Celebrating mom-and-pop stores

City honors small businesses with awards

For the second year in a row, Mayor Steven Fulop, the City Council, and the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) have honored small businesses from across the city for their service to the community and recognized the top small businesses in the Certified Green Business program.
Over 150 people attended the April 30 event, which honored 18 small businesses for their dedication to the Jersey City community. In addition, this year’s awards included the recognition of a local small business that has participated in the new Certified Green Business Program.
“Jersey City’s small businesses are truly the foundation of our local economy, and I am proud to join these owners and managers in recognizing their hard work and dedication to their businesses and our city,” said Fulop. “With over 650 small businesses opened throughout the city during the past five years, we have become a place where entrepreneurs come to build a home and to engage with our thriving, supportive community. I know that these businesses will continue to serve as incredible examples of success to anyone looking to open shop in Jersey City.”
The Jersey City Small Business service Awards honored long-standing and new small businesses, which are nominated by council members.
A small business is a relatively independent and usually family-owned, controlled, and operated business that has a minimum number of employees and is not franchised.
“As most of you know this is National Small Business Week, which started on April 29 and will end on May 5,” said Vanessa Quijano, Small Business Development coordinator for the city. She said she hoped that the awards ceremony will help draw traffic and promote small businesses.
“We have a nice mix of new and old businesses,” Fulop said. “But whether you are new or old, we are very thankful for what you do for Jersey City.”

These businesses came from all over Jersey City

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The 18 small businesses honored at the event are located throughout the city in each of the local neighborhoods. Lee Sims, a chocolate shop on Bergen Avenue, was the oldest of the award recipients, having been open for 56 years.
The event concluded with a panel discussion of local small business owners, where eight of the owners shared insights on how they have remained successful, as well as useful tips for new or aspiring business owners.
“It is great that the city and JCEDC recognizes the small businesses and actively tries to keep us engaged with other small business owners. I am grateful of the award and hope that JCEDC continues to stay actively involved with small businesses in Jersey City,” said Vincent Citro, owner of Salerno Salumeria, 453A Central Ave., in the Heights.
Fulop said while he is aware of news reports about big corporations moving thousands of jobs into Jersey City and other towns, the corporations for the most part are simply moving jobs, not creating them. He said small businesses create jobs.

“Jersey City’s small businesses are truly the foundation of our local economy.” – Steven Fulop


The issues small businesses face

In what has become something of a local legend, Fulop talked about why he wants to protect small businesses.
“I grew up in a family that ran small businesses,” he said. “My father had a deli, my mother had a small immigration service, both in Newark.”
While Fulop and his brothers, Daniel and Richard, grew up in Edison, their parents, Carmen and Arthur Fulop, were immigrants from Romania and Israel. They worked long hours in their Newark deli, where the boys were required to work on weekends and in the summer. They swept floors, rang up customers, and stocked shelves.
“My parents were there for 40 years,” Fulop said. “I could see every day growing up the challenges and struggles they would have in finding workers, and looking at day to day what works and doesn’t work.”
He said small business owners are putting themselves out there.
“Over the last four years, Jersey City has led the state in regards to new businesses,” Fulop said. “This creates new jobs – more importantly on the small business front.”
Fulop said existing small businesses attract others to want to relocate in Jersey City. And the businesses being honored come from every corner of Jersey City and touch upon numerous backgrounds.
He said the EDC is helping to drive the movement to bring more small businesses into town.
“The EDC offers resources for people who are doing good things,” Fulop said.
The EDC offers loans to local business from a fund established in 2015 and authorized by the U.S. Small Business Administration with the aim of helping local entrepreneurs and crating good jobs.
The city estimates that during the last four years, small businesses have created as many as 8,000 new jobs.

Making things easier for small business

The city under Fulop has also been aggressive in removing many of the traditional roadblocks facing small businesses, by expediting approvals and permits through the building department, and launching a Small Business Navigator, an online tool to assist aspiring entrepreneurs.
Equally importantly, Fulop and the city council instituted restrictions on the number of large franchise businesses allowed in any building that receives an abatement in the downtown section of the city.
“There are more than 30 million small businesses in the United States,” said Rosemary McFadden, EDC chair. “These employ more than 54 million individuals.”
She said the people and services are diverse and reflect the diversity of those businesses being honored in Jersey City.
“Mayor Fulop when he came into office kind of tasked us to make sure these businesses grow in this sector of the Jersey City economy” she said. “And in partnership with the mayor, the City Council and the administration, I think that’s what we’ve done. We made it a priority of the EDC to make capital available.”
The EDC also provided a variety of business-related workshops such as how to set up a website to how to develop a business plan.

The businesses honored

Among the businesses honored included Carmine’s Italian Deli on Mallory Avenue, established in 1997, and Milk Sugar Love on McWilliams Place, established in 2014.
“If you haven’t been to Carmine’s, you should give it a try,” said Fulop. “I was there yesterday. I bought four ice cream sandwiches – as embarrassing at that sounds.”
Council President Rolando Lavarro said Carmine’s is a popular spot with police and fire personnel from the West Side.
“Milk Sugar Love,” Lavarro said, “has taken the city by storm, and recently won a grant from the EDC to help further their business to develop an ice cream truck.”
Other business honored included Moore’s Lounge on Monticello Avenue; Abbondanza Trattoria & Brick Oven Pizza on Grand Street; Sky Tobacco on Grove Street; ME Casa on Varick Street; Laico’s Restaurant on Terhune Avenue; Above Average Ink Studio on MLK Drive; Lee Sims Chocolates on Bergen Avenue; Halftime Bar & Grill on West Side Avenue; Dar El-Eiman Travel on Academy Street; Wealth and Co. on Pavonia Avenue; Salerno Salumeria Italian Deli and Dairy on Central Avenue; Dulce De Leche Bakery on Central Avenue; Carmen Rosa’s Bakery on Coles Street; Gia Gelato and Café on Newark Avenue; H. Roscoe Taylor Insurance Company on Grand Street; and The Grind Shop on Communipaw Avenue.

An award for being green

During the event, the EDC and the Office of Sustainability also recognized Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato Co. for their participation in the Green Business Certification Program.
Earlier this year, the Fulop Administration launched the Green Business Certification Program, offering business development seminars and classes to help local small businesses implement sustainable practices in areas such as energy, waste, and water use.
Through this program, the city will award marketing materials and public recognition to Certified Green Businesses to highlight these practices, help consumers make informed choices, and help sustainable businesses attract environmentally conscious customers.
“Starting and owning a small business is an accomplishment. We want to honor and acknowledge the hard work and service these businesses and their families have given to their customers and the community,” said Quijano.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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