Mighty Maplewood Wins Downtown Showdown

With myriad boutiques, art galleries and notable restaurants, Maplewood has emerged victorious in the bracket-style elimination competition.

New Jersey Monthly's Digital News Editor Maryrose Mullen and Editor Ken Schlager (left) present Maplewood Village Alliance manager Julie Doran and Mayor Victor DeLuca with a placard commemorating Maplewood's victory in New Jersey Monthly's Downtown Showdown, presented by Kings Food Markets. Also pictured, Maplewood Kings customer service manager Michael Cistrelli and King's Marketing Manager Julie Bannon.
Photo by John O'Boyle

It’s not New Jersey’s biggest downtown, nor it’s best-known. But Maplewood, with its boutiques, art galleries and notable restaurants, has prevailed against all odds in New Jersey Monthly’s Downtown Showdown, presented by Kings Food Markets.

The showdown pitted 16 downtowns chosen by the editors of New Jersey Monthly against each other in online voting. Each week for four weeks the field was cut in half. To emerge on top, Maplewood knocked off Summit in Week 1, Princeton in Week 2, Montclair in Week 3 and, ultimately, Morristown in last week’s Championship round.

“All of the towns have vibrant downtowns and we are very happy to have been chosen as the favorite,” says Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca. “Just participating in the contest has brought new people to our downtown and we hope many more will now patronize our shops and food establishments.”

Maplewood’s victory was as unexpected as it was thrilling.  The Essex County community of 24,492 people entered the tournament with the cards stacked against it. Maplewood competed against a series of larger, better-known towns in the bracket-style competition.

After learning of the competition, Mayor DeLuca says the township employed both old- and new-school strategies to get residents excited about online voting.

“We stood at the Maplewood train station one morning each week handing out leaflets urging people to vote,” he says. “We put up posters in store windows. Merchants spoke to their customers about the contest.”

Maplewood also utilized digital tools, sending out weekly emails encouraging Maplewoodians to vote and promoting the event on Facebook. DeLuca adds that individuals often shared the contest in their personal social media streams and email lists, generating a flood of support for the municipality.

“Voting in the Downtown Showdown became a fun event in Maplewood and it became the talk of the town this past month,” he says.

All of the 16 downtowns chosen by New Jersey Monthly burst with charm and personality. But in the voting, Maplewood proved to be most appealing.

“The atmosphere is comfortable and people enjoy walking and sitting throughout the downtown,” DeLuca says. “The scale works for us and being off the main drag is an asset.”

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