Village Plaza Getting A ‘New Smile,’ New Tenant

Village Plaza work - 1

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the facade remodeling at Village Plaza on Easton Avenue.

A “new smile” for the Village Plaza shopping center on Easton Avenue is just about completed.

The work, which now entails replacing the individual retail stores’ signage, should be completed in about a month, said Jonathan Stirberg, one of the partners of center owner Jonas Realty.

Next to come will be adding some “uplighting” to the facade and the replacement of the plaza’s pylon directory sign, Stirberg said.

Stirberg said he was propelled to do the remodel more than year ago, when he lost a national retailer to another retail center elsewhere in the township.

“I said, ‘wow, why did I miss that person?’ “ Stirberg said. “If the reason that I missed that tenant was because my center was looking old, well, I’m not going to stand for that. That’s not the product I want.”

So Stirberg and his father, Nat, who is his partner in the business, decided to refinance the plaza and put the freed-up money into the center.

“It set the wheels in motion, like I think every business should do,” he said. “Pay attention to progress, not wait until it goes too far past you.”

Replacing the material upon which the signs were mounted meant removing the signs for a while, Stirberg said. That prompted him to buy banners with his retail tenants’ logos imprinted on them so they would not lose any visibility.

“I thought the banners were very important during the construction, because my focus is on the small guy,” he said. “You have to keep up their visibility. We’re trying to create an incubator here where everybody can do well. We try to put our best face forward.”

All of the work, he said, “was done at absolutely no cost to our tenants.”

That’s because Stirberg sees himself as a small business man, and the plaza as his product.

“For me, its the neccessry thing to do,” he said of the remodeling. “It’s the next step in promoting my business. Sometimes it’s just a little effort that gets you so much farther.”

“It’s my job to put the word out there,” he said.

Stirberg was joined in the remodeling effort by two of his freestanding tenants. Dunkin’ Donuts recently completed a major renovation, and Goodyear Tire recently painted its building.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said.

A new Italian restaurant/pizzeria has signed up to take the space vacated by Village Pizza, which closed last year after 41 years in business. Verizon recently opened a store in part of the space formerly occupied by Blockbuster.

The pylon directory sign will feature new lighting, he said, as well as some three-dimensional lettering.

Stirberg said he uses the center’s 26 retail stores as an enticement for the office space he rents in the center’s second floor. He currently has a wide range of tenants there, from accounting and finance, to medical, to legal and computer-baed companies.

“It’s a nice mix,” he said.

Stirberg said he purposely kept the awning in the remodeling because he wants customers to be able to comfortably move from one store to another.

“I don’t want you to come in and go to one store and leave, I want you to be comfortable when you’re here,” he said. “There are now 26 retail locations out there, that’s the equivalent of a downtown.”

“We seem to have a good sense of community here,” he said. “We have a lot of mom-and-pops, some who have been here since the very beginning.”

“It’s neat to see existing businesses grow here,” Stirberg said.

This is the only retail center owned by Jonas Realty. Other retail holdings include a WaWa, a CVS drug store and, in New Mexico, a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.

Jonas also owns industrial properties in Dunellen and Plainfield, Stirberg said.

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