Frenchtown NJ named best small town for shopping by USA Today – My Central Jersey

You probably won’t find a vintage menswear store, a gem store, a comical gift store and a record store on the same block in most towns. But that’s the case for Frenchtown, which was named the best small town for shopping in the country in USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice travel awards.

Frenchtown was announced as the winner June 17, followed by Rhinebeck, New York; Montpelier, Vt.; Cape May; and Highlands, N.C. The borough was one of 19 U.S. towns nominated in the category by USA Today travel editors in mid-May. Anyone could vote once per day through June 6.

The win was an honor and thrilling for Frenchtown Mayor Brad Myhre.

“I thought we had good community brand recognition – people know Frenchtown locally – but there were some tough communities we were up against,” he continued. “This is really exciting for our town.”

Frenchtown is “a fun town with a wide variety of fascinating independently owned shops,” said 10Best travel expert Marla Cimini.

Renee Olsen, owner of comical gift store Sublime and secretary of the Frenchtown Business & Professional Association, agrees that the diversity of stores is what makes the local shopping scene one-of-a-kind.

“Our stores are home-grown and they grew up in this environment, so you could think there is a ‘secret sauce’ in Frenchtown that draws people here,” Olsen said. “Our shopkeepers, and being in this wonderfully creative and somewhat unconventional environment that is Frenchtown, also adds a lot to what we’re offering.”

Some of those nearly 30 stores include menswear store The Junto Emporium; the Frenchtown Bookshop; the Sunbeam General Store for gifts, home goods and accessories; home décor store Dalla Terra; and home good store Modern Love.

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“Everyone is really curating their stores and that boils down to the personalities of the owners,” Olsen said.

Despite the difficulties that small-town shopping has faced in the past two years – including the pandemic, inflation, online shopping and the labor shortage – the Frenchtown shopping scene is doing well. Two local stores, for instance, have opened additional locations in town.

Part of that is because the borough revamped zoning laws to make it easier for businesses to open without going through an expensive variance process, Myhre said.

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There also was a “huge’ influx of visitors during the pandemic, Myhre said.

Olsen, who opened Sublime in 2020,noticed the same thing, especially during the Christmas season.

“I think we had tremendous luck during the pandemic,” Olsen said. “Especially once it got to the fall, people saw us as an outdoor mall, so they could go into a store and go back outside. These last two years, especially with the opening of (the alternative contemporary art center) ArtYard, is generating some really good buzz.

“To people who come here, the place is distinctive enough and rewarding in terms of what you can find that people can push past the economic struggles that we are having.”

Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Contact: or @JIntersimone.