WESTFIELD, NJ — In just a few short months, Rory Chadwick relocated his 11-year-old consignment business to Westfield, moved here and created an online following of several thousand local people. Oh, and he treated the town to a visit from Santa on Christmas. How has Chadwick so quickly become a fixture downtown, in Westfield Facebook groups and in the hearts of town residents?
Chadwick had been researching new locations for his shop Midtown Authentic for more than a year. He didn’t need a large space for the high-end accessories he sells at retail and online, but was looking for a nice downtown with good foot traffic and nearby parking. He found a perfectly-sized store on East Broad Street, and Midtown Authentic moved from its Hoboken location to Westfield in August. A few months later, Chadwick himself relocated from Hoboken to make Westfield his home.
“The first week I was here, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, and I wanted to do something. [Westfield residents] Ben and Trish Montez were able to provide a truck, and I mobilized on social media to ask for donations. People came in droves; I was shocked at this amazing outpouring from the people of Westfield.” Chadwick flew to Texas to meet the truck driver and distribute donations. When he returned a few days later and went back online to this community that had been so generous, he saw negativity, bickering and complaining.
Chadwick decided he was going to face the online negativity head-on with something positive, and posted a raffle for a gift card to his store on the Westfield, NJ Facebook group*. He quickly racked up 1,200 guesses, gave away the gift card and thought that maybe he could turn this into something more.
“I’m a community-oriented guy,” Chadwick said. “Every town has a problem, whether it’s the political scene or retail issues. But it should be more about positivity and less about negativity.”
He considers his fellow small businesses in town his “brothers and sisters,” and decided to try to make his idea into something bigger. Local businesses began donating products and services for Chadwick to raffle off.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “We’re not Wal-Mart, and we all have our struggles. It takes a few minutes of my time to help someone out.”
The idea evolved into an offshoot Facebook group, Rory’s Raffles and Reviews of Westfield, which had 1,300 members join in just a week. In addition to the raffles, Chadwick started reviewing local eateries, posting photos of his meals (which he has made known he must pay for himself to keep reviews objective), and even videos of him enjoying the food, sometimes with friends along for fun. He hopes that each review or raffle posted will encourage people to patronize a Westfield business, and would love for others to follow his lead and post their own local reviews.
Chadwick remains humble about how what he’s done has affected Westfield.
“This has nothing to do with me,” he said. “I want to see everyone in this town flourish, and I do it because helping other people makes me feel good.”
And this is how the idea of Santa visiting Westfield on Christmas came to be.
Chadwick had the idea to dress up as Santa and ride around town on his Vespa on Christmas Day. With the help of town residents and the police department, he mapped out a route that would take him through most streets in town, had an escort playing holiday music from speakers and braved frigid weather to greet kids and adults, waving and cheering, bringing him coffee and cookies.
And Chadwick emotionally explained that he got much more out of the experience as Santa than the town residents who saw him.
“I’m an only child. Back in the day, we used to get together with extended family for the holidays, but as we’ve gotten older, it’s not as easy,” he said. “My mom passed away two years ago, and now I only have my dad to celebrate with. At Christmas time, I get kind of sad. I saw this as an opportunity to celebrate Christmas with hundreds of people. And for one day, my family got a lot bigger.”
Despite a bout with bronchitis resulting from his hours-long ride in the cold, when asked if he plans to celebrate as Santa again in 2018, without hesitation he said he will. There are also plans in the works for the Easter Bunny to visit town this spring.
Chadwick emphasized the power of positivity. He believes there are “lots of possibilities for now and the future. We all need to work toward a thriving downtown, and there are ideas in place to make that happen. And Westfield has so much to offer. I support local businesses as much as I can. You’re going to get the customer service experience from a small business that a store like Target or a website like Amazon can never provide.”
Westfield resident Jackie Samuels-Jaffee follows Chadwick online and said that she has followed his recommendations and tried new local restaurants.
“My husband Scott and I think that Rory has been doing a great service to everyone by his postings, and we appreciate that he’s spreading good feelings all around,” Samuels-Jaffee said.
A town resident for just a few months, Chadwick has been dubbed “Mr. Westfield” online, and is working with some others on an idea called “Sandwich Fest,” to promote local restaurants and raise money for charity.
Chadwick has no intention of stopping what he’s begun.
“It’s working,” he said. “With one post, maybe 10 people will go try a new restaurant. If we pay it forward, we can all see the benefits.”
It seems that Westfield is a perfect fit for this small business owner with the big heart.
*The Westfield, NJ Facebook group was created by and is administrated partly by TAPinto Westfield owner and editor Jackie Lieberman. The group is unaffiliated with TAPinto.