Many years ago I wrote an article in the TAP about shopping local which highlighted why supporting local businesses was essential to the survival of our local downtown and economy. It was 2009-2010, at the time I didn’t own a business in New Providence or a member of Council or involved in any business organization, I was just a concerned citizen in town. My wife Angela and I were just concerned about the number of empty storefronts, our kids asking why the downtown was a ghost town. It was at the height of the economic downturn that hit our town and every town across America. The recession impacted our municipal budget, the town had to reduce staff, reduce services and cancel community events. Our community celebration of Independence Day was canceled. Perhaps you lived here at the time, perhaps you read the article or shared those same concerns.
Those businesses who were here at the time were struggling, struggling to pay the rent and afford the overhead, dealing with the tightening of credit lending upon small businesses as well as the other prevailing economic factors, the Village Shopping Center was going to be put up for sale, restaurants shut or moved to other towns. At a time our town needed help, it was our local businesses who bailed us out. I remember Kevin Cummings CEO of Investors Bank, who had helped the New Providence Athletic Foundation with huge donations for the Lieder Field renovation, wrote a check to pay for the fireworks celebration that summer. This is just one shining example of what our local business community did for our community. Despite challenging times and economic uncertainty, our local businesses pitched in and continued their support across many asks, tricky tray fundraisers for OLP and School PTA’s, Athletic booster or marching band needs...they always have had our backs.
What was asked of all residents was to express your thanks and gratitude by supporting and patronizing our businesses where and whenever possible...just as they’ve supported our community. There wasn’t social media or digital means or technology to express our thanks we thanked them with our feet and our wallets and our business. We shared a great customer experience to help someone else discover it as well. It’s a successful formula that has helped small business recover their investment in New Providence but also for us all to have each other’s backs. That’s what community does.
Our family tries to shop and buy locally as much that we can. It’s how we take care of our own, it’s our end of the bargain, it’s how we keep the local business cycle of growth in motion and it works. Since 2012 over 50 new businesses have chosen New Providence as their home. Millions have been invested in these businesses as well as the expansions of the current business landscape. I’ve provided the list many times of our economic growth but look around and look at the pictures in Old Glory of what our town used to look like. It may astonish you, it may amaze you but it should make you smile.
This recent episode in the New Providence Community Forum spotlights a concerning trend with the advent of social media. I won’t get into particulars, enough has been posted which is what prompted me to write this. It takes a significant investment of time, money and energy to launch a new business and establish a brand. With rents averaging $30-45 per square foot and legislation to raise minimum wage and rising cost of healthcare as well as the unit costs of raw materials and ingredients and transportation....well do the math.
As we’ve seen, it just takes a few irresponsible strokes from behind a keyboard to dash a business’ reputation and cause irreparable harm to them. In today’s world we see the use of social media in so many good ways; to offer a recommendation for a physician or a business professional, where to find a great meal or cup of coffee. We are who make New Providence a Shopping and buying destination. So if by the slim chance that you’ve had a lesser experience than expected, don’t take to social media and shame a business publicly to get even. Be an adult and talk to the manager or owner. The chances of getting a resolution is that much greater...isn't that really the goal in the first place?
Remember most of our local businesses are mom and pops. We aren’t the town of retail or restaurant chains and most of our business owners are just like you and me, and some are residents themselves. Treat them as you wish to be treated and never lose sight of the annual contributions they make to our community event and fundraisers while enhancing our property values within our community. Please think, act and shop local.
And always remember we are New Providence....Nice Place, Nice People.