WEST ORANGE, NJ – Things are heating up in the West Orange retail, restaurant and school scene this spring as numerous new projects around town move forward and stores on Main Street open their doors or expand their offerings.
“With the opening of the Edison Battery Factory building in the coming months, we’ve had a lot of inquiries for retail store properties on Main Street,” said Megan Brill, director of the Downtown West Orange Alliance.
Brill said there is a lot of positive energy on Main Street, including the Vienna Music School opening a second Main Street location because of the growth of its business, Willow & Olivia opening its dessert café in May, Xclusives Barbershop now opening a storefront on Main Street after building up a clientele in a home-based business, and Hot Tech Cellular now offering a greater variety of technology offerings as it nears its sixth month of business on Main Street.
“I grew up in the Ironbound district of Newark, where they have tech stores like this everywhere,” said Santiago Batiaftelli, owner of Hot Tech Cellular. “There is nothing like this in West Orange. We repair cell phones, all electronics, computers, cameras, cracked screens and more.”
He added that the store also does photography shoots and teaches photography.
For people with a sweet tooth, Willow & Olivia will soon become Main Street’s third scrumptious bakeshop—joining the long-established Supreme Bakery and the relatively new Sweet Garden Bake Shop, which has become a go-to place for banana pudding and cupcakes. After gaining a substantial online following, this will be Willow & Olivia’s first storefront.
“We are an old-school, small-batch bakery known for our classic cupcakes, custom and signature cake truffle, cakes, mini-cakes, French macaroons, alcoholic pastries, and special occasion cakes,” said Gia Garcia, a West Orange resident who owns Willow & Olivia.
She added that the store, named after two fairies, will be very family friendly, with activities for kids that will include finding and going through a fairy door.
Vienna Music School will be opening a second Main Street location at 130 Main Street. Owners Ron and Leslie Caraf, who reside in West Orange, both said that West Orange is a perfect spot for their school, which has hired more staff to keep up with its growing client base.
“A key part of our success is that we hire professionals who are either going to school for music or have graduated from one,” said Ron. “They are good at it, and can teach it well. The excellence of our product has helped us grow. Kids run here to get lessons…It’s the way we teach that makes them enjoy and love music. They get a lot out of it.”
New Projects Advancing Throughout the Town
Another school that will soon be breaking ground in West Orange is the Goddard School, which will be opening at the long-vacant Mt. Fuji property on Mount Pleasant and Prospect avenues.
“This will be a nice addition to our town,” said Councilman Jerry Guarino, who provided an update on some of the larger uptown West Orange projects. “People should know that the entrance to the school will be on the Marcella Avenue side, which will alleviate traffic on the two main avenues.”
The Goddard School is a private preschool and kindergarten that teaches 65,000 students between the ages of six week and six years in 460 schools in 36 states. This will be only the second Essex County location, the other one being in Millburn. The Mt. Fuji restaurant building, which has been vacant for nearly a decade, will be knocked down to make way for the Goddard School building and parking area.
Already knocked down is the former Pleasantdale Presbyterian Church, which closed this winter due to a dwindling membership. Its demolition is making way for a new Chase Bank branch on Pleasant Valley Way. Guarino said it was sad to see the church torn down, but unfortunately efforts to have the bank save the façade were not successful.
Across from what will be the new Chase Bank is the newly opened Glatt Fusion at 478 Pleasant Valley Way, which will offer glatt kosher Chinese and Japanese food. This new take-out restaurant has been certified glatt kosher under the stringent supervision of the Vaad HaRabonim of MetroWest.
Later in the year, a new glatt kosher supermarket is scheduled to open at the old CVS pharmacy site at 629 Eagle Rock Avenue. This new kosher supermarket is particularly needed in the area after the recent closing of the Pleasantdale Kosher Meat Market at 470 Pleasant Valley Way.
Further down Eagle Rock Avenue, people are anxiously awaiting the long-delayed opening of the Chit Chat Diner, which is on the site of the former Eagle Rock Diner at 410 Eagle Rock Avenue.
“The Chit Chat Diner should open in a few months,” said Guarino. “It has a very good reputation from its site in Hackensack. The food should be excellent and the view of New York City will be outstanding. It will keep people who like good diner food in a wonderful setting in town when they want to eat out.”
Another new dining addition coming in the next months will be a new sushi buffet restaurant opening in the Essex Green Shopping Center, taking over the site of the old Essex Grand Buffet. Both the Chit Chat Diner and the new sushi buffet restaurant will serve liquor.
According to Brill, restaurants on Main Street are doing well overall, including the relatively new Wasabi Sushi and Benji’s Taqueria Mexican. She said a new Thai restaurant is closing in on a deal for a Main Street location.
“A restaurant like Sam’s Place, which has been in business for 17 years with the best fried chicken in the area, shows that restaurants on Main Street have sustainability when the service and food are excellent,” she said. “The best part about Main Street stores is that they have good products and services that people use every day. That is why people should do more shopping and eating downtown. It’s good for Main Street businesses, and it’s good for the entire township of West Orange.”