Group Effort

Group Effort

Evesham Township officials are working quickly and efficiently to help local businesses transition to reopening safely.

One of the unique things about South Jersey is the plethora of people who come back and raise their family in the town where they grew up. That’s the case for Evesham Township resident Frank Plum, who not only was excited to raise his family here, he knew he wanted to start his business—Workplace HCM—in the same town as well.
 
“My parents moved to Evesham Township when I was 5. I am a proud product of the school district and I met my wife here. I went to college, we got engaged and moved back to Marlton when we started to raise a family,” Plum says. “I’ve been working in Marlton and have been part of the Marlton Business Association for 15 years. It was a no-brainer to start our business here; I didn’t look at any other towns. The location could not be more convenient—we’re on the Route 70 and 73 corridor and we’re not too far from [Interstate] 295 and the [New Jersey] Turnpike.”
 
Jill Bradley, manager of Bradley Funeral Home, echoes the same sentiment. When her parents purchased the property in 1968, she and her sister grew up above the funeral home and went to Cherokee High School.
 
“If I'm going to work and run a business in Marlton, I’m going to raise my family in Marlton,” she says. “There’s no other place I'd want to raise my family. Our whole family is proud of that. My sister and I had a wonderful childhood in Marlton, my children live in Marlton and have been through the public school system, and we are grateful for the community. We’ve been fortunate over the last 50 years.
 
“We often say we wouldn’t have what we have without this community. We have been blessed the community has grown up around us and we’ve been able to live and work here, go to school and be a part of the thriving community.”
 
Spring Into Action
When COVID-19 hit, Evesham Township government officials were proactive from the very beginning, getting clear and effective messages to its residents and businesses right away.
 
“When we started to see an increase of [COVID-19] activity going on, especially in the U.S., we started talking immediately about what we needed to do to prepare,” says Robert Corrales, township manager for Evesham Township. “Because of this, we were able to spring into action when we needed to.”
 
“We really wanted to make sure people felt comfortable and were not afraid, and we thought the best way to do that was to have good communications with our community,” says Jackie Veasy, Evesham Township mayor. “We did a couple live videos for our social network pages with the fire chief, police chief, myself and Robert to make sure we were communicating the governor’s orders properly to businesses, residents and the entire township.”
 
To help businesses that were affected by COVID-19, Veasy, Corrales and other government officials created the Evesham Economic Advisory Council.
 
“We talk about everyone’s challenges and have great conversations about how it’s impacting them and how they can look for resources,” Veasy says. “We want to make sure businesses can survive the downtime and talk about what’s available to them—grants, loans, etc.
 
We did a webinar with the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey about sharing grant programs and talked about
how to reopen businesses successfully. Other webinars we hope to put together are how to be successful online and how do you do business differently operating at 50 percent?”
 
Part of Workplace HCM’s mission is to give back to the community, so when Evesham Township approached Plum about being on the Evesham Economic Advisory Council, he didn’t think twice. He wanted to help the community in any way he could.
 
“It was an honor they thought of us that way,” he recalls. “We want to help businesses, be a resource for them and to help them get back on their feet, whether it’s helping with the CARES Act or helping them understand different laws. The role I’ve taken with the council is working on return-to-work policies, working-from-home policies from a human resources perspective, how to apply for PPP application, etc.”
 
As soon as Gov. Phil Murphy announced outdoor dining could begin in mid-June, the township’s main focus became finding ways to help restaurants adjust to better accommodate guests. One way is simplifying the process for outdoor dining approvals—relaxing part of the approval process for the time being to get seating out there quicker, according to Nancy Jamanow, director of community development.
 
“Everyone has been anxious to get outdoor dining going,” she says. “Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Steakhouse are having outdoor seating, as well as the Mexican Food Factory and Johnny Longhots, and LaScala’s Fire is expanding its outdoor dining area. In Greentree Square, TGI Friday’s, Jersey Mike’s, Allora and Saladworks are also installing outdoor dining. It’s very important we can do everything we can to help them and hopefully people will flock to it.”
 
“The Promenade at Sagemore is a suburban shopping center that was designed for the right size and place, and has weathered a few retail and economic storms,” says Laura Balga, general manager and marketing director for The Promenade at Sagemore. “Right now, during this current challenge, the best advantage is that we are an outdoor lifestyle center that was able to reopen doors quickly and safely to shoppers and have several restaurants with outdoor seating.”
 
Making Adjustments
Stores in The Promenade at Sagemore had to make quite a few adjustments over the last few months.
 
“At first, stores quickly adapted to improve online ordering, become distribution hubs, adopt curbside pick-up, expand on delivery or even offer some virtual styling assistance. Of course, as they’ve returned, we are now seeing customers and employees in face protection and keeping distance as best they can,” says Balga. “The stores will limit the number of shoppers allowed, until such guidelines change with time.
 
“Retail is going to evolve interestingly, as ways are developed to maintain premium customer service through the assistance of technological tools, and shopping habits will change. It’s bound to be another fascinating era to the industry.”
 
Steven Singer, owner of B2B technology consulting firm NJ Technology, also had to make adjustments and wanted to help out in more ways than one during the pandemic. Knowing the majority of people were making the switch to online, including students who had to take school remotely, Singer and his
staff posted on a local Facebook page offering people help to access each school’s remote learning capabilities, such as Google Meet and Google Classroom.
 
“All the tools the school district thought students and their parents knew how to use, but they didn’t know what to do,” he says. “We started taking phone calls from many parents.”
 
What he thought would be a small volunteer project turned into working with a few hundred families.
 
“It was not a small task,” Singer says. “Everyone’s home network is a little different. From there, we don’t know what devices they are working from. We had to figure out how we can get these parents help. There are quite a few technology-deficient households and we talk them through how to do it.”
 
This is on top of taking the many calls from his clients who were struggling dealing with COVID-19, wanting to start selling their products online immediately.
 
“We worked as fast as we could trying to get our clients onto ecommerce websites and come up with other solutions to help them get up and running online,” Singer says.
 
Bradley Funeral Home was forced to make many adjustments as well. The state restricted funeral homes to have 10 or fewer people for a while until restrictions were lifted to 25, and more restrictions are being eased week by week.
 
Bradley says the funeral home has been busier, but she doesn’t necessarily think it’s because of COVID.
 
“It’s hard on the families we serve and to have to be the ones to tell them they
can only have 10 people. What about the families that have five kids and 10 grandchildren? It’s been difficult. One of the hardest parts is no hugging. People come through doors who’ve lost children and the only thing they need is a hug. It’s been interesting and different. I never thought we would have lived through something like this. Our faith has helped my family and funeral home get through it.”
 
Through all of this, construction hasn’t skipped too many beats and new businesses are coming to town. Love Sac, a high-end modular furniture store and Sephora are both opening up in The Promenade at Sagemore, and a Best Buy Outlet is opening across Route 73 where Borders used to be.
 
Veasy says Barclay Chase at Marlton apartments are actively being finished, Harvest House and Main Street apartments, which were put on hold at one point, are
back under construction.
 
“This still shows Evesham Township is a desirable location for businesses and residents and we are very fortunate that way,” Jamanow says.

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 10, Issue 6 (June 2020).

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Author: Julie Shannon

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