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Opinion: The Main Street Blues

A commentary on Main Street Moorestown—the past, present and (possible) future.

People erroneously assume I have some sort of political acumen because I write a crabby column that sometimes touches on the tortures of the local political scene.

I do not have any insider info.

Because I’m so “outside” with my opinions, I sometimes get interesting emails from fans and/or enemies, asking me about whether a certain threesome are planning on running for town council again.

As if they would tell me!

At this point, I can only speculate Mayor Button is not going to run again. Otherwise, why would he have appointed Mike Testa and Kevin Loftus to the Open Space Committee? Neither of those fine, sports-oriented gentlemen has ever shown an interest in using Open Space funds for anything other than , now cleverly called the “Field Upgrade Project.” Or is it the “The Fields of Plastic Initiative"? “The Plastic Fields Forever or 10 Years, Whichever Comes First” project?

Whatever it is now being called, it’s the same old same old in Mo’town, and people are so tired of it they’ve crawled into their flannel duvets and they’re not coming out until spring. Ditto with the town hall/library project. The wheels of local politics turn very slowly people, but rest assured! In about 10 years, we’ll have a huge town hall and a booth with a fabulous collection of five James Patterson books. The rest will be stored in a Mack-Cali warehouse out on Church Road.

People often grouse about the smell in the, but I haven’t heard one complaint about that other smelly entity in town, . It, too, has a distinct aroma that clings to your clothing and follows you from the premises. Of course, now that any size coffee is a buck, I can barely control myself from stopping in two, three, four times a day for a java fix and that cloak of Wawa funk I wear when I leave. It is very difficult to explain the name Wawa to interlopers from beyond the Delaware Valley. It sounds incoherent, almost infantile. Other regions have Stop-n-Go or Krauzer’s. We have Wawa.

Yes, Virginia, we also have —two of them, in fact. But they are both shady, dismal places of desperation and Slurpees. Wawa is the ad hoc town hall—a place where you’re bound to run into at least three people you know for every 10 seconds you spend in the ATM queue.

Was anyone surprised when un- and moseyed out of town? The kiss of death came several years back when another opened near the mall. It was shiny and new and, unlike its Main Street brethren, it was actually clean! I know, I know—I’m strange. I happen to like a clean restaurant, which is why I never went to our now defunct Friendly’s, except in the case of an extreme ice cream cone craving when the Maple Shade Custard Stand was deemed too far away for a quick fix. I DO feel sorry all those people lost their jobs, but they never seemed very happy to be there anyway. And as we who have waited tables know, if you’re crabby, your pockets will be crabby too.

Another place I steer clear of is the . Not because it’s dirty, but because I cannot resist the lure of a hot, soft, inexpensive pretzel. I’ve never been able to figure out the allure of street pretzels in Philly. Hard as a boot and ice-cold, I have only bought them once or twice when overcome with sympathy for anyone forced to make their living that way. How did we ever do classroom birthday parties before The Pretzel Factory came to town? With all the food allergies and dietary restrictions, hot pretzels are the only safe bet for classroom galas. Oops! I forgot about the gluten sensitivity thing. Maybe kids should just go back to chewing on pencils.

Nellie Bly’s Ice Cream Parlor was also a Main Street food casualty, as was . Although I heard the burgers were great at Maxx’s, I also heard they were very expensive. When I go out to eat, I’m not looking for a pricey burger, nor am I looking for a chicken. Chicken is a home-cooked meal, or a quick $4.99 rotisserie grab at Wegman’s. So despite the fact that  looks cozy with its fireplace, I will probably never stop in for a quick drumstick or thigh.

It’s been gone for years, but I still miss the Bakery. I miss the smell of sugar cookies that would waft onto Main Street when the front door was thrown open. I miss the apple cider doughnuts in autumn and the caramel-walnut apple pie that was perfect anytime. Every Main Street needs a bakery, and although we have the and her fabulous tarts, it’s just not the same.

I sympathize with the shopkeepers on Main Street. Town council has been so obsessed with playing fields, booze and the town hall complex, that the . And when in the world is somebody going to do something with the little Acme building? I wish we could lure Trader Joe’s to Mo’town so I could stop making that torturous drive out to Marlton. The SmAcme would be the perfect spot for TJ’s to stake a claim. Of course, then we’d have to deal with a surge of traffic in an area that is almost impassible at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Perhaps one of Obama’s secret prisons would be a good fit in that empty locale. They could keep the black and white decals of frolicking children on the windows for the perfect cover-up. No increased traffic for a secret prison!

None of us moved to Moorestown for its cute ‘lil Main Street, but wouldn’t it be loverly if our main drag were a destination instead of a drive-by?

S. H. R. January 30, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Marsia Mason - wow, you hit it out of the ball park. Right on with our beloved Mayor Button. Can't understand why he wants to raise our taxes with reassessment and now we hear on main street he is moving out for some seashore resort in New England. I am sure he sees the writing on the wall with property tax increases in an election year, " Gotta get our of Dodge quick. "
S. H. R. January 30, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Main Street. It's time has come to pass. A new paradigm has come. It is called Moorestown Mall, Cherry Hill Mall, East Gate, Centerton. How can you ask people to pile down a congested street pass dental offices, law offices, churches, and think, " I am gonna shop here. " Wow..... how can Main Street complete from on outdated worn out business model that is post menopausal? After 200 years, she's worn out.
diehardrep January 30, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Gee Marcia, is there anything nice you would like to say about life here in Moorestown? Is there anything positive about our business district, our government, or our sports organizations, or do you just like reading your own sarcastic wit on this blog?
Pete January 30, 2012 at 04:05 PM
In 12 paragraphs, you've managed to stir the emotions of thousands of people - good for you. At least it gets people thinking....... Yes, every town needs a GOOD bakery, and that's why Peter Pan closed. They had only one or two good products. Their Danish buns were horrible. I've gone to small town bakeries in the back-waters of Mexico and tasted a better selection of better quality items than PP ever produced. When my wife asked me to go to PP for something, I would take the 2x20 minute drive to L&M in Delran/Riverside instead - she would comment on how good the items were. I never told her the truth.........
Lynne Winfrey January 30, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I was thinking the same thing after a recent outing to Collingswood. What a lively, lighted place full of new businesses and PEOPLE out enjoying them. Then I drove back through the dismal Moorestown business district. Main Street could be great but it takes a forward thinking business friendly environment. Collingswood is a shining example.
margie gorman January 30, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Folks, part of the challenge is the "physical plant." Our Main Street is one-sided, with schools, Community House, Church, bank and other non-retail entities along one side.They're all great, but they don't make for a shopping/strolling experience. We just don't have the critical mass of shops/restaurants. Collingswood and Haddonfield have a lot more opportunities and they have built critical mass. When there's only a handful of spots, people just aren't drawn in. Could it happen here? Sure. But it will take some daring on the part of new retailers and cafes. If there were enough enticing offerings, the people would patronize the businesses. Pie Lady is always bustling.
Our Town January 30, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Here, here. On a trip back from the airport, my family and I decided to stop off in Collingswood for a quick dinner having not been there for at least a year or so. What a surprise, people milling about, a holiday parade with actual street decorations and lights. Most of the stores, if not closed for the evening, at least looked occupied. Then we took the drive home. The author mentions the declining health, but I contend that our Main St. is on life support and perhaps it's best to pull the plug. Even 'downtown' Maple Shade with it's dastardly liquor store shines in comparison. Main St...Acme blight, weeds, empty shops, a collection of forgettable restaurants, and a town council seemingly ambivalent to economic revival unless it includes the words 'Mall' or 'Liquor' or the moniker 'PREIT'. Seems the toen leadership is content to sum up Main Street's problems with the simplistic phrase, 'parking problems', problems no one seems to have a problem with except for an ineffective council with no vision for or town center. Our 'competition' has always been Haddonfield but as both towns stare each other down into the abyss of suburban decay, we never even saw Maple Shade, Westmont, and Collingswood zip on by.
Our Town January 30, 2012 at 09:07 PM
It's been mentioned before, the leadership could be doing a lot more than offering discounted water and sewer hook ups to entice business. Does Main Street have the best layout? Certainly not, but how about carving out a few thousand from the millions to be spent on town hall to provide for decent, low maintenance, sustainable plantings and holiday decorations. Collingswood's lighting display for the season was stunning in comparison even with it's simplicity. I've mentioned that perhaps the town could offer a first year if business without taxes to entice new businesses and allow them some breathing room to gain momentum. I was criticized for that idea being told it was unfair to existing businesses. Maybe so, but as said, we need to think bold. More occupancy means more traffic, more traffic is a benefit to all Main Street businesses. The town desperately needs an experienced revitalization team that can press issues and offer fresh ideas, attract businesses and force owners of blighted locations to clean up their act or face fines. Acme comes to mind foremost as an example of needless neglect, yet we tolerate it.
Under the Bus January 30, 2012 at 09:42 PM
give the crabby one a break she couldnt get anyone to comment on her last two lame articles so she went on the attack again
TD January 30, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Is there anyone on here that wants to be a part of a Moorestown Main Street revival of sorts? I've had a few ideas for years to add to the Main Street concept to invigorate and bring back to life a dying past. Is there a group out there I am unaware of? New properties seem to keep popping up and I am ready to take one on. It can be done. We need people from the town actually owning and operating stores vs. random people from the outside looking to make easy $ and put in no effort. Thoughts?
Townie January 30, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Margie....where would we put all the cars once critical mass is achieved? Some of haddonfield and collingswood success is timing, and a lot of collingswood is personal greed (decision makers made a lot of money on real estate). I agree that current leadership seems intent on spending money on questionable things. The plastic fields are a joke. We should get agreements from the open space committee they can't leave town...ever! The sporting under-current in this town is oddly entertaining. So much energy on games, so little focus on what's important. Nobody ever bought a house because of a field unless it was in the back yard and they didn't want houses on it.
Glenn Formont January 31, 2012 at 03:02 AM
@pete Perhaps you are talking about the wrong bakery. I patronized Peter Pan since they were on Chester Avenue until they closed. They were the finest bakery in South Jersey. Fresh baked with no preservatives and artificial ingredients. I've had many products from L&M and they don't rate anywhere near what Peter Pan had to offer. Maybe you'd be better suited to shop at L&m and stop talking crap about a great business that you didn't happen to like. Perhaps they didn't like you either. Go move to Delran, you certainly don't belong in M'town with your negative attitude.
Victoria Hanson Santillo January 31, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I grew up in Moorestown...I have fond memories of hanging out and shopping on Main street. We had Friday night dances at the Moorestown Rec Center...Super Soundz was the DJ. The old newspaper/office supply store/art store next to the old bike store was the place to buy fun pencils in middle school. I was never a big fan of Peter Pan's bakery but yes it was a staple of main street. Swimming at the community center and eating with all of our friends at the Friendly's on main street, getting slurpees at 7-Eleven. Buying shoes at Carl's. Please don't forget about sledding at Stokes Hill. Yes those were the good old days. Now i go out of my way to visit Passarella's for some good tomatoe pie and stop the Pretzel Factory for Hot Outta the Oven Pretzels. You are right main street has changed a lot as do most downtown main streets. One day it will thrive again.
Marcy January 31, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I agree Victoria. Our main street has changed but that doesn't mean it can't be great again. If the negative people would stop complaining and start doing something like the Live Civilly campaign is all about, that would be a great start. Before Passariello's came to town, you couldn't even get a slice of pizza. Now we have choices for breakfast, pizza, chinese and italian food. Maybe Friends School will do something about our little acme too. Wouldn't that be awesome! MM, I know you work at the library so I am interested in what your opinion is of the new library design. I hope the children's area will be improved and our kids can breathe safely.
Pete February 01, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Glenn. We are all entitled to our own opinions, are we not? That would mean that your opinion is also “talking crap”. And, talking crap about L&M would thus also qualify as a negative attitude from you. Just because PP had tasteless Danish, I have to leave town?
Mark Schneider February 02, 2012 at 06:40 PM
You know there used to be a saying, if you can't say something nice about someone you shouldn't say it at all. Everyone of those businesses on Main Street is there because they felt it would generate income and they could make a living doing so, they took risks, they have invested in those businesses and they need our support. As far as the old ACME, well Trader Joe's won't move into Moorestown for it doesn't fit their model and realistically the owners of the old ACME have the right to do with it what they want. It is owned by Moorestown Friends School. And when it comes to the government, well Main Street is a top priority...that is why they wanted to hire someone to pool the businesses and land lords together to make changes which will help attract excitement and more business on mainstreet. Everyone said no to the $50k investment....yet those who volenteer their time to focus on things like main street recommended it. Boy would I love seeing an opinion page written by someone who spent the time truly understanding what is going on with main street and generating the improvements and/or excitement necessary to impliment the changes required to really help generate business for those who have taken the risk and have invested their livelihood by running a business on main street.
Carla McIlmail February 05, 2012 at 02:19 AM
OK...went to Peter Pan bakery one time for a baptism sheet cake that turned out horrible and I never returned so I do not miss it. Love the pretzel place and also only went to Friendly's once and everyone was grumpy and never went back. Nellie Bly's was terribly expensive and could never compete with Maple Shade Custard Hut. I grew up in Collingswood and I love watching the wonderful things that are going on in my hometown. I have not noticed the WaWa aroma, but look forward to taking a sniff next time I stroll in there! You are a PIP Marsia. Love how you stir up all the "don't say anything bad" Moorestownians.

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