Will new mall doom the Route 35 ‘evil clown’ of Middletown?
MIDDLETOWN — A Jersey Shore landmark thought to be in danger of being moved or taken down appears to be safe for now.
Calico the Clown, the so-called "evil clown" of Middletown, is on a Route 35 property where National Realty and Development Corp has proposed the Shoppes at Middletown, a 340,000-square-foot shopping area that will include a "specialty grocery store, upscale national retailers and restaurants, local boutique shops and a luxury cinema."
The development will also include a 350-unit housing development and connecting roads.
Lifelong resident Margie Rafferty has been concerned because plans do not include where Calico will go. She launched the Facebook page Save Calico, the evil clown of Middletown, NJ and an online petition calling for its preservation.
She said plans called for the clown to be moved 700 feet to another strip mall.
Rafferty said there was not an opportunity to ask engineers questions about Calico's future at a Planning Board meeting Wednesday night.
"It's not really clear who's going to do the moving" or whether or not any consideration has been given to keeping it in the same place.
Joe Azzalina Jr., president of Food Circus Super Markets, which owns of the Spirits Unlimited store currently on the site, said "the clown isn't going anywhere."
He said that National Realty will relocate Calico to the new facility, adding that the clown is registered with the Middletown Historical Society.
"A new structure will probably be built for it. The clown will be cleaned up a little bit and refurbished," Azzolina said.
John Orrico, president of National Realty & Development Corp, told NJ Advance Media that there is nothing to worry about and that Calico will be part of the Shoppes.
"It's a classic. It's going to be a part of the development," Orrico told the news website. He said it is a landmark and is working the state Historic Preservation Office on how to handle it properly should a move be necessary.
Azzolina said that Calico, a 30-foot metal clown, was first built by the Azzolina family in 1955 to promote the Food Circus supermarket where the Spirits Unlimited store currently stands. It was designed by Leslie Thomas Worth of Road Ad Signs, a company known today as SignAd. Worth also designed Tillie, the iconic Asbury Park face.
Azzolina isn't sure why Calico is frowning. "Tillie doesn't look super happy," he said, adding that the nickname "evil clown" didn't come from his company.
Many businesses throughout New Jersey had similar roadside signs and were very popular according to Azzolina.
"The clown did spin at one point up through the 1970s but they had to stop. Too many children would go up to the clown," so for safety Calico was locked down.
Azzolina said that Calico has appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," the Kevin Smith movie "Clerks II" and several music videos.
"For me, Calico represents when Middletown was a more rural, truly suburban place. He's overseen a tremendous amount of development. We've lost a phenomenal amount of green space over the years. Preserving him is kind of symbolic of to keep Middletown much the same way it was when we moved here. Scenic, bucolic, open space, the farms, the horse pastures," Rafferty said.
Cindy A. Herrschaft, spokeswoman for the township, said the "town has no position since we don't own it or control it in any way."