When it comes to entrepreneurism, John Mayer is a seasoned veteran in a landmark business. Mayer is the owner of Kirk’s Flowers, which was founded in 1934. Mayer began working there 45 years ago as a recent Newark High School graduate and has grown the company substantially since purchasing it. “We have customers all over the world,” he says. “But 87 percent of them come from a 6-mile radius.”
Despite all the activity, you won’t see the storefront on busy Main Street. Mayer has a flower and gift shop in Suburban Plaza on Elkton Road. The original location on Ash Street, which has a greenhouse, is a cloistered destination for those in the know.
Mayer likes the advantage of being near the main drag but not on it. “You don’t have to be on Main Street to be the best,” says Mayer, whose business has won awards from the readers of local publications and the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.
The Delaware Dance Company, founded in 1978, is another Newark company that proves that businesses can survive and thrive off Main Street. The company has been in numerous Newark locations, including space in the Newark Shopping Center. In some sites, the signage was lost among competing store marquees. Other spaces became too small to accommodate students. But the company’s current location in Madeline Crossing on Elkton Road is just right.
“Elkton Road is busy, and we’re at the front of the building so we have more visibility,” says Mary Roth, the company’s business manager. Yet because the business is so close to the University of Delaware, it has a strong connection to downtown and the heart of the action.
Scott Sam has had a similar experience. Sam is the owner of Pinang, an Asian restaurant featuring sushi and Malaysian cuisine, located in the Shoppes at Louviers, about five minutes from Main Street. Sam chose the location because it is close to the university and professional offices yet it offers plenty of parking.
Parking is a major perk of being near Main Street but not in it, Mayer agrees. His location at Suburban Plaza draws customers from Elkton, Md., who like the convenience of zipping in and out—and the advantage of paying no sales tax.
Elkton Road is fast becoming a commercial anchor in Newark. Roth points to Pat’s MVP Sports Lounge, Buffalo Wild Wings and Amstel Square, the shopping center that houses Claymont Steak Shop and Saxby’s Coffee. “I feel like the Elkton Road corridor is an extension of the downtown area,” she says.
That is also the way city planners see it. “There’s even been talk about calling Elkton Road ‘South Main Street,’” says Roy Lopata, director of planning and development for the city of Newark.
While the phrase “location, location, location” can clearly apply to the Newark area, it still takes more than that to make a successful business. “What’s the secret?” Mayer asks. “There is no secret. Just get up and go to work every day, and keep your nose to the grindstone.”