Newark Shopping Center: Opening its new doors to a new era
Right in the middle of the Sept. 12 celebration that officially dedicated the opening of the refurbished Newark Shopping Center, a University of Delaware student stridently rode her bike past city officials, business owners and several members of Atlantic Realty Companies – the rock-solid, collaborative team that orchestrated the $10 million renovation that will lead the Center well into this century.
The student seemed oblivious to the pomp and circumstance. She parked her bike in front of the Newark Natural Foods, and walked into the store.
So what? her actions seemed to suggest. She had shopping to do. And there it was: definitive proof that this shopping center had successfully been reborn.
When the Newark Shopping Center first opened in 1955, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn, “I Love Lucy” was the highest-rated television program, and J.J. Minster and Son was among the new shopping center's original tenants.
It's 60 years later, and Barack Obama now occupies the White House, the Dodgers are in Los Angeles, “I Love Lucy” is forever enshrined in reruns, and the Minster name is still a mainstay at the Newark Shopping Center.
“This is a dream come true!” said Marilyn Minster, owner of Minster’s. “We have been here since the center’s heyday and watched it decline after the original owners passed away. When I first met [Atlantic Realty president] David Ross and learned of Atlantic Realty’s plans to modernize this center, I was thrilled, and I did whatever I could to get us to where we are today.”
“This renovation of the Newark Shopping Center is a welcome addition to our Great American Main Street Award-winning downtown, just as it was in 1955 when it first opened its doors,” said Newark Mayor Sierer. “Now more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly than ever and featuring a strong connection to the Pomeroy Trail, the Newark Shopping Center is sure to have many more decades of leadership of our downtown retail marketplace.”
Atlantic Realty Companies partnered with Angelo, Gordon & Company to acquire and carry out a full-scale redevelopment of the enter. The renovation includes new building facades, roofs, updated signage, landscaping, pedestrian connections within the center, and improvements to the parking lots. A path now allows pedestrian access through the center of the shopping complex to a new apartment building that is scheduled to open next summer. This pathway also connects with the recently completed Pomeroy Trail.
"We needed to be good listeners," Ross said of Atlantic Realty's collaboration with local merchants and leaders. "We had to reach out to the people who know what's going on in the community. They're going to use this center very day, and they will know better than we ever will. there, we have been able to take our expertise and apply it, once we underst what's working and what's not working. There have some been some really key people we've used as sounding boards, in order to help us come up with our plans, and implement them.”
Currently 75 percent leased, the Center is home to Minster's, Newark Natural Foods, Goodwill, Dollar Tree, PNC Bank, Enterprise, Newark Discount Liquor, Empowered Yoga, Rita’s Italian Ice, Armed Forces, No. 1 Chinese, The Mediterranean Grill, Zahra International Market, and Mayflower Japanese Restaurant. As the center continues to grow, Atlantic has recently leased space to Churrascaria Saudades Brazilian Steakhouse, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, Sports Clips, Big Z Pizza, Hair By Anthony, and other tenants.
Ross said that the residential component of the Center, now under construction, is expected to open next summer.
And that student who wheeled her bike past the pageantry of the Center's re-opening, on her way into Newark Natural Foods -- known now as the Center's anchor store?
"She may not have known that we even existed before we came to the Newark Shopping Center," said Anita Moos, marketing manager for Newark Natural Foods, who was first incorporated in 1967 and is celebrating its 40th anniversary. "For 40 years, we were hidden, even though we were on Main Street. Now thatwe're front and center in the community, we're being recognized by an entirely new audience who normally would not have ventured into our store. This center has become the true epitome of what a real community is all about."
Moos said that Newark Natural Foods is drawing from an even wider swath of the community now, everyone from older Delawareans to the Millennial Generation -- as well as more UD students and their parents, who tell Moos and her staff how thrilled they are that their son or daughter, who may be living off-campus, has easy access to healthy food, either at the store or at Cafe 67.
"Promoting healthy eating is part of our mission, because we're not just a store, we're also educators," Moos said. "Being here at the Newark Shopping Center has allowed us more room to expand our health-related events, such as exercise classes and educational seminars, which are open to everyone."
Moos said that since the store moved down the street, attendance at their Sunday Farmer's Market has quadrupled.
" Who gets to drive to faanymore to buy fresh produce?" she said. "With our weekly market, it allows our customers to meet farmers in the middle of the City of Newark and buy produce that was picked fresh that morning."
Karen Taylor, manager of Newark Natural Foods, said that the move enabled the store to achieve three goals: to increase parking, to establish a viable loading dock, and become more visible from Main Street.
"Having an anchor store here that was already been present in the community for so long was a great plus for the redevelopment of this shopping center," she said.
“I watched the heyday of this center, and the saw its decline, and I stayed, and now that it's coming back and joining Main Street, I am thrilled,” Minster said. “I am confident that the center will come back the way it used to be. I told everyone if we go another 60 years and have another grand re-opening, that I plan to be here.”