June 14, 2014 at 7:48 AM
MILLBURN, NJ – Recent days have seen the closure of three businesses in downtown Millburn, but merchants do not see it as an indication of the business climate. In the past couple weeks, Coco and Café Luna have closed, and after Saturday, Deborah Gilbert Smith will also be shut down. The latter may be temporary as they consider new locations.
“We have to concentrate on closing this location before we can look to our next chapter,” said Deborah Gilbert Smith. Their lease expires at the end of the month and they are dealing with the logistics of emptying the shop and putting things into storage. While they have looked at other possible locations, Smith said they did not want to rush into anything and hope to find another downtown location.
“It has been a wonderful 23 years,” Smith said. “We would be more than happy to be doing business back in Millburn later in the year.”
Downtown Millburn Development Association president Harry Roth blamed all three recent closings on landlords demanding high rent increases. According to Roth, the owners of Coco and Café Luna were both attempting to sell their businesses for a number of months, and the increased rents may have been the last straw. Café Luna owner Franco Ammirati would not discuss the lease situation, but is inviting patrons to visit his other restaurant down the street, Ma Maison.
The former Luna space has already been rented to Charlie Magjuni, who is currently renovating the space to become Fiamma Pizzaria, featuring a large wood-burning oven.
“You will always have an ebb and flow of businesses coming and going in any downtown, but Millburn has been pretty steady over the last number of years,” said Roth. “When businesses here do go out, there always seems to be another one right behind them coming in, so we don’t have a high vacancy rate. We don’t have a downtown that features many ‘For Rent’ signs.”