LAKE AVENUE SURGE
WEST VILLAGE REFUGEE AND THE POWER OF ASBURY'S CREATIVE CRITICAL MASS:
ALISON NELSON | CHOCOLATE BAR
We've been chronicling them all as this newspaper has successfully pushed Asbury Park to its rightful place as one of the best small cites in this country, if not the world. Asbury is now getting big-time recognition in the New York orbit. National media attention - and even international - has been following.
Our role has always been to get our readers to see things in Asbury Park they have never noticed. And before everyone else. That part of our job has certainly gotten easier since this paper first rolled off the presses in the ghost town of downtown Asbury in January of 1999.
So we direct your attention this week to what was only a couple of years ago a sleepy Lake Avenue on Wesley Lake facing Ocean Grove. A complete backwater of the downtown business district. Moonstruck restaurant was the first over there about 15 years ago - in fact, they were the first high-profile business to come to Asbury in its comeback. They moved from Ocean Grove. That was it for years.
Things have now changed. This section of Asbury Park has now become the powerhouse, with a diverse range of offerings. Watch it propel the city forward even further.
The obvious change was earlier this year when the Asbury Festhalle and Biergarten opened. That place outperformed everyone's expectations. But the big break started a couple of years ago, when music producer Jon Leidersdorff put it all on the line to build his Lakehouse Complex with it's popular music classes for all ages, recording studios and performance space, the Russo music store and the CoWerks space for our budding tech sector.
And that just pulls more successful broad-minded people into our city. The TriCity-affiliated asburyparksun.com broke the story of a big one earlier this week. it's the relocation of the headquarters and flagship store of the acclaimed CHOCOLATE BAR to the large vacant Lake Avenue space last occupied a few years ago by Chico's House of Jazz. The opening is planned for next year.
It's big news indeed as the unconventional Chocolate Bar has built a huge following since it was first established in the West Village over a decade ago. The Sun's story went viral with over 5,000 Facebook shares. And the founder ALISON NELSON's decision to come here was obviously based on how she was roped into the city by what we already have. Critical mass indeed.
She said her children take lesson and perform at Leidersdorff's Lakehouse on Lake Avenue and dance at the Shoreline Academy, which is located in the Jersey Shore Arts Center on the other side of Wesley Lake in Ocean Grove. In addition, WORKHOUSE, the Manhattan-based-PR of her husband ADAM NELSON - a creative guy par excellence himself - is handling the opening of the new House of Independents multifaceted performance space on Cookman Avenue in downtown Asbury, [We've covered the House of Independents story, which also involves a remarkable push to get a broad-minded array of performers into it's versatile space.] The Nelson's and their kids split their time between our area and Manhattan.
There's nothing we love more than to dissect the causes and positive effects of every step of creative mass in Asbury Park especially Chocolate Bar - the latest big creative name to come to Asbury.
But the West Village location is where she started, and it was quite the institution. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was a huge fan and it was reported to be the last place he visited for his usual coffee before his death. In an email to employees that was reported in New York media, Nelson said she never expected to ever leave the West Village, but the construction and the neighborhood changes just did the place in. Guess the customers like Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johanson, Jakey Gyllenhal, Leonardo DiCaprio and Uma Thurman will have to get on the train down to Asbury Park - and hang out with us suburanites.
When someone like Alison Nelson needs an alternative to a large city, we're here for them. And in so many ways, Asbury is a lot better. After all, it's easy to be cool in a place like Brooklyn or Berkeley. But it achieve it in Asbury Park - a city long left for dead in the middle of a suburban region - its a whole different thing. It's much more special here. Especially considering we are on the beach and have a coastal culture to go along with our urban offerings. There is really no place like this in the United States. People like Alison get that.
Consider her own statement about Asbury Park, the creative talent we're now attracting and how that talent continues to remake our city in a way that, well, we long ago predicted would happen.
Here's Alison Nelson:
"I a drawn to Asbury, which I believe will be the next great American town. The dynamic mix of diversity, concrete culture, surf, music, architecture, and food speaks to me. It's what we aim to create at Chocolate Bar every day. Chocolate bar isn't traditional. You will never find a heart shaped box here. It's the kind of spot where you can hang out all day and draw in your notebook or bring a crew for chocolate fondue while listening to a rocking soundtrack. We'll have a rotating cast of characters performing, reading, cooking, and creating at our clubhouse of cacao. As a shop we are community driven by nature but I am personally invested here - my children rock out at Lakehouse, dance at Shoreline, and my husband in handling the opening of House of Independents. Asbury is where it's at."