By Joshua Burd
More than a dozen new businesses opened in Flemington last year, helping to boost the borough’s retail scene as local leaders take a coordinated approach to economic development.
The municipality said that, of the 16 new retail operators to open in the past 12 months, 13 are exclusively local to the one-square-mile community. In announcing the milestone last week, borough officials cited the impact of a unified effort to support its businesses during the pandemic, which in turn helped spur new openings downtown and elsewhere.
“Our historic Central Jersey community swiftly adapted to new market conditions, pursuing an active, ‘open for business’ plan,” Mayor Betsy Driver said. “We continue to explore ideas of how to promote and support our local businesses, focusing on our many boutiques, cafes and other shops, and pursuing the larger, long-term, community-appropriate redevelopment and revitalization.”
Flemington’s momentum comes amid the borough’s new efforts to draw private development and community-focused investment to its historic downtown. The municipality recently hired Stantec, the global design and professional services firm, to spearhead the initiative and gather community input as part of a plan that will focus on new mixed-use development, local businesses and cultural programming.
In order to promote small business last year, Flemington helped provide signage, advertisements, visuals assets and promotions to assist customers in understanding when local businesses were open for online, curbside or walk-in business as restrictions changed, according to a news release. The strategy helped make the borough an attractive location for small businesses looking to open, according to Robin Lapidus, executive director of the Flemington Community Partnership.
“The pandemic renewed interest in shopping closer to home, required greater communication with business owners and awakened everyone to the absolute need to support local businesses or see them perish,” Lapidus said.
New or expanding businesses in the borough include:
- Men’s Barber Shop
- Nature’s EnerQi
- Stork’s NEST European Deli
- Theresa’s Café
- Dream Cakes
- Koros Wargames
- Premiere Waxing Boutique
- Stefanie’s Hair Salon
- 30 Mine, which moved into a new, larger location
- Act II, which moved into a new, larger location
- Echelon Studio, which moved into a new, larger location
- Action Bid or Buy
- Swing Set & Toy Warehouse
- Red Crab Juicy Seafood
- Lash Lounge
- Slim Chickens
- The Corner, which opened in January 2021
“We hope that the momentum of our community planning and constructive dialogue about the future will continue to attract neighbors and business owners desiring to build an equitable and creative community in Flemington Borough,” said Paul Marciano, chair of the FCP board. “We believe that our well-situated borough in the heart of central New Jersey, with our small-town feel, is ripe with opportunities to become a highly desirable walkable, authentic and beautiful historic place where many will want to live, work, play and create.”
The ongoing work by Stantec and borough officials is ongoing with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Economic Development Authority, which awarded the funds to spur investments under the federal Opportunity Zone program. The consulting team will present its findings in March.
“We are going through a dramatic shift,” said Jeff Sauser, senior associate and urban planner at Stantec. “Singles and couples without children will make up the majority of new homeowners. They’ll be looking to settle in communities that are walkable, with downtowns that offer amenities such as coffee shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes.”
This planning initiative is being led by Flemington’s mayor and council, the FCP, the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce and the Hunterdon County Office of Economic Development.