While Jim Mastro’s Guitar Bar has been holding down the fort, the local arts scene is about to branch out on First Street with the highly anticipated opening of Little City Books, located on the corner of First and Bloomfield streets. The new owners are Kate Jacobs, Donna Garban, and Emmanuelle Morgen. When asked how the trio came up with the name, Garban said, “We wanted something to reflect Hoboken and how we felt about it. We wanted it to embrace the city—our love for the city and our love for books.” Garban says there was a void left when Blackwater Books and Barnes & Noble in Hoboken closed. The new bookstore aims to fill it, not only with books, but with cool events: readings, theater, music, and more. “We want to be really inclusive. We are planning on having events that encompass the community.” One of the ideas is to hold Irish poetry readings in conjunction with the bars. They aim to make the shop a place where people want to go. “In any urban environment it is necessary to have a bookstore,” she says.
Tony Boloney’s at 263 First St. took over Filippo’s space, which closed due to damage after Sandy. Offering exotic pizzas and subs with whimsical names, like the “Let My People Go” sub, it’s not your usual pizzeria. Owner Mike Hauke says the keys to a successful business are caring and paying attention. Hauke says you won’t get a typical sub here. For that he freely recommends local standby Luca Brasi’s. Luca Brasi’s, located at the corner of Park and First streets, has been in business for over 35 years. They are known for their Italian subs, including the popular “Meet the Family” and catering deals.
Eateries aside, you can’t walk down First Street without passing an Irish bar, or two… Called Irish Row, options abound: The Shannon (106 First St.) is the oldest family-owned Irish bar in Hoboken. With a huge game room in the back, it maintains a friendly and fun atmosphere. McSwiggan’s Pub (110 First St.) offers Irish fare, including the traditional Shepherd’s Pie. This pub is home to several dart and pool teams, and hosts a late night dance party every weekend. Marty O’Brien’s, on the corner of Bloomfield and First streets, caters to a more sophisticated crowd. They serve simple food and drinks, minus the blaring dance music. Mulligan’s (159 First St.) has been open since 2000. This pub draws a crowd for soccer—even at 7 a.m. It manages to be a real sports bar yet host to weekend dance parties. Northern Soul (557 First St.) is another haven for locals looking for outstanding live music. Known for their longstanding Wednesday night open mic, the bar has an Irish vibe with a contemporary edge. Hit hard after Sandy, the bar was closed for almost a month. Longtime barman Donal says that it took about four months to get everything back to normal, but adds that people were just great. “Everyone was excited to have the bar open. Neighbors came by to see how we were doing,” he said.
First Things First
This spring, there will be more in bloom on First Street than just the trees. As businesses and patrons reaffirm their commitment to First Street, the City of Hoboken looks to do the same. A streetscape revitalization plan for First Street will span 12 blocks from Paterson Avenue to Bloomfield Street and will include rain gardens, curb extensions, new benches, bike parking, trash and recycling receptacles, ADA accessible curb ramps, shade trees, and banners.
More than just a geographic location, First Street looks to take on it’s own identity. With such a variety of businesses and services, Hoboken’s First Street has so much to offer.