The change is coming.
I have been on Central Avenue, the heart of the shopping district, in Jersey City Heights since 2005.
I have seen many businesses quickly come and go, and some others close after a long, steady run. Over the past 11 years there have been many empty stores and no new businesses taking their place. But, like slow rising waves, continually lapping at the shore, they are growing and the big one is on the horizon.
I can finally see the neighborhood recovering from the bad years, and some well-known businesses are bringing their wares to the Heights.
At 942 Summit Avenue (corner of Zybriski), we already have both Choc O’Pain (also in downtown Jersey City and Hoboken) and Bloomsbury Square. This is a great idea in complementary businesses, helping each other through a co-op space.
On Central Avenue, opening soon are: Wonder Bagels (multiple locations in Jersey City and Bayonne); Dolce De Leche (also on Bergenline Avenue); JuicePlant (next to Wonder Bagels); A Little Gelato (next to Renato’s) and on two corners of Congress Street we finally see renovation after seeing empty spaces for several years.
On Palisade Avenue and Congress Street, we have a new coffee bar called Congress Station, and the restaurant across the street from them, Fox & Crow, has renovated its outside, painting it colorfully to attract eyes. Up Congress Street we have the newly renovated Corkscrew Bar.
What is driving all these changes?
We know that when we draw people to events, both inside at restaurants and outside for concerts or markets, paired with a variety of food trucks, we’re building a better, more connected community. We invite our friends and neighbors who may become residents and become consumers, frequenting the stores.
This will keep happening as one new business opens after another. The problem before was that although new stores would open, their types of business weren’t of interest to the public. (How many $.99 stores do we need?)
Why do some businesses do well and others fail?
When a neighborhood is changing, it’s important that new businesses open to draw customers. This is a simple concept, but many new businesses think they will succeed, yet don’t. A good example, and a dying breed, is the video rental store. This business was never going to work. They are trying to sell a product to people who have already moved beyond this. With Pay-Per-View, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, and so many others that allow us to just push a button to see what we want, why would anyone rent a DVD they have to remember to return?
Restaurants, ice cream parlors and bakeries will always do well if they are selling a good product and open on a good street. What’s better than to have a juice bar next to a bagel store or a gelato shop next to an Italian restaurant?
If you own a service business like I do, you can have greater success when you partner with other businesses. Design and editorial services pair up well. So do children’s classes in yoga and art!
Can a Street Location Make the Difference?
Yes! Here’s the case of two florists:
One florist opened about three years ago on Central Avenue just off Congress going toward North Street. She doesn’t have any complementary businesses around her. There had been a bakery and a newsstand-deli close by, but they closed years ago. Most of the buildings on that block are residential and there are only a few businesses: a carpet store, a bar that always seems closed and even if it isn’t (which is unfriendly in appearance), an insurance office, a liquor store (which just recently renovated making big glass windows and an open, friendly atmosphere that’s very nice), and further down, a small supermarket, bicycle store and assorted small restaurants.
Beyond North Street is Washington Park, with quite a few blocks of residential buildings before there is any more shopping.
It’s my opinion that this florist has a lovely store and business, but it could stand to gain more customers. If that bakery were still there, they could market each other’s products. Yes, cake and flowers! If she can hold out until that new store opens on the corner, and if it turns out to be a bakery, she can thrive.
The other florist is between Congress and South Streets and started out very small with just a few bouquets. In one or two years she has grown a blossoming business with lots of customers. We can tell, as the offerings multiplied over time.
Why does her location make the difference? As I mentioned, she has more complementary businesses around her. If people stop for groceries, Italian specialties, liquor, and also want flowers and other items, it’s all right here on the same block, or at most one block away. This is what builds a shopping district: each business helping the others.
Ready to bring your business to Jersey City Heights?
There are open spaces just waiting for you on Central Avenue! Scope out the Avenue and when you see an open space, make note of the businesses on that block, both sides, as well as the next blocks in both directions.
Which stores will compliment yours? You may want to go into the other stores on the block and talk with the owners. It’s all about becoming part of the community and growing together.
Branding and Marketing Tips for JC Heights Businesses
- Be sure your logo, wordmark, and graphics are clear and easy to read or understand. Sometimes when using a graphic image without your name, like an animal or other object, be sure it’s drawn clearly. You don’t want people trying to figure out what the illustration is of and who you are. (I recently noticed a drawing on an outdoor banner and we were trying to figure it out. We ended up asking someone to find out.)
- Your website is the heart of your business. If you open a new location or change anything, be sure to update your website with up-to-date info.
- List your business on all the social platforms. Whether you are planning to post or tweet it’s important to stake your claim. If you don’t claim your business name, someone else will and then make you pay to get it back. I recommend for business pages: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube.
- Add your business or claim it on Google. If you type your business into Google Maps, do you come up? (You’d be surprised how many don’t do this.) Then ask clients and customers to leave reviews. This will help your business move to page one when the public searches.
- Introduce yourself and business to the local Heights neighborhood organizations. They can help spread the word. Two you should talk with: CASID (Central Avenue Special Improvement District) and RNA (Riverview Neighborhood Association). Depending on the type of business you are opening there are so many more. Especially listed on Facebook. Do a search for Jersey City organizations.
- Do you have wall space that an artist might make use of? You can become a stop on the JC Fridays or JC Studio Tour events.
- There are economical ways to advertise both in local magazines and newspapers, both in print and online. They build pages with assorted businesses and you can also post a sidebar ad or banner. Check out the Jersey City Magazine from Hudson Reporter or the JC Independent.
By Susan Newman, Branding Businesses Since 1994