Friday, January 18, 2013

Loss of Love

Last to know, first to ponder. I guess I probably heard that Made With Love was closing, but for whatever reason it didn’t register until saw the flier taped to the window, the inside dark, the place as empty as the canisters that served as the transparent cookie jars.
Because of health issues, I have to watch the sugar, so I didn’t hang out there much. The few times I did, it was always a good time, such as this art opening.

Besides serving baked good, using organic and wholesome products, including specialized vegan items, Made With Love was always doing something. Art exhibitions, intimate concerts – the establishment was actually at the center of a controversy about live music, which eventually led to the city’s first cabaret law that actually allows such events – but also, birthday parties, for kids. Mommies (and more than a few daddies) loved hanging out there. Few places could seamlessly cater to a cross section of generations, and lifestyles.

In addition to the Jersey Avenue location, Made With Love bake sales were mobile. Creative Groove, Farmers Market and occasional Groove on Groves – all the outdoor events during warm weather months that make the Grove Street Pavilion a manifestation of community, Made with Love had a table with employee, selling goods; as well as various street fairs and other local affairs, such as the annual La Fiesta Italiana – “The Feast” – or the 4thStreet Arts Festival. Jersey City can be a disparate city; isolated scenes, like islands in an archipelago, each with its own rules, cultures and tribal fraternities. A cursory glance of at say, the Feast and 4th Street, sees little in common, and yet what they do have in common was a table by Made With Love.

I have to say, I think this is changing and I’m sure once the warm months return, some of the newer places in town, which include specialty bakeries like Made With Love – although none touting the organic and natural angle – that have opened will have no problem setting up make-shift, satellite stands in the diversity of events Jersey City hosts. But in this regard, Made With Love was one of the first. Made With Love overlapped when a lot of places were only either or.

Made With Love has a special place in the Dislocated heart. Two of my earliest blogs, first year of this here endeavor, here andhere, were Made With Love. These were among the first times that I just took some pictures, had a conversation, wound up with a blog that captured a moment. I’ve repeated that dozens of times, most always walk around with my Coolpix for that very purpose.

Celeste Governanti was the Made With Love proprietor. A warm and congenial personality, she glowed with a maternal vibe . A red head always with a ready smile, she’ll be missed on Jersey Avenue, where I would often see her. Made With Love always seemed buzzing with some activity or another; she was the queen of the cozy hive.

I have no idea or information about why it is closing. Like many things, I imagine it’s a confluence of factors, unfortunate events happening too close together. But two things come to mind.

Her twitter feed ends on a cryptic note… to “Hate mingers” (a wonderful typo of monger) on JC Lists, which is a message board. I have only viewed it once or twice, never participate. Between the blog and the FB I get enough cyber JC in my life. Anyway, around Sandy there was a kerfuffle. The bakery suffered damage and was out of power, like us all and a generator was set up there, which had outlets for people to charge up their devices and a sign was put up on the generator, asking for $1.00 donation to defray costs. Generators are run by gasoline. So, a picture was taken and posted, and this was deemed as some kind of profiteering off storm victims, turns out the generator was actually from Fish With Braids, and there were a flurry of signs by Celeste proclaiming I’m a Sandy victim.

Well, I’ve lived in New Jersey for half a century and one thing we can always rely on, our heads can never be too far up our asses. So, the threads got ugly and unfair.
The other factor I am hypothesizing about here, which is different although the head up the ass rule applies except here it applies to our city.

Jersey City is moving and shaking. We are redefining the urban environment, several stages ahead in gentrification. Forget Williamsburg or Park Slope, Downtown is the next Soho. Blah blah blah. Don’t you see the couples with their toddlers and/or pedigree pooch?

And yet, look at Jersey Avenue, the block where Made With Love is on. Right in the center of what should be a thriving downtown is a dead spot, mainly do to a vast hardware store, with its retro Native American (really kind of racist in the current era, although it does look kind of cool too) logo, that takes up about 25 percent of the block and hasn’t been opened for business in more than a decade!

To the north of this store is a shoe repair shop that’s been there for something like 40 years and to the south is Made With Love. Next door to Made With Love is a place that was a book shop, a toy store but is currently empty. On the far southern corner is a wings and pizza joint, which by the way, serves GREAT pizza! On the northern corner, is a tiny cement park, aligned with store fronts that now include custom frame store, an optician and new cookie bakery. It’s booming, the frame store has been there a while and the new retailers replaced older urban businesses. This nook is on the Newark avenue not Jersey Avenue side, and begins a row of stores that are nearly consecutive, heading west to the Grove Path stations.

You go to Newark Avenue for an assortment of reasons, but you turn to Jersey Avenue and Made With Love becomes a destination. There is no other reason, unless you need a heel replaced, to be on that side of the street. There’s no reason to stroll. The closed up hardware store is just retail death, a lead weight. When it snows, it is also a hazard since nobody is there to shovel and the city doesn’t seem interest in holding the relator liable for neglect.

What is frustrating is this is a large space in what should be an optimum location. There’s even a parking lot nearby. Head south on Jersey and cross Christopher Columbus and there restaurants and other businesses (the corner multi-storied building home to Caroline’s Laundry had a fire last year, was evacuated and remains uninhabited and no construction or similar activity is apparent).

I do not know why Celeste decided to throw in her apron. I am sure there were personal reasons, which I hope were not tragic ones. But I am guessing that the way the city planners have ignored what should be a thriving block had to a be constant frustration. Think of all the retail stores you pass on Newark on your way to or from the Grove Street Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. In comparison, Made With Love is a lone outpost that you have to wade through an unpleasant wasteland to reach.

Anyway, Made With Love was a cool place, Celeste a delightful individual and, whatever the cause or causes; we are all diminished by the loss.

The website is still here. Hope springs eternal.


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