Bank, Coffee Shop Eyed For Poekel Property


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The former Poekel Travel Bureau
The former Poekel Travel Bureau

Verona Town Manager Joe Martin is working to bring a bank and coffee shop to property near the Verona Community Center that is partially controlled by the town.

Verona owns the land on either side of the Pokel Travel Bureau, a building on Bloomfield Avenue near Linn Drive that has sat vacant for many years. Charles Poekel Sr. died in November and Martin said the town has begun to work with Charles Poekel Jr. to facilitate a new use that could include a bank and an “accompanying use” such as a coffee shop.

“A bank is a good clean use,” said Martin. “It doesn’t generate a lot of traffic, and with a pleasing design it is a good gateway to Verona.”

Online banking has rising sharply in recent years–79% of all U.S. households used online banking in 2011, up from 27.3% in 2002. But banks believe that most people still like to open an account at a physical branch, and the closer that branch is to their home, the more likely they are to choose it. Banks largely stopped building new branches in the wake of the 2008 financial market collapse, but construction trends are now ticking up.

And despite the frequent dig that Verona’s business community is dominated by banks, nail salons and pizza parlors, the town actually has fewer bank branches per resident than Montclair. Montclair, which has a population of 37,669, has 25 banks, or one for every 1,507 residents. Verona, which has a population of 13,332, has just five banks now, or one for every 2,666 residents. Capital One, Bank of America, PNC Bank and TD Bank all have branches in Montclair, but none in Verona. Martin declined to disclose the bank being courted; Charles Poekel Jr. did not return a call for comment.

And what about the coffee shop component? Again, Martin is not naming names. Starbucks, which is frequently mentioned in Verona conversations, said in December that it plans to open 1,500 locations in the United States in the next five years, for its main brand and some new food and beverage lines including a high-end tea retailer. But there are already 10 Starbucks outlets within 10 miles of Verona, and nine Panera Bread shops. There are 50 Dunkin’ Donuts shops in that same 10-mile radius. But many of the other top chains have little or no representation close by;  Au Bon Pain, which has many New York City locations, only has stores in Paterson and the Short Hills mall.

Until a deal is on the table, we won’t know whether the new development will encompass the former Service League property as well. The town acquired that in 2006 for $450,000 and tore down the building there a year later.

Chain stores are often preferred by landlords because they hold the promise of greater lease stability. But there are lots of locally owned coffee shops around here too. Which do you prefer? Take the poll.

[polldaddy poll=6925209]

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


  1. Do we really need another bank??? I get it- we don’t have as many as Montclair does, but we’re a LOT smaller than Montclair (and not nearly as spread out as that town) so can we really compare? What about comparing us to Cedar Grove- how does that relate? I agree we don’t need any more nail salons or pizzeria’s, but do we really need another bank??? As a lifelong resident of Verona (and a customer of 2 banks that are located in Cedar Grove), I’d be very disappointed to see another bank in that location…I’m sure the town can come up with better options for that great piece of property (LOVE the Coffee Shop idea, a place perhaps that has live music and great desserts??)

  2. Tim Horton’s isn’t in NJ because it’s Canadian.
    But do we really need another bank…its like the go-to for an empty space now.
    It could be an auxiliary lot for Centennial Field..would be very helpful.

  3. Tim Horton’s has quite a few stores in NYC, and we’re only 18 miles west…

    And while parking at Centennial is tight now, remember that there are two more lots planned as part of the Hilltop field expansion.

  4. We need a decent coffee shop. Every town has one and while not everyone likes starbucks this would be a very positive buiness for Verona. I don’t think another bank adds anything to Verona’s community. Less traffic sure, but whats wrong with some traffic if people are spending money in verona instead of Montclair.

  5. Last thing we need is a bank. I don’t believe that if they approve a bank we will get a coffee shop. But a coffee shop with some seating would be a great asset to Verona. We have to go to Montclair to get a good cup of Joe.

  6. Coffee, music, dessert, and seats. All great ideas, and people can go there before/during/after Community Center events. NO BANK!

  7. Coffee and light meals right across the street from the VCC and all the fields! WE could warm up with a hot chocolate during a fall Eagles game, get together with the team for a burger and or salad after a softball game, the possibilities are as varied as the many people who frequent the center and fields. And especially with the plans to expand the fields – include ice cream and every youth team will stop by there after the game! A bank? just not needed!

  8. Tim Horton’s has been doing a big American push over the past few years. They bought a group of former Dunkin Donuts stores in NYC and converted them to Tim Hortons. They’re also expanding rapidly in Ohio, Michigan and upstate NY.

    I LOVE their coffee. It is so much better than Dunkin and Starbucks.

    I do also love Fine Grind in Little Falls. I would totally support, and give my business to, an independent coffee shop in Verona that has good coffee, good service and good desserts.

  9. Please, please, please, no more banks, pizza places or hair/nail salons. A coffee shop would be great- I’ve been traveling to Cedar Grove to the Fine Grind ever since Hobcaw closed and would much prefer to support a business in town.

  10. Something like a Rock n Joes would be great – good coffee, food, desserts and entertainment in the evenings! This is just what Verona needs.

  11. I think another coffee shop would be great. Maybe not a chain, but something unique that sells healthy snacks and food too. A breakfast/lunch cafe with great coffee maybe…

  12. A good coffee shop in town is key. Also: muni-meters along Bloomfield Ave and in municipal lots. A downtown movie theater would be wonderful for local eateries, but I suppose there’s no chance of that…

  13. I think another bank is a bad idea. We need innovative ideas, not the same old. As far as a coffee shop, I think its wonderful. Dunkin’ and Starbucks are so saturated in this surrounding area. Rockin’ Joe is great, but just up the street ….lets be a leader and have something different, again innovative instead of the constant verona same old…

  14. Banks are municipal GOLD – like the article says… Low traffic and usually spend A LOT of money on buildings. They are kept up well and have you seen a bank CLOSE in Verona in the past 20 years… NO! Carteret became NYCB, First Fidelity went to First Union, Wachovia and now Wells… What are you expecting to come to Verona that has the same muni appeal as a Bank – NOTHING.


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