Raising the Bar….Here We GROW!
by Cate Murway
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” - Leonardo da Vinci, leading figure of the Italian Renaissance
Everybody loves a good get back on your feet, Rocky-style story, especially if it were to take place in a recently almost unsung town, led by regular citizens who are genuinely energized to resuscitate their once thriving location. Small downtown rebounds and their survival is significant because they are exactly the kind of places where development makes sense. Instead of giving in to defeat and battle fatigue, after getting sidestepped by losing its retail core to outlying shopping malls, Historic Bristol on the Delaware has always been a homey Americana detour, the little town that CAN!
All it takes is a few visionary people to start the wheels in motion toward long-term positive changes.
Raising the Bar initiative, Bristol Borough's Economic Development Committee, led by its President, author/ teacher William M. “Bill” Pezza, its Vice President, JoAnna Schneyder, and its Secretary, Jay Saxton, is ardently focused solely on promoting historic Bristol on the Delaware as a destination for specialty shops, restaurants and service businesses, residents, and development.
With the riverfront redevelopment projects that are currently getting underway, RTB is shepherding the 1.8 mile swathe of historic Bristol toward a dynamic future.
Small towns are typically compact and generally walk-able and they have the capacity to focus growth where services and infrastructure already exist. Meld this all together and it spells smart growth!
Historic Bristol has regularly occurring public events showcasing the plethora of downtown merchants, music, and food and FUN. Improvements to the streets and many repaved roads, as well as a very successful facade rehabilitation program that subsidized improvements to several buildings, have promoted the town’s innate character. There are authentic neighborhoods, distinctive business districts and a population with a strong sense of place, local roots and a great deal of affection, as well as property owners who are inspired to improve their own landscapes.
RTB is promoting its character and filling vacant storefronts with unique, independent businesses that could only be found in historic Bristol on the Delaware. Preserving historic commercial areas where “hip meets history”, leads to a more sustainable style of development, makes the town more attractive and creates a competitive advantage that sprawl development just cannot.
Time and again, the history, culture and architecture of an area have been powerful catalysts for economic progress.
And families want their children to grow up in a small town where they can walk to school and ride their bikes to the playgrounds and parks.
RTB has initiated innovative ways to revitalize the people with a hands-on, comprehensive approach to community interaction and economic improvement, leveraging existing assets.
That personal touch is key!
The new co-owners of the King George II Inn, the anchor of the business district, Robert Strasser and Bruce Lowe hosted the RTB sponsored “Happy Hour Reception” last Thursday, January, 22nd. Robert has migrated from Princeton, NJ but he will be moving into Bristol. “I love the history of the town and the whole area.” Bristol is Robert’s new home.
The proprietorship team has “known each other forever”.
“I’m the CFO. I’ll do the numbers and accounting, and Robert is the 24/7 manager. This place is so unique. We’ll be a good combo”, explained Bruce. “We are excited to be part of the local community and we are committed to that.”
After 31 years of profitably owning the KGII, Len Demenczuk and his wife, MaryJo will “drive until it gets warm and then decide where we will go”. “I was 37 when I bought this place. My RV is out back.”
The intimate, inaugural “Happy Hour” was possibly the best marketing decision ever, making the truly eclectic mix of attendees more aware of the unique amenities that exist in this “hidden gem” of a town.
Personal interaction distinguished this event from others, forging new, as well as renewing relationships.
Local dignitaries joined in the festivities.
Rep. John T. Galloway, 140th Legislative District, has successfully directed multi-million dollar projects in dozens of counties, and he has always been a very good friend of Bristol. “I’m looking forward to being a part of the rebuild/ rebirth of the Borough.”
Mayor Patrick D. “Pat” Sabatini, Sr. shared, “I will do anything for the betterment of the entire Bristol Borough. I hope to help provide momentum and fuel to take it to great places.”
Borough Councilman Gregory T. “Greg” Pezza, West Ward Councilwoman Betty Rodriquez, and North Ward Councilman David Girard are “in total support of everything that RTB has to do”.
Betty’s ‘middle child’, Mercedes Rodriquez assured that she “definitely wants to be part of the town clean up committee and do anything to help”.
Former Mayor Joseph A. “Joe” Saxton has been a strong contributing element in every borough function since 1965 and he continues to unconditionally offer his support.
The RTB reception successfully engaged local merchants, artists, and entrepreneurs, helping to make these businesspeople champion for downtown revitalization and a major renaissance.
Carl White self-proclaimed, “I’m the unofficial tech guy” and he expressed that he is especially interested in the economic development.
RTB member Sue Duffy Arroyo is a chef who is ready to take part in any of the team’s ventures.
“This is a lot fun. How about the same event in the spring?”
Donald M. McCloskey is a member of the RTB Economic Incentive Committee. Don was “born and raised here and is very interested in the progress of the town.” He expressed that he was pleased with the “great turnout with the next generation and I’m really encouraged by what I see here. Enterprise Zone benefits encourage small business and entrepreneur’s relocation for a relatively low cost.” His wife, Donna Moore McCloskey, Director of the Margaret R. Grundy Museum, participates in the Garden Club. "I'm looking for new members!"
RTB Board member, Michael J. “Mycle” Gorman is the co-proprietor of “Spice & Co.” on Mill Street. The store resounds with iconic and vintage, yet it’s definitely all about the future, and so is he!
Jimmy Bason, the proprietor of “Bird of Paradise Flowers”, 2014 BBBA President and the “Business Person of the Year” came to socialize and look for new opportunities to lend his skills and talents to keeping Bristol beautiful. “We’ve had a lot of progress with the Garden Club and recently with the tree lighting. I am always ready to bring my skills to the table to help make this town as good as it can be.”
Shirley A. DeMarchis Brady is also part of the RTB beautification plan. “The Garden Club planted 10 new trees and participated in Martin Luther King Day of Service. Mr. Pezza and the group are just amazing how they market this town.”
BHS grad, Michelle A. Paleafico and local resident, Jina Dierolf supply the town with a little bit of paint and a whole lot of fun. Michelle’s “ART-tini” shares “little tricks so anyone can feel like an artist” and Jina’s “Penelope Fox Art” offers energy and excitement in an art package for kids.
Michelle’s “main purpose is to get Mill Street back to the shopping center of the town and a tourist attraction, like it was in my parents’ day.”
Adam Jalovick will soon be working at “Calm Waters Coffee Roasters” on Mill Street, along with the owners Andrew and Jodi Dittman. “I don’t know too many people in the community, so I’m here to meet some of them.”
Realtor Maureen Scanlin and her husband, Tim did the renovations on the building for the future coffee shop, where the Calm Waters team will be “roasting their own beans.” Their son, Jeff Scanlin came to check out the opportunities and see how he could be of help as well.
Owners of the “Bristol Stop” Breakfast, Lunch, Deli and Café are dedicated to maintaining the vibrant town businesses.
Bristol Borough residents packed three rooms and filled them with animated chatter.
Although, it did quiet down just a tad when the winners of the donated Gift Cards from King George II, Spice and Co., and the Borough Pub, were announced.
CEC Director of Admissions, Brittany McCloud lives on Mill Street and she came “to support RTB.”
Sam and Debbie Gentile attended to offer their support. They own Northern Commercial Refrigeration, Inc., and “would like to see new businesses in the town.”
The Huffnagles, Virginia [Berrocal] and Thomas “have been involved in RTB since last year in the town clean up, and in the playground project.” “We’re willing to help with anything for Mr. Pezza.”
Virginia’s sister, Josefina Irizarry, owns the “Josefina Unisex Salon” on Pond Street.
Janell Brown is a PTA member who assisted with the fundraisers for the Snyder-Girotti playground. Her husband Sean works in their family business and they are “looking to grow their family here and stay involved.”
Bristol resident Stephanie Walker admits to being a “transplant”. She was intrigued with the Italian Day celebrations.
John J. Hill is a pioneering spirit with a penchant for initiating action who works in Respiratory Care at Deborah Heart & Lung Center. He is a recipient of the Vapotherm Innovator of Respiratory Therapy Award. His love for the community projects is apparent.
Samuel L. LaRosa is the Chairman of the Bristol Borough Planning Commission. “I respect Bill Pezza. He’s done a lot for the community and I will help with whatever is needed.”
His sister, Cherie LaRosa has also offered “to help support Bristol”.
Jose Acevedo, a former machine operator, “tries to help out as much as possible.”
Matt and Marjorie Mott are members of the local Redemption Church of Bristol, “working in community development” and they were there to see how else they can assist.
If you plan it, they will come; and local educators came ready to work!
Borough residents, BCCC Executive Director James Sell and his wife, Kelly, Associate Professor of Business Studies are “willing to do whatever we can”.
BHS grad, Amy Waldron teaches in Bristol Township and coaches the BHS cheerleaders for all of the town’s welcoming events. She enthusiastically offered her help.
Sara Accardi, the Bristol Riverside Theatre Institutional Giving Coordinator shared that she “came to continue to meet all of the wonderful people who are part of the Bristol Borough community, in the same room with the same goal to make the next big things happen for Bristol”.
BRT Managing Director, Jameson Gilpatrick joined in. "We look forward to more good things to attract tourists as well as enhance the quality of life for our residents."
The happy hour was a success; everyone left happy!
“An energized, enthusiastic, upbeat crowd of people are ready to put their skills to work to follow their vision for our town”. Bill Pezza wholeheartedly shared, “The message tonight is everyone is welcome. If you work, you’re in! Great turnout and a lot of new faces and young people! This is an “AMERI-tocracy”.
In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.
You can help boost the vitality of your community’s core. Support Mill Street. Keep it local!
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