The streets of Downtown Jersey City were crowded last Saturday, as revelers sipped $5 beers, shopped at local businesses, and enjoyed the last weekend of the summer at the 2022 All About Downtown Street Fair, held by the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District, or HDSID. Bolstered by temperate weather and lively music, an estimated 20,000 people showed up to drink, dine, and shop with the nearly 280 vendors whose booths lined the recently-completed Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza and the surrounding streets.

It was a great day to celebrate Jersey City’s community and culture, and the large turnout signaled a strong comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Last year was our first year back,” Rachel Seig, HDSID’s executive director and the primary organizer of the event, explained over the layers of music and chatter that filled the afternoon air. After taking 2020 off, All About Downtown returned last year to a still sizable, but notably subdued crowd. Now, at last, it seems that the energy is returning. The annual event serves to promote brick-and-mortar businesses within the Historic Downtown area and draw shoppers to the hundreds of local makers and artists who turned out to peddle everything from wine-inspired home goods to artisanal dog treats, as well as to bring foot traffic to the neighborhood.

“Maybe someone hasn’t been here – we want them to walk around, feel downtown Jersey City, and then maybe come back,” Seig said, emphasizing the lasting impact events like this can have for local businesses. “Maybe they won’t buy from a vendor today, but they took their business card and will buy tomorrow.” One of these vendors is ceramicist Tara Kothari, whose tent near the Grove Street PATH stop was positioned just yards away from the DJ booth. “At least the music is good,” she shouted over the driving beat, “so I’ve been happy.” A Jersey City resident since 2011, Kothari operates out of a studio at Mana Contemporary, near Journal Square. Her ceramics feature floral wordplay (“buds for life”) and botanical motifs, which she creates by pressing and firing real flowers into the clay and painting the impressions that they leave behind. Lately, though, she’s begun incorporating vignettes from “vibrant and diverse” Jersey City into her work. “Jersey City’s community is fantastic,” Kothari told me in between wrapping her decorative dishes in cushioned packing paper for customers. “I’m so grateful to all the local businesses who support me and keep my work stocked, and to all the people who allow my creativity to be what it is.”


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Nearby, Hoboken resident Monica Razak was promoting her own business, Monica’s Collective, which “provide[s] sustainable alternatives to everyday women’s goods.”  Though Razak primarily sells online, she also makes regular appearances at local makers’ markets and pop ups. Visitors to her stall on Saturday were greeted by a full length mirror emblazoned with the cheeky slogan “Shut up, you look good,” 

This year marked the first that Razak has popped up at All About Downtown, bringing with her a selection of dreamy, ultra-feminine apparel; accessories like oversized, silky scrunchies; and candles in scents like peppermint mocha and chai (her personal favorite). She said that the day had been going well. “I haven’t gotten used to the fact that people really like my stuff,” Razak laughed. “I always come into these hoping to make one sale, and everyone always blows me away.” Though some vendors, like Razak, circulate markets in the surrounding area, and others, like Kothari, sell their wares at local shops like Kanibal & Co, Jersey City brick-and-mortar vendors themselves had a strong showing as well. From a booth near the PATH station, Jersey City Heights bakery The Law of Donutgineering slung donuts in oddball flavors like chicken and waffles. Down at the opposite end of Newark Avenue, just steps from their location on Brunswick Street, antique-and-coffee shop Into the Void displayed a selection of “weird art” and distinctively mid-century furniture, including a space-age silver sofa.

“It’s a great chance to pull some really cool stuff out… let people know where we are,” Into the Void’s Andy explained. “It’s just an endless parade of fun, weird, wacky, everyday people.” The crowd reflected the diversity of Jersey City – families with little kids, groups of teenagers with dyed hair, hip young people walking their tiny dogs in tiny bassinets, and others from all walks of life. Appropriately for its massive size, All About Downtown truly had something for everyone. “I don’t recognize a lot of people, which is a good thing. It means they’re coming from all over. And that’s what we want: for people to come here and shop here,” Seig said as she oversaw the day’s festivities from HDSID’s tent at the mouth of Newark Avenue. “You don’t have to go to New York City to have a good time.”


Alexis Bates
Author: Alexis Bates