Although ERA Justin Realty has been in business in Rutherford since 1950, with most Rutherfordians familiar with the agency’s name adorning “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs from Park Avenue to the Passaic River, very few actually know that Justin Realty has deep Rutherford roots.
“A lot of vendors still call and ask for Justin,” says Jennifer Darby Metzger, co-owner and broker of the agency, along with her father Ron Darby. In fact, Ron was once partners with the original Justin, and together with daughter Jennifer, now run ERA Realty as a team.
Ron and Jennifer have deep family roots in Rutherford and have been involved in many aspects of the community for years. For long-time residents, the Darby name is well-known, and Ron and Jennifer’s familiar faces can be found at numerous charity events. These include the Rutherford Chamber Events and the Relay for Life, along with erafresh.org, the “community supported agriculture” project they created to bring locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to the area.
Back in 1986 Ron, Jennifer and the rest of their family even took part in the famous “Hands Across America,” the local section of which featured a chain of neighbors stretching all the way from Lyndhurst to Park Avenue.
From this unique perspective Ron and Jennifer have seen the many changes in both the residential parts of town and in the continued evolution of the business community along Park Avenue and its cross streets. Particularly now with the array of new businesses that have opened in the center of town, much of which Justin Realty has been associated with either through the leasing of commercial space or the sale of the actual buildings.
“Downtown is a real draw for families moving to Rutherford,” Jennifer says, with a great sense of pride at these changes she has seen in her hometown. “People moving here from New York City, Hoboken, and Jersey City love the walkability. To be able to shop, stop for a cup of coffee is so appealing for them.”
“They see the town as a hidden gem,” she adds, noting that businesses as diverse as a children’s gym, a local artist, and a farm-to-table restaurant have all contacted her about the possibility of opening up shop along Park Avenue. She also gets many calls from people interested in renting a downtown apartment with their easy access to shops and the train station for a painless commute into Manhattan.
“People really do want to shop locally,” Jennifer says, referring to the growing desire of many to support local businesses rather than the large chains and box stores. “They’re tired of the malls.”
It is this deep connection to the community that Ron and Jennifer see as setting ERA Justin Realty apart from any number of other real estate agencies in the area. Many of their agents, in fact, are residents of Rutherford, which only broadens their overall relationship with the town they love.
“What’s really interesting is that Rutherford used to be a town where people from the city would come and stay a few years before moving farther out into the suburbs,” Jennifer says. “Now there’s a trend of families staying in town, building their lives here.”
“They’re putting additions on their homes, investing in their houses and in the town,” she adds, emphasizing the changes she has both lived through and helped to create.
After all these years living and working in Rutherford, it’s not unusual for a face from the past to approach Ron and say: “You sold my house in 1973.” Yet one more example of how deeply connected ERA Justin Realty is to the Rutherford community.