My request for Chipotle to open in my town of Metuchen, NJ

I recently found out that some folks in my town think it would be a great idea for a Chipotle to open on or near our Main Street. I’m a big fan of Chipotle, so I thought I’d look into what one might do as a first step in that direction.

Turns out they have a web form you can submit to make a request – anyone can make the request, doesn’t have to come from any sort of official, just a neighbor who cares.

So that’s what I did. ๐Ÿ™‚

I live in an awesome, walkable downtown community which has a great stream of commuter and local shopper traffic both passing through and using us as a primary destination. We are right on a one-seat ride via train to Manhattan, making our town attractive for all sorts of reasons. We have an active, supportive community of folks who are constantly looking for ways to make our town better. And from what I hear, we have lots of teens and parents who love Chipotle. I’m not the real estate expert for our town, but my understanding is that we have several storefronts with varying levels of advantage in the factors your team considers for new locations – some have better walking visibility, some better driving visibility, some closer to parking, some closer to more of the “passing through” traffic on the main arteries through town. Hopefully you’ll come check us out and give an opinion on opening a location here! Our town has a New Business guide published here: http://www.metuchennj.org/documents/new-businessguide.pdf

How to run a “Win the Window” event in your local town

This post is based on ideas from Highland Park’s February Win the Window 2014 event.

These are my ideas to try to sketch out what would need to be done by a small group in order to run a similar “Win the Window” event in Metuchen, NJ.

Your comments and feedback are welcome!

Overview

A โ€œWin the Windowโ€ event is one in which a group of small businesses in a downtown donate prizes, all those prizes are displayed in one store window, shoppers are given some way to enter the contest, and at the end of the month a person wins all the prizes from the window.

Things to do

  • Get a core set of 5-10 businesses to commit.
  • Make the initial project small enough so that it can be organized and implemented in one month by two or three volunteers.
  • Set a target value for all donated items of $15.
  • Decide early on which business will be the one which displays the window with all the prizes.
  • Print and distribute entry cards to all participating businesses, along with a simple set of rules for participation.
  • Pick a date for the final drawing.

Rules (needs work and more detail)

  • Every time someone shops in one of the 5-10 participating businesses during the month, they will receive an entry in the drawing. To โ€œshopโ€ a person must buy $10 or more of something in a single transaction.
  • On the first day of the following month, a drawing is made by one of the organizers to select the person who wins everything from the window.

Questions, notes, and thoughts…

In Highland Park, I think the entry was limited to one per family in each shop. Itโ€™s not clear whether or not a purchase was required but it seems like not. I think it would be better to require a purchase and to allow as many entries as there are qualifying purchases. Is there any downside to this?

Thinking it would be good to have every business donate their prize of a similar value, about $15.

Some down-home community activism

We’ve lived in our new home, in what turns out to be a vibrantly active community, for a few years now. The town is called Metuchen, NJ, and many people think this town simply rocks.

I know we do.

But it can use a little help. Heck, any town can use a little help from time to time and we are fortunate to live in a town which already has a heck of a lot of community involvement to do the helping!

Recently, it turns out my wife has become a good bit involved in some of our local “issues” – and the topic was just covered by one of the local news outlets: Residents rise up to seek solutions to downtown ills

We’ll have to see where this goes…

I got an honorary mention in the article as one of the guys involved in last weekend’s Litter Brigade. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Metuchen – It’s a Bloody Great Town!

My local ice-cream and pizza shop (What’s the Scoop) had a Blood Drive this week. That’s bloody great!

I think some of my friends and family thought I was kidding. (People seem to think an ice-cream shop is an odd location for this.) Others said, “Gross!” But it’s true – a blood drive at our ice-cream shop, which is one of the community centers of Metuchen‘s Main Street (yes, it is called “Main Street” – isn’t that quaint?).

Metuchen is a (bloody) great town. My wife and I – who are recently transplanted from Brooklyn – love every bit of it.

We moved here to get more quiet and space, but had no idea the amount of good community we would see. I have to say, it’s more community than I saw any place I lived in New York City. We have our fill of live music, good eats, good people, whenever we want it. Other times, we enjoy the quiet of our back yard.

What’s the Scoop

There are many good places to eat, drink, get coffee, or hang-out in Metuchen. What’s the Scoop has a quality that makes it unique.

First, it’s an ice-cream and pizza place, so that’s fun. It also has a LOT of space inside, so it’s a nice place to linger while you enjoy a cone of mint chip. More lingering out front keeps the sidewalk active and neighborly for much of the day – it’s one of the nicer scenes on my walk home from the commuter train. But on top of all that, the owner regularly hosts New York Blood Center blood drives. Bloody great, I’d say.

And… you get free ice-cream and pizza for your donation. Plus, our local Irish pub (Hailey’s Harp & Pub) matches pint-for-pint on donations (limit one pint, as I recall). ๐Ÿ™‚

Other Community in Metuchen

I am, perhaps, being overly supportive of the ice-cream industry. There are many other forms of great community in my town. For example:

  • Forum Theatre Arts Center – A restored theatre that hosts eclectic films.
  • Brewed Awakening – Our local coffee shop that is open from morning until late each night, serving great coffee and food all day. Plus, live music can be heard here many nights each month. (Shameless Plug: My wife recently started hosting a music series here.
  • Metuchen’s Outdoor Concert Series – Starting today (August 5th) and running each Thursday until a culminating fireworks show early in September.
  • There’s some sort of car show that occasionally appears the entire length of Main Street. Old, beautifully finished cars.
  • Parades for every holiday down Main Street.
  • Alessio – A good place to get some rock-solid Italian food. Great staff, and a quiet but lively community atmosphere.
  • Novita Bistro & Lounge – We go here more often than I’d care to admit. Great bar food and fancier food as well. Wide selection of drinks at the bar. Nice outdoor patio. Live music a few times per week. Highly recommended.
  • Antonio’s Brick Oven Pizza – Another place I go more often than I’d care to admit. Great heroes, pizza, always a crowd hanging out.
  • Other pizza places, bagel shops, a French restaurant, some great Chinese food, Indian food, Thai food, pretty much anything you could ask for.

These are just some of my personal favorite spots along Main Street. I’ve left out many others, which you may also enjoy.

And then there’s the great websites, blogs, and Facebook groups:

  • Metuchen Matters – A blog about town.
  • Metuchen Matters on Facebook – And the blog’s Facebook page.
  • Metuchen Living on Facebook – A blog about town which has LOTS of great photography.
  • Metuchen Cultural Arts Commission – The ones responsible for much of the community activities – e.g., the Outdoor Concert Series this month.

It’s the New Urban

Soon after we moved in, I proclaimed to my family and closest friends that we had found the “new urban.”

When we lived in New York City, it always seemed to me like there was a disconnect, even between people who were close socially. A friend who lived 5 miles away was sometimes actually over an hour away by subway. Our immediate neighborhood just didn’t seem to have the same sort of “neighborhoodness” that you might see in an old movie about New York. Maybe I am being overly sentimental about a connected New York City that never really existed as it appeared in movies?

People lived one place, worked someplace else, and socialized in yet another bunch of scattered places throughout the City. Put that disconnected social life together with the fact that we had long ago stopped frequenting New York’s many museums and theaters, it really left us wondering what value the City actually held for us.

Fast forward to our move to the suburbs. Many of our friends said “Why?!?”

There were all the stereotypes of large, vapid, lawn-filled towns where people drove everywhere and never met their neighbors. Even we returned from our first few visits to the Borough of Metuchen with a very unsettled feeling, wondering if we could ever be happy again outside of the concrete walls of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Turns out – nothing to worry about. This suburb is fanTAStic. It’s got all the resources and “neighborhoodness” that one might expect in an urban environment, but it’s still not called urban (by most people).

To me, I think the true urban centers like New York have actually grown beyond their prime, big enough so that we people are scattered across them and spend most of our day trying to move from one location to another, and less of our time being connected to each other. We live where we can afford, or where our own very particular set of interests and requirements lands us, often having no common ground with our neighbors.

Not to say that common ground can’t grow, and found neighbors can’t become great friends (many did), but there is still a price paid in disconnect, and a constant running to keep up with the many disconnected “neighborhoods” which a typical City-dweller calls his own.

Perhaps there are other factors causing me, personally, to feel disconnect, like the problem of immediate families and closest friends being scattered so far geographically, even beyond the impenetrable neighborhoods of the City. Whatever it is, the urban advantages of even a city like New York are strongly out-weighed (I’d say) by the advantages of a suburb like Metuchen – the New Urban.

Others would disagree. What do you think?

Heaven On the Northeast Corridor Line

Some days, I feel like I live in Heaven. I know that’s arrogant to say. But I’m just describing my feeling, and that’s how I sometimes feel.

It’s a nice feeling.

I know I’ve had my share of complaints about the cell phone talkers during my train commute, and I’ve grumped about the occasional horn-honker who seems intent on running down pedestrians on Metuchen’s Main Street. There’s also been the ongoing war against snow, mild flooding, autumn leaves, and the army of squirrels who besieged my lawn this morning. And don’t get me started about the bird sh*t that is recently raining upon my Corolla each morning in our tree-lined driveway.

But aside from those minor quibbles, I’ve having a grand old time in my new neighborhood. It’s pretty awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

I started writing this post a few months back, on a weekend when my wife was out of town, and had taken our one car with her. In many a suburb, that might be a problem for the husband stranded at home. We are fortunate enough to live in a town that has a marvelously interesting Main Street (yes, it’s actually called “Main Street”), and to live a mere five-minute walk from the town center. So on a weekend without a car available, I have access to every bit as much neat stuff to do as I did back when we lived in Brooklyn, all within walking distance. Or, if I want, a reasonable train ride back into Manhattan on my monthly commuter pass.

It’s like a new kind of urban. Or, as I said, like Heaven, at times.

That particular weekend when my wife was out-of-town, I believe I had spent most of my day around the house, perhaps doing some yard work. By late afternoon, I was getting a little bored at home and I walked into town.

Here are some of the fun things I did:

  • An hour on the wireless at our local coffee shop – Brewed Awakening
  • A walk over to one of our local pizza places – Antonio’s Brick Oven Pizza – to pick-up some take-out food.
  • A quick stop in across the street to pick-up a quart of my favorite soup – a delicious New England clam chowder from Dick’s Dock.
  • Then, a leisurely walk home on a quiet, tree-lined street, to enjoy a movie at home.

Other options I could have taken on that particular weekend evening:

  • Catch a movie at the Forum Theatre Arts Center.
  • Spend some time browsing the used books at The Raconteur.
  • Take the NJ Transit train to New Brunswick or Princeton (people seem to do that sometimes).
  • Stop by our local martini bar – Novita (which also happens to be a fantastic bistro and restaurant, with live sax/piano music every Friday night.
  • Stop by our local Irish bar – Hailey’s Harp & Pub, for a.. Guinness and burger!

So.. Heaven I say. I am arrogant, I guess – perhaps superficial. But I gotta tell ya’, I sure like my new neighborhood. ๐Ÿ™‚