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The Good New Days

by Russell Swanson, Exec. Dir., VDID, Main Street Vineland

Many people, when speaking of Vineland’s downtown, speak or write of the “good old days” on The Avenue. They wax nostalgic on Facebook, in letters to the editor, and in casual conversation.

They ask people whether they remember cruisin’ The Avenue…that first date at the movies…that bakery…that dress shop…that men’s store…that shoe store…that hardware store…that diner…that doctor’s office…and much more. They say that those things have fallen by the wayside and that the downtown isn’t what it used to be and won’t be the same again.

That’s partially correct, and it’s true of downtowns nationwide. What it means, however, is that downtowns today are different than they were before. In our case, “The Avenue” has become “The Ave”—a modern twist on our downtown as a destination. Welcome to the “good new days.”

Today, shopping habits have changed. Shopping centers, malls, and big box stores came to the fore, presenting a challenge to downtowns. Working hours have changed, meaning a change in peak shopping hours. With two-income families, a wife isn’t necessarily at home during the day to do the shopping, while a husband works. All these factors and more have changed the complexion of downtowns, the types of businesses within the downtowns, and when they do business.

This means that a shift is taking place in what downtowns like The Ave offer. It can offer retail, but with the personal touch that larger stores don’t offer. Professional space and restaurants are also in the mix.

Just as important: Downtowns like The Ave, in the “good new days” can fill multiple roles for millennials—the up-and-coming consumers, professionals, and residents. They can provide living space, working space, and—that “third place—a destination for leisure activities. All the events we have in our downtown contribute to that—and they help our businesses.

Furthermore, we are working to make our downtown as physically attractive as possible. The “Operation Facelift” façade improvement program that I talked about in this column a couple of weeks ago, is part of that initiative. So is the Downtown Canvases on The Ave mural project.

This new type of destination makes up “The Ave”—the downtown of the “good new days.” So, take some time in your Facebook posts, your letters to the editor, and your conversations to not only remember “The Avenue” of yesterday, but to also talk about “The Ave” of today.

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The military mural project is going full steam ahead. At the southwest corner of Landis Avenue and the Boulevard, check out the progress that’s been made so far by artist George Perez and his assistants. They’ve been hard at work and the mural is quickly taking shape. Several organizations and individuals, through grants or donations of goods and services, are making this possible. For the rest, and to make this a real community effort, we’re asking for donations, and we’ve made it very easy for you to contribute. Just go to our website——and, on the home page, click on the link for the military mural. Since we’re a 501(c)3 entity, your donation is tax-deductible.

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August is here and that means our Third Annual Food Truck Festival on The Ave is coming up on Sunday, August 25, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine, at Landis Avenue and the Boulevard. It will feature more than 22 food trucks, a beer tent, and entertainment/activities for all ages—including Yoga in the Park with Peace Love Yoga. Members 1st of NJ Federal Credit Union will be the major sponsor. Newfield National Bank will be Entertainment Sponsor, and Little Lamb Preschool and Lidl will be Kids Corner Sponsors. Contact the Main Street Vineland office for further sponsorship opportunities. Keep track of the latest additions to the festival by going to our website—The So, work up your appetite—and come hungry!

On The Ave