GLEN ROCK, N.J. – Like many who grow up in Glen Rock, Julie Maxwell Allen left town and then came back after starting a family of her own.
Unlike her peers, the 46-year-old returnee launched a hyperlocal news site.
Allen wants more people to turn to her BananaTreeNews.com than to the borough website to find human interest stories and in-depth reports on what’s happening in local government.
“Glen Rock is unique in that people want to come back,” said Allen, a 1988 Glen Rock High School graduate. “There was this pride instilled in us growing up.
"I was a lifeguard at the pool and an EMT on the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps. We have a top school system, with top activities and opportunities available for the kids.”
When Allen realized she wanted her 8-year-old daughter, Grace, to have the same advantages, she pulled up stakes in Hamburg, New York, where she'd lived since her days at D’Youville College in Buffalo. Mother and daughter moved to the borough last November.
Allen loves good communication as much as she loves Glen Rock. So when Patch.com “took a regional turn for the worst,” she said, she saw an opening.
Allen credits the City University of New York entrepreneurial journalism program with teaching her what she needed.
But what would she call her one-woman news enterprise?
The answer came to Allen at 2 a.m.: Her inspiration was a fake banana tree that has been a fixture in Kilroy’s Wonder Market for all of the grocery store's 100 years in business.
“It’s back by the Entenmann’s cakes display,” Allen said. “It was and is the place where people get their news and gossip of the town.
"Wendy Silber (a local Realtor) once told her kids, ‘Don’t lie to me. I’ll hear it around the banana tree'."