WAYNE, NJ – Now that Gov. Murphy has allowed all retail shops to open (with severe restrictions), the local Wayne economy has an opportunity to rebound and grow. However, according to Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano, “Wayne Township is in a dire situation.” He said this last month on a teleconfrernce with other Mayors: “We are very concerned about our revenue situation here in Wayne Township,” he added.
The economic issues confronting Wayne are similarly dealing a significant blow to municipalities throughout the State: municipal revenues are down; unemployment is as high as it has ever been, and the future is very uncertain.
What can we, as residents do for our hometown? Christian Sees, the owner of Integrus Financial, a full-service Insurance company in Wayne, and also one of the founders of the new Wayne Chamber of Commerce, said: “One of the biggest answers is to shop Wayne stores to support the local economy. Amazon is convenient, but Amazon does not need Wayne’s money. Wayne needs Wayne’s money right now.”
During the height of the COVID pandemic, many people responded to the call for donations for feeding front-line medical workers and aiding the hungry. This same giving spirit can be focused on buying local.
There are several reasons why Wayne residents will only be helping themselves by buying locally.
“Supporting local businesses supports someone’s dreams and livelihood,” said Dr. Kyle Herrick, PT, DPT, who just opened his first practice in Wayne in November 2019. Within five months of opening Herrick Home Care Physical Therapy Orthopedic & Pediatric Services on Hamburg Turnpike, the pandemic hit, and the stay-at-home order came down.
Dr. Herrick had to lay off some of his employees, but he was determined not to let his practice and his dream wash away in the wake of the virus. “We made a commitment on the lease on the building, and we kept that commitment throughout this,” he said.
His lease payments went to the property owners who then used that revenue to pay the commercial property taxes to Wayne Township.
“Wayne businesses do a lot for us,” said Mayor Vergano. “The taxes we collect from them keep residential tax rates down, because their taxes pay for a lot of our services.”
Commercial property taxes are a large part of the revenue that Wayne brings in to pay for all the services that residents enjoy, including: recreation, road maintenance, public safety, public health and so much more.
Shopping locally can help keep residential property taxes from rising while also funding essential town services.
“Local businesses also employ many people in the community,” the Mayor added. “Especially our young people.”
Joe Scuralli, the President of the Wayne Town Council, said: “You need to have a good mix of different types of jobs in town, because there are different people in different situations. Having a variety of employment opportunities locally also provides a great service to our community, it keeps the town robust and boosts the economy.”
It’s not just small businesses that add to the commercial tax base and provide employment. The Willowbrook Mall is the single largest taxpayer in Wayne and with all their stores combined, they are one of the largest employers, too. So, its not just about shopping at locally-owned ‘mom-and-pop shops,’ the larger stores in Wayne help the local economy too.
It’s also important to consider the economic impact of non-residents who come to Wayne to work. The dollars they spend here on lunch, when shopping at Wayne stores, or visiting Wayne Doctors are just as valuable to our economy.
“The beauty of being part of a community like Wayne are the people who live here, the school system and the commerce available,” said Sees. “What’s great about a town as big as Wayne is that it offers so much. So, depending on what your interests are you can find a place that will fulfill your needs.”
Wayne offers a variety of local restaurants, primary care physicians and specialty physicians, hair salons, recreational services such as T-Bowl or PS2 Athletics, pharmacies, food stores, delis, and a variety of retail shops and service businesses.
How many of these businesses will be able to reopen, or survive long enough to get to whatever our new normal is going to be?
Scuralli explained that consumers decide which businesses stay and which businesses go by how we ‘vote’ with our dollars. “When you spend money at a business, you are, in effect, voting thumbs up or thumbs down on that business’s existence,” he said.
“People expect local businesses to be there when they need them,” Scuralli added. “But if you treat these places like showrooms, where you find an item in a store, then go home and buy it online for a few dollars less, these stores might not be there when you want to go back.”
Property values are tied to the desirability of a town. “If there are many conveniences, such as a variety of restaurants, stores and services, the town is more desirable which can affect property values,” said AnnMarie DeGeorge of Realty Executives. “These things are factors when someone is searching for a place to live.”
“Even if you don’t care that your money is going to a big conglomerate like Walmart instead of a local business owner, it still makes sense to shop locally,” said Scuralli. “Because of the convenience.”
However, Scuralli does care whether the profits generated in Wayne end up back in the local economy and so do many business owners.
Keeping Money Local
Scott Bordman owns Cartridge World on Valley Road in Wayne. Bordman says they are the “printer people” and provide printers, supplies and printing services. He is a big believer in keeping money local. “When you shop at the big box stores, the profits go to the corporations and the stockholders or the private equity firms that own those businesses,” he said. “When you shop at a local small business, that profit goes right back out into the community when that shop owner goes out to buy goods and services.”
Dr. Herrick, who is a Wayne resident and Wayne Valley graduate, also works as a physical therapist for the Wayne schools while he builds his physical therapy business. He agrees with Bordman. “My family buys groceries here, I buy gas in town, and we use a local pharmacy,” he said. “The money I make in Wayne, goes back into Wayne.”
These local small business profits are also used in other positive ways. “We’re the ones who sponsor the local football teams or the cheerleaders or the PTOs or the tricky trays,” said Bordman. “We’re the ones who give the local donations.”
“The face of Wayne is at risk of changing,” said Sees. “Stores, where you have shopped for years have been closed for months and may never open again. If our local businesses don’t survive, Wayne will not be what it was. We won’t have that same sense of community. National retailers are great for the service they provide, but they cannot become a part of the community like many of our existing small businesses do.”
“Local businesses are vital to this community,” the Mayor said. “Now is not the time to buy things off the internet. Now is the time to get up, get into town and buy locally and support Wayne stores.”
“If this pandemic has taught us anything, is that we need to use our local people for services, otherwise there will be none left when this is all over," Vergano added. "Shopping local is the smart thing to do, and the right thing to do."
By shopping local, you will be supporting a local business owner, helping to provide local jobs, keeping a variety of stores available for all residents, supporting the township government so that your taxes don’t go up and township services remain strong, boosting property values and aiding your community. This helps all Wayne residents.
Or you can shop online and maybe save a few bucks. It’s your choice.