Poll results: What do you want to see downtown?

The results of our latest poll are in:

What type of store would you like downtown?

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Of the 134 votes cast, the top two choices grabbed more than half of all the votes: grocery store (29 percent) and bakery/bread/bagel (24 percent). No surprise given the constant call for a grocery story downtown as well as the woeful lack of bagel options in Rahway. It’s a shame the latest effort to bring a coffee shop/cafe to downtown didn’t work but perhaps they’ll be back.

A couple of years ago when we had a poll about specifically what grocery store readers would like to see, the vast majority backed a Trader Joe’s. But really, that’s a longshot at best, as are most major brand supermarkets. After all, there are ShopRite stores in neighboring towns only a 10- to 15-minute drive away, a Wegman’s not much farther in Woodbridge, and a Whole Foods planned in nearby Metuchen. But there’s also the issue of having a large enough piece of land around downtown to develop a decent-sized supermarket (which I’m not sure there is). Funny thing is Rahway used to be home to some nine supermarkets although years ago supermarkets were a fraction of the size most are today.

982aa-img_1088The best part about these polls is the reader discussions that start as a result. Several readers suggested creating a co-op market, pointing to the ground-floor retail of the Carriage City Plaza building for a potential marketplace, like Phoenicia. or Vineland’s Landis Marketplace. Interesting idea though it’s unclear what Carriage City’s owners plan to do with that retail space since most of it routinely vacant — despite 200+ residents above — plus, would people shop at a store/marketplace if they have to pay to use the parking deck? But hey, if a group of citizens wants to get a co-op together, why not go for it? No reason to wait around for the city or a commercial landlord to do something.

The last time we asked this poll question (I can’t believe it’s been almost three years!), results were somewhat similar, with specialty food store coming out on top (23 percent), followed closely by bakery (21 percent), but coffee shop not far behind (16 percent).

The addition of almost 1,000 housing units downtown in the last 12 years or so is part of the city’s plan to be able to generate enough foot traffic to support retail but it hasn’t quite happened just yet. Perhaps the expanded SID, and accompanying increased budget, might provide some more effort to recruit and retain businesses.

I’m taking suggestions if you have any for our next poll.

7 thoughts on “Poll results: What do you want to see downtown?”

  1. I don’t think a full size supermarket is necessary. It would be nice if there was a little market where people can run to pick up a few staple items. Rahway Farm is a place where I go often however, I would love it if a place like that could offer more items such as meat. There’s a place in Kenilworth on the Boulevard, it’s a small market that offers a variety of items. I wouldn’t go there for regular food shopping but, it’s a convenient place for residents to grab a few things if they don’t want to deal with a large supermarket.

    1. I fully agree. I used to think a large market would be a good thing in Rahway but, with so many high quality ones within a few minutes drive and more on the way, it really isn’t that necessary. I’d like to see a small market also, but one with more inventory than Rahway Farm (which, I’m inevitably disappointed in). CVS/Walgreens on St. Georges are both ok for emergency supplies (milk, bread, etc.) but having a market where fresh meats/seafood/poultry, better produce and bakery options were available would certainly fill a niche.

  2. had a bagel/coffee shop downtown, did not last a year. I think it’s more than just adding more downtown business. Rahway has several fine downtown Bar/restaurants but even on Saturday nights one can walk in and have a seat at either the bar or at a table, yet just a few minutes down or up route one there is a waiting line at every Bar/restaurant. Why, I think a big part of it is parking. All the route one establishments provide safe, convenient free parking, not so for downtown.

    1. As a retired high school Biology teacher, I have no prior experience in planning, writing grants, or city budgets, but I am a citizen of Rahway who would love to see the downtown area be all it can be. Over the past 30 years I’ve watched businesses come and go, and most of them were, in my opinion, doomed from the start as they offered materials or services that did not appeal to the average person. That being said, there is one aspect of the effort to resurrect downtown that I believe we can do something about and that is to make Main, Irving and their intersecting streets more appealing. Unfortunately it requires funding, and that is where someone more versed that I in locating that funding will have to pick up that ball and run with it. Rahway must attract businesses, but there are plenty of towns in the area where they can rent turn-key spaces with appealing facades on sidewalks lined with plantings, benches, etc. A facade theme on each street would render a mall-like uniformity, clean lines, and modernity to downtown. Whether the term “mall-like uniformity” appeals to you or makes your skin crawl, it would make downtown look clean and bright and new – in short, someplace where you’d like to walk, have dinner, and spend money. Yes we need businesses to rent empty spaces, but we need to make downtown’s streets into a place that someone wants to rent, and whee people want to be. Secure funding for facades, benches, plantings, and other trappings of a successful location and success will follow.

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