i9 Sports

Business has multiple locations
Nomination from Lashanda Parrish

I9 Sports of Union County was supposed to have a session in April but had to cancel. They enrolled the children in the next session automatically and gave parents enough notice. They made it safe for the kids by having less kids on the team and making sure they cleaned all the equipment in-between sessions.

I was always impressed with Coach Johnson for wiping down the bleachers and making sure parents brought their own chairs. The coaches wore their masks and made sure that everyone hand sanitized. I can go on and on about how they made it safe for all but these are a few key details that I loved.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

During the heat of the pandemic we stopped in person training. We wanted our staff and athletes to be safe-We did not let that stop the progress of our young athletes! We made an effort to communicate more with our families and young athletes during this time. We sent videos, and training guides for them to follow! We provided families with sporting options and drills that can be completed at home often times using their existing furniture. Despite being concerned about our finances, we offered full refunds for those parents that were registered for Spring 2020. We offered extended 2 year credits with a bonus $25/registration credit for all parents that was willing to wait until we returned to play.

Once we returned to play we communicated improved safety protocols. Each parent received an email with what to expect from us and how we are planning on returning to play safely. On Game day each registered kid received a personalized drawstring book bag with their jersey inside. This new change allowed for increased safety protocols and facilitated social distancing guidelines. In addition we offered the ability to play small sided games once the restrictions were being lifted/adjusted.

Many of the safety protocols are still in place and have become the new normal for i9 Sports Union County, we disinfect all of the sporting equipment between sessions and allow a 30 minute turnaround time between groups coming to play with us. We have also reduced our team sizes to 8 which allows us to adhere to the CDC standards.

Arthur Murray Dance Center

Nomination from Kathy Geller

The Arthur Murray Dance Center did everything in their power to stay connected to their students. They instituted virtual private and group lessons and even managed to hold social events. For those students who preferred not to attend virtual lessons, the instructors kept in touch by phone and email throughout the pandemic. The student’s level of comfort was always foremost in the owner’s mind and they went out of their way to accommodate student’s schedules. Danila & Nuria’s tenacity throughout the pandemic is a testament to their professionalism and dedication to their art.

Nomination from Sima & Kevin Murphy

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford is my home away from home for the past 5 years. During the pandemic restrictions, they kept us connected via classes and modified private lessons, competitions, spotlight parties and graduation ceremony via Zoom including a home-delivered meal. We even got to perform at our annual summer charitable Showcase and were able to view it via Zoom as well as together on a large screen in an open amphitheater. Once we were able to get back into the studio, we were able to resume in-person lessons and participate in pre-recorded competitions, while safely masked, of course. Through there studio’s valiant efforts I was able to remain sane during the forced isolation. Through their ability to adapt and create they kept us ballroom dancing. They are my family and my Community Champions.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

The nearly instantaneous economic recession triggered by the Covid-19 shutdown has wreaked havoc on businesses large and small. One pivot our Arthur Murray Schools have made in response was to offer virtual dance lessons right from the comfort and safety of home. For over 100 years we have taught the world to dance in the over 270 Arthur Murray Centers around the globe and we were not going to let our students down when they needed us most. We had virtual parties, we had virtual morning work outs, we had virtual shows, and we kept our Dance Family connected & positive. We kept going. We taught outdoors under a canopy, we kept going. We increased our business hours to avoid having a lot of people on the studios at the same time. Mask, gloves, hand hygiene was a must before entering our doors. Studios were swipe and refresh before and after each appointment. We kept going.

Our Annual Theater Showcase Fundraiser benefitting the “Sunshine Kids Foundation” was not possible indoors so we made it happen virtually. We rented a movie screen and played the show outdoors in an amphitheater. We kept going. We feel fortunate to have the most wonderful group of students and professionals around, and we thank them for belonging to our community that loves to dance and accepts everyone. Stay positive.

Cesar-Kai Karate Academy

Nomination from Christina Frescki

Cesar kai academy has been a partner in my child’s education for 4 years. My son is learning a valuable life skill in karate but is also learning about being a responsible member of his community. I know the staff and appreciate the care and dedication they constantly show me and my son. They cleaned and sanitized the facility and equipment like mats throughout the day.

Large bottles of hand sanitizer were available and frequent handwashing was encouraged. For many months, classes were held virtually so that the children could continue to practice with live or pre-recorded instruction and when the weather turned warmer, classes were held outside. They are a trusted treasure!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

What could have been a punch to the gut for Cesar-Kai Karate Academy (“CKA”), Governor Murphy’s March 16, 2020 Order closing gyms in the state turned into a lesson in resiliency for the Cranford NJ dojo whose students range in age from 5 – 17. As a result of that Order, CKA closed their doors to in-person classes causing more than half of its members to freeze their membership or cancel outright. CKA was down, but certainly not out.

It was time to pivot. Within 48 hours of the shutdown, the staff of CKA had transferred the curriculum from in person to virtual – with classes taught via Zoom giving the instructors and the students a great opportunity to continue training and working hard even at home as the pandemic raged on.

Through it all, CKA kept the momentum going through continuous engagement with its students’ efforts to develop self-discipline, coordination and character, improve physical fitness and mental strength, and gain valuable social skills. CKA’s students and their parents are a family about whom CKA cares deeply and through its virtual lessons, the Cesar-Kai family stayed together during this difficult time.

Resilience is accepting the new reality, even if it’s different than the one before. You can fight it. You can scream at the top of your voice about what you’ve lost. Or you can accept what is and move forward. Because CKA sized up its opponent early on and planned its moves with maximum tactical advantage, the pandemic was a bump in the road – and not the end of the road for CKA

Cranford’s BEST Kids

Nomination from Christina Frescki

Cranford’s best kids is a trusted support especially in this unprecedented time. From before the COVID-19 pandemic through today Yesenia Torres and Mario Cesario have developed safe ways to help children still come together and helping parents like myself with childcare needs. Surfaces were cleaned several times a day and the facility was professionally sanitized.

Handwashing was performed numerous times throughout the day. Multiple bottles of hand sanitizers were available throughout the facility.

They upgraded the internet service to ensure adequate bandwidth for students to log into their school classroom. Drop off and pick up times were staggered to avoid groups of people congregating. Students were escorted into the building by a coach and no one other than staff and students (and emergency personnel) were allowed in the building. They have made an enormous positive difference in me and my son’s lives

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Cranford’s BEST Kids (“CBK”) was not about to get bullied by the pandemic.

Instead of grabbing its toys and going home, CBK dug in its’ heels.

When school schedules moved to hybrid, CBK pivoted to a virtual learning camp. There was no time to waste. Schools adopted split schedules; parents had to go to work – and if parents are working from home, they need to do so without distractions. CBK was there for families that had no choice but to go to work – healthcare workers, first responders and others who were deemed essential personnel.

Owners Mario Cesario and Yessenia Torres and the staff of CBK sprang into action and worked tirelessly to expand CBK’s afterschool program to insure a safe and nurturing environment for their campers to continue their studies. CBK upgraded its internet service to ensure adequate bandwidth for students to log into their school classroom. Each student had a “study carrel” to avoid distractions. Social distancing was strictly enforced. Masks were mandatory. CBK coaches stood by to help with lessons and homework. At the end of the “school day”, CBK’s normal after school program kicked in with karate lessons, games, etc.

As the pandemic raged on, CBK ratcheted up its already strict cleaning and hygiene policies. Surfaces were cleaned several times daily to a gleam and the facility was professionally sanitized. Handwashing became de rigueur and mandated numerous times throughout the day. Multiple bottles of hand sanitizers stood at the ready throughout the facility.

Drop off and pick up times were staggered to avoid groups of people congregating. Students were escorted into the building by a coach and no one other than staff and students (and emergency personnel) were allowed in the building.

Temperatures were checked and screening questions were asked. Every student. Each and every day. No exceptions. As a result, CBK had NO instances of COVID-19, even at the height of the pandemic. Delivering a safe CBK experience came with additional costs. The unparalleled demand for PPE, essential to safety during the pandemic, created massive shortages which in turn caused prices to skyrocket. Social distancing, increased sanitation (including adjustments to CBK’s HVAC system) and reduced occupancy limits, also resulted in increased costs. But CBK stood firm.

The term “our CBK family” is not just a fancy slogan. Family are the people that stand beside you even in the toughest of times and the worst of times. We work hard together, we play hard together, we laugh together, we celebrate each other’s successes and support one another in the uncertain times. Our CBK family extends to our community, and we love the families who live here. Throughout the pandemic we were committed to being here for our CBK family. There was no other choice.

Lost & Found Tattoo Studio

Nomination from Elle Jordan

Like everything else COVID changed the world of tattooing. In the height of the pandemic there is no social distancing when it comes to tattooing! Lost & Found had to close their doors. While they had to cancel appointments they still worked on drawing up my sleeve. They kept in contact the entire time and rebooked when it was safe. It has to hurt a business when the days of walk-in visits or in-person consultations are gone.

They fight on and actually donate a lot of work to areola restoration for those who suffered from breast cancer. Shows a lot about a business that after all the hardship is still willing to donate to their local (wo)man.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

When Lost & Found Tattoo Studio became Cranford’s first Body Art Establishment in 2017, owners Alison Mennor and Peter Dickson pledged to donate 50 areola restoration procedures to breast cancer survivors. Lost & Found Tattoo Studio dedicates one day per week to areola restoration tattooing, and has donated over 100 procedures to breast cancer survivor, exceeding their original pledge two times over.

While Ali performs illustrative tattooing, she is additionally board certified by the AAM to perform areola restoration, a para-medical tattoo procedure.

Many local surgeons direct their patients to Ali whose areola restoration skills has evolved to serve transgender men after top surgery.

Lost & Found Tattoo Studio currently charges a small fee of $100 per session for areola restoration. This compassionate rate is far below the industry standard rate, and only a fraction of Ali’s regular tattoo rate, which is $150 per hour of tattooing. A typical areola restoration session is approximately 3 hours. And 2 sessions are recommended for best results. The fee from breast cancer related procedures is put into a nonprofit fund (The Lost & Found-ation) and those funds are used to continue our work. The cost of supplies has drastically risen in 2020. In the near future, Ali hopes to attain additional certification so that she can teach this skill to other tattooers and medical professionals alike.

“We love using tattooing to help people in this way. I started doing it because I wanted to give back to the community with what I know how to do. I have been tattooing professionally for 14 years now”

The Porch Hair Salon

Nomination from Kim Vanbuskirk

Already known to be a generous supporter for local organizations fund raisers, Linda is known for her calm presence and cheerful “can do” attitude along with her noble way of thinking, and the pandemic did not change that. Her innate concern for her staff, clients and community, Linda was in constant contact with everyone, checking in making sure everyone was ok, and making sure her clients were all doing well. Linda was more concerned with how she can help instead of being concerned about her business not being open.

The Porch was retrofit with a variety of supplies to ensure the safety and comfort for all the staff and clients which include hand sanitizer, disinfecting spray at every station and sink, plastic barriers between each station and the front desk, temperature checks for everyone who enters the building and allowing only 1 customer per stylist at a time to ensure social distancing and the comfort of all. All of this impacted the salon, but Linda’s main focus was not on making as much money as the salon could, her main focus was the safety of her staff and clients.

With Ms. Linda Karlovitch standing at the helm, The Porch is a shining example of hard-work and determination. If there was ever a more deserving candidate of being Union County Small Business Community Champion, I have not met them. Thank you for this opportunity in sharing with you these wonderful women’s story.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

It was definitely an unprecedented time. I honestly had no idea how I was going to keep my business and pay bills. I was also a newly elected Mayor in Kenilworth. I knew I had to be a leader to my hometown community and also reassure my employees that we would thrive when we reopened and we did just that! My staff was very supportive of me and my business and I realized that we had become a family. They would check in with me frequently and we had many fun times staying in touch over zoom, talking and laughing just like we did at work.

I was thrilled to see my clients when we reopened who supported us with calls and messages while we were closed. I kept a positive attitude and believed this crisis would pass and it did. While my business was closed, I found myself working almost full-time in my position as Mayor. I often volunteered to provide meals and support those in need and did my best to keep abreast of the community’s needs.

Once we reopened we changed the way we did business. We only serviced one client at a time. We had safety partitions between working areas and wore masks to ensure everyone’s safety. This past year was definitely a difficult time for everyone, but the support from my staff, friends, family and the community has been indispensable. I am grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community and I am pleased that we have come back even stronger.

The Max Challenge of Cranford

Nomination from Sarah Armendariz

I joined The Max Challenge of Cranford in September 2019 after having a partial hysterectomy in June 2019 and received news that I have PCOS with Insulin Resistance (meaning I have to take Metformin to control my sugar level). I needed a place where I can work out and lose weight as well as help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Mario (the owner) encouraged me to join the Max and said I can do everything modified and the instructors will modify the exercise for me which they did and continue to do. In the beginning I was kind of scared working out but after joining I soon learned that it is a place where you can work out in a group setting with support from everyone. You are encouraged by staff as well as members to keep going and keep pushing yourself to the MAX.

When the pandemic hit at the end of March 2020, the business quickly became resourceful and offered Virtual Classes via Zoom. When we went virtual, there were always two instructors on the screen: One that led the class and the other person to demonstrate how to do the exercise from modified to advanced. It was great. The owner (Mario Cesario) even allowed members to borrow equipment from the gym to continue on their fitness journey. Within a few months, they offered in-person classes at the local park. At the park we would social distance and it offered that same feeling of working out as if we were in-center but outdoors. When we could not make in-person sessions at the park, we also had Zoom recordings to watch anytime. They still offered a morning, afternoon and evening schedule to all its members. They also extended discounts on their rates.

Once we could go in-center, they offered limited space for in-person so we can social distance but at the same time they were in center, they still offer Zoom Classes. Some Zoom Classes are recorded and a member can view at any time.

I work out virtually sometimes I join the LIVE Zoom Classes and when you are on LIVE, the instructors make you feel like you are in the classes and mention your name while working out. I mostly work out playing the recorded sessions which is a great help because I can work out anytime I am free and available.

So I nominate The Max Challenge of Cranford. They have proven they can adapt and have complied with the State restrictions during the Covid 19 Pandemic. The staff and the owner continue to give us the experience we have had before the pandemic.

I am currently on disability again but the staff and members check in on me by calling at least once a week. It is more than just working out, it is a community, a health community that helps you continue on your journey. I can’t wait to work out again with my extended family. They have gone above and beyond for their members and community!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

The statistics are sobering. Pre-pandemic, more than three million U.S. fitness professionals helped more than 73 million Americans get and stay healthy through exercise. A study conducted by IHRSA estimates that COVID-19 forced 15% of gyms to close permanently with the industry as a whole losing upwards of $15 billion in revenue with 480,000 jobs slashed.

THE MAX Challenge of Cranford (“THE MAX”) closed its doors to in-person classes pursuant to Governor Murphy’s March 16, 2020 Order closing gyms in the state. When the dust settled, THE MAX was left to grapple with the stomach-churning reality that more than half of its members had frozen their membership or cancelled outright. Lifestyles became sedentary as folks hunkered down. Fitness was no longer just about the bikini body or six pack abs. Workouts suddenly ratcheted up in importance as an antidote to the stress, fear and anxiety inherent in the uncertainty of the pandemic.

It was time to ride or die and keep THE MAX family together during this difficult time.

Within 48 hours of the shutdown, owner Mario Cesario & his staff worked tirelessly to transfer the program from in-person to virtual with classes being taught interactively via Zoom giving members who remained active a way to safely continue their workouts and reach their fitness goals as the pandemic raged on. Replays were provided for those who were unavailable for the initial broadcast. THE MAX loaned out its in-center equipment (medicine balls, kick bags, etc.) to its members and offered the MAX from Home Kit giving them something they could use at home and which would help approximate a workout in the center. As COVID-19 restrictions began to relax, THE MAX offered outdoor classes in their parking lot, observing strict social distancing.

Despite the travails of surviving a pandemic, THE MAX Challenge held its annual MAX Day of Giving, with its members raising $5,000 for a local family battling cancer.

Members joining THE MAX Challenge of Cranford are promised a complete 10-week body renewal system that combines fitness classes, nutritional guidance, and (probably most important) motivation into one easy-to-follow program resulting in quick and lasting changes to their health and fitness. Nothing was going to stand in the way. Not even a pandemic.

It has been said that “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” When your MAX family depends on you, you have no choice but to survive – and even thrive.