By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN – The Fair Haven Business Association is looking to expand its focus by bringing in businesses from neighboring Rumson.
Michel Berger, president of the association, said the Fair Haven group is reaching out to Rumson business owners in hopes they can partner and participate in planned activities intended to spur sales.
Berger said it seemed like an obvious move on the association’s part to link the businesses of the neighboring communities. A case in point, Berger said, is that while Fair Haven doesn’t count a pharmacy among its businesses, Rumson does. There also are Fair Haven businesses that appeal to Rumson residents.
“We’ll be able to do cross marketing between the two towns,” Berger said.
The association took its cue from the municipal governments – “how the towns are getting together with shared services” – and the already collaborative Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, Berger said.
Combining the efforts of two communities’ commercial interests, “gives us a little more voice and weight for our concerns,” he said, calling it “the next logical step.”
Berger already has approached some Rumson business owners about the prospect of joining. He has asked for them to attend the next association meeting in early April to talk about the prospect and events the association has in the works.
“I’m all for promoting business and I think it would be something that could benefit my business,” said Amit Patel, Rumson Pharmacy owner, when asked this week about the idea. But Patel said he would like to hear more details before committing.
Berger said the association tries “to be creative” when devising ways to promote local businesses, including a scavenger hunt, which will run for two weeks prior to this year’s Fair Haven Day celebration, scheduled for June 15.
“We’re still working on the details,” Berger said. The plan is to distribute a postcard with the rules and ask participants to collect as many of the items from local stores as they can. The hunt will be divided into two age groups with prizes awarded the winners at the Fair Haven Day event. “The idea is to get some foot traffic for the stores” and to make it fun for the participants.
Along with that, the association is planning to revive the placemats it had formerly had printed and distributed at the annual Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair in August. The placemats are printed with advertisements for local businesses and games to keep children occupied. The association didn’t use the marketing tool last year because of a lack of funds, he said.
The business association is sponsoring a blood drive and Berger said there will be a fifth annual Tour de Fair Haven bicycle race on Sept. 15 this year.
On the flip side, the business group will not be working with the borough for another coordinated town-wide yard sale/sidewalk sale. Again, the reason is cost, Berger said.
“To do that you have to advertise it,” and the association can’t afford it, he said. “That’s a shame because it was a success.”
It’s been a tough few months for borough businesses. Super Storm Sandy and the closures of the Oceanic Bridge in Rumson has made it more difficult for customers living on the northern side of the Navesink River to get to Fair Haven shops, he said. There also is the continuing difficulty for traditional brick-and-mortar retail to compete with online alternatives.
“I sense so much frustration,” from the members, Berger said.
It’s been so difficult that some members haven’t been able to pay the annual $55 association dues, he said.
Despite the challenges, Berger remains optimistic for the future. “We have a pretty good group and, overall, the businesses will manage to survive,” he said.