CRANFORD, NJ — It’s a Mario world and we just live in it.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” theatrically released in the United States on Wednesday, April 5, has been a massive success, already grossing at least $377 million worldwide against a $100 million budget, and Cranford Downtown Management Corp. decided to get in on the action, too, specifically with a “Super Mario Stroll” event.
Caren Demyen, the Cranford DMC director, explained to LocalSource what prompted her to create such an event, which took place on Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8, from noon to 4 p.m. “Super Mario Stroll” ticket holders receive a tote bag that can be filled with Super Mario goodies from 14 participating Downtown Cranford businesses, as well as a pass to see the movie at the Cranford Theater. There were also other Super Mario-themed events on those two days, including Mario’s Cotton Candy Stand, Bowser’s Temporary Tattoo Station, Luigi’s Mustache Station and Yoshi’s Pink Lemonade Stand.
“The Cranford theater let us know that the Mario movie was coming out and we always try to do events that are associated with our local theater,” Demyen said. “We thought of doing something fun to celebrate Mario and get kids out to enjoy the film at the theater.”
Events such as this only work with the involvement of local businesses, which is part of the rationale behind the creation of the Cranford DMC in the first place. Its existence has even prompted business owners to relocate to Cranford.
“We decided to move our business to Cranford in 2011. We found out that there was great downtown management that helps businesses grow,” Ligia DeJesus, owner of Cake Artist Cafe, told LocalSource. “We always try to participate in events like this. There have been a lot of cute kids coming by today looking for treats and many happy parents.”
“I opened my business here in 2013 and Downtown Cranford Management has always been great to work with,” Kim Capece, owner of Augusta Mae Boutique, told LocalSource. “Events like this help to promote the local businesses and the owners to both residents and people who come in from out of town.”
“I love any time that kids get to come out and share in common intellectual property like Mario that everyone loves, it is really fun,” Peter Mandle, owner of Rogue Comics, told LocalSource. “We sell Mario figures and merchandise in this store, so it all works. Unfortunately, Mario does not have a comic book series. That could potentially change after the success of the film.”
Much of the praise from local business owners was directed not just at the Cranford DMC, but at Demyen herself. As Cranford’s DMC director, Demyen is responsible for producing events throughout the town. Each event has a different theme, which serves each business separately.
“Every month, Caren puts together events to help promote walkability and foot traffic toward local businesses, and local owners have the option to participate or not take part,” Capece said. “I love taking part in events like this right before the holidays. Who does not love to hear kids laughing or having fun?”
Increased foot traffic and getting families out to local business was a consistent theme that came up among business owners in Cranford.
“Downtown Cranford asks every business owner in town if they want to participate in their events and we always participate,” Corinne Ardente, owner of Anthem style & gift, as well as Max & Luna, told LocalSource. “I have been in business in Cranford for almost eight years and these events are always good. It increases foot traffic and gets families to come into the stores and see what we have. Also, a lot of people come from surrounding towns.
“Last week there was a ‘Spring Hop’ for Easter and, in the fall, there was a ‘Cranford Stroll’ and different fall and Halloween events. Around Christmas time, there are different shopping events and strolls around town. I love to see the kids enjoying the events that the town puts on,” Ardente said.
Kristen Mider, the chairperson of Downtown Management, praised Demyen for the initiatives she’s created and how the money raised serves the community.
“All of the events that take place downtown come out of the DMC office that Caren directs,” Mider told LocalSource. “Some of our more popular events include the Scarecrow Stroll and the Superhero Stroll. Those events raise money for project graduation. We also collect canned soups to give to local shelters. Our events are often tied to bringing the community together and raising funds for people who need it the most.”
Demyen and Mider have been working together on these events for three years, helping each other to promote and support businesses and other initiatives in Cranford.
“Caren has been the director for nearly three years. I have been on the board for five years and chair(person) of the board for three years,” Mider said. “I was invited to join the board and feel that what the DMC does in regard to events, maintenance and supporting small businesses is so important. It is a great board, made up of people who want to see our downtown area thrive.”
The Mario Stroll is one more example of Cranford’s DMC working to better the township for its residents.
Photos by Javon Ross