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  • Writer's pictureJane Rubin

Rediscovering Small Towns - Madison, NJ

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

New Jersey is chock full of charming, historical towns. Only 50 years ago, those little villages were the destination for local shopping, eating and banking. With the advent of shopping malls in the 70’s, buyers shifted away from the street-side stores to new enclosed, weather controlled malls complete with free parking. The result has been a gradual transition in those original towns from retail stores to financial institutions and restaurants primarily catering to daytime business needs.

But, it is my opinion that with online shopping and malls emerging as soft targets for crazy, angry people, our small towns will reemerge and have a new life. In the meanwhile, they are a haven for new ventures, like a hand-made hat store (above), or a Mud Clay Studio for ceramics, or a small quaint craft museum.

And my very favorite, an independent book store called Short Stories Book Store and Community Hub where they host piano recitals and other special gatherings.

Still curious, I have decided to select a number of towns to walk through and see for myself. My biggest criteria is that there is a nice 2 mile walking loop (my baseline exercise goal). The first walk was with my girlfriend, Lisa, an artist with a deep sense of observation. We picked a lovely, sunny morning and walked from one end of Madison to the eastern end of Chatham - an adjacent town, charming in its own right.

We stopped after about a mile and one half for a lovely little breakfast at Nautilus Diner, an establishment dating well back into the 1960’s that I used to frequent in high school after movie dates and later met my mother there periodically for lunch. It is your solid NJ diner with a wait staff who seems to date back to the diner's humble beginnings. Go there with a good sense of humor and nostalgia, because I swear, no one who works there (nor I) can hear a thing.

The town is brimming with old and new esoteric shops. I had no idea that there was such a thing as cryotherapy - yikes, and small markets that meet the immediate needs of the community. It is a walking town with lots of moms and strollers and its neighborhoods nestled close to the Main Street on both sides. Simply lovely and a great atmosphere for a 2 miler alone or with a friend!

Do you have any suggestions for towns I should try?

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