The times are hard everywhere, but recessions tend to have a particularly mean effect on the type of small, local businesses that make up a local shopping district like Main St. in Woodbridge.
But never count Woodbridge out, especially with a scrappy business group like the Downtown Merchants Association. They're doing everything they can to lure local dollars into the coffers of the 50 or so establishments who banded together to nurture the Main St. area business environment.
"We love Woodbridge," said Leon Schwartz, who stands outside, the store he's run with his wife Sherri for the past 20 years.
The economy hasn't gotten Schwartz down, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been thinking about what he can do as head of the Downtown Merchants Association to improve the shopping district's fortunes.
"We put in a new parking lot on James St. The easier it is to park, the more people will want to shop downtown," he said, recalling similar improvements like the self-tax Main St. merchants collected to fund brick sidewalks and old fashioned lighting that did a lot to spruce up the street 18 years ago.
It was with that kind of brainstorming that Schwartz came up with the idea of a coupon booklet, specific to the Main St. area, that would offer shoppers discounts at local stores, and keep dollars in the downtown.
"Last year, it was just a flyer," Schwartz said, holding this year's improvement on his original idea, a 28-page booklet full of coupons that are some real deals.
There are lots of 10 percent off coupons, like the one offered by Carpet Maven for a discount on carpeting and draperies, with a variety of freebies extras thrown in.
is also offering $10 off an initial service, plus 15 percent off hair and skin care products.
That only makes sense, since Vito Mazza Jr. was in on the coupon booklet idea with Schwartz. "Steve at helped with the booklet itself," Schwartz said, noting that it was fashionably printed on recycled paper with soy ink.
And for the record, Stone Mountain is offering 3 cent black and white copies.
The business owners funded the printing of 10,000 of the booklets, and they're relying on a variety of face-to-face measures to make sure the coupon booklets get into the hands of residents.
The initial distribution was done the night of the downtown vintage car show, a tradition Schwartz started himself. "My daughter and I handed out over 600 that night," he said.
The township administration is helping to pass the booklets out - at the fireworks celebration, at the Monday concerts behind Woodbridge High School, at the Wednesday farmer's market at Parker Press Park, he said.
Schwartz is hoping to put stacks in Town Hall and in the library: "Anything to get them into the hands of people so they can see the great deals we have."
The next step is to put the booklet online so people can print out a "buy a dozen, get a dozen free" coupon from Main Bagels, a 10 percent discount at , or free dessert from .
The coupon booklet serves the Main St. area in Woodbridge Proper, but it's apparently one step in a "Buy Local" juggernaut that the township is launching for different areas of Woodbridge.
Mayor John McCormac will be unveiling a discount program later today that will feature a card shoppers can use to get discounts in stores with "Buy Local" placards in their windows.
"Take a look at the booklet. You can get them anywhere. There are some great discounts," said Schwartz. "You won't be disappointed."