Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Downtown Westfield NJ: The Heart of Local and Name Brand Retail

Lots of New Jersey transit towns are compact and walkable in their center. But they are usually only bedroom communities for the people who live there and work in New York City. What makes Westfield NJ different is that it's a destination town. Because of its free-flowing layout and intentional mix of unique local shops and restaurants with well-known, upscale mall brand stores, it's both commuter town and vacation-experience wrapped up into an appealing package that draws visitors from near and far.

While parking is often a challenge, because of the town's popularity, it's not that difficult to find a spot if you're willing to walk a block or two. For instance, you can park on E. Broad Street, near Mindowaskin Park, (except for rush hour--note the signs) and stroll into the core. Westfield is such a pretty town, that it's pleasant walking anywhere, so avoid the congestion and find a handy spot along the way.

The main shopping streets downtown are E. Broad Street, Elm Street, Quimby Street, Central Avenue and North Avenue. Parallel to North Avenue, on the other side of the railroad station, is South Street, which has numerous service businesses and restaurants. Perpendicular to E. Broad Street and North Avenue, is Prospect Street, where you'll find a few shops and two popular cafe/restaurants: 16 Prospect Wine Bar and Rockn' Joe coffeehouse.

The NJ Transit train station opens right onto the intersection of North Avenue and Elm Street, so you can walk from there to any number of charming restaurants on Elm and Quimby Streets, offering an international potpourri of cuisines. Some of them are BYOB.

Westfield is a fashion shopping day-trip destination, with name brands like Victoria's Secret, Ann Taylor, Eileen Fisher, Chico's, Esprit, Gap, Gap Kids, Williams-Sonoma and more.

What makes it much more interesting than simply going to the mall, though, is the one-of-a-kind resources you'll find there. For instance, Menina on E. Broad Street and Anais Boutique on Elm Street offer sophisticated clothing and accessories. For kids' clothes, there's Pumpkins & Petunias, near the movie house, on E. Broad Street.If you're a knitter, Knit a Bit is a charming yarn shop with a nicely edited selection and instruction available, too. It's upstairs above the shops, on Elm Street.

There are numerous shoe shops in Westfield, for women, men, and children. Also luggage, photography, coffee, and outerwear.

Because of the many restaurants and cafes downtown, you can start in the morning with breakfast at Panera Bread on E. Broad Street, stop for lunch at Rockn' Joe on Prospect Street, indulge in gelato at The Chocolate Bar on Quimby Street, and relax over dinner at Splash Thai on South Avenue or Mojave Grill on Elm Street. Eat, walk it off, eat, walk, etc.

For a break from the shopping and deciding, walk around Mindowaskin Park and release your mind to the sounds of quacking ducks and the beauty of the trees and the lake. If you prefer lunching with a sandwich or burrito, get takeout from Qdoba on Elm Street. Fresh, delicious, and affordable. Or pick up your order from Vicky's Diner on E. Broad Street and enjoy it al fresco sitting in the gazebo in Mindowaskin Park.

Along with all the shops and restaurants, the basics are also located right downtown: Post Office, UPS Store, MotoPhoto, a fun Trader Joe's market, supermarket, banks, cleaners, YMCA, etc. You can easily park once and walk to everything.

About 10 minutes away on E. Broad Street is the Westfield Public Library, with lots of Internet computers, free wifi, and comfortable wing chairs and study carrels, in case you're visiting with someone who'd rather read and surf than shop.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Online Shopping vs. Local Retail

The latest issue of Westfield Today, the official site of Downtown Westfield NJ, reports that even this destination shopping and dining town is feeling the effects of the upswing in online retail shopping: 

Like many towns, Westfield is not immune to the current retail climate and hardships. According to recent news reports, online shopping increased 20% during the recent holiday season and continues to grow year after year. Brick and mortar stores continue to feel the effects of this trend as well. Like many downtown environments, independent stores and service providers are finding it more difficult than ever to compete in this new era of retail commerce and many national chains are in a period of contraction rather than expansion of their retail stores. Westfield is certainly seeing this paradigm shift in retail.

There are some new openings in downtown Westfield slated for this month, such as a yoga studio, art and party place, art studio for kids' parties, T-Mobile, and a new lingerie and swimwear store.

Seems like retailers everywhere, both small-local and large-national, have to figure out a way to integrate online with in-store shopping, to keep customers motivated to show up in person. In-store-only deals? Will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers have to figure out ways to weather the sluggish profit picture.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Vicki's Diner

In New Jersey, freestanding diners--the art deco original-design kind--are a familiar sight. It's less typical to find such a gem tucked between shops on a busy downtown street. Vicki's Diner, on E. Broad Street, in downtown Westfield NJ, is a shiny example.
With gleaming chrome panels interrupted by bright red stripes, Art Deco signage, and red upholstery on the booths inside, Vicki's Diner is a popular destination for locals who know they can get pumpkin pancakes (in season), a warming bowl of chicken soup, wraps, salads, omelettes, takeout, and daily lunch specials. Breakfast is available all day, soups are fresh and homemade. Service is warm and personable at this family-owned downtown Westfield diner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Westfield NJ a "Great American Main Street"

If you wonder why Westfield NJ appears as one of the Best Places to Shop & Walk, don't just take my word for it. Here's what the National Trust for Historic Preservation had to say when it awarded Westfield its "Great American Main Street Award" in 2004:

Great American Main Street award for Westfield NJ
"For economic revitalization, enhanced downtown and historic preservation by Downtown Westfield Corporation."

Westfield was one of only 5 towns in the entire United States that won the designation. The other towns were Burlington IA, Encinitas CA, Paso Robles CA, and Rogers AR.