Trade has been brisk at the corner of Scotland Road and South Orange Avenue since at least 1809. At that time, a general store stood where 75 South Orange Ave. now stands; the store did a brisk trade in chocolate, at 33 cents per pound, chamber pots, and calico measured in “nails.” (According to “Maplewood Past and Present: A Miscellany,” there were 16 nails to a yard of fabric.)
The location, at the intersection of two busy streets, made sense then and has ever since, according to the current owner of the property, Stuart Wainberg. In more recent history, the building was owned by the Tublitz family, for some 65 years. As it does now, 75 South Orange Ave. held a pharmacy. (South Orange Pharmacy is the building’s newest resident.) “During the Depression, they made local deliveries,” explains Wainberg. “That helped the pharmacy stay in business.”
Tublitz bought a number of properties, which he joined and updated in the style of the times. As he aged and moved away, the family looked for new owners. Wainberg stepped in. “I saw the opportunity,” he explained. “It’s a well-located property, so now it’s about creating the right feel.” He plans to “restore the glory and expose the beauty” of the old building, naming it South Orange Square in the process.
Indeed, it’s easy to walk past the elaborate decorative elements hiding under the white paint. The top of the building boasts an acanthus leaf frieze flanked by two volutes. Below them, above a row of windows, an urn and swags are carved in relief. The neo-Classical influence extends to the geometric decoration below the urn and the narrow carved columns that flank the windows.
One of the most notable features of the restoration is a planned sign. With halo-lit lighting, the sign looks back to an earlier time. “I saw a 1930s photo of the sign,” explains Wainberg. “The new signage, which resembles that older sign, will create market appeal and sizzle excitement, while reflecting the historical beauty of the building.”
Wainberg looks back to an era when South Orange was the shopping center for much of the area. “Newark was the big city,” he explains, “so you would come to South Orange to shop, to eat, to see people you knew. Then and now, retail and entertainment go together.”
He speaks with great enthusiasm of Main Street South Orange and the energy of town merchants. “Our answer to the recession,” he says, “is to reinvest in South Orange.”
Note from the writer: Since taking these photos, I have returned three times to study the building. The decorative details are worth a look. If you see something that I missed, please let me know.