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Business Owners Want Looser Sign Law

A&P is the only business in the Washington Town Center with a multicolor sign because of an ordinance which only affects the strip mall.

A group of Washington Township business owners seeking to draw more customers are hoping to spruce up their storefronts with eye-catching signs, but a local ordinance mandates most signs must be uniform.

According to Ada Gazzillo of , she and her husband Vincent had planned to write "Trattoria" in red letters after getting permission from the landlord. They later had to take the offending word down because it violated an ordinance limiting all signs in the to one color. The restaurant is currently just labeled "Vincent's."

"I'm frustrated," Gazzillo said. "No one is coming to the strip mall."

Businesses are limited by both their landlord and the local ordinance. In the Washington Town Center, businesses also must obey an ordinance from 1997 that only governs the strip mall. The ordinance limits letters to a maximum of 24 inches in height. The lettering must be in "complimentary fonts" chosen by the center's owner and all the signs must be the same color, which Vincent's violated.

An exception to the ordinance was made for the .

The Gazzillos are not alone in their frustration. Terry Kipriadis, the owner of , is also to attract more customers. Kipriadis previously told Patch she hoped to organize the other township business owners to put on events and make the area more appealing.

"I'm hoping that strength in numbers will entice the town to take action and create awareness in the community and neighboring towns," Kipriadis previously said.

John Azarian, the managing and leasing agent for Washington Town Center, attended the Washington Township Council's meeting Monday. Azarian asked that the council consider changing the ordinance to allow more variety and also requested temporary signs be allowed, including real estate signs to advertise the 14 currently available spaces in the strip mall.

Similar signs from Gyros and Goodies and placed along Pascack Road have drawn criticism from some residents.

Township officials said they would have planner Stan Slachetka take a look at the ordinance to suggest possible changes before their next meeting.

"We're trying to not be the restricting party," Council President Richard Hrbek said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Leggate at JMLeggate@gmail.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

B@B July 24, 2012 at 10:03 AM
The owner of the strip mall has long proven that she doesn't care if the center is rented or not, she doesn't care of the businesses who rent there thrive, and she doesn't care about the eyesore that this center is becoming because it is half-abandoned. A&P's corporate parent is struggling, what happens if the A&P closes? We will have yet another blighted property. While the town governance is genuflecting before the twin deities of James Kourgelis and the lawyers of Sky Trading, the main business "district" in town is foundering and its small business owners who don't have enough money to essentially own the council are struggling. Kudos to the local businesses who are trying to take it upon themselves to do the job of the local government and the owners of the shopping center. What this council decides will tell us a great deal about whether they actually care about the town they govern, or if it's all about power, steppingstones to higher office, and cronyism or if it's truly about good government.
Steve Kohlreiter July 24, 2012 at 11:59 AM
I agree. The town should be helping in whatever way they can to help these businesses prosper and flourish and to encourage other businesses to move in the shopping center. If the A&P were ever to leave we would all be screwed.
Linda July 24, 2012 at 12:44 PM
I am appalled that the beautiful town I moved to 6 years ago is now looking so downmarket. The economy is tough yet surrounding municipalities seem to have the ability to keep their strip malls occupied. I am a firm believer in supporting local and small businesses and the mall owner and town officials need to wake up and start thinking outside the box. I realize this mall and town were designed to be "non or limited" commercial areas but challenging and changing times require leadership and change....not a lazy business as usual approach. As a homeowner concerned with home values, I'd rather have a vibrant yet classy business center than a shabby, quiet "non-commercial" ghost town! The mall is appalling - half empty with filthy sidewalks and signage that is unclear and cannot be read from the street. AND an entry sign that with the exception of the A&P and Movie Theatre does not even list the mall's tenants! So you pay rent to have limited foot traffic, invisible signage and no chance of attracting passing motorists and area residents because your landlord will not even list your business name on the mall entry sign. Shameful....and not too saavy. I too am sick of hearing about CVS and 5-Star. These are major mistakes. What will the town do when the A&P closes and CVS puts Rite-Aid out of business....what a beautiful business district we will have then. Bravo to the business owners for taking a stand. You have my full support!
joe marsh July 24, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Both the gyro and Verizon signs look awful. This is Washington township, not Paterson! You don't attract customers with cheesy looking signs, you do that with a good product. People don't want to go to a strip mall for a sit-down dinner (Vincent's). They don't want to pay $10.00 for a mediocre burger and fries from a no-name place like Pop's. The owner of the strip mall is a moron, but putting up flashy signs will do nothing to help business and everything to cheapen the look of the town--even more than the strip mall owner has done with the blue lettering and awful stucco. You wanna attract people with flashy signs-go to Times Square. Town center should have a nice stone veneer and a more toned down look to attract better businesses. The only people who go to aftermarket Verizon stores are illegal aliens because they will give them deals in phones. We don't need stores like that in town and we certainly don't need an industrial gas station and cvs.
scruffy July 24, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Westwood has been restricting the store owners one by one and trying to make things cookie cutter to please a certain well known business man who is a major political supporter as well. Ask the residents whether or not we need to all look like a Ridgewood and the answer is no. We need clean sidewalks, viable business and the town will prosper. Stop focusing on the little details cause you are missing the big pciture town officials everywhere. If you do not have a good downtown area the home prices suffer.
Concerned July 24, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Well written and thoughtful notes.The owner has long eshewed any tactics to keep the mall occupied (high rents,not working with tenants,no marketing efforts). Azarian Realty has a good reputation and a positive track record but I see no evidence of that in town. No advertising, no promotion. The Council talks a good fight but has always denied any abilty to help the "Town Center". They allow bulding of convenience stores on overly trafficked intersections and are inviting competition to already established stores (CVS in an absurd location).. The Council doesn't speak up but, by god, it is supposed to be the government. For long term success the mall needs some positive marketing efforts even at the cost of a short term deficit.
Concerned July 24, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Joe-With friends like you who needs enemies? There are dozens of Bergen county restaurants that are doing quite well in srip malls. POP'S makes a pretty good burger. the Verizon store provides a pretty good experience vis-a-vis telephone stores. It doesn't sound like you've ever walked into our mall establishments. You keep trying to send people out of town with your elitist comments
joe marsh July 24, 2012 at 04:44 PM
If Pop's makes such a good burger then people will come and eat there. I've been there and it was OK and I paid 10 bucks for an OK burger, horrible bacon and OK fries. Vincents has their windows blacked out so dark that you don't even know if they are in business. All second hand verizon stores offer special services to illegals, it's a fact. I don't mind stores occupying the space--I'd love to have it filled up, but I do not want cheap plastic signs lining the road for the Verizon or Gyro place--it cheapens the look of the town. Concerned, you sound like someone who moved here from Paterson who is happy with the major upgrade. I have lived here for a long time and do not like the direction the town is going in. Seasons was the start of it and now it won't stop. The pizza place thrived there for many years without stupid signs (they also lived in town). These business owners don't live here so they don't care what the town looks like. The only thing that can be done is speak to Alexandra, the owner of the strip mall and make her realize that she is hurting business with her high rent. Maybe we will be lucky and someone else will buy the property--someone with a brain, but until then I don't want signs all over. What's next-day laborers holding up sandwich boards advertising "best gyros ever"? Please.
Concerned July 24, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Please be civil. You don't know me or my background and I will not dignify your nasty comments with further expostion. Your continued bad-natured references to Paterson are getting a little tired. You really should stop telling people to move there or that they come from there. Your culinary preferences and design recommendations are probably better kept to yourself. Your persistent "illegal aliens" comments speak volumes. By the way I believe Alexandra is no longer with us.
B@B July 24, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Ridgewood hasn't exactly thrived in this recession either. But Westwood has overall held up better than most downtowns. As to Joe's comments, welll, as soon as he brings up "illegal aliens" he's lost me. I got my new phone from that very Verizon store, because the staff of young people there is very helpful and gives a good deal. The problems at the strip mall are not caused by the tenants. Vincents has become mediocre after a very promising start, but the other businesses at least attempt to be good community citizens even though they get ZERO support from their landlord, from our local "governance", and from citizens like Joe. It's been known for a long time that the owner of the mall has wanted to sell it to build condos. And like Mr. Kourgelis and the Sky Trading gang, all of whom will hold the town hostage until they get what they want, she will continue to neglect the property until she gets what she wants. And our local officials do nothing, because they are too busy looking for their next political office to care about what happens in town.
B@B July 24, 2012 at 06:31 PM
My understanding is that Original left because the rent was just too high. I have also heard, not sure if it is true, that when tenants leave. Alexandra just raises the rents on the other tenants to cover the taxes. Sooner or later, this will empty out the center. I believe she still owns the mall, but this do-nothing management company manages the nonexistent rentals.
susan July 25, 2012 at 02:57 AM
I am glad to hear that the tenants are finally fighting. They need to bring attention to the mall.by attracting attention with signage, flags, whatever it takes. While they are at it they should ask for rent reductions. I do not know it to be a fact but from what everyone is saying the rent is insane. I have lived in this town for 30 years and it saddens me how the town center looks. it is not appealing at all. We all need to help the local businesses. And from the past comments who cares if the tenants ae not from town. What difference does it make? You should be thanking them for bringinf their businees to our town. Joe, your commen is horrible. there are many thriving restaurants in strip malls. When was the last time you were at Vincent's? Pop's? Gyro? Do you support local businesses? It does not sound like you do? It's this type of negativity that prevents situations to prosper. Sound like you may have a personal vendeta against the strip mall.
susan July 25, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Everyone who wants to see the strip mall come alive again should go to the next council meeting and show the town center busineeses that we support them. We as a township should come together and fight for the restoration of our strip mall by helping the current busineesses owners succeed and appeal to future businesses. We need family stores, kids store, game stores, etc.... I want people to stay in the township of washington, not go to westwood, ridgewood, etc....
Concerned July 25, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Bob-The owners of Original stated that they left because owner was creating more angst for them than they could endure. Rent could also have been an issue I don't know. Susan- Couldn't agree more.
susan July 25, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Obviously Joe you are not a professional!
Barb July 25, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I have eaten at all the places, Pop's, gyro and Vincent's. I am a fan of all. POP's and the GYRO place is a great place for lunch. Vincent's is a great place for dinner. I love that it's a BYOB. I personally like the blackened windows becasuse once your inside you forget that you are in a strip mall. The charm of the brick, the friendly staff and the food is delicious. Everything is made fresh and I especially am a fan of all their fish dishes. The Verizon store also has a friendly staff and always helpful. Joe,you need to get out more. Maybe have lunch or dinner at one of the establishments in the strip mall. You never know you might enjoy it.
Barb July 25, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Hope the town council and Mayor help all the establishments in the town center. They are asking for help. They should not go unheard. I think it would be sad to see the current establishments close due to hight rent and lack of visiblity to the public. The town and landlord need to put their heads together to succeed.
Linda July 25, 2012 at 12:07 PM
@Susan and Barb - what a difference a day makes. I left this thread yesterday extremely disappointed in the negativity, immaturity and arrogance of certain posters. Mean-spirited and self-serving nonsense. Glad you have joined the discussion and are elevating the discussion back to the true issue - reviving our Town Center and protecting our home values by supporting our small businesses. You're so right Barb, all these small businesses are great additions to the town and it is shameful to bash them; particularly, Vincent's which is a charming BYO with great warmth and food. Very New York and casual sophistication. For what it is worth, I plan to send a letter outlining my concerns to the Mayor and the Management Company. I would suggest everyone do the same. These businesses are not asking for tacky signs, but for effective signage and marketing efforts to help the mall thrive. I for one have always found it extremely odd that there is no directory on the entrance sign - it only mentions the A&P and the Movie Threatre. This is not good business! It is not brain surgery to design upscale and effective storefront signage and a directory for the town center. The mall sidewalks also need a major powerwashing -- they are embarrassingly filthy especially in front of the Dairy Queen.
Walnut July 25, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Linda, you are correct about some of the immature nonsense posted on here. Hopefully, old folk like you and me can balance it with common sense. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done to improve the situation at the town center given the poor economy we are in and much of the issues seem to be private in nature between the landlord and the tenants and therefore outside the scope (thankfully) of the local government's authority. I believe it's best to let free market principles run their course. The landlord will do what's within its rights and the tenants will do what's within theirs. Ultimately, the quality and value of what is offered at the town center will determine what businesses thrive. Long periods of vacancies will eventually result in lower rents, etc. I must admit, the blacked out windows of the restaurant made me think it was out of business. i can't believe that the Dunkin Donuts couldn't survive given how busy it was. It is sad in this country how difficult, and how much tougher it will be given the new healthcare law, for small businesses to thrive.
Linda July 25, 2012 at 06:23 PM
@Walnut, thanks for your nice words. I wouldn't equate immaturity to chronological age, however. I suspect the offending posters may be much older than I, lol. I do not agree that there is nothing that can be done nor that quality and value will determine what businesses survive. If you have no foot traffic, no energy or proper signage and support, even quality and value will not prevail -- Marketing 101: Location, Location, Location. Rather, I suspect that the mall owner simply doesn't care. Poor economy or not, if you're bright and fair-minded, have integrity, and just a little bit of creativity and marketing skill, you most certainly should be able to achieve more than 50% occupancy, and keep your property clean. No, my guess is that the owner is not interested in maintaining the mall, is applying minimal effort and has a hidden agenda. In this case and out of concern for our home values, it is indeed important for the town officials and residents to apply some pressure. Between the Pascack/ Washington eyesore and our Shabby Town Mall, this town image is in serious decline. I too believe in the free market system, Walnut, but not in neglect. This is neglect.
B@B July 25, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Walnut: As I understand it, the vacancies do not seem to matter to the owner of the strip mall, as she simply allocates the property taxes among the remaining stores through higher rents. What this means is that if the intrepid souls who have decided to open up there are not supported by local residents and can't make it, the last one standing will get socked with the full property tax burden. The owner doesn't seem to care if she makes a profit off of this property or not. The "free market" does not always result in a positive outcome, and it looks like soon the mall's owner's lack of presence and lack of caring about the community her property is in will result in yet another blighted property in town. Then it will sit as a weed-choked lot for a dozen years or so until it's cheap enough for Mr. Kourgelis to buy it and build another mega-catering hall. Or a Wal-Mart.
Jeffrey Tammen July 28, 2012 at 05:56 AM
The Washington town center was a great strip mall back in the day ,they made the mall more difficult to move around by closing the middle up and adding 3stores.which are vacant plus they revamped parking lot which is very dangerous when walking around and also parking.does not make it inviting to come in ,plus they restricted the buss owners on the signage which is absurd most stores have there own logos and colors which passer buys will see and stop in,instead off a sing that says pizza, or you have 2signs close to each other and all you do is confuse the consumer and they move on.let them have there personal mesh and logo.also I'm told each buss who makes over a certain amt of money have to pay a percent of money to either the mngt company or the ap since its the anchor store.plus ontop of that the rent is high.which means every product will be higher than surrounding towns and it hurts the buss.fyi in my opinion pops has great burgers and will continue to eat there and support the buss.hopefully the town wil make good on there promise to create a group of men and women who could come up with ideas to draw buss here and keep them .something along the lines of a chamber of commerce .we have a great town but need to get involved and push for these changes,.
Jeffrey Tammen July 28, 2012 at 06:13 AM
Back in the day we had 2food stores we had a food town wich is a&p and a shop rite were rite aid is plus a hardware store and misc other great stores,we need to help and back these buss owners but the bottom line is the rent is high and the strip mall must loosen its laws .and maybe make the front more inviting .and now they want to build a convenice store down the road .WTF are they kidding the residents of Washington township must wake up and take our town back
B@B July 28, 2012 at 07:57 AM
Then how about not voting in the same people year after year? 2 years ago there was the first contested election in 30 years, and people in town voted for the same GOP hacks.
Jeffrey Tammen July 28, 2012 at 03:24 PM
B@b your right we can only blame ourselves For voting in the same or letting it go uncontested ,I can't believe these are the best of the best lol yes and hacks
Concerned July 28, 2012 at 04:55 PM
The political comments aren't very productive. Republican or Democrat or Libertarian etc doesn't really make much difference at this local level.I understand there are six more businesses seriously considering leaving but Dunkin' Donuts might be coming back. I have been lead to believe that rents are too high to make a profit exacerbated by little traffic. Need beter signage, cleaner environment and at least temporary lower rents. Does any among us know how to make that happen?
B@B July 28, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Concerned: I realize that party affiliation doesn't matter at the local level. But the way our ballots are designed, people tend to vote party line -- ding, ding, ding -- all the way down. 2 years ago they had an opportunity to vote in new leadership and didn't take advantage of it. Granted, Mr. Sarlo, as brother of one of the Dem party machine guys, was probably not the best emissary of change. But still -- it shouldn't be a surprise that the ineptitude remains. What I hear, and it's strictly hearsay, is that the owner doesn't care about this shopping center. One tenant moves out and she just reallocates the expenses among those that remain (which is why Pop's has to charge $6.95 for a burger that you can get a better one at the Dog House and the latter includes the fries). It's impossible for any business to make a profit like this. My understanding is that she wants to sell it for condos, and had a buyer a few years back but it fell through.
Concerned July 28, 2012 at 08:09 PM
The Council is all new-Mayor a holdover. None of that really matters. I really didn't mean to start another he said-she said blah blah shouting match Sorry. What I said about necessary changes is what I was trying to get across. Maybe you should run (don't mean this sarcastically)

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