SOUTH ORANGE, NJ- While South Orange is near the Livingston and Short Hills malls, residents of the village now have a few more reasons to shop locally because on Saturday afternoon, the South Orange Village Center Alliance announced the opening and re-opening of several businesses.

Executive Director of the SOVCA, Lisa Hackett said it was an amazing day for the community and residents should definitely come out and see what each place has to offer.

 “These businesses are just so excited to be here,” Hackett said.

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Village President Alex Torpey said he enjoyed meeting the business owners and every new store or business is essential to the downtown’s growth.

 “I think this is indicative of the amount of effort that the Village Center Alliance is putting in,” Torpey said. “All these businesses are great additions to our community.”

Exxon at 68 West South Orange Avenue is owned by brothers Garabet “Gary" and John Diratsoulian.  It has been in the community for 20 years, but after being closed for six months for extensive renovations and upgrades, the station looks forward to serving the village again.  

John said they originally planned to reopen in February, but Hurricane Sandy delayed them. It was tough being closed for so long, he added.

“It’s great to be back in business,” John said.

Walia at 11 Village Plaza offers delicious traditional Ethiopian food for the community and many options for vegetarian and vegans as well. It is a family-owned restaurant run by husband and wife team Kadra Said and Getachew Zerihun and managed by her sister Shay Yassin.  

Yassin told TAP she and her sister share one passion, cooking. Family members and friends would often tell them to open a business and finally they decided the time was right, she said. As longtime residents of South Orange, they wanted to provide exquisite food with a family oriented atmosphere, Yassin said.

“Everybody that comes in, we want to make sure that they leave happy,” she said.

Finding a trendy pair of sneakers isn’t always the easiest thing to do and for sneaker enthusiasts, Footaction and Footlocker simply don’t cut it. Saturday afternoon, hundreds of kids lined up to enter CMB Kicks on 77 South Orange Avenue, which is known for its highly collectible sneakers.

Co-owners Brett Ermeus and Michael Gillard, who grew up in the area, came up with the name from “collaboration of Michael and Brett.” The founders have a great hip street style, captured by their logo, commissioned from a tattoo artist.

Ermeus’s brother, Maxwell is the website manager and said they saw a need for a store like this in town.

“Our goal is to work within the community,” he said.

At 61 South Orange Avenue, shoppers now have the opportunity to relax and be pampered at Indulgence Day Spa. In what was formerly an art gallery, the new spacious two floor spa has an elegant atmosphere that offers massages, manicures, pedicures, private parties and top of the line organic products such as “Butter” nail polish from London with the latest trendy colors.

Co-owners Joye Foust and Patrice Hairston said they have always loved beauty and skin care and it was a dream of theirs to open a business together.   

“We knew it was a demand for what we wanted,” Hairston said. “It never seems like work.”

For several years, Café Arugula was a staple in the South Orange community, until it was sold two years ago. However, in December owner Carlo Carbonaro bought it back and renamed it Bottagra South. They specialize in Mediterranean cuisine, homemade pizza, pasta and gelato.

After starting in the restaurant business at the age of 20, Carbonaro said it was difficult not owning it for that short time. Since reopening, business has been amazing and the additions of the gelato and the wood burning pizza with a certified Neapolitan pizza chef really brings customers in, he said.

“People are happy that we’re back in town,” Carbonaro said.

Other businesses opening soon are: Falafel-ly Yours on 50 West South Orange Avenue, 7 Eleven on 60 Valley Street and Town Hall Deli in its new location at 74 1st Street. 

The South Orange Village Center Alliance, a not-for-profit organization, is the management entity of the newly created Special Improvement District. Originally founded in 1991 as Main Street South Orange, the volunteer-driven organization is dedicated to the vibrancy and vitality of South Orange’s historic Village Center and provides services such as maintenance, event production, business recruitment and design consultation.