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Longtime Ridgewood Chocolate Shop Closing

Oliver's Chocolate owner Oliver Abel says he's seen an erosion in support for Downtown Ridgewood from residents and the Village Council.

After more than a decade serving homemade chocolates to Ridgewood, the owner of is packing away the cocoa and closing shop.

Owner Oliver Abel, a former Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce president, said he is turning over the 'closed' sign for the final time at the end of May. His shop has served cholocates on East Ridgewood Ave for 13 years.

"If the economy weren't so bad I might reconsider but I'm not sure I would," he said. "With the economy down, with foot traffic down, I sense a change in the community, a lack of support for the downtown – in support from residents as well as the village council."

Abel said he is returning to his finance roots by launching an internet startup specializing in retirement planning.

"The lease is up, not that the landlord isn't kind enough to renew the lease but it comes a point where you have to say enough's enough,"  said Abel, a long-time Ridgewood resident. "I've been doing it for 13 years. ... It was spectacular for 10 of those 13 years but recently [the economic downturn] is really kicking in."

The chocolate shop is the , following the end of March closing of . And The Gap, also on E. Ridgewood Ave., consolidated its Ridgewood operations by  and folding its merchandise into its remaining store.

"[Customers] come in and they're very sad we're leaving," Abel said."I've had some customers say 'you're the last vestige of the old-style kind of retail shop in Ridgewood' and that they're sorry to see that go.

"Is this an indication of a new type of Ridgewood or a deterioration of Ridgewood?" he asked.

Asked what he said he'd like to see take the place of Oliver's, Abel said a unique gift place or a hardware store would be a good replacement. 

The villager said he believes the building owner, Frankches Realty Corp., is trying to fill the space, but pointed to vacancies in the village that have been unfilled for several years as a concern. 

Abel suggested the town levy fees on property owners in the downtown who leave storefronts empty for extended periods of time.

"There are a lot of vacancies. Have a fee placed on the landlord for that vacancy. Give them six months to try and fill it," he said. "If they don't or they don't want to lower the rents, that's fine. But they've got to pay a fee. And have that fee go back to the people in town."

Abel also remarked that the variety of businesses should be more diverse, and levied the age-old complaint – parking remains an issue.

In recent council budget discussions, there's been some chatter on reviving the into a public/private partnership. Abel suggested turning the Hudson lot into a two or three-story garage that could accommodate commuters.

"I had over the years other large chain store representatives come into my store and say 'we're interested in that space or that space,'" Abel said. "They'd say 'we like the town but where's the parking?'" They'd look at me and say 'we're out of here.'"

Rose Boniello April 11, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Some closings are more painful than others -- Oliver's closing hurts alot! It has been such a friendly store to visit! My mom thought Oliver's chocolate espresso beans were the best! I loved browsing thru all the different shapes and finding the perfect chocolate -- like the hockey puck or a laptop! And, there are no words to describe the chocolate strawberries! So sorry to see you go.
Ridgewood Mom April 11, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Residents want the CBD to flourish. Ridgewood's beautiful downtown is one of the reasons many of us love to call Ridgewood our home. But I agree with Abel that the main problem, in our current economy, is landlords charging too much. Ask any business owner at any business in town. They all say the same thing. They are not getting as much business as before the economic crisis, but landlords are still charging as though they were. You will often hear it put that it is the fault of the residents for not supporting the local businesses. Of course, most residents do prefer to shop in town when that means getting a good deal on various things with a personalized community touch. And let's face it, our CBD is far more beautiful and nice to be in then the malls are. But the idea of "support" goes too far when it amounts to charity. You may convince me and a few others to shop downtown as a gesture of solidarity, but that is not sustainable for business. The bottom line is that people will shop in the CBD if they feel that they are getting good services at a good price and with a good attitude from those businesses. If businesses are to do well in the CBD, their operating costs need to come down in relation to their earnings. If they don't, they will not recoup the difference by simply raising prices on customers. And if they don't do well for themselves in their locations in the CBD, they will move to more profitable locations elsewhere.
John Q. April 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Former Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce President and he wants the town to impose a fee when a landlord can't rent a building? It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid.
Rock April 11, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Would be interesting to hear what the taxes are on some of these building spaces. I think imposing a fee on a property owner is perhaps looking for a problem in the wrong place. Property owners are businesses too. Also, never understood why, with all the restaurants in town that are open late into the evening and people walking to and from their meal -- why virtually NONE of the stores are open.
Eugene J. Ferraro April 11, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Mr. Abel should take a look at some of the CBD tax bills. I think the Cocoa fumes have gone to his head.
JAFO April 11, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Regarding parking, I walk through town almost every afternoon and I typically see store employees running out to feed the meters in front of their store for their car. That's a big problem when customers can't find convenient parking because the employee has taken it.
Ridgewood Mom April 11, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I don't have trouble parking in Ridgewood.
Barbara Cassidy April 11, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Oliver Abel is such a gentleman. And his store is a joy to shop in. I, and many others, will miss this great retailer. His point is well taken. Empty store fronts tell the story. Rents too high? Property taxes too high? Paying taxes on empty stores in the CBD? How's that working for us? Parking availability and meter charges...how's that working for us? Village Council...how's that working for us?? Ridgewood is going down hill as we sit and watch it happen. Notice the sparse shelves in some of the stores that are still here. It's not the cocoa fumes, Mr. Ferraro, or your flippant response. We need a reality check in Ridgewood. You tell me why someone (other than a yogurt shop) would take a chance on taking retail space in Ridgewood when the facts are overwhelmingly negative.
jp1 April 11, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I have lived in town many years and have found if lazy people can not park out front of the store they bitch and moan and go to the mall and walk a mile.
Phil Vier April 11, 2012 at 09:02 PM
I have loved this town since the 1960's. My father opened the B. Altman & Co. store (Fashion Center) in November of 1966, and was friends with Ed Macksoud, who owned the great Mac Hugh's clothing store here in town. I would really like to see everyone here offering supportive and positive suggestions in the spirit of making this beautiful village the thriving "hub" of commerce in Bergen County, that it once was. There are still some good stores like Just Our Shoes and Bookends that are doing their respective parts to uphold a sense of dignity and good taste that always helped to define the very essence and quality of the shopping experience in Ridgewood. No one enjoys walking past a vacant store! And there is little question that our country's current economic struggles are not at least partially to blame. There is always more that each of us can do, instead of just pointing the blame at each other. The issue of parking in Ridgewood has been around ever since there were cars, and there are actually plenty of good places to park. We all need to voice our concerns and suggestions at a Town Hall meeting, where it will do the most good. Posting "Going Out Of Business" and "Warehouse Sale" signs is NOT the answer! We need more caring and thoughtful people who remember stores stores like Sealfon's, Mac Hugh's and yes, even Victor's House of Music to make the difference that this wonderful village so very much deserves. If Ridgewood needs a renaissance, then let's make it happen!
Payin' Taxes April 11, 2012 at 10:22 PM
As far as new businesses are concerned, wait and see how long the Raymond's store takes to open. Once the Building Department is done with them, they will wish they never left Montclair.
Lisa Ertle April 12, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I am so happy to see Raymond's open here. Hopefully they won't be delayed.
limabean April 12, 2012 at 05:08 AM
What do residents want in a store in order to shop in town? Phil what you described are unique stores offering specialized products and services to customers and if I recall mchughes and b altmans were not discounted merchandize yet we agreed to pay extra. Ithink this concept has not changed in all honestly. Customers want to purchase something different that no one else can get...that is trendy. My friends travel to conneticut and brooklyn to find communities that offer variety that they can't find here or at a mall or ata gourmet grocery shop...hence the cheese shop demise. Let's examine bookends. Everyone is moving towards e…books or buying hardcover online at amazon and as such big stores like borders are going out of business. So what keeps them going. They introduced fresh ideas for book signings....hmm something you can't get at a mall or online. I didn't shop at the chocolate shop because I didn't see anything new in flavors so we stopped going Anything with chilis and chocolate. Even the cupcake shops are doing well....why? Because they make unique flavors. Raymonds is different and we travel every Sunday to montclair and we know it will flourish.
Eugene J. Ferraro April 12, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Ms, Cassidy if you have all the solutions to Ridgewoods problems why not run for Council. There are 3 seats available. Maybe Mr. Abel should run as well. You two seem to have all the answers.
Harlan Consider April 12, 2012 at 04:10 PM
It is highly risky investing an any kind of retail establishment in this current era. There are two major problems right now. One is the depressed economy, and the other is a changing retail landscape. In this economy, people spending money far more cautiously. The first things that are done without are the frivolous things ... often the kind of things that are found in a suburban downtown. As for the changing landscape, Internet shopping and big box stores are just about impossible to compete with. Take a short drive over to the Fashion Center and between Lord and Taylor, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Toys R Us, TJ Maxx, and Fairway, you have just about every conceivable product you could want. A little bit further along Rt 17 and you have shopping malls that are intoxicating to those that desire retail therapy. As for the Internet, we all know just how affordable and convenient it can be. You don't even have to get dressed anymore. Ridgewood's downtown is still viable, but the reality is that only a very narrow business type can exist: Banks. Hair/Nail/Spa. Food service. Drug store. Liquor.
Marcia Ringel April 12, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Not to mention Woolworth's and Drapkin's and the hardware store! Ah, the good old days of Ridgewood commerce. Why, we even had THREE bookstores at one time. How lovely to read your message, Mr. Vier--thank you for weighing in.
Eugene J. Ferraro April 12, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Lets not forget, Frozen Yogurt "KoaKoa" "Red Mango", Ice Cream "Haagen daz", Pastries "Sook" and more to come. Thanks to a Village Council that had the insight to realize that some of the B1 & B2 zoning needed to be changed.
Barbara Cassidy April 12, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Mr. Ferraro, obviously neither Mr. Abel nor I have the answers. If we did you can be sure you'd hear them. In any case we can be sure of your rude flippancy. The questions I asked are up for discussion about what else could be done. But I'm sure you don't think that will help. We have Paul Aronsohn asking questions, talking to retailers and looking for solutions. What is your contribution to the solution? Or maybe you don't think there is a problem or that it's not your problem. I will not dignify your rude comments with any further response.
Eugene J. Ferraro April 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Barb, You just did! I guess you just can't help yourself. I think Killion and Aronsohn are doing a great job.
Ridgewooder April 12, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I think what the downtown needs is 1) a parking structure very near the train station able to accomodate the vehicles of all commuters and 2) more "chain" stores which people are familiar with...mall stores...Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret, Barnes & Nobles, etc. The old one-off Ridgewood stores are all well and good but for the new generation they are an unknown quantity for the most part and that is why peoplel go to malls, atleast in part.
barbara April 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I just got back from 2 weeks in Europe and how wonderful not to see big chain stores all around and residents shopping in their butcher shops, pastry shops, book shops, etc. How I wish Ridgewood could somehow incorporate the feel of the European tradition and return to small privately owned shops for customers to buy the freshest ingredients for their meals or parties or their homes. I don't have a solution but it was such a pleasure to get away from Walgreen, Rite Aid, and the like. It will require much creative thinking, but somehow I feel it can be done.
maureen April 15, 2012 at 01:00 PM
1. Get rid of the parking authority which is running at a deficit of at most $300,00 two years ago and last year at a $100,00. We do not need another corrupt institution draining our tax resources ( notice the latest parking meter scam with Mr. Foxon) with added employees, car cost maintenance costs(god forbid they actually walk ), pensions and aggravation to keep business away as they wait for your meter to end to ticket you within seconds 2. Make Ridgewood Ave a ONE WAY street with diagonal spaces with FREE Parking (like Glen Rock, Maywood, Westwood, HoHokus, Allendale , etc ) 3. Check out the lovely and CHEAP garage in Montclair that is aesthetically pleasing, reasonable and does only what it should -house parked cars
maureen April 15, 2012 at 01:06 PM
4. Most importantly, have someone issue a reality check to the "slum baron" landlords who keep the town hostage with their OUTRAGEOUS rents...thank God I'm not a business owner because these fellows operate this town like a "fiefdom"
Eugene J. Ferraro April 16, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Looks like we have another council candidate. She solved all of Ridgewoods problems 1,2,3 &4. Wow its all the vicious landlords fault. But wait could it be the internet or the malls that have ruined Ridgewoods Mom and Pop stores.... No its the greedy landlords lets bring them all to the park and stone them.
Laurie Jones April 19, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Perhaps you need some true information, Mr. Ferraro - the majority of business owners in Ridgewood are paying on a "triple net" lease, which means THEY pay the taxes on top of all repairs. Not a very nice comment you made about someone who finally gave up after struggling for so long - guess you couldn't begin to imagine what that feels like, pretty cold.
Laurie Jones April 20, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Actually, You are the vicious one - and very rude, to boot. Just checked out your profile, you own a real estate operation so you are well aware of the "triple net" lease that prevails in Ridgewood. Why would you be so anti supportive of the little guy? If I were looking for a space in town and you were the one who held the listing, I would not be interested. Hope all villagers get wise to you - you're an evil person. Laurie
Eugene J. Ferraro April 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Laurie, You are correct I do have a Real Estate Business, I'm also a landlord and a property manager and have been for 35 years right here in the "Village"(I feel like I am in a Hitchcock movie). Do you even know what a "triple net lease " is? I'm sorry to inform you that triple net leases do not prevail in the "Village". Some lease include taxes, insurance and building maintenance. Ok now you have now passed store leasing 101. The Evil One.
MG April 20, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Excuses, excuses, excuses. Blame the Landlord.Why not become more current and stay with new trends. Sook, Gardiner & Co, Ridgewood Coffee, to name a few. Good business plans. We do not need stale merchants.
Harry June 08, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I do not even pretend to know how to fix the problems in Ridgewood. I will say that Mr Ferraro should be listened to.Yes He is a realtor,and his business depends on rent. Should he lose money on his propeties? No way. He has been in this town for ages,I know because I grew up in Ridgewood.He wants Ridgewood to thrive just like the rest of us and being in Ridgewood as long as he and his family has maybe people should at least listen to his views before shooting him down.
Dorothy July 07, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Yes, Mary Beth, I agree with you. Many of the merchants are stale and looking at the window displays and through the doors does not tempt one to enter. South Broad Street looks interesting. It has character. In my trips to town, where I usually find parking without trouble (a sign that the downtown is waning) I tend to go to certain businesses as destination stops without browsing: T&C Pharmacy, Papyrus, the UPS store, Jekyl, and Hyde, Ridgewood Cleaners and Just Our Shoes. Downtown does not have the charm it ince had. Williams Sonoma was great to have. Please bring back a hardware store and a gift store. I also agree with the comment asking why the shops are closed at night when people are out to eat, even on Thursday nights now. Better quality restaurants would help greatly too -- that is another story.

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