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SMALL-TOWN RETAIL SUCCESS STORIES: In Lambertville, event audiences built street traffic

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“There's a synergy between Victorian ambiance and the bucolic nature of Lambertville.”
“There's a synergy between Victorian ambiance and the bucolic nature of Lambertville.” - ()

If you've ever visited Lambertville, you'd immediately find it hard to imagine the 1-square-mile town of 4,000 households in Hunterdon County as a 19th century factory town.

But long after the introduction of motorized vehicles caused the canals and railroads to become obsolete and the factories to close, a group of young people who had left Lambertville to make their fortune returned to re-energize their hometown.

They succeeded.

Between the creation of the historical Lambertville Music Circus in the late 1940s and the Shad Festival — a two-day artist and crafter event now in its 33rd year that brings in more than 40,000 annual visitors — people started taking note of what Lambertville had to offer and started moving back.

That trend continues to this day, said Ellen Pineno, office manager of the Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce. For 20 years, Pineno has dealt exclusively with the business community and coordinates many of the town's large events.

“I'd argue now that in the past seven to 10 years, there's also been an influx of high-tech service companies that are quietly coming in off of the Route 1 corridor north because of the reasons people want to settle here,” Pineno said.

“There's a unique synergy between the Victorian ambience and the bucolic nature of Lambertville. For the diversity of both retail and dining opportunities, usually one would have to go to a metropolitan area.”

Now known as the “Antiques Capital of New Jersey,” Lambertville is home to about 320 businesses, including 24 restaurants (most of which are Zagat-rated), historical lodging (such as Lambertville Station, a restored 19th century train depot on the Delaware River), a vast array of quaint boutique shops and 10 working artist studios.

And in Lambertville, it's all about location, location, location.

For one thing, Lambertville is located along the Delaware and Raritan Canal Park towpath, which offers 60 miles of equestrian, pedestrian and biking opportunities along the scenic riverside trail.

It also constructed a free bridge over the Delaware River 200 years ago to connect Lambertville with New Hope, Pa. — a move that's proved to be very lucrative.

“When New Hope priced residents and businesses out of their market, Lambertville welcomed them with open arms,” Pineno said.

What makes Lambertville even more successful are its self-promotion tactics — its prime location, for example, enables the town to host joint events with the New Hope Chamber of Commerce such as art gallery and restaurant crawls that span both towns.

“Dealing with businesses has to be on a case-by-case basis because every business needs to be promoted slightly different,” Pineno said.

Pineno also credits Lambertville's active promotion of its events with both social media and distributing printed information in Philadelphia and around New Jersey with bringing new visitors each week.

“We're an easy day trip or an ideal overnight stopover.”

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E-mail to: megf@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @megfry3

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