GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — As he prepared for the lunch crowd Thursday, Eddie Gaudiello, owner of Pitney Italian Market, said Galloway has thrived with its small-town feel and absence of big box stores.
The market is a quintessential mom-and-pop store with a bright deli case stocked with fresh meats, cheeses and prepared salads.
Gaudiello said he offers products that are not available in typical major retailers.
“I don’t want the big box stores. I already compete with ShopRite every day. I don’t think there are enough people here for big stores like that,” Gaudiello said.
Despite being one of the state’s largest municipalities, Galloway has maintained a small-town feel as townships around it have exploded with commercial development. In 2012, the estimated population of the township was 27,000, according to U.S. Census figures.
While many like that small-town approach, the call for more commercial development has been getting louder, especially after growth townships like Egg Harbor and Hamilton townships benefited from a residential and commercial boom.
Over the last four years, officials here have discussed bringing more commercial ratables to the township, but with little success.
Michelle Carlisle picked up lunch at the market Thursday afternoon and said she wants Galloway to continue to have that small-town charm.
Carlisle said although bringing in commercial ratables would lower the township’s tax rate, she is not a fan of big box businesses.
“I come here all the time for fresh meats and steaks for dinner. I love having a small market in town. I live over in Smithville and now that Foodtown is gone, ShopRite is all we have and it’s always crazy busy,” Carlisle said.
In the township’s Smithville section, it’s business as usual and the majority of business owners consider the 98 shops and eateries at Smithville Village a niche experience.
“I can speak for the majority of this little village that the shoppers are coming here because it’s a destination. People don’t drive past Target and say, ‘Oh, I need to run in there’ for the items they get in Smithville,” said Fran Coppola, co-owner of Smithville Village. She, her husband, and her son Tony, deputy mayor of the township, are heavily involved in the operations at Smithville Village, where they own and operate the Smithville Inn, Fred and Ethel’s Lantern Light Tavern, the Christmas Shoppe, the Candle Shoppe and a candy shop.
“I’m not against big business coming to Galloway. I wish Target would come, I wish Home Goods would come here. There are certain things you can get in Smithville that you can’t get in Target,” Coppola said.
But still, there are some shop owners who would like the township to stay quaint and exclusive.
For the Pink Corset located in the Historic Shoppes at Smithville, owner Pesia Romeo, of Little Egg Harbor Township, sells lingerie and she’s open to bigger businesses coming to town, but only if they’re high-end.
“I wouldn’t want Victoria’s Secret here, but I wouldn’t want Target here either. It would be nice to have stores like Nordstrom’s, Wegmans or Whole Foods. I want it to be high-end. Why go low-end?” Romeo said.
Justin Lucas, vice president of Icon Hospitality in Galloway, which owns several businesses, including Gourmet Italian Cuisine and Gourmet Liquors, said without commercial ratables, residents become frustrated.
Lucas said he applauds what the township has strived to do in recent years in the downtown Jimmie Leeds Road area, but there is more work to do.
“Galloway has to evolve with the times. At what point to residents say, ‘Why am I living in Galloway when I have to leave to go shopping?’ And then when the market rebounds they sell their home and buy somewhere else,” Lucas said.
Odessa Avenue resident Liz Carlson is one of those frustrated residents and when the holiday shopping season begins she finds herself traveling to neighboring Mays Landing and as far north as Stafford Township to do her shopping.
“We need to have more here for the residents,” Carlson said.
Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola agrees.
“As we look around we see places like Hamilton Township and Egg Harbor Township that exploded with development and commercial ratables. Why didn’t Galloway Township?” Coppola said.
“We only derive 17 percent of taxes from the commercial ratable base, so that means 83 percent of the tax responsibility is on the heads on the residents,” Coppola said.
Coppola is chairman of a council committee formed last year dedicated to bringing more commercial ratables to town. In a year’s time, the committee has worked on this mission, but not much has happened in bringing business in.
Township Administrator Arch Liston said that the lack of commercial development is a reflection of the economy, although he did say the township is in discussions with interested parties about the 77-acre parcel of land on Tilton Road, the former Lenox China manufacturing site.
“There are a lot of active discussions going on right now about bringing businesses in to the township. It’s like selling used cars. You’ve got to give them incentives to get them in there to build and open up,” Liston said.
Development in the township should be focused in the downtown section of Jimmie Leeds Road and along the Route 30 corridor, said Mary Crawford, president of the Galloway Township Business Association.
But Galloway’s section of the White Horse Pike sits largely undeveloped compared to the neighboring section in Absecon. Meanwhile, the Black Horse Pike in Hamilton and Egg Harbor townships is heavily developed and generates millions in ratables.
Crawford said she still believes there is potential for the township in the area of unique businesses.
“I think a lot of residents like the smaller feel of Galloway, but that does lead to problems for the township for tax ratables. So it's a push and pull. I don't think people would be against big box stores going in on Route 30, but it’s definitely challenging to decide where to put businesses,” she said.
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