SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerville Center Antiques, the longtime tenant of the former Woolworth’s Building at 34 West Main St., will close its doors July 24th, as the building owner has plans to renovate the space and open the borough’s first brew pub.
The prime location is across the street from the Division Street pedestrian mall, the emerging arts and cultural center of the downtown district.
“We are trying to attract a brewery right now,” said Mark Hay, part-owner of the building, a former Woolworth’s built in the 1960s. “We have been unofficially marketing the space for about the last six months or more,” he added.
“The conversations that we’ve had with various people have been supportive in regards to a brew pub,” Hay said.
Hay is also owner of Turnbull Real Estate, acting as the broker in any potential sale. He confirmed that he expects a deal in place by the end of the year.
“That’s definitely the goal,” Hay said. “We are fairly confident we will get somebody with serious intentions for the borough to consider,” he added. There are some brewers that have shown interest.”
The antiques center occupies 19,000 square feet, including the basement and first floor of the three-story building; the upper two floors are office space, which will be unaffected by the conversion to a brew pub and restaurant, according to Hay.
It is likely that the space occupied by the antiques center will be subdivided, Hay said. A brew pub may need as little as 5,000 square feet, he explained. Much of the basement area will be needed for the large kettle used to brew beer as well as other equipment, according to Hay.
Renovations will include accommodations for other tenants, creating an “indoor mall” open space, new signage and potentially, a new building façade to replace the “curtain wall’ brick façade familiar to passers-by on Main Street, according to Hay.
Bonnie Allen, owner of Somerville Center Antiques, began to notify the dealers who lease space from her of the transition last week.
Allen opened the antiques center 23 years ago at a time when the downtown district was in a slump, suffering from the demise of the Somerville Shopping Center and the flight of shoppers to the recently-opened Bridgewater Commons Mall.
She took advantage of the high vacancy rate along Division Street, and opened several other smaller antiques and collectibles stores. Years later, redevelopment pressures forced her to close those stores as the borough and downtown district management association “reinvented” Division Street, now the focus of an ongoing retail metamorphosis on the first floors and second-story makeovers into lofts and residences.
A sign taped to the plate glass window front window of Somerville Center Antiques reads ‘’The Fun Feel Good Place for Over 20 Years.”
Over the weekend, several other signs were taped to the windows:
“Turnbull Real Estate Retail Space Available 15,000 Square Feet-Plus Brewery Use Allowed;’’ a smaller sign reads, in part, “Somerville Center Antiques and all our dealers thank you for 23 wonderful years of patronage…soon we will be opening a new location. Please sign our mailing list for updates on our new home;” “Moving Sale, Lost Our Lease, Up to 75% Off,” and “Lost Our Lease Moving/Relocation Sale Save Up to 75 Percent Off Now Through Sunday, July 24th.”
Allen said the plan is to find a smaller space and relocate her dealers somewhere in Somerville, but admits that is unlikely to happen before closing on July 24th.
“I’m going to give the center to the dealers; we’re looking for another space, something smaller, and I will stay on as a consultant,” she said.
“It’s not as big of a deal as some people are making it,” she added. “Dealers are resilient.”
Allen also owns and operates Back Home Again, a used furniture and decorator’s showcase at 93 West Main St. and Central New Jersey Liquidators, selling the contents of estates. Last year, she held 160 on-site sales, she said.
“I just don’t need to be in the antique center management business anymore; it’s a hobby that got out of control,” she said.
Besides running a business longer than most other merchants downtown, Allen has served in various capacities with the downtown district management group, now known as the Downtown Somerville Alliance for 19 years.
“I’m proud to have been part of Somerville’s growth and proud to be part of its future,” Allen said.