By: Jef Buehler, Office of Main Street New Jersey & Improvement District Programs
In 2014 New Jersey celebrates its 350th Birthday. That’s right, our state is older than most of your states, so there!
Although we are home to the world-famous Jersey Barrier and the Sopranos, not to mention other pop-culture figures who shall not be named, our state has always been and continues to be at the cutting edge of liberty, innovation and diversity. Edison did all his inventing here, the first football and baseball games were played here, and salt water taffy was created here. The term “Partly Cloudy” – Jersey. All full-serve gas stations – Jersey. Statue of Liberty – Jersey. Most horses per sq. mile – Jersey. The Boss, Bon Jovi, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra – all from New Jersey. We are truly so much more than the topic of late-night commentary, really! And we continue to innovate here, especially when it comes to the intersection of downtown revitalization and independent businesses.
As part of the year-long celebration, Main Street New Jersey created the NJ350 Pop-Up Store program including 16 temporary stores (open 3-10 days) in 14 communities over a 365-day period that will cover at least 1035 miles. This first-of-its-kind statewide pop-up effort has the following goals:
- Ensure that 350 independent businesses (or more) are represented in the stores throughout the 12-month period;
- Fill locally-provided vacant or non-retail space with a high-quality store in each location;
- Model best practices for a small store in every location with the help of our awesome sponsors:
- Store Fit-Out (IKEA)
- Visual merchandising (local MSNJ programs/IKEA/Alignable)
- Signage (storesigns.com/ITO Design/Alignable)
- Point of Sale system (vend)
- Social media marketing (SnapRetail/Retail Minded)
- Merchandise mix (NJ State Museum/NJ Historical Commission)
- Customer service (local MSNJ programs)
- Get the word out nationally! Working with our promotional partners Independent We Stand, Be A Localist, and the American Independent Businesses Alliance, we are able to spread the word, and eventually become a best practice model for a revitalization-oriented pop-up program; and
- Get people excited about NJ turning 350 and up to speed on all that is going on around that celebration!
The store merchandise is a mix of ‘jerseyana” (things made in or representing facets of NJ), branded NJ350 merchandise (hats, shirts) and most importantly, local independent businesses’ items, which vary from community to community. So far we’ve had over 30 local businesses participate in our first two stores in Red Bank and Highland Park. Our great local Main Street® programs in each community along with other key partners staff the stores and serve as the conduit for merchandising the stores with products and offerings from their indies. We host micro-events such as ribbon cuttings, musical performances and book signings in each store that reflect local community character, history and culture to further attract people to come, have fun, learn, and of course to purchase items! One of our most effective marketing tactics has been to use short-term wayfinding stickers that literally point people to the store in its respective downtown (see photo) something never before done in NJ in a district-wide setting.
Though five snow and ice storms have impacted the anticipated crowd, our stores have been open a total of 61 hours and sold more than $5,000 to over 200 customers and have seen over 1,000 visitors to date. Two down and 14 more to go!
Please check us out: Twitter – NJ350ShopLocal, Facebook – NJ350ShopLocal, and http://officialnj350.com/category/shop-nj350/
About Main Street New Jersey
Main Street New Jersey is the State of New Jersey’s downtown revitalization and management technical assistance and training program. For more information about Main Street New Jersey, please find us here: www.mainstreetnewjersey.com
About Jef Buehler
Jef Buehler has been with Main Street New Jersey and Improvement District Programs since 1996. He’s considered an entrepreneurial thought leader in the downtown revitalization and management field, but more importantly, he gets things done in support of authentic place-based economic growth, one community at a time.