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Shop (Local) ‘Til You Drop

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This is a great time of the year to be around water, whether it be an ocean, a river or a lake. Life flourishes around water. The world comes alive.

I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that our world around Lake Hopatcong also seems to be experiencing its own rebirth of sorts, kind of like a renaissance.

In Hopatcong, an old, boarded-up, dilapidated lakefront restaurant has new life thanks to entrepreneurs John and Sandy Davieau, a Jefferson couple who have been dreaming of owning their own eatery for years. They’ve made their dream a reality with the River Styx Grill, located at the River Styx Bridge, a place on the water, with a view. A new destination to visit.

In the past couple of weeks at Nolan’s Point, The Windlass, Alice’s Restaurant, The Jefferson House and the year-old Lake Hopatcong Mini Golf Club have been drawing hundreds of visitors to the area. People are out and about, enjoying the views, enjoying the outdoor dining and soaking up the ambiance of the lake. This area is bustling with activity and people are patronizing the local establishments.

For the month of July, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (page four) is encouraging us all to participate in its Shop Local campaign by visiting and shopping at all our local organizations. The Shop Local campaign kicks off July 1 and continues until July 31. Close to 75 local businesses have signed on to participate, including shops like Get Potted Garden Florist in Hopatcong, eateries like the Andys’ Roadside Dive in Mount Arlington and specialty stores like Lakeside Billiards in Landing. The places participating will all be offering giveaways, discounts and bargains to us, the buying public.

It’s a terrific idea, a way to promote local businesses and boost the local economy, and a way to get to know our neighbors. With no real downtown to speak of in any of the four lake towns, shopping locally can sometimes be a challenge. But I’ve always believed in the ‘shop local’ philosophy. It makes sense to me to spend my money where I live, whether I’m hiring someone to work around my house or shopping retail.

I enjoy visiting mom and pop stores, especially hardware stores and garden centers. I grew up in West Caldwell, which has a main business district, Bloomfield Avenue. It had everything, like Schanz’s Hardware Store. I remember it had creaky wooden floors and rows and rows of curious little items. And anything else you could think of. I used to love to tag along with my father on his many quick trips “up to Schanz’s,” as he would say. I would investigate and touch everything in the store.

There was J.M. Town’s, a clothing store where my mom would bring us when we needed an outfit for a special occasion. If nothing suitable could be found at J.M. Town’s, she would take us down the avenue to the big city, Montclair, and to Epstein’s Department Store. Going to Epstein’s was a big deal. We usually had to dress up a bit and my mom would treat us to lunch at its cafeteria-style restaurant.

There was Fisher’s Bakery, the Italian deli and a big 5 and 10 store (now we call them dollar stores) where I used to buy all my Christmas and birthday presents for family and friends. And on a side street just before the avenue, sitting side-by-side-by-side were a corner grocer, a barber shop (it’s still there and my brother drives from Jefferson to West Caldwell when he needs the few hairs he has left, cut) and the candy shop. I can’t begin to tell you how many nickels and quarters I spent in that candy shop. And there was Welsh Farms ice cream shop. Just a quick walk through the woods behind our house. My mom would take us almost every summer night. Best ice cream ever.

By boat or by car, our “downtown” has many great places to eat and shop. Get out and find your favorite.

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