Westfield Garden State Plaza is launching an initiative that gives small, locally-owned businesses, especially minority- and women-owned businesses, the opportunity to showcase their goods and services alongside America’s most recognized brands. Well-known as a destination for uber-shoppers on both sides of the Hudson River, Garden State Plaza has joined forces with the NJ Small Business Development Center at Ramapo College to provide mom and pop retailers with something that until now was unattainable- retail space in one of the country’s busiest malls.
“Special leasing terms like a 3-month lease vs. the typical 10–15-years that larger retailers generally commit to are just some of big benefits for small business,” says Chris Neidhardt, director of leasing for Westfield Garden State Plaza. “Our goal for the program is to elevate awareness for mom and pop businesses and in addition, to shine a spotlight on women and minority-owned businesses. The way we see it, it’s like bringing main street to the main stage.”
The value of such an opportunity is multi-faceted with Garden State Plaza offering exposure to continuous foot traffic, ample parking, internal security and available inventory that is move- in ready.
According to Vincent Vicari, regional director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center, based at Ramapo College, “We may be two separate entities, but our shared vision to see entrepreneurial businesses thrive and prosper is what’s led us to join forces. A key objective of the partnership is to mentor these businesses to a point where they’ll be able to sign longer leases as their viability and profitability allow.” Participants in the program will receive the valuable support that the NJ Small Business Development Center can provide including assistance with strategic marketing, development and execution of a sound business plan, and counseling regarding available funding resources.
Chic Sugars is currently open and is the first business to debut as a result of the program. Tonnie’s Minis will be opening in early May and several other leases are under review. Erika Oldham, proprietor of Chic Sugars, is known for her cake creations to the stars with celebrity clients like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, and Nicki Minaj, to name a few. She recently appeared on Food Network’s “Winner Cake All” and had this to say as she anticipates her presence at the mall, “I’m looking forward to expanding my customer base beyond my storefront bakery in Englewood, while also diversifying my product offerings to more bite-sized items that mall shoppers can enjoy on-the-go.”
Tonnie Rozier is the proprietor of Tonnie’s Minis currently with locations in Newark and Edgewater. “This is a sign of positive growth for me and my brand as it not only signals a second location, but also an expanded demographic that will be exposed to my signature cupcakes.” Tonnie’s is known for its unique bakery concept, offering customers the opportunity to first select a cupcake flavor, then customize the final product by choosing from an array of icing and topping options. “It’s so rewarding to observe the customer satisfaction that comes from participating in the creation of your own personalized confection.” Tonnie’s Minis has been featured on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and The Wendy Williams Show.
“For many small businesses, this is an opportunity to transform a lifelong dream into reality, by debuting a concept or expanding an existing one alongside the biggest names in retail,” said Tiffany Ramirez, marketing manager at Westfield Garden State Plaza. “We hope that this program can be successfully replicated at other Westfield centers around the country.” Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield currently operates 24 malls across the US.
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