ENTERTAINMENT CORNER By Laura Kolnoski
The line from an old Temptations song, “People movin’ out, people movin’ in” is an apt description of the constant flow of commercial and residential activity in Red Bank. Known as “Hip Town” and now using the slogan “A cool little town,” it’s been up, down, and stagnant in recent decades. Red Bank is currently on an upswing; a resurgence on the cusp of a new era. This is good news for area residents seeking unique and stimulating entertainment options close to home.
People flock to Long Branch, Asbury Park, Freehold, and Red Bank, the major sources of leisure time entertainment and dining in the county, for specific reasons and tastes. Each has their charm, allure, restaurant and taverns, with and without live entertainment. All are in constant competition to offer something new, something different, something that will make you leave your home, drive there, and open your wallet. The seaside locales have the ocean and boardwalks. Freehold has a small, homey yet historic ambiance. Red Bank has characteristics all its own, continually striving to overcome its challenges and offer new events to draw you to the borough on the banks of the scenic Navesink River.
The Red Bank RiverCenter business alliance works to fill vacancies and promote the borough in myriad ways. An offshoot of that organization, Red Bank Flavour, was formed by a group of restaurateurs several years ago to up the profile of eateries in town. Each creates and produces events year ‘round.
I’ve been covering Red Bank Borough Council meetings for over four years. When I got there, the business district’s outlook was bleak, with a high rate of retail vacancies. Through clever marketing campaigns, new events, outreach, and determination of the borough council to reduce red tape and fees that stymie new business and business expansion, the picture has changed significantly. I write about these developments monthly, but they primarily appear in the Navesink Area Journal. Since I get questions about what’s going on in Red Bank wherever I go, this month’s column strives to share the good news with all our readers. Currently creating optimism and excitement are:
Rooftop and Terrace Dining – Prompted by local restaurateurs, Mayor Pasquale “Pat” Menna got the ball rolling on terrace and rooftop dining. Teak Restaurant on Monmouth Street may be the first out of that gate, as they already went through the approval process. Restaurants Red, Pazzo, and Char may also expand to rooftop and/or additional outdoor seating. They and others will benefit from a new streamlined application process recently advanced by borough officials to expedite matters.
“This rooftop/terrace commercial application simplification is business-friendly,” said Mayor Menna in September. “This will create jobs and help business. People are going to Asbury Park and
Long Branch because they want to be outside looking at the sky. Sidewalk dining is wonderful, but this creates a whole new plateau.”
“There is a certain, special ambiance to rooftop dining that attracts people,” said James Scavone, executive director of the Red Bank RiverCenter.
Let Them Eat Cake – at the newest location of Carlos’ Bakery, of Cake Boss Buddy Valastro fame. The popular television baker is moving into the 84 Broad Street location of Ricky’s Candy and Posh Pops. Baking will be done on premises and a seating area and party room will be included. Time will tell if the multi-block lines in front of the iconic Hoboken location will materialize in Red Bank.
“This will be good for Red Bank, as those from central and southern New Jersey who might not drive all the way to Hoboken will be inclined to come to Red Bank to check it out,” Mr. Scavone said. “This will bring significant foot traffic to the downtown.” Filming already goes on at Kevin Smith’s comic book store. Maybe cameras will also roll at the new Carlos’ Bakery. This will be Carlo’s fourth location. In addition to Hoboken, Carlos’ cakes rise in Westfield and Ridgewood. A press release from the company stated the shop will formally be known as Carlo’s Bakery Red Bank.
“Red Bank has such a rich history, from the Count Basie Theater to the Molly Pitcher Inn,” Mr. Valastro stated. “We are looking forward to bringing Carlo’s Bakery to such a celebrated community. I know the area well and the downtown is just beautiful. It’s a great fit for the bakery.” While that’s optimistic for a town that already
has numerous dessert purveyors, no doubt the curious will come. Hopes are to have the bakery open by the end of this year. West Side Lofts, New Brewery Under Construction — If you’ve never visited one of the three locations of Triumph Brewery, you’ll be able to in about 14 months when its fourth location opens on the ground floor of the new West Side Lofts at Bridge and Front Streets. We discovered (and wrote about positively in this column) the New Hope version last year. Other locations are Princeton and Philadelphia.
The proprietor of Triumph is Adam Rechnitz, son of the founders of the Two River Theatre, Bob and Joan Rechnitz. At the groundbreaking of the lofts last month, Bob Rechnitz said if theatre-goers don’t like the play, they can and walk over to his son’s place next door via a landscaped connection. Some bemoan the overabundance of restaurants in Red Bank, but most are doing brisk business, attracting regulars and newcomers. If the food, ambiance, and Happy Hours are good, they will come.
State Senator Joseph Kyrillos, speaking at the lofts’ groundbreaking, said there is buzz statewide about the lofts and everything else new in Red Bank, indicating many more fresh patrons are eager to make their way to the hip, cool little town. The loft residences are being aggressively marketed to artists and hipsters.
And there’s more…The former Primas Home Café and Furnishings at 28 Broad Street will soon become Patrizia’s family-style Italian restaurant on both levels with a wood-burning pizza oven. There
are five other restaurants under the Patricia’s or Patrizia’s banner in Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Connecticut. Permits were being submitted last month.
Flowers on Front, which changed ownership over a year ago, hopes to move into 59 Maple Avenue. Those plans are in the early stages. Other proposals include two pharmacies, a greengrocer, and more residential units.
At RiverCenter, they are not resting on their laurels. Next year, the current “Escape to Red Bank” ad campaign will be examined to see if it should continue, change, or be replaced after two years. The slogan “A cool little town” will remain, Mr. Scavone said.
“We will increase our marketing efforts in terms of business recruitment, marketing specifically to bring new businesses into Red Bank,” he said, adding that marketing materials, including print, video, website, and advertising, will all be revamped.
A benefit of covering Red Bank is learning about all that’s new to discover. You can, too, by visiting www.acoollittletown.com, www.redbankflavour.com, and the Red Bank Visitors Center at www.visit.redbank.com.