Berlin used to be known as a stagecoach town where people would stop on their way from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It wants to bring Berlin back to center stage, and once again make it a destination
By BRIGIT BAUMA
“From Stagecoach to Stage,” Berlin is looking to revitalize its downtown with this slogan as an inspiration.
The Downtown Berlin Revitalization Corp. is a non-profit organization started to preserve and promote downtown Berlin as a desirable destination to live, work and visit.
“The DBRC is really supporting preservation, promotion and place-making. It is about turning space into places, go-to places. We’re taking (Berlin’s) history and fusing it with new culture and arts,” Cindy Williams, program director, said.
Using Berlin’s history as inspiration, DBRC came up with the slogan “From Stagecoach to Stage.” The concept is Berlin used to be known as a stagecoach town where people would stop on their way from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It wants to bring Berlin back to center stage, and once again make it a destination.
DBRC came about from Councilman Len Badolato, who approached many of the current DBRC board members with the desire to create a revitalization program. Badolato had worked on a project to update historical signs throughout the town with the Long-A-Coming (Berlin) Historical Society. Once councilman, he reached out to Keith Hohing, president of DBRC and a passionate resident and businessman in Berlin, and Williams, a professional in the marketing and design redevelopment business for nearly 40 years, to become a part of the revitalization group
DBRC became officially incorporated in December 2015.
Williams said the DBRC will be offering a number of programs to local businesses, including façade programs, sign design programs, window display programs, business building programs and revitalization programs.
“A lot of ‘Mom and Pops’ don’t have the resources to get these kind of services. We are here to help equip and provide services to help Main Street compete,” Williams said.
Maggie’s Bake Shop, a new store in town, is a local business benefiting from the façade program. The bake shop had work done by the DBRC Design Team, providing a digital façade makeover and implementation assistance with signage and lighting.
Another new business, The Vault at Victor Records, owned by Hohing and Graham Alexander, opened around this time last year and was created out of the old TD Bank that shut down. Part intimate, world-class entertainment venue and part official archive for the master recordings and artifacts of the legendary Victor Talking Machine Co./Victor Music Group and associated record labels, The Vault at Victor Records was formed in 2015 as a means of establishing an education and research facility catered to the study and appreciation of the art techniques and development of sound recording, the history of the recording industry and music performance. Contained in The Vault are more than 10,000 masters, tests, acetates and shellacs of the earliest recordings ever made. The Vault is just the beginning of the revitalization of the arts scene in Berlin.
“This is the nucleus to the spin-off to revitalizing the arts here in Berlin,” Williams said. “We’re really going to be growing our focus on arts, culture and history.”
DBRC is also working on bringing in not only locals to its walkable downtown, but others into the South Jersey area. The group would like to make Berlin a destination, and also help South Jersey as a whole.