Township holds event to promote small retailers, restaurants

Small Business Saturday goes on despite COVID precautions

During the pandemic, businesses across the country have struggled with closures, curfews and other regulations. So Washington Township’s Economic Development Consultant Nancy Mozzachio decided to partner with the Chamber of Commerce to give local businesses a leg up.

The result was Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28.

“We chose Cooper Plaza, which is right across from Washington Township High School,” said Mozzachio. “We had vendors there who sold their items … We had restaurants in town that we reached out to to see if they would be willing to offer a discount or a special if someone came in and mentioned Small Business Saturday.”

“Small businesses in our town are the backbone of the community, so we want them to thrive,” she added. “Certainly during these unprecedented times, we want to do anything and everything to help them succeed.”

Small Business Saturday was originally planned as a large event that would allow businesses to promote their stores and products to residents doing holiday shopping. But because of COVID and the current restrictions put in place by Gov. Phil Murphy, vendor numbers dwindled from hundreds to a dozen and crowds had to comply with regulations.

“We specifically chose a smaller number of vendors because we didn’t want to go against the outdoor rules that the governor put in place,” Mozzachio explained. “We felt it was a manageable amount and it was outdoors. Everyone was wearing a mask. It was small, but it is important for the town and I felt that we did it thoughtfully.”

More than 125 businesses that work with the Chamber of Commerce chose to participate in the event. They were given balloons to display at Cooper Plaza and draw the attention of residents, and were masked and socially distant. Guests were invited to take pictures with the Call to Artists mural at the plaza.

“We thought it would be a fun event and it would be a great way to promote artists in our town,” Mozzachio said of the mural. “There are two others displayed in Washington Lake Park for the same purpose and all three artists are Washington Township residents …  It is a great way to bring the arts to Washington Township.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Mozzachio helped create a list of small businesses and sent out newsletters to help them keep up with commerce-related activities in town. She even helped with business town hall meetings, where owners collaborated with each other to bring in new business. 

“Over the last six months, we have had four township businesses close,” said chamber President Nicole Lanutti. “One of them was here for 28 years … We are supportive and we wanted to help them, even if our part is small in keeping them alive that’s important.”

“For us, it is just about getting people to remember that small businesses matter and that they are important for our town to thrive,” Mozzachio noted.

For more information about businesses across Washington Township visit https://www.twp.washington.nj.us/businesses/index.php