Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Little Bit of This; A Little Bit of That

So the long weekend started a little slow, inspiration wise.

"Sir Guy By The Canal" rightfully pointed out that there are things out there to write about and they're not all doom and gloom, "look how the regime is messing with the peasants" topics.

A stroll through town on such a beautiful afternoon brought us to West State Street and the restored "Roebling Mansion," now home to the New Jersey League of Municipalities. Although not the most elaborate or elegant of the proud collective of manses which once huddled along that stretch of road, it's good to see this link to Trenton's past saved and put to use. Nice to know the efforts of the Historical Society and other concerned citizens were able to prevent the building's demolition.

Walking by the Roebling Mansion reminds one of the deep, two way connection between John A. Roebling and Sons and the Trenton community. What was good for one, was good for the other.

But Roebling is gone now. Swallowed up and then, ultimately, shut down by a larger, national corporation. The same story can be told of our once booming rubber industry and our world class porcelain manufacturers.

Now we're seeing a second wave of closures and relocations. As noted previously, landmark food based businesses are shutting down and/or moving out (Michelle Lorie's, Marsilios, Sal De Forte's, Tattoni's, etc.) There is a license transfer for Cesare's Cafe on this week's City Council docket. But it's not just restaurants and such that we're losing.

While running errands the other day, it was noted that Broad Street Hardware is on the market. No doubt the location of three Home Depot's and two Lowe's in suburban Mercer County have cut into sales at locally owned Hardware Stores such as this. But the loss is another sign of the City's declining economic health.

Saving our local businesses is just as important as saving our historic buildings. They are an integral part of the fabric of the City. They contribute not only to the local economy but to that all important sense of place.

When these small businesses close or move, employment opportunities and ratables leave town with them. So think twice before you spend that dollar out of town. The job you save might ultimately help save this city.


guy by the canal said...

Congratulations on maintaining a positive outlook for three paragraphs. Being a lovable curmudgeon is hard work, but someone has to do it!
I would comment as someone who’s grew up in the restaurant business that Trenton has had a fortunate run of family owned restaurants. These types of restaurants tend to be generational, lasting a best through the kids and rarely past the grandkids. The restaurant business is such tough work that it’s long been the province of immigrant families. Successful restaurant owners (a small fraction of those who actually open a restaurant) often sow the seeds of their own demise. Since the kids have the option of doing something other than spend 6-7 days a week on their feet, they take it. This accounts for part of turnover in Trenton. Also there is the well-documented change in the ethnic composition of the city. I would hope that soon Trenton could be known as having great Central American restaurants as well as those Italian ones that chose to remain. Would they be successful? Well the example of IP Bakery turning over to Guate Pan (excuse the spelling), which I hear is doing a booming business, is a positive development. Unfortunately the fear factor, (whether deserved or not) has played a role in driving away the customer base for some of the well known departures from Trenton although it’s not clear to me how much attempt was made to encourage new business from the area for some of these establishments. I would agree that those who decry the slow slide in the business climate in Trenton have to ask themselves how much do they shop or eat in town. Spend locally and the money stays in the city.

Old Mill Hill said...

That’s a very good observation about the restaurant business and not without its validity.

I would, lovingly, counter that the businesses cited in the commentary were currently being run by the first or second generation owners. Some have stated directly to me that they would stay except for the drop off of in business.

And that is really the bottom line. Residents with "disposable income" are choosing to dispose of it elsewhere and visitors are loathe to come into the City out of fear.

Where the food service industry was probably the last strong link in our local economy, chains and suburban locations with ample parking have taken a toll. For my tastes, a city with a flourishing, multi-ethnic, multi-price point food scene is a worthy goal. Mono-culture is not good in any form.

But the same applies to the stores, shops and galleries. If we want our city to succeed, we must support them as much as possible.