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Mt Laurel’s Rancocas Woods looking for a comeback

When was the last time you heard about Rancocas Woods?

Right.

It’s for that reason the shop owners there are looking to bring customers back.

Valerie Houser, who owns William Spencer furniture store in the shopping area, is also member of the Rancocas Woods Business Association.

She said her dad started the business in 1946 and that she and her husband have been running it since 1971.

Valerie Houser is hoping to bring back customers to Rancocas Woods. One way is to host special events, like the candlelight night on the first weekend in December.

“Fifty years ago it was the only place around,” Houser said. “There were no malls, no big box stores anywhere so people came from everywhere to Rancocas Woods.”

She said they used to send a catalogue to 40,000 people twice a year and attract customers from as far away as Trenton and Philadelphia.

“We keep going” despite crushing losses to malls, Houser said.

A list of all 20 stores that make up Rancocas Woods can be found online here: www.rancocaswoods.net.

Houser said the Rancocas Woods Business Association had fallen by the wayside and that she and others are trying to revive it.

One part of their plan is to host a craft coop with about 40 crafters from around the area.

“We have a lot going on,” Houser said, albeit under the radar. “A lot of people don’t even know about us so we want to do a lot more advertising.”

Next year will mark the 65th anniversary of Rancocas Woods and to commemorate that they will have an event every fourth Saturday of the month.

“What we need to do is get our name out because people forget about us,” Houser said, noting she has had many customers who remark that their parents used to bring them to Rancocas Woods. “They were all nice memories.”

She said they will kick off a direct mail campaign and place ads in newspapers and trade publications because business has been slow.

“I think everybody’s in the same boat,” Houser said, indicating her suppliers say. “Oh gosh when’s everybody going to buy stuff again?

“I think it’s in a real sad state,” she said of the economy, it being the worst she’s ever seen.

While she wants to attract more retail, the reality is more people would probably want to open offices, Houser said.

“We want to promote what’s here and we want to promote people to come and buy things here,” she said. “That’s the idea.

“We feel that we’re very unique,” Houser added. “We’re probably the oldest shopping area in Burlington County.”

She said Rancocas Woods’s charm is its old fashioned rustic atmosphere. The shop owners are friendly and “everybody gives good service,” Houser said.

The first weekend in December Rancocas Woods holds candlelight night where all the shops put out the luminaires (lit candles in bags) and provide refreshments. There is a choral group and other activities.