East Orange officials urge ‘shop small, dine small’

About a dozen East Orange city and business officials took a bus tour of the city this morning, stooping at certain small businesses. “Shop small, dine small,” was their mantra.

East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor III kicked it off at City Hall.

“I wish I could say it was [my idea], however I give credit where credit is due. It’s the idea of my chief of staff, Kellie LeDet. Prior to joining the city of East Orange, she was the regional administrator for the Small Business Association for the federal government under President Obama. So since she’s been here, we’ve really focused on growing our local economy in the city of East Orange, supporting small businesses with information, but also trying to drive customers to their business,” Taylor said.

They drove us to some businesses, starting with The Urban Cyclery Shop. Owner Osceola Hansen opened it this year and says business is not bad.

“I’ll say this, it could always be better, but it’s been better than expected,” Hansen said.

Congressman Donald Payne Jr. has been promoting small business in his district since going to Congress.

“Knowing what small business means to communities such as this, it’s important that we support these endeavors. I just came off of the the Small Business Committee in the House of Representatives. I’ve gone on to transportation, but I still have an interest in making sure that we promote and support small businesses,” he said.

Next stop Ashley Stewart, a chain focused on outfitting African-American women. The East Orange store was pampering women today.

“We know she did all the cooking yesterday, we wanted to welcome her back in today and just say thank you so much for being our customer. Give her a great time. We have massages in the back. We have somebody applying makeup in the front, so we just wanted to say thank you,” Ashley Stewart President Kristen Gaskins said.

The Small Business Administration Newark office was helping to spread the message today.

“Sixty-eight dollars out of every $100 spent with small business goes back to the local community. If you look at New Jersey, just shy of half a million individuals are employed by small businesses and small restaurants, so that money that you’re spending through small businesses helps fund the community, helps give life to the community,” said Dominick Belfiore, SBA lead business opportunity specialist.

According to the Star-Ledger, 54 percent of Black Friday sales will be from online retailers, 25 percent will be from small businesses.

We asked Utenzi Miller of Elegant Eyes, the next stop on the trip, about that.

“I really think that people want to come in, especially with eye wear. You want to put it on, you want to get a feel for it. You want to see how it fits on you. We don’t sell online anymore because we like the one-on-one connection with the clients, so we actually took our online business offline,” he said.

The last stop, right around lunchtime, was Dolce Pizza.

They shopped small and now they’re dining small after making a pretty good case that supporting small business is good for the kinds of downtowns that dot New Jersey.