Fallen Structures Remind of Times Past
A Journey into River Edge
Usually July 3rd is a day of preparation and anticipation around town. The street cleaners are out on Bogert Road. Memorial Park is being trimmed and prepped. Folks along the parade route are cleaning and decorating their properties. Our hometown July Fourth celebration is near.
But this year's July 3rd is different. The town is in a frenzy. Emergency vehicles, instead of being readied for the parade, are in use. Press helicopters are noisily hovering overhead. A pile of rubble sits along Kinderkamack Road. River Edge is in the news.
Not a mile away sits another pile of debris - the remains of a fallen building.
One of the piles was intentional - the other unintended, threatening and disruptive.
The first - quietly and without much fanfare are the remains of a structure that stood at 335 Johnson Avenue - between Route 4, Kinderkamack, Main Street and Grand Avenue. Most recently the building was home to a Christine Valmy spa, but before that it was known as the site of the Swiss Ski Shop.
As a spa, the building sported and pink or peach look to it. This coat f paint covered up the Tyrolian woodsie look that graced the chalet-like structure that was first erected in the 1960's.
At the time, Max Eberle refitted an old residential structure so he could move his business from Main Street in Hackensack.
Eberle was a local legend and a celebrity. When his ski shop opened it came at a time before mass production manufacturers and sales in the ski industry. It had much of a small hometown business feel to it before such business invaded Paramus and places around America that look and feel much like its sprawl.
Moreover, Eberle was not just any small business owner. He came with pedigree - a former Swiss ski champion. He did not just sell ski equipment. He had a passion for skiing.
My introduction to Max Eberle and his store came through a River Dell Adult Education class. He was my instructor in a cross-country ski class. He "skied" on the Pyle Street side of the high school on October leaves and pine cones -snow no whereto be found.But he was a good teacher. Years later I still enjoy the sport. Moreover, even though the cross-country skiing was not his primary area of expertise, Mr. Eberle was nonetheless gracious, and enthusiastic about the sport and took a real interest in my progress.
Of course, the other fallen structure is that facade at the Kinderkamack Road strip mall that has received so many headlines.
What happened at the site has been well chronicled. Relived that all on site was rescued uninjured (thank you first responders), we soon turned our attention to contemplate the integral role of this functional but little celebrated strip mall.
Underneath the facade that collapsed lied a 1940's vintage structure. Its history in many ways helps tell the story of River Edge.
The anchor store, now a liquor store, was once the Riverside Market - a reflection of River Edge's name when it was not known as River Edge. It also reflects how local shopped for food before supermarkets came to town in the late 1940's-early 1950's (A&P/Honey Dew Market).
My parents told of a short-lived Kosher Deli that set up shop during the 1950's. Apparently River Edge's demographic profile or its culinary tastes were not ready for corned beef, pastrami and knishes at that time.
Nonetheless, the mall's occupants have over time reflected who lived in River Edge and what they sought.
The O'shea Sporting Good Store was a hockey emporium that occupied a storefront during the 1970's-8-0's and grew lovers of the game whio came to talk the sport as much as buy its equipment.
An Irish Import store owned by Mayor John Curran (River Edge's first Democratic mayor) was a popular spot.
Mazzone's Pizza dates back to the 1960's (50's?) and still has a priod feel.
And, the Chinese take-out spot has been there for decades - now Huang's Kitchen it used to be known as Wong's Kitchen and sold bowls, vases and other "items from the Orient".
A couple of years back the place was divided into two - two different owners/landlords, two sets of rules for businesses and customers , and two sets of tow truck companies to deal with for those who were not careful where they parked.
Recent businesses have included the Joyce Restaurant that features Chinese specialties not often found in most eateries, a t-shirt/trophy engraving store that services our teams and clubs, a martial arts school and a sushi eatery.
But that may have all changed - we will have to see - on that hot July 3rd, when a falling facade shook the ground, those on site and the psyche of a community.
As the day progressed some strong thunder storms rolled in - appropriate as mood music to fut what had befallen our town.
Still, July Fourth awaits us (and a last chance to pay tribute to the old American Legion Building - a sad story for another time).
For now the familar and re-assuring parade and very River Edge festivities beckon.