By Ukee Washington

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (CBS) — Mount Laurel Township is about 22 square miles with just over 42,000 residents. In town, you’ll find residential housing, a county college campus and a number of corporate businesses, each unique in their own way.

Decades before the modern shopping mall, there was the Village Shops of Rancocas Woods.

“The concept back then was really exactly what we’re trying to reinvigorate here — a quaint, comfortable shopping experience,” owner Matthew Semola said.

About three years ago, Semola bought seven of the 10 buildings to the delight of many residents.

“They were so happy and excited to see this coming back,” Semola said.

These log cabins hold more than 200 vendors in all.

Rancocas Woods Craft Co-Op hosts dozens of vendors selling handmade items and antiques.

Creek Mercantile overflows with vintage finds and the Village of Shops is adding new vendors for things like wellness items and a new Tex-Mex restaurant is serving up quick Mexican food.

Rancocas Woods Craft Co-Op hosts dozens of vendors selling handmade items and antiques.

Just last November, Lisa Toppin opened A Knit Sheep Yards. Toppin said Rancocas Woods has something special.

“The coziness, you know even the stores that are larger have this feeling of welcome and comfort,” Toppin said. “People come out and just hang.”

The Village Shops of Rancocas Woods hosts craft shows and food truck events every month, but you don’t have to wait for that to enjoy it.

“Just the atmosphere that exists here with the trees and the buildings really harken back to a time when, you know, shopping was fun,” Semola said.

At the Ceramic Barn Paint Your Own Pottery Studio, Michelle Mastrosimone of Wastampton was visiting with her two sons, who were getting a pottery wheel lesson.

“It’s been very hot outside and always looking for stuff for them to try,” Mastrosimone said. “They’ve been wanting to try coming here for a while. The drive over here was beautiful. That in and of itself is really nice.”

The Mount Laurel Library hosts kid-friendly events like Summer Stories with firefighters.

The children get a chance to see a real fire truck up close and watch as a firefighter puts on the gear they need.

“My daughter loves this. She wore her firefighter costume today,” Susan Barr said. “They are able to see the firefighters and learn not to be afraid of them if there were an emergency at their home. I love the Mount Laurel Library.”

Back at the Village Shops, Brandon Hartman of Second Time Books says people are rediscovering the special spots of Mount Laurel.

“Hearing people who were here 20 years ago say Oh I used to be here, I used to come when it was big, when it was a big deal and now I’m going to come back,'” Hartman said.

Ukee Washington