NEW BRUNSWICK, NJThe city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved plans last week to convert the former White Lotus natural and organic bedding store at 191 Hamilton St. into RUFresh, a local apparel and design store.

Owners Elli Elshenawy and Michael Schuerman hope the store will become a home away from home for students and locals who have an interest in fashion and design.  Not only will the store offer name brands like Ralph Lauren, but also lesser-known brands like Surela Fashion, created by a Rutgers graduate.

The store will not only cater to Rutgers students and local residents, but hopes to usher in a budding fashion community from outside the city.

Considering that Schuerman and Elshenawy expect the store to be the mecca of New Brunswick fashion, the board was concerned that store would attract loitering that would continue into the night. Schuerman put their nerves at ease by explaining RU Fresh would only operate between 10am and 7pm.

It was Elshenawy who explained how the store could serve as a building block for the fashion community, saying he hoped that the store would consist of more than just retail.  He said he also wanted to include a studio for designers to develop original ideas from the store’s creative clientele.

The store will be built by Construction Management Associates later this year.  Mitch Broder, owner of the company and the property, said “the property needs to be redeveloped so it is no longer an eyesore”.

Construction Management owns nine different apartment buildings in the city’s Fifth and Sixth Wards, and has built commercial projects along the Easton Avenue Corridor.

Broder was enthusiastic about the impact of the development on Hamilton Street and the rest of New Brunswick, saying the new store, “will promote entrepreneurship in the city.”

The White Lotus Home first opened in 1981.  It moved to a space on Raritan Avenue in Highland Park in 2009.