“How are you doing?” Gov. Phil Murphy asked, shaking hands with small business owners in several Hudson County towns nearly a month before the official kickoff of Small Business Saturday.
Historically, the Saturday after Thanksgiving focuses on small businesses throughout the state. But Murphy decided to tie his business tour in with campaigning prior to the mid-term election on Nov. 6.
Although he was on a whistle stop tour to help get Sen. Robert Menendez re-elected, Murphy’s objective seemed to be to check on the progress of one of the most successful areas for small business in the state that included Little India in Jersey City, Washington Street in Hoboken, and new and existing businesses along the Broadway Corridor in Bayonne.
While he did mention candidates during his visits to those business districts, Murphy appeared to be more interesting in learning details of how the small businesses were doing.
Murphy’s “small business walk” took him to downtown Hoboken, where he paused to sample pizza from Benny Tudino’s and greet other business owners and the clientele along Washington Street.
For many of those who met him on the street, the encounter was a surprise. A number of local dignitaries, business owners, and passersby asked to shake his hand and take pictures with him, as if he was a rock star.
“The real stars in this are the people in the business community and stores like this. They are the core of the state’s economic success, new and traditional businesses.” – Gov. Phil Murphy
From Hoboken, he made his way to Newark Avenue in Jersey City, commonly called “Little India” for the assortment of ethnic shops that filled the three-block stretch from Kennedy Boulevard to Tonnelle Avenue. This area includes fine dining, and stores supplying Indian religious artifacts, Indian music, clothing, jewelry, and other items from India.
Here, Murphy got a taste of both food and culture, at one point trying on some of the brightly colored garments that make the neighborhood and its culture so vibrant.
A short time later, Murphy made his way to the historic shopping district of Bayonne’s Broadway, where he greeted small business owners and local dignitaries.
Here local stores again tried to feed him, from Blimpie’s to the local classic pizza at Pompeii, while other stores offered to give him lattes.
Murphy told The Hudson Reporter that he had come back to Hudson County to check on the progress he had witnessed during previous visits, before and after his successful election as governor in 2017.
Hudson County’s Gold Coast, a real estate region along the Hudson River encompassing North Bergen, West New York Weehawken, Hoboken, Jersey City and Bayonne, has literally been a goldmine of economic success helping to bolster the state’s overall economy.
“I’m very impressed with the new development I saw started when I came here last,” Murphy said, referring to a visit he made to Bayonne during an announcement in June of a future ferry service. Hudson County’s transportation network, he said, has brought investment along its route.
“I’m mostly here to see how small businesses are doing,” he said in a brief interview as his entourage made its way through the streets.
Everywhere he went, people seemed startled yet pleased to see him, and business owners greeted him as he asked repeatedly, “How are you doing?” In several shops, he made his way behind the counters as if to help them with business, admiring the products they offered.
“I’m asking them how things are going,” he said. “I want them to know that we’re there for them when they need us.”
He frequently told people what a good job they were doing. Murphy said he believes that Hudson County and the state have a bright commercial future, and that these small businesses made up the heart and soul of what it means to do business in New Jersey.
This came at a time when New Jersey was trying to lure Amazon.com into locating a second headquarters in the region. At one point Secaucus had made a bid as did Newark but it appears that Amazon is now looking towards areas outside the state such as Long Island City and an area near Washington, D.C. instead.
But Murphy did not seem distraught by this, since he sees New Jersey as having other opportunities for expanding its business base. Jersey City, for instance, is poised to become a Silicon Valley for tech start ups, and Bayonne recently has drawn other warehouse distribution companies such as Costco.
But Murphy’s attention to the small mom-and-pop type stores that he visited in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne clearly indicated the importance he believes they play in the local economy.
“I love coming to these kinds of companies and visiting them where they are on the streets,” he said. “I want to know how they’re doing, how business is going, how they think we can do better. I was here when Bayonne was just on the rise. This part of the Gold Coast is a natural fit. Bayonne is growing and so is Hudson County. I think (mayor) Jimmy Davis is doing very well here. But the real stars in this are the people in the business community and stores like this. They are the core of the state’s economic success, new and traditional businesses.”