When Beverly Kidder was looking for a location for her store in 1993, she found Hopewell to be a sleepy town where half the storefronts were vacant, and opened up in Blawenburg instead.
So, how did Hopewell go from sleepy backwater to hip restaurant hub? Kidder, the newly elected president of the Hopewell Business Association, believes it has something to do with parking. “We’re conveniently located between Flemington, Princeton, and Pennington on the way to Lambertville,” Kidder says. “We have free parking citywide, which doesn’t exist in many other cities. We’ve had two stores move here from Princeton. They are getting away from parking tickets, moving to a lower rent district, and bringing customers with them.”
Kidder and her husband, Jason, own the Decorators Consignment Gallery, an upscale furniture and accessories store, on Railroad Place. She started the business in 1993 in Blawenburg. Ten years later, after expanding the original location twice, Kidder gave Hopewell a second chance and purchased her 8,000-square-foot building.
Kidder grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois, where she honed her interior decorating skills starting when she was 8. The young Kidder often had to rebuild her dollhouses after they were destroyed in “tornadoes” caused by her mother’s blow-dryer.
At 17, Kidder got a job modeling for advertisements in Chicago, but she was not enthralled by life in the spotlight. She wanted to be on the other side of the camera and asked the advertising production people how to get a job in the field. They told her to go to college, and that’s what she did.
Kidder’s parents, an accountant and a real estate agent, moved to Wisconsin, sending Kidder to the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in television and film. Kidder ended up at the Oshkosh campus, after deciding Madison was too dangerous when in 1970 antiwar protestors set off a bomb in the campus’ Sterling Hall, killing a physics professor.
“I was going to go to Madison, but the peacenicks blew up the math building,” she says.
After graduation, she worked for Duval-Boudreau Advertising in Milwaukee, where clients included Ringling Brothers Circus and Bob Hope.
However, her advertising career was interrupted when she met her first husband. The couple moved to northern Wisconsin, where they tended 50 milk cows and 4,000 chickens. Kidder also got a winter job at a saw mill.
Kidder did not like being a farmer. “Farmers always marry city girls because we don’t have a clue what we’re getting into,” she says. “After farming, nothing seems like work.” The farm and the marriage both failed, and Kidder ended up divorced and back in advertising after a successful stint in sales at the local radio station.
Kidder started her own advertising agency called Advanced Marketing Group near Green Bay. She married her current husband, Jason, and moved to New Jersey when he got a job as director of engineering for Johnson & Johnson. The couple now lives in Skillman and their store is open part time. They also adopt cats and have found homes for about 400 strays.
The Hopewell Business Association is dedicated to promoting and representing the interests of Hopewell businesses. Meetings are the third Thursday of the month. The next is set for Thursday, November 21, a 6:30 p.m. at the Hopewell Bistro, where the Hopewell Police will discuss holiday shoplifting.
Kidder has the good fortune of presiding over the association at a time when business is booming in Hopewell Borough. In fact, the small town is practically bursting at the seams.
“We do not have one empty retail place,” she says.” We have become a decorating and dining destination. We have over 40 new used or antique decorative dealers in town, and over 10 unique restaurants that are non-chain.”
The borough is out of storefronts, so business owners are looking to make their own locations, with one woman renvoating a barn, and a prominent businessman, John McConaughy, looking to turn an old gas station into a dairy and ice cream store to join his new Brick Farm Market shop.
Business is not without its ups and downs, however. Kidder says she and other store owners have lost business because of the closure of Route 518 between Lambertville and Hopewell because of a damaged bridge. Another hiccup is the large number of cars now parking on Hopewell’s streets thanks to the revitalized business district. It’s a good problem to have, from the perspective of a retailer, but it’s one that is causing some complaints nonetheless.
As president of the business association, Kidder has one simple mission: “My goal is to bring warm bodies with credit cards through our stores,” she says.