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Irvington Avenue Renaissance Looks to Its Thriving Commercial Past

New businesses on Irvington Avenue are reminders of the area's long business history

It's not a moment too soon to declare an Irvington Avenue renaissance. With new businesses, such as Munchies, The Blue Plate Special, and Buy and Save Beauty Suppply joining venerable enterprises such as Other Mothers, the area is becoming ever busier. With volunteers "lighting the night" and rejuvenating the park, Irvington Avenue is a destination as well as a welcoming place to live.  In this, Irvington Avenue, especially the area bounded roughly by Fairview Avenue to the town line, looks to a long history, both commercial and residential.

Local street directories -- available at the New Jersey Room of the South Orange Public Library -- note businesses in place by the 1920s. Locals lived above those businesses, as well, especially in the 1930s.

By the late 1930s, the block between Riggs Place and Fairview Avenue held a confectioner at 256, shoe repair at 259, and the National Grocery Company at 257. A number of stores listed as vacant suggest the Depression's impact.

308 Irvington held the "Great A&P Tea Company," alongside DeGuglielmo's barber, Biermann's delicatessen,and Schwartzstein upholstery. The 400 block held Nelson's Neighborhood Store, Mrs. L. Spada's beauty shop, and the Stehle & Kirk Esso Station.

Ten years later, 1948, the 200 block saw Steegman plumbing, Mercandante, the painter, and Anne's Beauty Salon at 259. This corner location remains a salon.

313 held Scherling's Hardware and Paints, 308 (which we may remember as Zayda's) was the A&P, and 325 held the South Orange Peppermint Room confectioner. 404 held Judy and Tom McGuire's delicatessen, a florist, and George's Radio Shop. A Safeway was located at 467, probably where El Greco is today.

By 1959, the area was a haven of hair salons and grocery stores. 251 held Tommy's Coiffures, the venerable Sandford's Getty Station moved in, and 259 became Henry's Men's Salon, with Josie's South Orange hairdressers at 274. Georgia's Beauty Salon and Andre Beauty Salon rubbed shoulder in the 300 block, while D'Elegance Coiffure was located at 410.

Lombardi's Delicatessen and Liquor Store was located at 261, while Tabatchnick's was at 309. The Bergen Fruit Garden was next to A&P at 312. The Bergen Fruit Garden and Irving Mandelbaum Kosher Butcher, owner of Town Kosher Market, were located in the 300 block. The Corner Shop made its first appearance at 325, and 461 saw Pirate Pizza and Sub Shop. 462 saw the establishment of Arthur Baecht School of Violin.

By the mid-1960s, the area saw changes again, with hair salons making way for clothing and cleaners.  The 300 block held Irene's Alteration Shop, Don Manzi's Sportwear, and Taft Stores, Inc.  Ziss Meats was the neighbor of Hoffman's Pharmacy, near Ward Place.

The Irvington Avenue area has seen changes in stores and residents, but what remains is a bustling commercial hub of South Orange. Next century's history is being written by those who buy, sell and live on Irvington Avenue.

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