METUCHEN – With the recent opening of Fresh Coast and the soon-to-be-opening of Menya Ramen House, downtown Metuchen is “rapidly becoming a regional destination with diverse food options” for the palate.
“Thirty businesses, or roughly one in four businesses [that have opened] downtown over the last four years, have been food-based,” said Isaac Kremer, executive director of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA).
And the momentum before the novel coronavirus pandemic is continuing. With Fresh Coast open and Menya opening this month, the MDA is working hard to help three more businesses open in the weeks ahead, he said.
Three years after opening its first location in Newark, Fresh Coast, formerly Ono Grinds Pokè, opened its second location on the Metuchen Plaza at 31 New St. on Aug. 1.
Fresh Coast opened its first location near Rutgers Newark, Audible and the Prudential Center in 2017. A third location is in the works inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford.
Founder Luis Valls-Amabile and co-founder Daniela Hoyos bring the experiences they had on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii in 2014.
“As huge foodies, we quickly discovered the local favorite dish – poke,” they said collectively on their website. “From the first bite, we became instantly hooked by the deep flavors of the fresh fish mixed with savory, spicy and sweet sauces and didn’t eat much else the rest of our stay.”
Fresh Coast is now a one stop shop for healthy living, offering “fast, fresh and delicious” coastal inspired bowls and smoothies.
“The MDA has been absolutely welcoming and truly amazing,” Hoyos said. “They have been in touch with us the whole time, have put us in touch with all their connections in town, have helped us out with amazing outside tables and even put us in touch with someone who is doing the door graphics.”
Menya Ramen House at 399 Main St. is anticipated to have a soft opening in mid-August and officially open Labor Day weekend. For owner Ryan Park, the opening of Menya has been an endeavor seven years in the making.
“I’ve always had a passion for ramen,” he said.
However, the ideal time and place did not come to fruition until May 2019. That’s when Park, with the help of a local Realtor, came across the former pizza location on Main Street near the Metuchen Train Station.
Park, with business partners Kevin Yoon and Michael Ko, worked with the MDA to settle on a ramen business after also considering bringing a sushi or Korean barbecue establishment to the downtown.
“Menya in Japanese means noodle house,” he said. “Since we’ll be making ramen plus a variety of noodles, it really seemed to fit the bill. Plus, the name itself is very simple and concise … just like our bowls.”
In fall 2019, Menya participated in a pop-up at another local business to test the consumer brand. Park said they received good feedback on the pop-ups.
He said with the network of people at MDA it was not necessary to hire a marketing company. And despite COVID-19 and wanting to open “yesterday,” Park said the help of MDA has expedited the opening process with needed permits.
Bruce Rasmussen of BJR Development based in Red Bank, who constructed Woodstack and NHT Global, is working on the finishing touches for Menya.
Kremer said the owners of Fresh Coast and Menya did the right things.
“They reached out early in the site location process, asked a lot of questions, and worked hard to learn the town and our customer base,” he said. “Menya did some really fun pop-ups at another local business last fall to test consumer demand. MDA provided Menya a design assistance to help their renovation as we’ve done for 41 other businesses to date. Fresh Coast received new tables for outside and advice on marketing from the alliance.”
Since MDA was founded in May 2016 more than 114 businesses have opened in downtown Metuchen.
For more information about the MDA, visit www.downtownmetuchen.org/. For more information about Fresh Coast, visit http://eatfreshcoast.com/. For more information about Menya Ramen House, visit www.facebook.com/menyaramenhouse/.