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SMALL-TOWN RETAIL SUCCESS STORIES In Denville, town rallied behind recovery from flood

The Heritage Grill is just one of many outdoor eating options in Denville.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

How can a drive-through town sandwiched among Parsippany Troy-Hills, Morristown and Dover officially put its “Hub of Morris County” title to good use?

By rising from disaster to be one of the only towns for miles with an up-and-running downtown area.

When Hurricane Irene wiped out just about all of Broadway with 4 feet of water, Denville’s business district became a major priority.

“People love our downtown,” said Mayor Thomas Andes, who took office in January 2012. “That’s where we go, meet, have our parades, block parties, events, and these are the shopkeepers that support all of our organizations in town, like Little League and tricky trays.”

Having been on the township council for 12 years and a resident for 30, Andes credits the 16,000 Denville residents with rallying around the businesses to help them start again.

After raising more than $500,000 in donations via a town committee, businesses were able to open and gross $190,000 during the “Denville Up and Running” 5K and band concert in October 2011.

SMALL-TOWN RETAIL SUCCESS STORIES: How Denville does it (and Collingswood, Lambertville and others across the state)

But that’s not all. Not only did Hurricane Irene force businesses to put money into their storefronts, but it also enabled Denville to build a plethora of parking lots.

“We lost two out of three parking meters and don’t intend to replace them,” Andes said.

Though Denville is a New Jersey Transit stop with service to Hoboken and New York Penn Station, the downtown is still about a mile away from the station — and therefore still mostly patronized by drive-through visitors.

Melissa Cooke, president of the Denville Chamber of Commerce, believes the additional free parking now makes Denville that much more attractive to surrounding towns.

“We’re a ‘park once and play’ kind of town, with everything contained in just a few blocks,” Cooke said.

Meg Fry

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