By Laurie Gordon LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Village Associates, LLC, recently took over ownership of what was, for years, Olde Lafayette Village. "The current owner has industrial property nearby and had been aware of the shopping center,” said Patti Singer, Village manager for marketing and events. “Discussions with the bank that had foreclosed on the mortgage began in 2016 and the property was purchased from the bank in December 2016.” Lafayette Village Associates is no stranger to the business. The owners have commercial and industrial property in Sparta, Piscataway, South Brunswick, Manahawkin, Jersey City, and Holmdel. They had a lot of turning around to do as the old Village had fallen into disrepair, many businesses had left and its reputation had become less than favorable. Singer said, “The center had become an eyesore and most of the tenants had vacated. The first step was to rehabilitate the property to make it attractive to the tenants who remained and to attract new tenants. That involved new roofs, siding, lighting, heating and air conditioning, windows, door, exterior walks, common space upgrades, and being cooperative with tenant requested improvements. It also involved having an on-site construction manager, a dedicated village manager, and a knowledgeable leasing agent.” Now, stores such as Village Sweets (formerly Chocolate Parfait) are moving back to the Village and other stores, such as Flowers in the Attic and Felicia's Boutique, are re-locating their businesses there. “Management worked to make the location attractive to tenants but also to customers who could see the Center as a destination,” Singer said. Diane Jones owned a business called American Craft Network in Olde Lafayette Village from 1995 to 2005. “When I opened there was a group of owners that seemed to be interested in making a profit and filling the stores,” she said, “I think it was about a year after we opened that ownership changed and they hired a horrible manager. The owners would not put any money into the village. Over the next eight years, the manager drove tenants away and the owners let the buildings fall into disrepair.” Jones added, “Our tenants association decided that the property was a tax write off for the owners. It was the only explanation for their actions. Loyal customers stopped coming to the village and sales plummeted. I downsized to a smaller space for the last year but it was not worth staying.” Jones was forced to leave, but undaunted, started a business called The Wooden Candle with her husband, Tom. Though Jones' current business involves traveling all over to sell at craft shows, the Village still has a special place in her heart and she's glad for the revitalization. “I have walked around the village several times,” she said. “It looks beautiful! I'm excited to see the new shops. The new owners have brought the village back to life. Makes me happy to see it. I always said the village needed new owners that cared and definitely a manager that knows how to manage.” People who have lived in the area remember when Olde Lafayette Village had events years ago such as an April in Paris event and farmer's market. Singer said that events such as these are planned to return. “Special events are planned and will be coordinated through a special events coordinator,” she said. “We are very excited to bring events back to The Shoppes at Lafayette. We will begin adding musicians on the weekends for shoppers to enjoy as they stroll around the village. We are in the process of planning a Fall/Craft Fair, a Food Truck Festival, and car show, as well as working closely with the Lafayette Federated Church on their Ladies Night Out and Family Fun Night events. We have big plans for other types of events for the holidays too. We are also working on bringing a farmer's market back to the village every weekend. The grand reopening weekend, September 28th - 30th, is going to be fantastic with music, face painting, magic, and more throughout the weekend.” Current stores within The Shoppes at Lafayette include: White Water Flies, The Painted Barn Market, Village Sweets, Lynn's Home Decor and Gifts, Felicia's Boutique, Flowers in the Attic, Al Di La ( hair salon) Nicola Jane Interiors (Farrow and Ball paint, furniture and wallpaper) , Cards and Custom Stationary, Rugs and Curtains, Whisper and Brook Flower Co., Cafe Blue, Pilates Studio, Home and Hearth Remodelers, Flirt Boutique ( Lingerie) , Diva Dog Pet Boutique and Charm. Prior tenants who have remained include: Lafayette House, Van Heusen, Bass and Maidenform. Tracey Williams of Village Sweets recently moved her candy store back to Lafayette. “I left the village and moved to Andover for five years because customers just weren't visiting the village anymore because of the neglect from the previous owners,” she said. “Then once the village went into foreclosure and the bank took possession of it, the neglect escalated to the point where the place became a ghost town. Tenants started moving out and I was one of the last ones to leave - kicking and screaming I might add. I never wanted to leave because I always felt comfortable there and felt that my little candy shop fitted in just right there. But if you have no customers walking through your door then you can't pay your bills.” With the advent of the new management, she and her husband decided to move back to the new Shoppes at Lafayette, rename the business from Chocolate Parfait to Village Sweets and they've never looked back. Phyllis Flanagan, owner of Flowers in the Attic and Felicia's Boutique said, “We decided to move to the village because the village is a family-oriented location and has been an area staple for many years. The revitalization of the village is an exciting time for many area residents and business owners alike. In addition, the change in demographics affords more opportunities for me as a business owner to expand my marketplace.” She is in the process of moving in. “The transition will take approximately two weeks," she said. "As always, we will continue to use Facebook and other social media to keep our customers up-to-date on not only our move but on our products and news for both of our stores. In addition, Lafayette Village will be publishing.” “The Shoppes at Lafayette meets a growing need for outdoor shopping in Sussex County,” Singer said. “It is the only shopping mall destination that offers unique upscale boutiques, food and a recreation, pet friendly aspect with the walking paths. With the tremendous support we have seen and heard through our Facebook page, we are so happy to be part of Lafayette and the surrounding communities. Please come and visit us! You will be pleasantly surprised.” The Shoppes at Lafayette are located at 75 State Route 15 in Lafayette. For information, call 973-255-9044 or find The Shoppes at Lafayette on Facebook.