maplewood's charm. I'm perfectly happy to drive to route 22 oe 10 if it spares ua all yet another GAP or Pottery Barn.
Carolyn Maynard-Parisi (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Mikel: This is an important question, of course, and one I plan to pursue with the Mayor. (I also had a brief conversation about it with the consultant, which I will expand on later.)
Frank Verderosa December 04, 2012 at 02:22 AM
I must admit I am under-informed when it comes to how all of our taxes truly work. I am still a fairly new resident to Maplewood. It was my understanding that the charm of Maplewood was it's lack of big box stores and chain restaurants. And that factors into our very high taxes (or so my realtor explained). It's been on my mind as friends consider a move to the area. It's a bit of a joke that we're a town of mom and pop shops- which I love... while a mile up the road is Home Dept, Best Buy, Target, etc. So the idea of inviting Bertucis brick oven pizza into a town that has Arturo's seems absurd- unless we're all going to see a significant tax break from it. A fried just left South Orange to save thousands a year in taxes for a marginally longer train ride. Is the long term plan to turn Maplewood into every other town? Please feel free to educate me. At the moment I have 30 years to learn. :).
Victor De Luca December 04, 2012 at 02:25 PM
There are 24,000 people in Maplewood and we are creating shopping choices that we have heard residents want through years of surveys, focus groups and meetings. No one is suggesting that we will change Maplewood Village into a chain store place. That is not going to happen. On the other hand, there can and should be a mix of mom & pop, chain and franchised businesses in our other shopping districts - Springfield Avenue, Valley Street and Irvington Avenue. These are long stretches of roadway with minimal lot depths that require a mix of business types. We have created a more pedestrian friendly area at Prospect and Springfield but that cannot be the model for the rest of the Avenue. It just will not work. Likewise, we need to attract auto destination stores on Valley. Maplewood now has Walgreen's, Subway, Papa John, 7-Eleven, Dunkin Donuts, Blimpies, Quick Check, and Kings that are "larger than local" chains. I do not think their existence has diminished the town's charm. Lastly, decisions about opening up a business are made by the business owner under a free market, capitalistic economic system. I too sometimes wish these prospective owners would have a stronger business plan but I am not in a position, legally or practically, to quash their dreams. We will continue to support small business openings and seek more established and well funded regional and national chains and franchises with our business recruitment campaign.
Victor De Luca December 04, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Regarding parking, we are discussing additional changes, including a parking structure for Maplewood Village. On Springfield Avenue, we have two miles of street parking (2 hours by the way) and over 100 parking spots in off-street public lots. There are hundreds of other spots in off-street private lots. In general, parking on Springfield is less of a problem. For the other districts - Valley Street and Irvington Avenue - we will rely on off-street private lots and minimal on-street parking.
Marcy Thompson December 04, 2012 at 02:54 PM
This all sounds very exciting. Glad the township is taking such an active leadership role in this enterprise! I am personally eager to determine - along with many other members of the community - how we integrate all of the amazing arts organizations into this plan. An entertainment destination implies... well, entertainment. And there is nothing more vibrant to a community than an active, supported arts scene. Sign me up!!
KIM December 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Thanks Stockard. Can you tell me what the two French restaurants are? I know of Verjus on Springfield, but the atmosphere is pretty bad. Is the other one Lorena's? I think that's more American than French. I was hoping for a French restaurant right on Maplewood Ave... Also, I don't feel like there's a dedicated coffee shop. The restaurant called the Village Coffee Shop is sort of a hodgepodge of everything (I think they even advertise Indian food or something in their windows?). Not sure what you mean by endless litany- to me, serving mediocre coffee on the side does not qualify as a coffee shop. Even Strawberry Fields attempts to serve coffee & that would be the last place I'd want to lounge & have a cup of coffee... as much as my kids & I love their fro-yo.
Suzanne G December 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM
What about a wine bar there are none in the area, perhaps the franchise the wine loft? Smoothie bar, or what about a healthy food franchise like Energy Kitchen?? These lack in wider than a 10 mile radius and people who have lived in the city...well this brings some city aspects closer to them!
Suzanne G December 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I get there is coffee around but I do feel that a Starbucks would be amazing and adds a high end sense to an area.
gheri burke January 10, 2013 at 05:35 PM
I applaud the efforts of the township to bring in new franchises. My questions are: Would these franchises be obligated to hire a percentage of residents from the township and offer summer employment to our youth? I have visit the 7Eleven's on Springfield and Parker and noticed the one upcoming by the high school and it doesn't appear that either has hired any resident youth!! Oh by the way something other than Burger King would be nice!!
Victor De Luca January 11, 2013 at 12:54 AM
The Township has no authority to force any business to hire locally. We do encourage it though. The 7-Elevens are owned by individual families and they hire within their family/friend network. Walgreens has hired local residents. We are not looking for fast food businesses.


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