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Central Avenue businesses hang tight during pandemic as improvement project approaches

The Central Avenue business district in Jersey City has been a bustling place, with merchants encouraging foot traffic, staging art shows and car shows and other events.

Then came the pandemic, creating hardships for small businesses nationwide.

“Central Avenue businesses are surviving the best they can in the COVID-19 climate,” says Sanford Fishman, Central Avenue Special Improvement District president. “There are many seasoned veterans in our district that have been able to make due given the current circumstances. Many of our small family owned businesses have taken advantage of every government loan or grant made available.”

But, he said, it’s been a mixed bag. Central Avenue did, in fact, lose 16 businesses since the start of 2020 and the agency is anticipating several more before the year is up. At the same time, several new businesses have opened.

Some help is coming in the form of the Central Avenue Streetscape & Roadway Improvements project, a new rehabilitation project that will be implemented this year by for Jersey City. The project will replace all sidewalks and repave the roadway in the Central Avenue shopping district.

“On the bright side, there is much to be thankful for as the city is making significant investments into the Heights main thoroughfare including the $4 million Streetscape project, new parking deck, new police precinct, and $6 million safety improvements into Reservoir 3,” Fishman said.

“There are brighter days ahead and entrepreneurs see that. Twelve new businesses have opened their doors on Central Avenue so far this year and there are 13 new businesses are on deck to open soon.”

While the current climate hasn’t been easy for everyone, other longtime businesses in the area have been hanging in there and doing the best they can.

“Considering everything I hear that’s going on in the world, I consider myself blessed,” says Peter Soriano, owner of Andrea Salumeria Grocery, a family run business since 1975. “We’ve been able to hold our own. We’re still able to pay the bills and keep people employed. It can always be worse. We have weeks where we do OK, and then other weeks where it’s not so well. But by the end of each month, everything balances out.”

Rumba’s Café is another business in the Central Avenue district that’s been surviving the current climate created by the pandemic.

“Thing’s have been OK for us right now,” says Bryan Saurez, manager of Rumba’s. “Business has been picking up and we’re operating at about halfway of what we were originally at before this all started.”

It’s no secret how devastating the effects of COVID-19 have been on the local economy. It’s been essential for members of the community to support their local businesses to keep them afloat.

Businesses will remain open to continue serving the needs of residents during the improvements planned for the district. The entire rehabilitation project for Central Avenue is expected to be completed no later than 270 days after it begins.

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