July is Independent Retailer Month! Independent Retailer Month, “encourages consumers to shop local and celebrate indie retailers, creating more sustainable cities, towns and communities.” New Jersey is a hub for independent businesses. There are also numerous examples across the state where preservation and independent retailers join forces to support their community’s local economy and history. 

Below are several examples of historic downtowns throughout the Garden State with opportunities to support independent retailers! 

South Jersey

Cape May Historic District 

Head down to Cape May for some waves, an ocean breeze, and plenty of shopping at local retailers! Cape May is the oldest seaside resort in the country and still boasts abundant examples of its glory days through the preservation of its late-nineteenth century streetscapes. Many of these historic buildings have been repurposed into local businesses that have all your summer needs from ice cream and iced coffee to bathing suits and Cape-May themed clothing! You can even spend the night in a historic Bed and Breakfast! Cape May has plenty of opportunities to support local retailers during your summer vacation. While you are down in Cape May, stop by the lighthouse or the Emlen Physick Estate for a tour! 

Historic Haddonfield 

Did you know that Haddonfield is one of the oldest communities in what was once called West Jersey? The town was founded by Quakers in the early eighteenth century. Today, Downtown Haddonfield primarily retains its nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural significance. The downtown is also a host to over 200 shops and galleries, many of which are independent and local retailers. 

Consider a Walking Tour of the historic downtown hosted by the Haddonfield Historic Society or an “Innkeepers Tour” of the Indian King Tavern Museum after you shop and dine at an independent retailer! 

Central Jersey 

Downtown Somerville 

Somerville is located at the heart of Somerset County and features something for everybody! Want to take a stroll through a historic district? Somerville is very walkable downtown and features architectural styles from the late eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century! Want to catch a concert? Somerville has numerous events throughout the year including its featured summer series. Do not forget to stop into the numerous independent retailers for refreshments or some gear during your trip. Somerville has shopping possibilities for foodies and boutique lovers alike! 

Check out the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage State Historic Sites while you are in the area. 

Downtown Princeton 

Seeking premier dining and shopping opportunities with a truly historic and picturesque backdrop? Historic Princeton has bountiful opportunities to shop local and independent in the shadow of the historic Princeton University.  

Downtown Princeton began as a mid-eighteenth-century colonial village. Today, the downtown is highly populated by mid to late-nineteenth century architecture reflective of the municipality’s heyday. Many of these historic buildings even support independent businesses. Whether it is coffee, sushi, clothes, or shoes, Downtown Princeton supports independent retailers within its historic district. 

After dining or shopping, explore the lush grounds of Morven Museum and Garden or take a tour of Bainbridge House. You can even participate in a walking tour of Princeton hosted by the Princeton Historical Society! 

Downtown Freehold 

You may have heard about Freehold because of its association with the Continental Army and the Battle of Monmouth, but have you visited the historic downtown? Witness the transformation of the town from a colonial village to a bustling mid-to-late-nineteenth century downtown with just a quick drive. You can even taste the world’s cuisine at an independent business as you enjoy your architectural tour of the downtown. So, if you enjoy Revolutionary War history and a plentiful independent dining and shopping opportunities, look no further than Downtown Freehold! Afterall, “There’s always something going on” in Downtown Freehold.  

After shopping or dining, visit the Monmouth Battlefield State Park or the Covenhoven House to get a full account of the area’s Revolutionary significance! 

North Jersey

Downtown Morristown 

Morristown has been the seat of Morris County since the mid-eighteenth century. It was even visited by George Washington and his troops during the Revolutionary War! The town is additionally recognized for its significance in architecture, communications, education, military, politics, religion, social history, and transportation. Today, the history of Morristown is still vibrant and has become intertwined with greenspaces and independent retailers. Consider a day trip to downtown Morristown this weekend!  

While visiting the downtown, also consider taking a stroll through the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum’s gardens, taking a hike through Morristown National Historical Park, or stepping back in time at Fosterfields Living History Farm

Paterson Downton Commercial Historic District 

Fun fact: Paterson was founded by Alexander Hamilton and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers in 1792! After suffering from a fire in the early twentieth century, though, much of the downtown was rebuilt in the Beaux-Arts style. Many of these architecturally significant buildings still stand and feature street-level spaces for local businesses. So, if you are looking for local supermarkets, dining opportunities, or new summer clothes, historic Paterson has plenty of variety for everyone! 

While you are in Paterson take a tour of the Paterson Museum to learn about Paterson’s early industries and take a trip to the Paterson Great Falls National Park to learn how the Falls supported these early industries!