Chamber president speaks on Englewood businesses
Members of the Woman’s Club of Englewood came to hear Carol Rauscher (fifth from left) speak.
ENGLEWOOD, N.J. —— New stores and restaurants, three-hour parking meters, a new marquee and internet classes for retail businesses were all on the agenda. On Nov. 20, Englewood Chamber of Commerce (ECC) President Carol Rauscher gave an informative presentation about downtown Englewood at the Woman’s Club of Englewood’s headquarters on Brinkerhoff Court.
Fifteen club members, officers and guests came to learn and lunch. Aleta Frezzell, a board member and chair of the Public Issues Committee, welcomed everyone at 1 p.m. and introduced Rauscher by reciting her impressive credentials in addition to her current professional status as ECC president. Rauscher earned a B.A. from Southern Louisiana University, a master’s from Syracuse University, and she participated in a financial executive seminar at the Wharton Business School.
Rauscher served as director of development at the bergenPAC, deputy executive director at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City, president and CEO of United Way Passaic County, Paterson, and vice president of the United Way of Tri-State New York’s campaign.
Rauscher has run her own consulting firm, where she provided expertise in the development of partnerships, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, communications and public policy.
As she stood at the podium, Rauscher gave the group at the Woman’s Club of Englewood a wealth of information about the issues that Englewood businesses are facing and a spate of solutions on which the ECC is currently working.
Rauscher began by recounting many of the changes the city has undergone since the days when she would visit her grandparents here.
“In those days, there were many local stores and vendors who would come to the house to deliver eggs and dairy and sharpen knives. We even had two movie theaters and a Miles Shoe Store,” she said.
Rauscher went on to explain that now Englewood has a lot of vacant stores and no foot traffic because of several factors. The first change was caused by the upsurge of malls, where people started going instead of shopping locally.
“For a while, Englewood had large corporate stores, like Victoria’s Secret and Nine West. But they were closed because corporate heads decided that they did not want their stores in suburban towns because they don’t make enough money as they do in the malls. You may say, ‘There is still a Victoria’s Secret store in Ridgewood,’ but trust me, when their lease expires, they will leave there as well.”
Rauscher said that another major change occurred when the economy went bad, which caused people to cut way back on their shopping. But, she believes that the biggest change of all was the rise of online shopping venues, especially Amazon. This made it extremely easy to buy what you want without leaving your home, and it seriously hurt the city’s retail stores.
“We are never going to have foot traffic again,” Rauscher predicted, “nor will the other towns in Bergen County. The malls are having trouble too. But the vacant stores are filling up, and some businesses are taking a different approach. For example, the large building that housed Victoria’s Secret is now going to be an eye center that includes a restaurant.”
She added, “The malls are adapting to this change by adding residential units, lots of restuarants and entertainment spaces. In effect, they are copying what Englewood already has.”
Rauscher suggested that another solution to filling the retail vacancies is using the large buildings to house a variety of small retail stores and also bring in pop-up stores, so that rents become much more affordable.
“Most of all,” Rauscher said, “many retail stores in Englewood are struggling because they do not have the tools for effective marketing. Last year, the ECC brought in Bob Phibbs, an award-winning retail specialist, who gave business owners tips for achieving success. But now we need more. We are going to educate stores on how to use the internet. We are also going to change the parking meters to 90 minutes on Palisade Avenue, two hours on Dean, and some three-hour parking spots, so people will be more motivated to come here and shop. We also have five chargers for electric cars in the parking garage. We have plans to make the garage more inviting, including better lighting and better signage. All of this will motivate people to shop locally.”
Carol Rauscher, ECC president, speaks to the members of the Woman’s Club of Englewood.
Rauscher emphasized that the changes and challenges that downtown Englewood is currently facing are also present in other towns throughout Bergen County, and by comparison, Englewood is in a much better shape. “Englewood has unique and upscale stores that you can’t find anywhere else. We have seven car dealerships, dozens of excellent restaurants, including many new ones that just opened and more that are going to open soon. Englewood also has the bergenPAC, which is a premier arts center, and we have numerous special community events. The Englewood Hospital and Medical Center has 2,600 employees, and there are 221 employees at Benzel Busch. Now what other town around here has that?”
Rauscher also pointed out that when they finish renovating ShopRite, it will provide a variety of food. For example, it will cater to all the people that now have to go to Teaneck for Kosher food and the people who go to Whole Foods for healthy food.
Rauscher believes that the public needs to be educated about what Englewood has to offer. To do that, she would like to replace the electric board outside city hall with a large marquee that clearly lists all the events taking place. She also wants to encourage people to use the parking at Veteran’s Park and enjoy the farmers market, and free yoga and pilates classes that are held there.
“We are also going to have more events in Veteran’s Park,” Rauscher said, “but we have to get the word out to all our residents. There are people living in apartment buildings by Route 4 that have no idea of what is available in town. So, we have to encourage people to use the Englewood Chamber of Commerce website, Facebook and Instagram to stay informed. We are probably going to change the name to keep it simpler, something like Englewood NJ, but even now, we have 15 internet domains that will lead you to our site.”
She continued, “Our website already lists all of the events in the city, like Fashion and Fun Night, and we are going to add a list of all of our stores, a map showing how to get to each one and even sales and seasonal specials that the stores have.”
Rauscher’s presentation was followed by a Q&A. People asked about tax rebates for retail stores, the possibility of landlords dropping their retail rents, improvements to the streetscape, and questions about the specific training sessions for retailers, to which Rauscher said that the city is going to have a Special Improvement Development committee (SID) that will address such issues.
Rauscher’s presentation concluded with a rousing round of applause and much praise. It was followed by a beautiful buffet luncheon of sandwiches, salads, deviled eggs and cookies, many of which were homemade by club members.
The Woman’s Club of Englewood holds meetings every Monday, and once a month one of the committee chairs invites a guest speaker. Last month, City Council President Wayne Hamer gave a talk, and other speakers have spoken on a wide a variety of subjects such as music, art, history, health and fitness.
Photos by Hillary Viders