Red Bank: The Making of a Cool Little Town

Red Bank, NJRed Bank was recently named a town that everyone in New Jersey should visit. So how did a little-known, 2.2-square-mile town become one of the coolest places in the Garden State? By embracing its history and future at the same time.

While it hasn’t always been trendy, Red Bank has always been loved. Loved by the people who have lived there or visited.

Settled between the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers, Red Bank was originally named Navarumsunk by the Algonquian-speaking Lenape Native Americans that inhabited the area. The name later changed to Red Bank because of the “red banks” of the rivers.

Because of its location on the Navesink River, Red Bank traded freely with Manhattan and became a bustling port town. It was a commercial and manufacturing center whose factories stayed busy during the two world wars.

After an economic decline in the 1980s and 1990s, Red Bank has once again become a bustling town. The tiny town is full of restaurants, bars, shops, exercise studios, theaters, parks, homes, schools and unbelievable waterfront views.

Plus, there are numerous events throughout the year that connect the town, its businesses, and its people. It is home to many well-known businesses, such as Tiffany & Co., but it’s also a haven for small businesses.

Grace Donnelly, an employee of Paint Passion, believes Red Bank is a great place to work or own a business because of its accessibility.

“Red Bank is extremely pedestrian friendly,” Grace said. “Visitors can easily park and walk around the downtown area, which gives the local businesses a lot of exposure.”

“Red Bank is a close-knit community of business owners,” said Carol Tarpey. Carol owns her own business, Le Chic Cottage, at Monmouth Street Emporium. Monmouth Street Emporium is a multi-dealer shop with more than 18 dealers.

Grace agrees that there is a sense of community among the business owners. “I’ve seen business owners swapping cards and referring customers to one another. They want to improve the local economy and keep Red Bank thriving,” she said.

The small businesses are Grace’s favorite part of the small town.

“I think it is very important to support local establishments, and I love how Red Bank is mostly small, family-owned businesses,” Grace said. “Every experience is so personal. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with business owners around town.”

Red Bank is a cool town because it has a lot to offer. There are many activities throughout the year. The holiday season brings the annual tree lighting and Christmas carols, and the summer brings fitness outdoors at Riverside Park and music to every corner. There are many other events, including Girls Night Out and Boozin for Boobs, which is a bar crawl that raises money for breast cancer awareness.

Giana Tarpey, a Red Bank Catholic alumna, believes that some of the best restaurants can be found in Red Bank. Her favorites include Boondocks Fishery, Pazzo, Via 45 and Siam Garden.

“After dinner, there are so many great places to grab dessert,” Giana said. “I always have a sweet treat at Whipped Creperie, Cupcake Magician, or the new Sempre Cannoli.”

What really makes Red Bank cool is that it is always growing.

“There are so many things to do, yet there is always something new going on,” Giana said. “It’s a town that people travel to for a day trip or weekend getaway, and I am lucky enough to have lived here my entire life.”

Giana, Carol, and Grace have lived, attended school and worked in Red Bank for over 20 years. They have seen the town grow, especially over the last 10 years. Grace believes that in addition to its old town charm, there is a greater feeling of modernity. It is best displayed by the addition of Two River Theater, which compliments the historic Count Basie Theater.

Plus, there are a variety of restaurants, new stores that range from upscale to thrifty, and new options for entertainment, including Pinot’s Palette and Trap Door Escape Room.

Red Bank has something for everyone. Everyone has their favorite part and believes the town is cool for a different reason. Whether you believe the town is cool because of the cobblestone streets, or because it has an arcade, it is a place that everyone should visit and explore because this town is making a difference in New Jersey. It is making the state cool again!

What do you think makes Red Bank cool? Let us know in the comments below!

Tickets are on sale now for this year’s TEDxNavesink Makers conference. A ticket to the event includes entrance into the Makers Gallery, a showcase of the most innovative and creative technology around. Purchase your ticket here.

Photos courtesy of WavianMatt Capriglione,