LAUREN BEISCHER

Metuchen, the charming Middlesex County borough with a vibrant downtown, has just won the 2023 Great American Main Street Award. The Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA) was one of three winners chosen from among eight semifinalists this year. Only two other downtowns in New Jersey – Westfield and Montclair – have previously received the honor.

Dawn Mackey, executive director of the MDA, says “the secret ingredient here is the community” in sharing what set Metuchen apart from countless downtowns nationally. “When volunteers, the municipality, landlords and businesses put their hearts into one mission the results are pure magic,” Mackey said.

Metuchen
LAUREN BEISCHER

Established in 1995 by Main Street America, the Great American Main Street Award honors downtowns who’ve gone above and beyond to transform their communities through revitalized downtowns. Metuchen was also chosen for its innovative programming and inclusive events such as Lunar New Year, the Hispanic Heritage Celebration, Juneteenth, and Pride on the Plaza all “while maintaining Metuchen’s historic, small-town character.”

Celebrating Diversity and Shopping Local
The borough was celebrated for celebrating its increasingly diverse population and businesses over the past seven years and for its push to promote shopping local to drive traffic to downtown businesses. When Metuchen’s Downtown Alliance was established in 2016, the business district had an over 20 percent vacancy rate. Today, vacancies are at a single-digit, all-time low, and Metuchen is regularly receiving national recognition – most recently when American Girl introduced its 2023 Girl of the Year doll, Kavi Sharma, as a Metuchen tween who is proud of her Indian-American heritage.

Metuchen
PRIDE ON THE PLAZA / RICHARD ALFONZO

The diverse offerings in downtown Metuchen include “a classic ice-cream parlor alongside a Dominican bakery run by a French Culinary Institute graduate, home goods sourced from Brooklyn and the UK, and a wide variety of top-rated restaurants reflective of the diverse area,” the MDA said in a release. “An emphasis on culturally inclusive programming appeals to both area residents and business owners, creating a welcoming and supportive environment that has helped draw over 50 minority-owned businesses.”

Resident Brian Glassberg says Metuchen was a great place to grow up and he’s happy to raise his daughter there. “There are so many places we love to shop and eat, but more than that, it’s become a gathering place to celebrate our diversity and enjoy entertainment,” Glassberg says. “When we walk downtown, we know we are going to see friends, both old and new. It’s a place where we feel connected and where we always feel at home.”

Metuchen
SPRING BAZAAR/ LAUREN BEISCHER

In June, Metuchen will celebrate its big win with a Downtown Funhouse party for all of Metuchen and those who love it. In the style of a Coney Island parade, it will feature sideshow performances, axe-throwing, music, food, dancing, children’s activities, street art, and much more.

The two other downtowns honored this year are Danville, Virginia, and Florence, South Carolina.

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