MAPLEWOOD, N.J., March 16, 2012 – More than one person has done a double-take recently while walking and driving along Maplewood’s Springfield Avenue. The cause of the swiveling necks and questioning glances? Over the past months, a number of local businesses have relocated to new commercial space on the Avenue to expand and grow or to better showcase and deliver their products and services.
That’s music to the ears of Springfield Avenue Partnership’s business and commercial property owners, who have invested in streetscape and façade improvements, supplemental cleaning and greening programs and expanded marketing efforts to draw consumers to shop and dine on the Avenue. They also hope to entice new businesses as well, to enhance the district’s mix of retail stores, restaurants and food specialty purveyors, plus personal and professional services.
Partnership Board Member Sheila Turner-Cartlidge, owner of Astah’s Art Gallery (1897 Springfield Avenue) was an early trendsetter when she moved the gallery and her travel agency businesses from Burnett Avenue to Springfield Avenue in 2004. She and her husband were looking for space that would allow them to combine both in one location that provided flexible space and higher visibility. After they bought the building on Springfield Avenue, major changes to the façade, including opening up the front wall to replace a small picture window with a dramatic continuance window transformed the local streetscape in dramatic fashion. “We wanted to change attitudes and ideas about Springfield Avenue and Maplewood,” Turner-Cartlidge noted. “People didn’t think you could find or afford this type of space and exposure locally; now there are lots of great new businesses finding their place on the Avenue.”
Express Yourself Studios, owned by Simone Anthony-Brown and husband Rodney Brown, opened in 2008 at 1912 Springfield Avenue and recently relocated to 1877 Springfield Avenue. Art classes for adults, children and teens, plus birthday parties, art events and special workshops such as Cocktails & Canvas and Coffee & Canvas Workshops for adults and Painting-N-Pajamas and Pizza & Pottery for toddlers and children will continue to be offered. However, the larger quarters at Express Yourself Studio’s new location, near the busy intersection of Prospect Avenue, offers additional space for expanded offerings. Express Yourself Studios now provide its patrons with a separate birthday party room, additional workshop offerings for families, older children and teens, a completely handicap accessibility, and a larger restroom facility complete with a changing table.
“This is our first business and we’ve enjoyed the community, so when we found ourselves needing additional space, we knew we absolutely wanted to remain in Maplewood and on Springfield Avenue,” said Anthony-Brown. “We’re pretty excited about the move,” added Rodney Brown.
“The past few years have been challenging times for small businesses, but Springfield Avenue has weathered the downturn pretty well,” noted Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, a Partnership board member. “We are happy to have new businesses expanding on and relocating to the Avenue. There is still more to do and more is being done. The good news is that business owners believe in the vitality of the Springfield Avenue shopping district. I urge all Maplewood residents to “look local first” when thinking about your purchases,” Mayor De Luca concluded.
Among the familiar faces in new spaces on Springfield Avenue you’ll find Elite Tutoring, relocated to 1877 Springfield Avenue (next to Express Yourself Studios). Top Hat & Tails moved down and across the Avenue in 2011 to 1856 Springfield Avenue. Owner Durand Howard moved his business from just beyond the special improvement district’s borders and recently celebrated his first anniversary at Blue Life Karate & Fitness Centers (1809 Springfield Avenue). “Edo” O’Bannon of Edo’s Cakes had been baking his custom confections in contracted space within the Springfield Avenue District but moved to the former Kari’s Café location at 1883 Springfield Avenue to better showcase his edible works of art. New World Catering moved from Maplewood Village to 1753 Springfield Avenue. And while Salon Fa is not relocating, owner Fatisha Hutchings has expanded at 1921 Springfield Avenue.
Diana Vitrano, district manager of Springfield Avenue Partnership, believes the combination of convenience, in the form of easy access and plentiful free parking, with an intriguing mix of businesses has a lot to do with the Avenue’s growing popularity not only with the local community but also with residents of nearby towns. The Partnership works to promote the business district and to help create a favorable environment for new businesses to locate and prosper.
For listings of available commercial properties, or for more information about Springfield Avenue Partnership and the programs and services it provides, visit the Partnership’s website, SpringfieldAvenue.com, or follow the district on Facebook (Facebook.com/SpringfieldAvenuePartnership).