If you know me, you know I'm a huge proponent of shopping local and I like to help a mom and pop business when I can!

In the case of a shopping center called Carriage Square in West Long Branch, I wanted to do even more. Carriage Square has no huge Anchor stores to bring in business, and no national chains (Unless you consider the one franchise, the NJ staple, Jersey Mike's subs).

It's a bunch of local businesses that have fought to survive in a very difficult retail economy for many years. It's tough all over, but in New Jersey, operating a small business is particularly daunting.

While other strip malls fill up and then empty out carriage Square is like the little engine that could: it has been like a little community with a small collection of stories that people have come to know and frequent.

Located on on awkward intersection at Route 36 and Monmouth Road in West Long Branch, it really holds its own in terms of long-standing local New Jersey businesses.

A little over a year and a half ago, the place was devastated by a fire and many of the local businesses suffered great financial loss when this happened.

Every store was forced to close due to safety concerns, and many business owners had to survive not only inadequate insurance coverage, but the loss of income over the long rebuilding project.

Only a few didn't make it through the process. I'm happy to report that most of the stores have reopened and are up and running and many are just on the verge of reopening. There are a couple of new businesses, too!

I've been a frequent patron of Carriage Square since was I old enough to drive and it brings back a lot of good memories for me. I'm giving you a little tour of it here since I'm so glad to see it reborn!

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Dennis & Judi are on the air weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tweet them @DennisandJudi or @NJ1015.

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