Guest opinion column about the great things in downtown Trenton in the Trenton Times–including some nice thigns to say about Classics Books, by John P. Thurber
The Times’ editorial “A love of Trenton” (Feb. 23) invites readers to add their suggestions to the list of favorite things about our capital city. Ingrid Reed initiated this list with her guest opinion article “A valentine to the city of Trenton” (Feb. 14) by focusing on the city’s historic attractions, beautiful parks, graceful architecture and important nonprofits. Eliot and Patti Daley added several community organizations in their Feb. 18 letter to the editor.
It’s great that The Times has provided this opportunity to focus on the positive aspects of Trenton. The wonderful list that’s been generated is compelling but omits an important category: Trenton’s small businesses. Trenton continues to be home to many entrepreneurs and business owners who share the creativity, persistence and resilience that enable others in the capital city to be successful.
Many of these remarkable businesses are located in downtown Trenton, easily accessible to residents and those visiting from the suburbs. There are far too many favorites to mention, but a small sampling will suggest the range and distinctive qualities of these businesses. Few of them get the attention they deserve.
For example, one of the region’s best restaurants can be found in Trenton’s downtown. Settimo Cielo on Front Street is a gem of an Italian restaurant conveniently located across from a public parking garage. The manager, Henry Mendez, and his staff provide great service and the food is consistently outstanding.
Around the corner on Warren Street is the State Barber Shop, where Joe Festa has been cutting hair for 45 years. Joe is known as the honorary mayor of Warren Street and cares deeply about the city. He is not only a great barber but one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. You’ll walk out of his shop in a better mood than when you walked in, and you’ll look better, too.
Warren Street hosts several restaurants that are local favorites, including Checkers, Hummingbird, Downtown Deli and Café Olé. Checkers owner Tom Fowler presides over his restaurant’s grill and ensures that every burger meets his high standards. Hummingbird offers authentic Jamaican food for either eat-in or take-out. Downtown Deli makes a great sandwich and offers delicious soup for a reasonable price. Café Olé is perhaps the best coffee house in Trenton and owner Kit Rivenburg serves a tasty breakfast and lunch as well.
Nearby on Lafayette Street is Classics Used and Rare Books, where owner Eric Maywar works on projects ranging from the distribution of free books to Trenton families, weekly Scrabble tournaments, author events and open mic nights. Eric loves books but is equally committed to strengthening Trenton’s social capital through his business. And he is making a real impact.
Trenton Kebab House on East State Street near City Hall is another favorite restaurant. Offering Middle Eastern, Turkish and Indian foods, this restaurant is a welcome alternative for lunch or dinner.
A short ride down Broad Street leads you to Trenton Social, a hip restaurant, bar and lounge located across the street from the Sun National Bank Center. The building was renovated by owner Roland Pott and his partners, who shared a vision that music, the arts and entertainment could be a catalyst for the revitalization for Trenton. Today, under the management of T.C. Nelson, Trenton Social attracts a diverse crowd of artists, musicians and young professionals. You won’t find anything like it outside of Trenton.
If you’re wondering where some of the best Italian restaurants in the area get their ingredients, you can find them at Porfirio’s, which is still located on Anderson Street in Chambersburg. In the 1950s, the Porfirios were pasta makers, specializing in ravioli and gnocchi.
Today, their wholesale and retail business provides a wide range of food products for more than 100 restaurants. Their fresh pasta (including at least 10 kinds of ravioli), sausage and marinara are incredible, and you won’t find better meatballs anywhere.
The home of Italian Peoples Bakery is located nearby on Butler Street in Chambersburg. Italian Peoples Bakery serves more than 450 supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets with their products. This business dates to 1936, when Pasquale Gervasio first started baking bread; his family continues the business. It’s well worth a visit to the birthplace of this renowned bakery and deli.
These and so many other small and independent businesses in Trenton provide great reasons to love our capital city.
Those mentioned here are just an arbitrary few. So many other small businesses throughout Trenton offer equally compelling reasons to seek them out.
Trenton’s small businesses provide jobs for many residents while serving the needs of the broader community. One of the best valentines we can give Trenton is to find more ways to patronize and support these small businesses. Go enjoy your own favorites and discover new ones.
John P. Thurber is vice president for public affairs at Thomas Edison State College, a board member of the Trenton Downtown Association and board chairman of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.