HACKENSACK — A third-generation small business on Main Street will close at the end of the month as a wave of development continues to transform downtown.
The building, which has been home to O’Shea Printing & Graphics, a family-owned printing company for more than 50 years, will be demolished, clearing the way for luxury apartments to be built in its place.
When Erin Bracken’s grandparents opened the store half a century ago, downtown Hackensack was still a bustling commercial district. Paramus malls were in their infancy and had just begun siphoning off shoppers.
Now, as development booms along Main Street, which city officials say is in need of revitalization after decades of decline, Bracken is packing up, selling equipment and preparing to close.
“It’s emotional that this chapter of my family’s story is coming to an end,” she said. “Running a business has never felt like a money-making operation to me. What seemed important was the family business and our relationships with our customers over the years.”
Bracken, 38, first learned of the proposed development — a six-story, 130-unit apartment building that would replace her store, four other buildings and a parking lot on Main Street — in February when she read about it in the paper. She was initially told she had to leave the building in April, but after speaking with the landlord, she was given until August 1.
Many of the buildings on the block between Maple Avenue and Clinton Place, including former Main Street landmark Bruce the Bed King store, are vacant, but two businesses — a Salvadoran restaurant and a law office — are also closing to make way for the development.
The developer is preparing to submit site plans for the project to the city’s Planning Board for review next month.
The face of downtown is changing as mixed-use buildings replace outdated storefronts and vacant lots. But some worry the city will become less affordable as construction continues and longtime residents and businesses will be downsized.
Several businesses that own their buildings have chosen not to sell and are now surrounded by new construction. In Bracken’s case, she was on a month-to-month lease and had no option to stay. After learning of the building’s planned demolition, she looked for another location in Hackensack, but couldn’t find something in her budget. After closing the store, she may work with another district printer, she said.
“There is so much uncertainty right now. It was stressful,” she said. “Development is not a bad thing — I think it’s good that we’re not just stagnating and becoming a ghost town. But Hackensack has many businesses and organizations that have been a part of our community for so long. To let them slip away is a shame.”
Bracken, a lifelong Hackensack resident, remembers walking to the store from Holy Trinity School just a few blocks away and spending afternoons doodling and drawing on the lighted table.
She started working full-time at the store about 15 years ago and inherited the business after her mother died of breast cancer in 2010.
One employee left right before COVID hit and wasn’t replaced, so she’s been on her own for the past two years as she worked to adapt the business to the pandemic. Many clients’ needs changed virtually overnight—fundraising galas and other events were canceled; printed forms and diaries have gone digital.
The shop’s customers include local businesses, community groups such as Boy Scout troops, schools, libraries and non-profit organizations, as well as families looking to print wedding invitations or birth announcements.
The store has worked with the Bergen Irish Association for decades and will create materials for the group’s annual fundraising dance.
“They’ve been a really solid business in Hackensack for many years,” said the organization’s president, John O’Shea, who is not related to the Bracken family. “The service you get with a small family business is much more representative. It is a sad day to see them close.”
Sharon Collins, who is opening a kindergarten in Waldwick, said Bracken recently designed a sign for the building, got it from the manufacturer and even helped her hang it.
“She went above and beyond with every single project. We were all devastated when we heard it was closing,” Collins said.
For Bracken, the store is full of memories: of her and her sisters doing homework at desks in the back room, and watching her grandparents and parents help customers.
As she packed and boxed things, she would find an item, a form or a document, “but it has my grandfather’s handwriting on it and it’s bitter,” she said.
The other day she came across her grandparents’ Bible. They were given to them when they married and kept pages of names and dates of baptisms, confirmations and weddings of family members.
“It was not stored in their home. This was retained in the business. This business was part of my family,” Bracken said. “For me, this is more than closing a business – it’s my family’s story. It feels like such a loss.”