The column that says nobody ever drove across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to get their dieting dog weighed until today, so can we get a thumbs up from Kim Bell as her former Chesapeake Bay Retriever is down four pounds.
By Jack Hummel
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“Dear Clergy Members:
All Hank Murad wanted to do was revitalize the downtown in a different way.
“I’d been here for 30 years,’’ he said from his Ashley-McCormick Center near the end of East Commerce Street by the Cohansey River. “But I had never been involved in the downtown. When I came down here, I stayed at the Ramada in Vineland.’’
Then he bought the old Ashley-McCormick building and things changed.
He changed it into a theater venue.
“We were going to team up with S.R. Riley’s (restaurant up the street) and do a ‘Casablanca’’ movie screening at midnight,’’ he said. “But I couldn’t get my (certificate of occupancy) in time.’’
The certificate of occupancy still didn’t come.
“Lo and behold, they said that in order to open a a theater, I had to build a restaurant,’’ said 82-year-old Murad, who looks 60 and acts 50.
“I didn’t know two things:
“I didn’t know anything about the restaurant business.
What he found out was you don’t make money off a movie ticket.
“You make it off the barrel of popcorn and the gallons of soda,’’ he said. “You break even on the ticket.’’
So much for movies.
“As for the restaurant, we were going to be event-oriented,’’ he said. “Host special events.’’
He says the people who built the town had a certain image of what it should be.
“When you wear a size 12 shoe, you get used to it,’’ he said. “When you put on a size 11, it doesn’t feel quite right.’’
And that is what he feels has happened with the changes in Bridgeton.
“Now, you can cry about it or we can say, what can we do to perpetuate what we have?’’ he said.
“Here is a guy who has been here for 35 years and never stayed here but once, and that was at a hotel where somebody left the skylight open and it rained on me.’’
He said the people have given him support.
He criticizes no one.
“Nobody asked me to put my money into this building,’’ he said. “There’s a pride in getting something done.
He has read every book on LBJ.
“He got things done,’’ he said. “We’ve got to convince people we can get things done.
“I’m not Moses.
“We need people who can throw events here. You wouldn’t have any trouble filling this place. Honor some of the great people in town.’’
They do that now at Centerton Country Club.
“Make it an exclusive affair,’’ he said. “We can comfortably sit 100 people and prepare a meal for them.
“We have to find that niche.’’
Murad owns Courier Systems with a fleet of trucks.
He came to town 35 years ago and moved into the old Murbeck building on Rosenhayn Avenue.
He once operated out of the old Vineland Farmers Market.
He kept it filled, but he needed more space.
The Murbeck location enabled him to go from 30,000 square feet to 220,000 square feet.
“I made a deal with a handshake at the Coach Room,’’ he recalled.
His son now owns the business.
Hank is in town maybe three days a week.
“You have to look at the nonprofit entities to have events here,’’ he said. “I didn’t go that way because I thought I could do something here.’’
Hank Murad knows poor.
“I was in Brooklyn in the 1930s and I saw my friends’ furniture being put out on the street,’’ he said. “I saw it happen.
“Today, with four kids, a mother is allowed to be sick only one day because the kids expect food on the table.’’
He’s worked long hours all his life.
“I knew that if I was working and my competitor was sleeping, I knew I was gaining on him,’’ he said.
“But that’s no life.’’
He lost his wife to cancer after 20 years of marriage.
“I was pissed off when they took her away from me,’’ he said. “I went to work and never came home.’’
At the same time, his brother-in-law lost an 18-year-old son “and checked out forever.
“My sister stood the test,’’ he said. “When she just celebrated her 80th birthday, the friends of that 18-year-old who died showed up at the party in Brooklyn.’’
His kids don’t know why he’s in Bridgeton.
Stay in Brooklyn, they told him.
“I’d rather be a big fish in a little pond than a goldfish in a shark’s tank’’ he said.
He figures the music stopped in Bridgeton and it was like musical chairs and there was no place for the establishment to sit down.
“We’ve got to import outside money,’’ he said. “We should have a 75-mile radius and have a 100-mile bike ride from Paremus to Bridgeton and house them and feed them and send them home.’’
Hank would rather bike than anything.
“Bikers have money,’’ he said. “Bike clubs have money. It is a way to tour. We have beautiful homes. Can we use this as a destination?
“We get 50 people here every weekend and we charge, say, $200, and tie in with the Coach Room for feeding them and maybe we hold a dance as entertainment.’’
He sounds excited.
Do you know who loves Hank Murad?
Nov. 15, 2012
Bob Thompson loves his city.
“I know you don’t like so many rentals,” he said. “I, too, would like to see owner-occupied homes. I’m not getting any younger. My kids don’t want the headaches.”
If he sat down and figured it out, “I’ll bet I’m owed $1 million in back rent,” he guessed.
If everybody wants the same end result, why is it not happening?
The streets are not safe in more and more neighborhoods.
And this bothers Thompson.
Thompson wants police officers walking city streets.
“Whizzing by in a car doesn’t help,” he said. “If Walnut Street is dangerous, have two officers walk a beat and get to know the residents.”
It’s too dangerous.
“Too dangerous?” he shot back. “What about the woman who needs to walk to the store for milk or a loaf of bread? Is it too dangerous for her?”
If 50 percent of the people are dealing drugs, that leaves the other 50 percent who want you there looking out for them.
“It can’t be done on a Thursday night with code officials going along,” he said of Mayor Albert Kelly’s latest community effort.
“You can’t wait for a shooting to respond. You need to get to know these people on a regular basis.”
He wants people to be able to come home at 5 p.m. and be able to walk to a corner store up until 9 o’clock.
“Without fear of being hit over the head for 50 cents,” he added.
He calls Walnut Street a good street.
“I have some wonderful people I rent to on Walnut Street,” he said. “But two or three bad houses can make a difference.
He admits he would not walk down Walnut Street after dark.
“We have to take back the streets, but it won’t be done on a Thursday afternoon. It will take police officers on patrol.
“They’ll say they don’t have enough men. But, when there’s an accident, five cop cars drive up.”
Bob Thompson has never met a street he rents on that he didn’t like.
Back at the ranch
May 16, 2016
The column that says the Bridgeton City Council meeting was a newspaperman’s dream, with a corporation ready to come in and buy the Bridgeton Villas, and by the time they’ve invested $30 to $35 million, it will be an even bigger ratable for the city, but that was only a small part of the fireworks that one attendee called “worse than a bunch of school kids.”
Councilman Jack Surrency, in a suit and tie because he was interviewing prospects to be the new business administrator when Dale Goodreau leaves on July 31, suggested council give its raise back.
That lit the fire under both Councilmen Bill Spence and Mike Zapolski Sr.
“That’s one-third of one cent on the tax rate,” said Spence of the $15,000 of savings.
“Every penny counts,” countered Surrency.
Spence accused Surrency of being vindictive and told the mayor he was tired of him coming to the meetings and interrupting things.
“You have to comment on everything,” he accused Kelly.
Kelly said he was going to continue commenting, then showed council a study compiled by a college and puts Bridgeton in the same city class as Trenton, Perth Amboy and Passaic.
Kelly said he will release the findings on Thursday.
“I don’t care about your college study,” said Spence.
“If you want to give back your raise, go ahead,” said Zapolski, meaning he wants to keep his.
“I don’t want anybody to lose their job,” said Councilwoman Gladys Lugardo-Hemple, willing to give up hers.”
It was Mayor Kelly who originally made the suggestion.
YOU CAN BOOK IT: We have met the enemy and it is us.