Downtown Hackensack, New Jersey: A Gem of the Garden State's Downtowns
By John T. Peters
Executive Director, Main Street Business Alliance, Inc.
October 4, 2023
As the Executive Director of the Main Street Business Alliance, I am immensely proud to shine a spotlight on Hackensack, a city whose essence is steeped in history and transformation.
For those who are unaware, Hackensack had a significant role in American history. Its grounds have been the site of crucial Revolutionary War battles, a base for General George Washington’s Army, and the march of soldiers whose footsteps may still be heard resonating down its illustrious streets.
In the past ten years, Hackensack has undergone an amazing metamorphosis, which is a genuine testament to the amazing work done by the City of Hackensack and its devoted municipal leadership. This group effort has given the city new life, and reconstruction projects have helped create a striking skyline peppered with modern residential structures. Thousands of newcomers have been welcomed because of this rebirth, adding to Hackensack’s colorful fabric.
Downtown Hackensack has developed into a hub of activity, in large part because of the variety of events held all year round. While the Main Street Business Alliance, Inc. has proudly hosted a number of events, we supportively stand with the city, the Johnson Public Library, the Hackensack Regional Chamber of Commerce, and, in particular, the Hackensack Performing Arts Center (HACPAC) in illuminating the city’s cultural calendar.
HACPAC offerings have become synonymous with first-rate quality. HACPAC has established Hackensack as a leader in the arts in New Jersey, whether through world-class orchestras playing fascinating symphonies, a spellbinding performance of Shakespeare in the park, or a variety of musical and theatrical productions.
However, Hackensack’s cultural scene goes beyond events. The Johnson Public Library, a source of local pride, was just named Bergen County’s best library. It serves as evidence of our city’s dedication to learning and development and is a treasure trove of information and community involvement. Its extensive event programming for people of all ages is superb.
Yet, the real flavor of Hackensack is its cultural diversity. Walking down Main Street exposes one to foods from around the world, from sumptuous traditional Greek food to tasty, authentic Cuban fare to sweet and spicy Thai, belly-warming soul food, classic American fare, and every single mouth-watering dish found in Central and South America. The city’s culinary offerings are so diverse that one might dine out daily for a month and still not sample everything it has to offer. This incredible cultural blend has gifted Hackensack with an enviable variety of ethnic restaurants, inviting coffee shops, unique mom-and-pop stores, and businesses of every conceivable type, not to mention some of the more famous brands, like the new Playa Bowls, which just opened on Main Street.
The Main Street Business Alliance, Inc. is an important component of all this dynamic growth and activity. Our mission, as a public/private partnership with the City of Hackensack, is to address the issues facing the business community with the goal of improving the local economy and the overall business climate in Hackensack for our 350 businesses on Main Street. We want to make sure that every resident, worker, and visitor of Hackensack comes to enjoy Main Street year-round.
Accomplishing all this is no small task. We endeavor to enhance the reputation of our lovely city as a center of trade and community by offering resources, advice, and support to our member businesses and services, creative placemaking, and programmatic events for the public.
In closing, Hackensack’s beauty lies not just in its historical significance or the recent redevelopment strides. Its genuine appeal lies in its inhabitants, from the city council members who see a better future, the companies that liven up our streets, to every person who calls Hackensack home.
On a personal note, I love what this city offers. You’ll always find me walking up and down Main Street, talking to the merchants and store owners. I’ll admit that I’m taking notes most of the time and taking pictures of anything that needs to be painted, repaired, or improved in one way or another. I start my day either at Iconic Coffee or BEC Bagels before I head to the office for meetings. I almost always have a lunch meeting at places like Casual Habana or Noches de Columbia. At least a couple of times a week I have an afternoon smoothie at Juice Café & Organic Market (which somehow helps me get my veggies in for the day).
If you’re in town, I’d love to give you a tour of Main Street and of course, I welcome you all to join me as we embark on this thrilling trip as we jointly write a new chapter in the history of this amazing city.
The Main Street Business Alliance’s mission is to address the issues facing the business community in Hackensack with the goal of improving the local economy and enriching the overall experience for all the residents of Hackensack. The MSBA’s Executive Director is John T. Peters.