CRANFORD - While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a slew of businesses to close their doors for good, it hasn't stopped an influx of new businesses into Downtown Cranford.

Cranford resident Kelli Paterno will open Hickory & Hill General Store at 21 North Avenue West, with a target date of October 16 - just in time for Downtown Cranford's "Sip & Shop" event. 

Hickory & Hill will carry an assortment of home decor, gifts, clothing, jewelry, art, kitchen items, and more. Items will be sourced from local small businesses and proudly showcase New Jersey, New York, and Union County artisans.

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"I'm very passionate about purchasing things from local shops, small businesses, and people who hand-made things," said Paterno. "I envision that if you're running over to your friend's house who's hosting an event, you can pop into here, get a couple of items, put it into a basket with a card, get it wrapped, and be on your way."

Paterno says she always wanted to open up her own shop, and now with working her current full time job remotely for the next year, it was now or never. 

"I always wanted to do it, but never thought I'd have the flexibility to make it happen," Paterno said. "I saw how supportive the town has been during COVID, and when the leasing space opened up, I said this is the time if ever to do it."

The name "Hickory & Hill" originated from the homes she has lived in since moving back to the area, as well as her my family's fond memories associated with the name "Hill." "Hickory" is in reference to her aunt's house in Garwood on Hickory Avenue, and "Hill" is from the street she currently owns a house on, Gallows Hill Road in Cranford. "Hill" is also her aunt's last name. 

While the store will open on October 16, Paterno plans on having an official grand-opening celebration on October 18. 

"I'm very excited to be a part of the community and to meet everybody," said Paterno. 

Learn more about Hickory and Hill on Facebook and its website