Commentary By: Katie Francis, Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern
Whether you’re walking the streets of Downtown Cape May or walking Broad Street in Uptown Pitman, small towns with their own charm make South Jersey a warm and welcoming place for families to build their lives.
This hometown feel is largely attributed to the exceptional mom-and-pop shops lining the streets of the eight counties that make up South Jersey. Unlike large cities, which are mostly made up of towering skyscrapers and multinational, multimillion dollar corporations, the suburbs of Southern New Jersey are identifiable by their individual small businesses and tight-knit communities.
Of course, it takes a village of support for these shops to survive, especially after the devastating economic year of 2020. In my hometown of Swedesboro Woolwich, you can’t go anywhere without seeing a small local business, whether it’s the Swedesboro Diner, or one of the many farm markets in Gloucester County. While the personality of towns like mine rely on the intimacy of small businesses, these places rely on the support of local customers in return. Fortunately for them, South Jersey residents embrace this mutualistic relationship by supporting their unique local businesses.
When asked about their favorite part of living in a small community with family-owned businesses, many themes popped up among Swedesboro Woolwich residents. For one, a lot of residents mentioned the “vibes” that come from a town with so many mom-and-pop shops. Swedesboro resident Gini Knoll Hunt commented on the charming touch that local businesses give the town, commenting that they “treat your home like their own. They remember you for follow up calls and try to fit you in.” Other residents agreed, calling the atmosphere “personable” and “family friendly.”
While I have experience of living around local businesses in Swedesboro, it’s only one of many suburban areas in South Jersey that offer the hospitable nature brought on by small, family-owned shops. Another great example is Duffield’s Farm Market in Sewell. The market has been family owned and operated for over 60 years and continues to serve Gloucester County residents with fresh goods, along with an inviting and personal customer experience.
Julie Grelli is one of many family members that works at the market, and she explained the dedication and support that her family has received from their local community. “We have a ton of loyal customers that have supported us for years and years. They’re what keep us alive and thriving,” she said.
Grelli also recognizes the impact that local businesses like her family’s farm have on the image and overall appeal of South Jersey. She believes that “people frequent small businesses not only for the product they offer, but more importantly for the feeling of having a relationship with the employees and owners of a small business. They gain a familiarity with each other, kind of a comfort zone, and community.”
Patronizing local businesses supports the owners, which are typically members of the local community. Your support also helps them continue business, which allows them to continue to represent their town and its residents, keeping the South Jersey suburbs a warm and inviting place to visit and reside.
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