Mom-and-pop shop at the mall? How Garden State Plaza aims to help small business

Mall is partnering with N.J. Small Business Development Center for unique opportunity to increase visibility, foot traffic

In an effort to give assistance and increased visibility to small local businesses — especially those that are minority- and women-owned stores — Westfield Garden State Plaza is launching an initiative that will give them the opportunity to showcase their goods and services alongside some of the country’s most recognized brands.

The initiative, launched with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Ramapo College, will provide mom-and-pop retailers with something that until now was unattainable: retail space in one of the country’s busiest malls.

The Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus.

Chris Neidhardt, the director of leasing for Westfield Garden State Plaza, said the value of such an opportunity is multifaceted, with the mall offering exposure to continuous foot traffic, ample parking, internal security and available inventory that is move-in ready.

And it comes at a reduced cost.

“Special leasing terms, like a 3-month lease vs. the typical 10-15 years that larger retailers generally commit to, are just some of big benefits for small business,” he said. “Our goal for the program is to elevate awareness for mom-and-pop businesses and, in addition, to shine a spotlight on women- and minority-owned businesses.

“The way we see it, it’s like bringing Main Street to the main stage.”

Vincent Vicari, regional director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Ramapo College, said it’s a win-win scenario.

“We may be two separate entities, but our shared vision to see entrepreneurial businesses thrive and prosper is what’s led us to join forces,” he said. “A key objective of the partnership is to mentor these businesses to a point where they’ll be able to sign longer leases as their viability and profitability allow.”

Chic Sugars’ shop at the mall.

Participants in the program will receive the valuable support that the Small Business Development Center can provide, including assistance with strategic marketing, development and execution of a sound business plan, and counseling regarding available funding resources.

Chic Sugars, known for its cake creations to the stars, with celebrity clients like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott and Nicki Minaj, was the first to jump at the chance. It is currently open.

Owner Erika Oldham, who recently appeared on Food Network’s “Winner Cake All,” said the exposure is great.

“I’m looking forward to expanding my customer base beyond my storefront bakery in Englewood, while also diversifying my product offerings to more bite-sized items that mall shoppers can enjoy on the go,” she said.

Tonnie Rozier of Tonnie’s Minis.

Tonnie’s Minis, a unique bakery concept that offers customers the opportunity to first select a cupcake flavor, then customize the final product by choosing from an array of icing and topping options, will be opening in May.

Owner Tonnie Rozier, who has locations in Newark and Edgewater, said he jumped at the chance.

“This is a sign of positive growth for me and my brand, as it not only signals a second location, but also an expanded demographic that will be exposed to my signature cupcakes,” he said.

Tiffany Ramirez, marketing manager at Westfield Garden State Plaza, said the opportunities for small businesses are immense.

“For many small businesses, this is an opportunity to transform a lifelong dream into reality, by debuting a concept or expanding an existing one alongside the biggest names in retail,” she said. “We hope that this program can be successfully replicated at other Westfield centers around the country.”