By Steve Sears
Now in its 54th year, the Historic Chester Business Association dedicates and prides itself on promoting both Chester Borough and Chester Township, and driving public awareness to the beauty, businesses, and history in town.
There’s much of all three.
“Chester is unique in that it has a historic downtown shopping area that offers over 80 shops and eateries within a walkable distance of each other. And then when you add in what the surrounding area offers in the way of farms, parks, the Streets of Chester Mall and beautiful scenery, it has become a destination for visitors from as far away as New York City,” says Steve Jones, HCBA Recording Secretary and owner of the Black River Candy Shoppe. His fellow 2019 HCBA officers are President Kathy Barbieri (Chester Crafts & Collectibles), Vice President Larry Guizio (World of Birds), Treasurer Lisa Jew (Perfect Treasure), and Corresponding Secretary is Don Pollard.
The dedicated group sends out a newsletter to keep the public informed about local events and more. “The newsletter,” says Jones, was originated a couple of years ago to inform our local residents about our organization. We found that many of our local customers had no idea we existed and assumed some other things we did and sponsored were sponsored by other entities, e.g., our local governing body. Our most recent newsletter that has pictures of just about every member business owner was intended to put a face with a business and add a kind of personal touch.” The newsletter reaches both Chester Borough and Township, as well as some portions of the neighboring towns, including Flanders, Randolph, Long Valley, and Mendham.
The prime challenge the group faces is the way shopping has changed. Many folks may prefer to shop from home or nearby shopping malls rather than shop the local town. “Small town retail is facing more and more challenges with the increase in online shopping, such as Amazon, and several malls within an easy drive from Chester…the whole dynamic of shopping is changing,” Jones adds.
Still, the HCBA marches on. “Throughout the years a significant number of merchants have recognized the value of joining an organization that is dedicated to the promotion of its member businesses. Some of the benefits provided are extensive online and media advertising, a state-of-the-art interactive web site, all social media platforms managed by a professional consultant, member inclusion in our annual Shopping & Dining Guide with over 25,000 printed and the sponsorship of several events such as our spring and fall craft shows, still rated in the top 50 craft shows in the country, which bring large crowds to town as well as our annual car show and holiday promotions,” confirms Jones.
The HCBA, which is a non-profit organization with limited funding opportunities such as craft shows and events and minimal annual membership dues, has enjoyed a membership growth to 70 members, exciting news for Jones and the other HCBA officers. “Our membership has always fluctuated between 50 or so and 60 members. Last year we did put extra effort into our membership drive, and we have seen an increase in service type (non-retail) businesses joining our organization.”
Per the HCBA by-laws, membership is open to all parks, businesses, restaurants and farms in Chester Borough and Chester Township. “Candidates must have an established, nonmobile, permanent place of business. Every business should receive a ‘membership packet’ with application during our membership drive, which is just coming to an end now for this year. They may also find a link to the same package on our web site,” Jones says, who also mentions that another membership benefit is that the HCBA has partnered with the Morris County Tourism Bureau, and membership in the HCBA includes a complimentary membership with the MCTB and all of the promotional benefits of its membership, including brochures, online advertising, e-mail distributions, and their web site.
Visit Chester Brough and Chester Township, and visit www.chesternj.org for more information.