ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Park Theater located at 23 W. Westfield Ave. in Roselle Park was in operation since the mid 1920s and was the place where parents and kids alike spent their weekend afternoons and evenings. While it was a simpler time, people in Roselle Park still have fond memories of their time spent in that theater. The name was later changed to The New Park Cinema.
The doors were closed in February 2010 and, to this day, when you drive through town, the building and marquee is still there as a constant reminder of what was and what could be if only someone would take a chance. It would take a lot of work, time, and money to take on such a task. Until now, no one has had taken that leap. Enter two men who have the drive to attempt to bring the New Park Cinema back to life: Jared Pietz and Joseph Anthony Shirley.
Pietz is a Roselle Park Firefighter and EMT, works at the Elizabeth Police Department, and currently attends Union County College, where he is finishing up his major in criminal justice.
“Since I’ve been a firefighter in this town the people here have been courteous and treat me with respect," Pietz said. "So I thought it would be a great opportunity to help revitalize the town and give the families here a safe, clean, enjoyable place for seniors, adults and kids of all ages to go relax and have fun. I used to go to this theater all the time when I was young and thought the children of this town should have the same opportunity and it would keep them out of trouble. Parents would feel relieved knowing where their children were and that they were ok. I’ve wanted to start a business for a long time. There have been many different types of businesses I’ve looked into, but nothing really appealed to me, until I passed the Park Theater in Roselle Park. As soon as I went to see it I started having all these ideas running through my head. I went home and started writing up a plan.”
Shirley, a Roselle Park native for thirteen years, graduated from RPHS in 2007.
“I am currently going to school for business and restaurant management," Shirley said. "I've been doing private banquet style catering for seven years and have done two Disney internships. I lived in Orlando for two years working at Disney as a lifeguard, parking lot attendant, and attractions operator. When Jared came to me asking to be his partner with the Park Theater, I was nervous because of the amount of work that the theater needed but at the same time I was excited because of what we would be doing for the residents of Roselle Park and what we could give back. I remember going to the Park Theater every weekend with my friends and the fun we would have. I want everyone to walk back in the Park Theater to not only make new memories with their kids, but to reminisce about the memories they had when they were younger.”
The partners have many plans to give back to the community, such as having special events for the high school students, a place for after-school activities, and tutoring and events for the seniors of the community. They also hope that by reopening this piece of Roselle Park history, the local businesses will benefit from the theater being open and driving traffic back to the town.
The two have hit a lot of obstacles in the process of trying to open up the theater, but they are not giving up. “This is my dream and I’m going to make sure it comes true. I’m not a quitter. It may take a little longer than I planned, but we will get it going.” said Pietz.
They have received the approval for funding the project, they are just shy of what they originally saw as the down payment and need to raise an additional $90,000, which they are asking the communities and other sources for help.
They have created a crowdfunding campaign at http://gofundme.com/c2rpjk where anyone can contribute to help bring the “Park Theater” back to life and create even more memories for generations to come.