As a business owner in downtown Westfield, I would like to share my experience as a member of the community and weigh in on the support for re-electing Mayor Brindle.
February 25, 2020 is a day I will never forget.
Seven years after having opened Akai Lounge on 102 E. Broad Street as an extension of our restaurant in Englewood, NJ, my husband James and I sat in a grey, nondescript conference room, preparing to close on our purchase of 41-47 Elm Street. A TV on the wall, muted – thankfully, was showing nonstop coverage of the “novel” coronavirus and we watched Asia and Europe frantically shut down.
In our little conference room, bankers and attorneys were scuttling to get all the paperwork done as quickly as possible so we could all get away from each other. A million thoughts came to mind: Why am I putting my life savings into a commercial property in Westfield at this time? What if our country shuts down like Europe? The lawyer in me played all of the various scenarios for foreclosure and bankruptcy in my head if we were unable to afford our mortgage. My left hand was cold, clammy, and trembling with every signature.
Fast-forward twenty months from that day, and I can say we are happy with our investment in downtown Westfield. We now operate restaurants in Westfield, Englewood and Scarsdale, NY, and are gearing up to expand our business in Westfield. I am happy to say that while our revenues at Akai took a hit during the pandemic, we are trending in the right direction and are very confident that doubling down on our investment in this wonderful community and a downtown that is on the rise is a smart business decision. Here are our reasons why.
Over the past decade, we have always scouted locations for expansion. This administration has demonstrated commitment to its business community is more than what we have seen in other similar towns in the NY/NJ area. Shortly after we closed on our property, Mayor Brindle reached out for a meeting and made us feel supported with our investment. Since that meeting, Mayor Brindle has consistently spent time with us along with other business/property owners to ensure any decisions made concerning the downtown are strategic and have broad benefits.
Owning and operating businesses in three different communities give us an unique insight into the efforts Westfield makes to be business friendly, including promoting its downtown and rewarding investment. This administration has done so much: from cutting down downtown parking enforcement in half, opening up Quimby, and expanding outdoor space to help restaurants increase seating. Mayor Brindle and her team has consistently done everything they can to help drive business to the brick and mortar stores downtown.
Running a local business also gives us insights into the community. Every year, while we sadly bid goodbye to some of our regulars who move away after sending their kids off to college, we also experience the joy of meeting new families with their little ones in tow, which is a vital factor in keeping our local businesses thriving. But new residents, downtown events, and investment incentives alone cannot solve the issues retail businesses, and our downtown, are grappling with in the face of fundamental shifts in consumer habits. To support brick and mortar businesses for the long term, our local government must evolve and take action to make some paradigm shifts.
My letter is by no means a dig at the previous administration nor Mayor Brindle’s current challenger – Ms. Neylan, whom I deeply appreciate and respect. My support for Mayor Brindle is simply based on the work done by the administration to lay the groundwork for a vibrant downtown and be poised to meet the future. As a proud Westfield business and property owner, I know we all want to ensure the long-term viability of our charming downtown village. Mayor Brindle and this administration deserves an opportunity to continue the work they began four years ago and I am excited to see what the future brings to our beautiful town.