When the often unpopulated downtown area of the place I grew up in was suddenly brimming with life on weeknights when before, noticeable crowds near the local coffee and cupcake joints would be a rarity even on weekends, I knew that the “next big thing” meant a lot more to my suburban New Jersey community than a dessert fad. When the froyo store Redberry opened in Plainsboro, the solution to the puzzling question of suburban spirit revealed itself in the vibrant swirls of frozen yogurt.
When people hangout in my district, they take their cars or hop on the local Dinky train service to Princeton. It’s only logical. A cozy movie theater that acts as the only pseudo “indie” screening center for miles, the most eclectic collection of restaurants that span across the full cultural spectrum, consignment shops, quirky arts and crafts stores, and of course, the sprawling lawns of Princeton University provide every hangout outlet a suburban teen could want. And when that wasn’t enough, we’d just use the good old NJ Transit and be in New York City within an hour.
I can’t even remember how many times I asked my mom when we’d move out of Plainsboro to a place where “more happened”. All I’d see on my bike rides were farms, fields, houses, and a few months later, farms and fields being replaced by more houses. It was an existence that I taught myself to loathe the older I grew.
Enter Redberry. Of course, right when I left Plainsboro for the city life I’d always dreamt of in New York.
It seems like an odd and gross exaggeration that a frozen yogurt store calmed my anxious suburban nerves. But on my weekends home, as I’d pass the place that’d been coined “Downtown Plainsboro” to create community that was foreign to my town, I was completely shocked to see throngs and throngs of people standing outside of Redberry. People from nearby, and people from all the way at the other end of the district. People from around the world who’d come to visit friends and family. Kids, teens, parents, grandparents, everyone.
I gave it a few months. Fads are fads, it would die down. But even a year later, whenever I go home and pass Redberry, I’m still amazed. People are communing, discussing, laughing, enjoying. Together. Even from a distance, it makes me smile that the place I grew up in has a meaning I always wish it did and has embraced community in what was perhaps an unintentional but nevertheless crucial move.
And even though I can only take my froyo in moderation, I can’t help but come to Redberry’s defense when people roll their eyes and say “oh not that again.” It gave a place that was on its knees begging for some life a critical infusion of spirit, and united a suburb that always prided itself on community yet escaped its own borders to find it.
To learn more about Redberry, you can visit their site here: