VENTNOR — Rich Kreie stepped outside of his business, Custard’s Last Stand, last Saturday and witnessed something he hadn’t seen in a while.
The 100 block of North Dorset Avenue in Ventnor Heights was packed.
“You would have thought it was Fourth of July weekend,” Kreie said. “Ventnor Coffee had a band playing and it was packed. People were sitting outside the pizza parlor. The Red Room Cafe had people sitting outside. You just looked and there was a vibe on the street that wasn’t there before.”
Two new businesses opened on North Dorset Avenue in Ventnor Heights this summer — Viggo’s Pizzeria, at 115 N. Dorset, and Ventnor Coffee, at 108 N. Dorset — which have caused the area to become more of a destination for visitors.
“People like to be where people are,” Kreie said.
The new businesses join a handful of other small retail sales businesses sprinkled along the stretch of street next to the Dorset Avenue Bridge — Custard’s Last Stand, The Red Room Cafe, Annette’s Restaurant, Community Liquor, Ship Shop Bait and Tackle Shop and Rain Florist. The rest are mostly service businesses, such as the Ace Auto Glass and Mirror Co., which Ventnor Coffee replaced.
Michael Einwechter, who opened Ventnor Coffee with his wife, Christine Pagano, grew up on North Dorset Avenue, which he called “the heart of Ventnor Heights.” He said the area needed more action.
Since the opening of Ventnor Coffee on Aug. 15, which is decorated with antique, re-purposed furniture and local art, it’s hosted live music every night and is already developing regulars.
“It’s about bringing people out and making them want to stay and come back,” Einwechter said.
The businesses on the block are also working together to complement and support each other. Annette’s Restaurant, Ventnor Coffee, Custard’s Last Stand and Viggo’s Pizzeria are offering customers a 10 percent discount if they show a sales receipt from any of the other businesses made on the same day. The businesses’ owners have also been talking about hosting a block party sometime next month.
“We have enough of us and we have enough diversity amongst us that we can all bring a little something to the table,” Pagano said.
Ruth Yaskin, a resident of Philadelphia who owns a summer home in Ventnor Heights, recently rode her bike to Ventnor Coffee. Sitting in an oversized armchair, sipping a cup of coffee and reading a book, Yaskin said she loves the new ambiance of the area.
“Ventnor Heights is a really vibrant area and I really love that Dorset Avenue is starting to reflect that,” she said. “I think it’s a vibe that works for everyone in the neighborhood, from the young kids and teenagers to the older people.”
Cheryl Venezia, the owner of Annette’s Restaurant, a year-round breakfast and lunch eatery, said she’s also excited about her new neighbors and what they are bringing to the area.
“Everyone kind of forgets about Dorset Avenue because Ventnor Avenue is so big and has most of the businesses,” she said, “It’s nice to have it feel like a neighborhood again.”
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