Montclair Center Stage Brings Music, Crowds to Church Street, But Concept Will Be Fine Tuned


Montclair Center Stage Brings Crowds to Church Street, But Concept Will Be TweakedDowntown Montclair has been alive and vibrant in an electric new way the last few weekends, and it all started with the debut of the Montclair Center Stage on Saturday, April 27, followed by another bustling day on Church Street on Saturday, May 4. The addition of Saturday concerts, produced by Joann Smalls Productions, with sound production by ACIEM Studios, have been wildly successful at attracting crowds to Church Street, but not everyone is singing the same happy tune.

“The Montclair Center Stage has been a great success with attendance, commerce, music, and publicity,” says Luther Flurry, executive director of the Montclair Business Improvement District. “However it has hurt some businesses, and this must be addressed. After each concert, we have taken notes and adjusted details in our programming.”

One of those adjustments is a Saturday schedule of musical performance running from 2-8 p.m., as opposed to an earlier noon-6 p.m. start time. However, outdoor music lovers should not panic.

“The Montclair Center BID is committed to music in Montclair Center,” says Flurry. “We are certain that, with adjustments, the Montclair Center Stage will draw customers and artists to Montclair Center in a way that is not to the detriment of other businesses. We are exploring a variety of options including stage location, programming and dates.”

The boon to businesses has been obvious at restaurants packed with diners enjoying music at outdoor tables. Fresco Montclair has been one of the more outspoken businesses pleased with the increase in foot traffic that the Montclair Center Stage has brought. Other businesses say they are experiencing challenges related to Saturday music and have voiced their concerns to Flurry. Specifically, some Church Street retailers report that their registers are down on the days with outdoor music. In the past, outdoor music had been held on Sundays.

Here’s what’s on deck for this Saturday — tell us in comments what you would like to see (and hear) in terms of music at Montclair Center Stage.

Montclair Center Stage schedule for Saturday, May 18
2:00pm Rylan Stowe
3:00pm Skunk Daze
4:00pm Apparus
5:00pm Paul Gargiulo
6:00pm I Am Fighting
7:00pm Opera Theatre of Montclair


  1. I’m curious what challenges the other businesses are facing. No one seems to clearly state what problems some of the other business owners are having with Center Stage. Can anyone elaborate so I can get a better understanding of both sides?

  2. Specifically, some Church Street retailers report that their registers are down on the days with outdoor music.

  3. “Specifically, some Church Street retailers report that their registers are down on the days with outdoor music.”

    Correlation does not imply causality. The lacking part in this article is that causality is not established.

  4. Probably because their normal customers know what’s going on and come in on another day instead. If anything, retailers should be figuring out ways to attact the new crowds into their stores rather than complaining.

  5. For which businesses in the area could this NOT be helpful for…perhaps you need to look at your window displays, merchandising, etc. and figure out why larger crowds don’t result in more shoppers for you

  6. So… If I’m reading this article correctly, downtown Montclair has done a great thing for many and hurt a few businesses. Vague. How? If your going to post something publicly and use the word “specifically” and not specify how, or what, or who… it doesn’t sound very specific.

    Basically all I’m getting from this is:

    A band is scheduled to play at a bar. They go up. A majority of the patrons love it. One patron doesn’t, so he/she writes down why on a bar napkin tucked away in the corner what is ruining his/her station. Like the sound, the people it attracts, etc.

    So now, the owner has to move the band around the bar and try to find a “better spot” for them. Only, the people remain the same. There’s still a draw to the music and that same patron is still scribbling away.

    So now, the owner has to try to find more “appropriate” acts that attract a more “appropriate” crowd. Before you know it, people are asking for a setlist and press kit like we are voting for Congress. Diversity goes out the window and you have a ragtime band sitting in the middle of the park playing Yankee Doodle and holding balloons.


    I’m not saying this will exactly happen, but in this culture that seems exist up north musicians are only HEARD when we PLAY. We try to voice our opinion and stand up for music and it’s trumped by ledgers and dollar signs. We aren’t tying a bear to a pole and teasing it. We aren’t burning people at the stake.

    We are playing music. Not everyone is going to like everything they hear. But Ms. Smalls and her team does a fantastic job of making sure that the DIVERSITY allow audible variation. If you don’t like rap, it’s just a short while before some folk gets up. It’s not blocking the doorways to anyones shop. We aren’t chanting “don’t give this place business. In fact, it would appear that a lot of businesses seem to dig the foot traffic save “some” which is what, one… two… four… out of how many? But again no names. So is the purpose to passive-agressively state grievances? Or boldly claim “change is coming” to the event.

    My name is Rylan Stowe. I play music and I’ll be on stage at 2pm on Saturday. If you want to come by and help me understand how this is hurting your business, I’m very respectful, but if this article is the best that can be offered it’s simply not enough to validate to the musicians, the operators, the businesses who enjoy it or the people who come out to hear it that the argument is legitimately just about business. There’s always something else. You’re not just voicing out against the operators of the event, understand, the performers take it personally.

  7. as a business owner myself, i just can’t understand why ANY increase in foot traffic could be considered bad for business. you have good days and you have bad days and it’s not always in your control. it’s up to the business owner to jump on an opportunity when it’s offered. an event that brings 100’s of people right to your front door, WEEKLY should be like shooting fish in a barrel (not that i condone shooting fish in barrels). it’s free advertising and all the HARD (bringing the customer RIGHT to you) is being done for you. you just have to think outside the box and find a way to get them to come into your shop instead of just hanging around outside. all of the extra people that come along with these saturday shows should be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance which will in turn help pay your rent, your electric bills, and all the other costs of running a business in montclair. the worst that can happen is you end up with maybe a few more people walking around just checking out the shop, a little more garbage to clean up at the end of the night, a few more kids hanging around that just may mention your shop to their parents, friends, aunts/uncles spreading the word of your business’ existence around. montclair is a different kind of town. there are many, many, MANY artists, musicians, unique business owners, and all kinds of other creative people here, and we should be EMBRACING our diversity, and encouraging even more! i can’t think of any other town that is as supportive of the arts as we are. I have local musicians perform here at InsaniTea almost every week and our in-store playlist consists solely of the original music given to me by the people that play/have played here and i even have a board up that links to all of their websites or other contact info. i’m 100% supportive of our local artists and think montclair center stage is doing an excellent job! keep it up!

  8. Ehhhh….. Increased traffic does not always translate to increased sales during the event or at a future date.

    We own and manage large retail properties, and host a popular Mall-o-ween event. Most stores participate, but we have stopped advertising it because after a certain amount of attendees, the concourses are so congested no one can get in or out of the stores. Tons of complaints from the tenants during those years.

    And not everyone the event draws is “your” shopper. If the loss of sales is greater than the amount made up later in the season, it can be a net loss for a business owner.

    Contrary to common sense, a person looking to go shopping on a given day will not necessarily come back another day. Or spend the same amount. That’s the reason that December sales spike in years where there are essentially two last weekends of Christmas shopping (ie Christmas falls on a Sunday). And extra weekend of shopping means more sales. It doesn’t sound logical. People make their budgets and buy their gifts. But that’s not how it works out in the end.

  9. rylanstowe, Are you getting paid by the BID?

    A BID is funded by the businesses themselves. They voluntarily enter into a self taxing agreement to promote their district and improve it.

    Typically done when the city or town is unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Bryant Park in the city is a good example. It was the property owners around “Needle Park” that raised the money for the redevelopment of it and that fund the operations.

    The Montclair Center BID is the same type of animal. The businesses are funding it, and if they are not happy with what it brings to their business, then they should absolutely have a say and get it changed.

  10. The community also sanctions these events do they not? How are permits lifted to do such things? And if certain BID businesses enjoy the event are they trumped by those opposed to it? That sounds like a committee an inner committee issue, but musicians don’t have a BID or anything of the sort. We have stages that offer us space and we fight for those stages to continue to exist.

  11. And how many of the montclair business are against it? How much is a buy into the BID? Is it like a company where certain operations have equal share or is it just “if you give your in.” Basically if 17 out of 20 like whats happening, do the three outweigh the majority and vice versa? I’ve read other articles pertaining to this event and this is the only one I’ve seen side a negative response. With no specifics, it doesn’t seem like it’s the majority.

  12. I can understand why some business owners are concerned about the live music. Church St. has always been ‘genteel’ and loud music can have an unsettling effect on regular shoppers and potential customers. What Church street needs is quiet music that doesn’t intrude into the delicate natures of a more sophisticated and demure clientele.

    A winsome Japanese maid delicately strumming an Ichigenkin, while singing soothing melodies would be awesome.

  13. There’s a lot of hand wringing over whether the stage is drawing paying customers. I would think its effect on the local community would count for something, too. The biz owners may be a bit blinkered on this score.

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