14 Sep 2014
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Longtime Ridgewood Chocolate Shop Closing

Oliver's Chocolate owner Oliver Abel says he's seen an erosion in support for Downtown Ridgewood from residents and the Village Council.

Longtime Ridgewood Chocolate Shop Closing Longtime Ridgewood Chocolate Shop Closing

After more than a decade serving homemade chocolates to Ridgewood, the owner of is packing away the cocoa and closing shop.

Owner Oliver Abel, a former Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce president, said he is turning over the 'closed' sign for the final time at the end of May. His shop has served cholocates on East Ridgewood Ave for 13 years.

"If the economy weren't so bad I might reconsider but I'm not sure I would," he said. "With the economy down, with foot traffic down, I sense a change in the community, a lack of support for the downtown – in support from residents as well as the village council."

Abel said he is returning to his finance roots by launching an internet startup specializing in retirement planning.

"The lease is up, not that the landlord isn't kind enough to renew the lease but it comes a point where you have to say enough's enough,"  said Abel, a long-time Ridgewood resident. "I've been doing it for 13 years. ... It was spectacular for 10 of those 13 years but recently [the economic downturn] is really kicking in."

The chocolate shop is the , following the end of March closing of . And The Gap, also on E. Ridgewood Ave., consolidated its Ridgewood operations by  and folding its merchandise into its remaining store.

"[Customers] come in and they're very sad we're leaving," Abel said."I've had some customers say 'you're the last vestige of the old-style kind of retail shop in Ridgewood' and that they're sorry to see that go.

"Is this an indication of a new type of Ridgewood or a deterioration of Ridgewood?" he asked.

Asked what he said he'd like to see take the place of Oliver's, Abel said a unique gift place or a hardware store would be a good replacement. 

The villager said he believes the building owner, Frankches Realty Corp., is trying to fill the space, but pointed to vacancies in the village that have been unfilled for several years as a concern. 

Abel suggested the town levy fees on property owners in the downtown who leave storefronts empty for extended periods of time.

"There are a lot of vacancies. Have a fee placed on the landlord for that vacancy. Give them six months to try and fill it," he said. "If they don't or they don't want to lower the rents, that's fine. But they've got to pay a fee. And have that fee go back to the people in town."

Abel also remarked that the variety of businesses should be more diverse, and levied the age-old complaint – parking remains an issue.

In recent council budget discussions, there's been some chatter on reviving the into a public/private partnership. Abel suggested turning the Hudson lot into a two or three-story garage that could accommodate commuters.

"I had over the years other large chain store representatives come into my store and say 'we're interested in that space or that space,'" Abel said. "They'd say 'we like the town but where's the parking?'" They'd look at me and say 'we're out of here.'"

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