Aside from improving roadways, sidewalks and storefronts, small-business owners located on Hackensack’s Main Street think the city’s latest redevelopment plan should also put a focus on residential projects.
“A 50-year old woman spoke up last night (at a City Council meeting) and said, ‘I remember Hackensack when you couldn’t walk down Main Street on a Saturday,’ ” said Brother’s Carpet & Flooring co-owner George Venarchik. “We have one- or two-story walkups, but they’re not up to caliber of apartment buildings, and it’s no secret that we have empty stores and that landlords are hurting. This plan needs to bring in an influx of people.”
According to Robert Freeman, owner of General Poor’s Tavern, recent layoffs at the Bergen County Superior Court and several vacant buildings and lots at the lower end of Main Street have put his decade-long competitors out of business, and now he’s struggling to avoid the same fate.
“There’s been no new construction since the courthouse was built, and half of that building is empty now. When people are getting laid off, no one comes out for lunch,” he said.
Freeman also noted that a lack of parking keeps people from visiting his restaurant and bar at night, so he’s waiting to see if the multiple empty lots which once housed companies adjacent to his business will be transformed into parking lots.
“There’s a little parking lot in the back, but you mostly have to park on the street,” Freeman said. “If street parking fills up, there’s no place to park at night. So then people will go to the Riverside Square Mall or up to the four restaurants on upper Main Street.”
According to Barbara Saunders-Adams, owner of Factory Frames & Gallery LLC, on upper Main Street, the redevelopment area — which encompasses 389 properties — already has a significant number of residents, but there is no variety of businesses to keep them on Main Street.
Her daughter and business partner, Kay Adams, said she hopes the redeveloped Main Street will model Englewood’s Palisade Avenue, which has spacious sidewalks, a two-way road, parking and eye-catching signage to draw people to shop.
“Businesses around here don’t get credit or customers, because everyone’s running to the mall on Saturdays,” she said. “Even with us, people will say they didn’t know our store was an art gallery until they came in.”
According to Venarchik, the redevelopment plan will focus on attracting a variety of businesses to the area and helping existing businesses bring in more customers.
“I was visiting a little town like Hackensack outside of Chicago, and it had a Barnes & Noble and little squares for people to hang out,” Venarchik said. “If we can get the people that live here to come out and stay here — going to the movies or seeing a play and then being in the restaurants, drawing a destination crowd — there’s a lot of potential for growth that we can all benefit from.”