Joseph F. Berenato
Chamber, MainStreet promote businesses
HAMMONTON—The Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce and MainStreet Hammonton outlined their goals for promoting the business community in 2022.
Each year, the Hammonton Revitalization Corporation (HRC)—the parent organization of MainStreet Hammonton—sets goals for the upcoming year.
“We have our annual retreat coming up in mid-January. That is where we discuss and solidify our objectives for the year,” said HRC President Rich Rehmann.
Cassie Iacovelli, the Executive Director of MainStreet Hammonton, echoed his sentiments.
“I always take my cues from the Hammonton Revitalization board. That’s what that retreat is all about; we start the year, always, in January, and we plan for the upcoming year,” Iacovelli said.
Ahead of the retreat, both Iacovelli and Rehmann discussed things that they would like to see accomplished in 2022.
“The number one thing is always to keep our downtown vibrant, so the ability to retain as many businesses as we presently have. We’re in very good shape right now, but you never know what’s going to happen with the new year. MainStreet wants to always keep our buildings full and keep our businesses as happy as possible, that they’re surviving and maintaining their success. That will never change,” Iacovelli said.
Rehmann said that the focus will continue on “the support and retention of our businesses.”
“When we gain a business, we work hard to get them quickly integrated into our community and aware of various support available to them. When we lose a business, we will continue to be aggressive in reoccupying the vacant space. I am proud to say that, even through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have kept occupancy levels high. This is a result that happens only after a lot of work by many individuals,” Rehmann said.
Iacovelli said that the HRC will continue “to do the outreach for events to bring the community together.”
“We will do well over 30 events, I’m sure, and we will to continue to do everything we can to partner with organizations to put on events. Third Thursday will continue to be a program that we’ll work with. My goal would be to seek organizations that we can partner with and do them better. We’ve done that, in some instances, and it’s been very successful. We’ll continue to seek sponsors and do all that we can to celebrate important traditions that mean a lot to the community. We recognize the importance of the social value that the downtown brings, so there will be a continued effort in that area,” Iacovelli said.
“We want to build upon the positive momentum of downtown events to enhance our overall feeling of community, honor our traditions and increase inclusion,” Rehmann said.
Both Rehmann and Iacovelli noted the importance of integrating and emphasizing the arts in downtown events, with Iacovelli adding that she oversees the Art Advisory Committee.
“I’ve pulled the art groups together on a monthly basis; it’s a very strong, very dynamic group. They were, without a doubt, a major lifeline for our downtown during 2020 and 2021, and I’m excited to say that MainStreet Hammonton received a grant from the Atlantic County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs. I’m really excited that we received a grant for $8,250; I was very grateful for additional support in writing the grant with Mike Cagno from the Noyes Museum and Don Swenson, the president of the Art Club. We’ve worked very well for the past two years, and each year the grant that I submit for has increased ... I do expect to see some more dynamic art projects going on,” Iacovelli said.
One such event Iacovelli emphasized is the Hammonton Arts and Music Festival, which was held for the first time on August 7, 2021.
“We’re still committed to the Art and Music Festival, which will be moved into May instead of August, and we’re excited about that ... That will be May 21,” Iacovelli said.
Iacovelli said that mural projects will continue.
“That’s another area that we continue to want to place some emphasis. Our priority in that would be to try to identify a more diverse artist to bring a little more cultural ethnicity to our project that we put in the downtown, so we’ll really be making that a top priority ... Those were some really unique projects that we did last year, and the arts are going to be tops on our list, for sure,” Iacovelli said.
Rehmann said that the HRC will continue to pursue funding from a variety of resources “for the support and development of our downtown and our town overall.”
“We will continue to collaborate with the town and various community groups to gain the best result for the entire community,” Rehmann said.
Iacovelli said that one such entity is New Jersey Manufacturers, which continues to be a yearly sponsor of a design grant.
“Thanks to them, we were able to provide quite a few design grants in 2021, and our goal would be to continue to do that in 2022 ... The design grant continues to be important for MainStreet to work with new businesses,” Iacovelli said.
In 2021, Iacovelli said, design grants were given to GoMez Studio, Harbor Auto Repair II, Piney Hollow Arts Studio, Taffeta Salon & Spa, Ultimate Martial Arts & Kickboxing and Hammonton Pickle Express.
“That’s quite a few design grants in one year, and I don’t get that much money but we’re able to really help businesses do nice signs. Every one of those businesses put up a very attractive, really complementary sign to help with the downtown. That program will continue to be a priority for us because it’s been very successful in the aesthetic look,” Iacovelli said.
Iacovelli said that, between the aforementioned grant and an additional travel and tourism grant in the amount of $17,250, MainStreet Hammonton is well-positioned.
“That gives us marketing materials and resources to continue efforts with the arts. Both of those grants will elevate our regional presence to be a destination. We’ve made that a priority for the last five years, and we will continue to do that. We need regional support to be a draw. Especially with the holiday season, I definitely felt that we crossed a threshold; we did much better this year in being a destination that people were drawn to. Hopefully, our marketing helped with that,” Iacovelli said.
The local breweries, wineries and distilleries, Iacovelli said, will continue to be marketing priorities.
“We want people to think of Hammonton as a place to dine and to casually hang out, and also to shop,” Iacovelli said.
Rehmann concurred, noting the importance of local participation.
“We would like to see an increased level of participation of town residents in the downtown. While our advertising targets many different areas beyond Hammonton, building community, maintaining traditions and sustaining local businesses is greatly enhanced with local resident participation. Just $10 or $20 spent at a local business has a substantial positive impact,” Rehmann said.
The success of local businesses is of primary importance to the Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce, which has also set goals for 2022.
“We’re getting back to business as usual, keeping the economy vibrant and trying to improve the quality of life with a lot of events, and keeping the name ‘Hammonton’ out in the public eye and in a positive light,” Chamber Executive Director John Runfolo said.
Runfolo said that the Chamber is planning all of its events for the coming year.
“We’re forging ahead with our normal setup, where we would have our Wine and Beer Expo in April, our installation and awards banquet in May, our Red, White and Blueberry Festival in June and our golf tournament,” Runfolo said.
Runfolo said that the John W. Mazzeo Memorial Golf Tournament, traditionally held in October, was held in August of 2021 and proved quite popular.
“It was so successful in August that we may wind up changing it to August. We had just as many people in August as we’ve had in October. August in New Jersey is usually muggy, 90 F every day with a chance of rain, but we got lucky and it was beautiful. It was a great day.
October is also gorgeous; you’re talking about 70 F with no humidity, and that’s golf weather. Both are good,” Runfolo said.
Chamber President Ben Ott said that he is looking forward to a return of the annual banquet.
“We’ve had these award winners; we’ve had so many new businesses come into town—and existing businesses make big investments in our community—and we haven’t really had a chance to celebrate them, to welcome them properly. Even some of the ribbon cuttings have been like, stay arm’s length apart, cut the ribbon and leave. I’m really excited this year about, hopefully, bringing a lot of the business community back to the table together and celebrating the fact that, I feel, if you’re around at this point, you’ve made it. You’ve made some really good investments in your business. You’ve made some really good decisions to keep your business afloat during a tough time. A celebration of our business community is really where I would be at for 2022, because we’ve had such a rough two years, and just getting back some of those traditions is really exciting for me,” Ott said.
Runfolo said that the Chamber is also hoping to bring back its BEST (Business Education Series Today) events.
“They were very informative, and prescient in the fact that we’ve had ones that were so right on the money and actually were forewarning people of pitfalls in business—and also educating them. We had one that was so prevalent today called ‘Before You Hit Send.’ There was a lawyer talking about the problems you have with putting things in an email, and they said to make sure you take care—it may be construed as something you may have no thought of considering, but it’s in the word. There’s no face behind it; there are no gestures behind it. You can get into trouble ... We’ll try to get that, maybe at the middle to the end of the year,” Runfolo said.
Ott said that the BEST series is “another indoor event that we need to get back on track with.”
“There are a lot of best practices that companies have adapted in the last two years. They’ve shifted some of their core values towards different areas, like safety and health, so it’s exciting to see getting a series together where we could educate and share some of those practices,” Ott said.
Ott is also looking forward to the Chamber’s membership growing in 2022.
“There’s a lot of young people who I think made the shift in the past two years. Maybe they worked a corporate job; maybe they worked out of town, and they’ve shifted their focus to more entrepreneurial businesses—especially with at-home businesses and remote work going on. It’s exciting to bring some of those new people, new members, into the fold. I know we have a couple of new members who used to work out in farther-away areas, and now they’re working from home and they feel a little more connected to the Hammonton business community ... It’ll be nice,” Ott said.