Metuchen officials hear update on Main Street


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Staff Writer

METUCHEN — The Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA) is off to a good start.

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The alliance’s new executive director, Isaac Kremer, gave Mayor Peter Cammarano and the Borough Council a “Main Street Minute” at a Council meeting on Oct. 4. He provided an update on what happened last month, the start of this month and some of the things to expect in the near future.

“What I care about is a great return on investments so when you look at something like the downtown alliance (MDA), we are looking at every dollar and how we can stretch that and really have an impact and be helpful and supportive [in creating] the most viable downtown as possible,” he said.

Kremer said that the big news last month was the hiring of himself as the executive director, and he thanked everyone for their hospitality as he moved his family from Middlesboro, Kentucky, to the borough.

After three months of reviewing more than 100 résumés and narrowing the selection to four finalists, the search committee, led by MDA board members Jan Margolis and Councilwoman Allison Inserro, announced the hiring of Kremer in September. He was previously the executive director of Discover Downtown Middlesboro, where he had been for four years.

“I have over 20 years of experience,” he said. “I did every role. I started at a farmer’s market and worked with hundreds and thousands of volunteers.”

Kremer said last month they also had a very successful Minecraft open-play event held at “What’s the Scoop” on Sept. 23.

“Apparently [the kids] had a great time,” he said. “It was also enough time for me to figure out what Minecraft is.”

A new refined logo appears in the window of the MDA office at the Forum Theater, 316 Main St., and the downtown welcomed new businesses including Salsa Latina restaurant and What’s New Men’s Consignment store.

Kremer noted he had purchased the tie he was wearing from the new consignment store.

On Oct. 7, the Mt. Zion Lodge No. 135 of Free and Accepted Masons and the MDA held their inaugural “Metuchen Pizza Throwdown” celebrating the seven pizzerias in the borough.

The inaugural event was held in hopes to showcase all of the local pizzerias — D’Novo, Buon Appetito, Mangia Toscano, Joey D’s, Antonio’s, La Rosa and What’s the Scoop — while raising money for local charities.

The new executive director said in the coming weeks, he will continue to meet with everyone, including businesses and civic groups.

Inserro said she and her fellow council members were interested in Kremer’s work in Long Island, New York, where he led the restoration of Theodore Roosevelt’s hometown of Oyster Bay on Long Island.

This resulted in more than a dozen building renovation projects. Most notable was the $2.5 million restoration of the 1854 Octagon Hotel where Roosevelt campaigned for governor.

While there he organized one of the first Better Block projects in the United States, working with residents to make low-cost changes to demonstrate the potential for long-term change. Famed musician and singer Billy Joel was among the participants in that project.

“We also have a famous singer whose first name starts with ‘B’ (Bruce Springsteen),” she said adding that perhaps Kremer could reach out to Springsteen’s camp.

During the holiday season, the MDA plans to light up the downtown area and promote and celebrate small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Kremer added that the economic vitality committee is in the process of a market analysis of the downtown to provide a guide and opportunity for people who want to start businesses in the town.

The MDA operates independently as a nonprofit 501c3 organization formed under the auspices of Main Street, NJ, part of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, sponsoring Main Street America.

The district area, which consists of only commercial businesses and/or commercial businesses with residential units, includes the Metuchen SportsPlex on Durham Avenue down Middlesex Avenue with the new development to Main Street and Amboy Avenue.

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