By: Katie Francis, Follow South Jersey Public Health Intern
WOODBURY, N.J. — Jamilah Damiani wears many hats as a wife, mother of four, dog mom, and a leader of the Woodbury Heart and Soul initiative — but she’s not stopping there. As a four-year resident in Woodbury, she’s set her sights on adding another title to her name as the city’s Third Ward representative.
One of the main things that the Democratic candidate wants to improve for the city is its lack of support for small businesses. She experienced the effects of this first hand when her thriving small business was abruptly shut down due to the pandemic.
Damiani was the owner of MADE Artisan Marketplace, which began in November of 2017 as a pop-up location on Broad Street. This space gave local artisans a place to sell their work, teach, hone their craft, and network. MADE was a huge hit and highly successful in Woodbury, and they were even able to expand the business to a larger location down the street with an art gallery and espresso bar.
MADE’s success quickly came to an end when the pandemic hit, and the physical location shut down for good in March of last year. This is when Damiani realized that something needed to change for the small businesses of Woodbury. She came to the realization that Woodbury’s city council is “not comprised of good leadership that understands the small business district,” which became her initial motivation to run.
Although the COVID-19 shutdown was the reason her business closed, she says that “it was a problem before the pandemic, it’s a problem now, and it’s going to be a problem in five years if they continue to choose the leadership that they choose and how they choose it.”
According to Damiani, her main goal, if elected to represent Woodbury, is to “help build a stronger business infrastructure for current businesses,” as well as creating an infrastructure that will support new businesses coming in.
Some of the current small businesses in Woodbury that have survived the pandemic and are continuing to serve the nearly 10,000 residents include El Manantial, Woodbury Antiques, Edward’s Hairstyling, and Exclusive BarberShop.
Damiani is running alongside First Ward candidate Aaron Weber and Second Ward candidate Shelly Bailey-Farmer in the organized team, Woodbury United Together. The city council election takes place on June 8.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.