December 23, 2012 at 7:39 AM
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - With the holiday season upon us and many people looking for places to find gifts or grab a bite to eat, New Providence business owners are encouraging residents to shop locally.
Michele Brugger, co-owner of Martial Arts for Life, and Jimmy Vardas, co-owner of the Prestige Diner, said that while New Providence does not have a large downtown like Summit or Madison, it’s a welcoming place with great stores.
Vardas said New Providence residents should realize if they shop locally, 70 percent of the revenue recycles back into the borough. New Providence is already an excellent place to live and receive an education, but it should be known for its shopping as well, Brugger said.
“We’re for development. Anybody who wants to open a shop in New Providence is definitely welcome,” Brugger said. “Ultimately, it is just the question of trying to revitalize the town and getting some more foot traffic."
While there isn’t a Saks Fifth Ave or a Macy’s, the relationship between the consumers and owners is tremendous, Vardas said. Downtown New Providence offers similar products to stores in a mall and more importantly, there is free parking and it is not difficult to find a spot.
Also, it is a place where many kids get their first jobs at businesses like the Prestige Diner or A&P, Brugger said.
They both agreed the new liquor license will help improve the area. In January, Galileo’s, a new Italian restaurant, will be coming into town, as well.
“There are vacancies, but a number of stores are interested in coming into downtown and the liquor licenses (approved by referendum in the last election) will help that,” she said.
Brugger and Vargas are members of the New Providence Business and Professional Association and the Downtown Improvement District. The two organizations work together to help improve the business landscape of New Providence’s downtown area.
The BPA holds events like the Street Fair and the 5k and pays for events in town through fundraising of its members, while the DID is subsidized by tax assessments on each downtown business and is responsible for the street scape project. Additionally, the BPA awards scholarships to two students each year who are pursuing business in college.
Currently, stores on Central Avenue are not part of the downtown and Brugger said she hopes that changes soon.
“We want to tie everything together and make it one solid, unified organization that encompasses everybody and is working towards the same mission,” Brugger said.