BRICK – Mom and pop stores are fading away in town, making way for larger box stores and well-known chains, which is a national trend, said Brick’s Zoning Officer Christopher J. Romano.
Another national trend is, with many people shopping online, there has been a big shift in the types of stores that are opening, such as restaurants, hair and nail salons, medical and dental care, fitness, and other kinds of things that cannot be bought online.
The township has seen an increase in new business construction, and many former stores are being reconfigured, including several locations at Brick Plaza, which is owned by Federal Realty.
“They have plans for all the spots; they’re doing interior demos and preparing for new tenants,” Romano said from his office in the municipal complex recently.
Romano, 39, who was formerly the township’s zoning clerk, has taken over for his former boss, Sean Kinnevy, who retired in January after serving as the zoning officer for some 40 years.
At Brick Plaza, the former Ethan Allen furniture store and the former Bon-Ton department store are being reconfigured for new retail shops and restaurants, and there has been a lot of interest in the spaces, Romano said.
LA Fitness opened at the site of the former Sports Authority about a month ago after some 30 feet of the building was demolished to make way for more parking.
Rumors of a new ShopRite opening at the site of the former Pathmark at the Laurel Square Shopping Center are just that – rumors, Romano said.
“I heard that there were inquiries, that ShopRite was looking into the location, but there have been no applications, nothing has come through,” he said.
Brick passed a new ordinance in June 2017 that would allow microbreweries to open in the township, but so far there have been no applications for one.
The ordinance would permit a business to brew and sell malt alcoholic beverages in limited quantities which could only be consumed on the premises and only in connection with a tour of the brewery.
“We’d like to see that in town, an up and coming business. It adds a nice, younger, hip feel to the town,” Romano said. “It’s an interesting business.”
A new bagel store – Joe’s Bagels – recently opened in the Town Hall Shopping center, and a new White Castle is under construction near the Outback Steakhouse, and they’re looking to open on March 22.
Blue Nile Mediterranean Grill has permits in place to open at the site of the former Puerto Rican restaurant, Wepa Quenepa, which closed after just a few months at their location at The Shoppes at New Visions (located behind the post office on Chambers Bridge Road).
502 Bakery also has permits to open a new Bakery at 502 Brick Blvd., located across the road from Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Trinity Rehab will be taking over the whole building that housed Radio Shack on Brick Boulevard, but Romano said an opening date has not been set.
In a phone call, Mayor John G. Ducey confirmed some of the businesses opening at Brick Plaza, including Gravity Vault – opening at the site of the former Mansion nightclub – which would feature a rock-climbing wall that will make part of the building the second tallest in Brick, just after Brick Hospital.
Meemom’s Kitchen has signed a lease and will take over a storefront next to Home Goods, and J-Petal Ice Cream plan to be open in May when they take over the spot formerly occupied by Colorbar, located between Ikko and Gravity Vault.
“There is a whole boardwalk area planned for the area between J-Petal and Applebees,” Ducey said. “It will be made from (composite decking) and will have outdoor seating and a stage so choirs and bands can perform there,” he said.
Developers hope to make Brick Plaza not only a place to shop, but also a destination, officials said.
There have been 21 new businesses taking advantage of an ordinance designed to fill pre-existing empty storefronts by eliminating township permitting fees, officials said.
The “Empty Storefront Revitalization Program,” first passed in September 2015, expired on December 31, 2018. Ducey said the Land Use Committee would be looking at the results and would making a recommendation if the ordinance should be renewed.
The program was designed for storefronts that are under 5,000 square feet and have been vacant for at least a year, and waives township-controlled fees for startup businesses, such as permit and inspection fees.