Happy New Year! 2008 is off like a rocket as it’s been another record-breaking week for Rahway Rising. Everyone here (read: me) is thrilled and just trying to keep up. The blog poll has reached new heights yet again, a marked 25-percent increase in the number of votes cast from the last poll, jumping from 20 to 25 (Assuming everyone voted once and did not stuff the virtual ballot box, which wouldn’t be hard to do, but would impugn one’s voting integrity). On to the results…
“What would you like to see downtown?”
Grocery/specialty food store 44% (11/25)
Brewpub-style bar/restaurant 32% (8/25)
Coffeehouse/bagel shop 20% (5/25)
Other 4% (1/25)
Clothing 0% (0/25)
While none of the options garnered a majority, surprisingly (at least to me), there appeared a clear winner in grocery/specialty food store, a decisive 12 percent more than brewpub-style bar/restaurant. Poll results also might indicate that I was running low on options after that. The showing from “Clothing” was embarrassing, and might very well be banned from any future polls indefinitely, and “Other” was there in hopes that readers might get a little crazy with the comments section and go outside the box. To be fair, I think everyone’s got their fill of the Gap or comparable options at nearby malls or neighboring downtowns.
As for grocery/specialty food store, I know there’ s no room for a giant supermarket downtown, but there’s been talk of a Trader Joe’s-type store for the proposed Town Center project at City Hall. There are a few bodegas or glorified convenience stores, but apparently poll readers want another option when it comes to groceries.
Coffeehouse/bagel shop had a more than respectable 20-percent contingent, but judging from my conversations with people who live or are familiar with downtown, I expected it to challenge brewpub for the top spot. If there’s one takeaway in those discussions, it’s that a coffeehouse/bagel shop/coffee shop/cafe should be a gold mine downtown, or Rahway at least should be able to support more options. Never mind that you can’t find a decent bagel anywhere near downtown.
A coffeehouse might also address another complaint/concern common about downtown: there are just not many options when you’re out getting your Sunday paper. Is it that there isn’t enough foot traffic to support such an enterprise, or is it that the option isn’t there, and thus, foot traffic doesn’t follow (a.k.a., The old chicken or the egg)? If recent experience is any indication, perhaps it’s that the foot traffic isn’t here yet.
Moca Motion Cafe, in the train station, is a prime location but has been vacant for months (or is it already a year?). NJ Transit holds the lease on the space, which is perhaps too big if it’s only going to be a commuter coffee joint as opposed to a lounge/cafe. Reggie’s Roast (Main Street, at the end of East Cherry), was new, clean and pretty, but no one was ever in there (and it was more of a wholesale operation anyway, with the city pushing for the retail aspect). American Jubilee (89 E. Cherry, now an art gallery) was an absolute delight. More of a bakery/dessert place, it had the cozy vibe that many coffeehouses aim for (and brownies to die for), but one reason might have been that it could barely seat a dozen people. Both have been gone a few years already. Personally, I think the best coffee place was the old Eat To the Beat Cafe when it was on the corner of East Cherry and Irving (where The Lofts are), before it moved further in on East Cherry and changed its name to Beat Cafe (where A Taste of Portugal bakery and cafe is now). Taste is a good start, but with hundreds of new residences — and more coming — one would think downtown could support more options. What do you think?
Now that I’ve got my coffeehouse rant, there’s not much room for my brewpub/restaurant rant. I’ll save it for another time; stay tuned later in the week for Part II on the poll results.