From nj.com –
Step inside the New Dodge’s Market in Elmer and one thing immediately catches the eye.
A beautiful tree sculpture stretches from floor to ceiling in the front of the store. It’s the perfect spot to string a bunch of Christmas lights. And, it’s the perfect place to hang some locally crafted glass-blown ornaments.
“We wrapped the entire tree in white lights. We strung them all over the branches,” said Maria Martin, sister of market owner, Scott Edmonds. “Then we hit the switch, and the lights just blew out.”
So they took the lights off and the tree sculpture — made by local artist Abe Warren of Quinton Township — now stands bare, and the ornaments — beautiful glass candy canes by another local artist, Mary Rogers — will find another home inside the market, Martin said.
The New Dodge’s Market prides itself in showcasing locally crafted art and using “as many local ingredients” as possible for its menu items.
“That was our idea. To use as many local people as we can,” said Edmonds.
It was an idea that definitely took hold.
Elmer landmark Dodge’s Market, a focal point in the small borough’s downtown since 1886, had a renaissance of sorts a little over a year ago when new owners Edmonds and James Thomas took over the historic property.
The pair wanted to keep the things that customers craved — the famous New York sharp cheddar cheese and fresh roasted nuts — and add a dash of something new.
Menu items — brainstormed “on my living-room floor inside my Asbury Park beach house” — include cold subs, hot subs, specialty sandwiches, salads, panini and homemade soups and quiche.
And customers definitely have their favorites from the menu, Edmonds said.
The Gorgonzola salad — mixed greens, walnuts, cranberries, green apples, balsamic vinaigrette and mounds of Gorgonzola cheese — is a hot menu item.
“We sell 20 to 25 of these salads every day,” he said.
The New Dodge’s Market offers daily specials as well.
Thursday’s specials included a sautéed pear salad, a barbecued chicken panini, chicken Italiano salad, kielbasa sandwich, reuben and corn beef special.
The market, in continuous operation since it opened in 1886, became Dodge’s Market in 1941 when Raymond and Ethel Dodge took over the grocery store in 1941 from Ross Usinger. The store was well known in the area for its fresh produce, meats, homemade specialties and fancy fruit baskets — along with roasted peanuts and cashews and that famous cheddar cheese.
Ethel Dodge and her son, George, fully supported Edmonds and Thomas when they decided to buy the market, a move that seemed like a big gamble to some.
“No bank in the area believed in the store because of the condition it was in,” Edmonds said. “It needed some work.”
So, they had to get creative, and instead applied for a federal business loan — which they got.
“It works. This building is so charming and it has such a great energy, that it just works,” Edmonds said.
Word of mouth has helped make it work, too, he said.
“Last Saturday it was unbelievable in here,” said Martin. “It was standing-room only.”
The lunch crowd usually comes in by 11:30 in the morning each day, she said.
“The thing that’s so unique about this place is that every day there’s a completely different crowd. We get people coming in every day telling us, ‘My friend told me about your place and said I have to come for lunch,’” Martin said. “Each day there’s at least a dozen people who’ve never been here before.”
Visitors come from all over — from as far as Stow Creek and Commercial Township in Cumberland County, from all over Salem County and even from Gloucester County, she said.
Bob and Tammi DeMarzio of Mantua Township stop in once a week to sip from bottles — real glass bottles — of Coca Cola.
“We stop here often. There’s no other place where you can get these old-fashioned sodas,” said Bob, pointing to a case in the back of the market.
The market also sells specialty goat cheeses from a goat farm in Lawrenceville, a big seller, Edmonds said; chocolates from local candy maker, Sweet Mary’s from Pilesgrove; Stonewall Kitchen mustard and jams and Old Monmouth Brittles. The store also has a full-service florist — Edmonds once owned a flower shop in North Jersey — and it still offers gift and fruit baskets made famous by the talents of Ethel Dodge.
“She was known for her fruit baskets,” Martin said.
In fact, when Martin and her brother first met Ethel and her son, George, the first thing she said was “I can still make a mean fruit basket.”
Ethel’s husband, Raymond, died before he had the chance to see the New Dodge’s Market, but Edmonds and Thomas still keep in touch with Ethel and George.
They even gave the new owners a painting of the market to wish them luck. It is proudly displayed atop the bakery case where pies, cakes, cookies and doughnuts tempt customers.
Perhaps it was the blessing from the Dodges that has helped make the New Dodge’s Market so successful.
Or maybe, Edmonds suggested, what really makes the New Dodge’s Market stand out is the variety of products sold here.
“You can buy something for a $1 or $100, and that’s what makes it work in this area,” Edmonds said.