Ace Hardware

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

Ace Hardware never closed their doors and were non-stop during the pandemic. This local shop was my go to for masks, hand sanitizer and wipes! They were always fully stocked and friendly during the worst of times. They were constantly disinfecting the store and limited the number of customers inside. They were also very generous to frontline works and donated a lot of PPE!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

We have been in business for over 30 years now and have faced some ups and downs over the years but we have never faced a challenge like this. Some of our long-time vendors and friends had to shut down their doors for good.

We were lucky to be considered an essential place and were allowed to keep our doors open the whole time. We had to make a few adjustments throughout the pandemic. We shortened our hours, limited the number of people allowed in the store, did regular temperature checks for employees, and set higher cleaning standards in place for not just the safety of our employees but our customers as well. We continued to get our regular deliveries however it was a struggle to keep things on the shelf as well as getting them in.

Therefore, we had to set limits on how many each person can take home. However, it was hard to say no to our regular customers who have supported us through the years and a few there generations. We tried to help as many communities and/ or facilities as we could. We allowed first responders to take first pick at everything we had in stock as well as donated masks, gloves, and face shields to hospitals like St. Barnabas, Overlook, and Trinitas to name a few. We wish we could have done more to help.

Our business motto is to always help our customers with what they need rather than just sell them things and we try to help them by explaining step by step what they need to do to fix their issue. We like to make our customers feel as if they were friends and that we care about them and their families and keep them in our prayers. We are thankful to our customers who chose to shop locally to support their small business hardware store.

Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today without them and for that we are grateful.

All About Paws

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

I’m happy that All About Paws is still in business. My pup was looking really shaggy and my DYI haircuts were not the prettiest! They revamped their services to be done by appointment only. The door is always locked and you have to all for pickups.

Their doggy daycare service remained open for pet owners’ who were working during the pandemic. They are very hardworking and constantly disinfecting all areas. I always feel at ease sending my pup to All About Paws!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

The health and wellness of our guests, customers and employees were our number one priority at All About Paws during the outbreak .We added a lot of additional cleaning protocols to our day to day. We had extensive daily cleaning protocols that kept our facility clean for dogs, employees and pet parents alike.

We were paying special attention to any frequently contacted areas such as door handles, latches, lobby, rest rooms, and other areas and objects that are more often used. We were asking employees to stay home if they weren’t feeling well. We all routinely wash our hands properly, use hand sanitizer, and maintain good hygiene practices.

The use of masks was mandatory to anyone entering our lobby. We did our best to keep All About Paws open during COVID-19!

Conant Street Auto Service

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

Using the can-do attitude he learned in the military, Billy keeps his business running safely and efficiently. This local first responder employs other first responders at his shop. He is all about helping his community.

He’s worked out payment plans for residents in need- it’s a hard time for everyone and it’s one less decision for a working family to make; putting food on the table or fixing the car. He’s been during the pandemic and sanitizes throughout the day. He’s gone above and beyond to make everyone feel safe! He is a community champion!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Every owner has to be a public health expert now especially mechanics. Deemed essential my main focus went to keeping customers and employees safe. Every car that comes into this auto body shop goes a thorough disinfecting.

We had meetings with staff to go over the social distancing measures that we implementing, and ordered as much cleaning supplies as we could. These precautions cost, adding up the expenses going through cleaners, sanitizers, and gloves it’s a lot. At first nobody was going to work, so nobody needed to fix their car. It’s an upsetting feeling. You’re used to a number of customers, seeing their familiar faces every day. And bam suddenly everything stops. Seeing the streets go dead, it was out of a horror movie.

For a while the only customers needed work were first responders. Usually when they came in, it was always an emergency, their battery died, and needed transportation. As a business owner and first responder myself I recognized the need to get them in out as fast as possible. We had some local customers that fell on hard times- we helped them as much as we could by extending credit to them. We’re here to stay.

Crincoli Service Center

Nomination from Arthur Kobitz

This local auto body shop did all they could to stay open during the pandemic. They kept employees/ customers safe by offering additional features like pick up\drop off services that helped limit interactions during repair work being completed.

Not allowing walk in business had to have hurt their profits- all work was scheduled by appointment only. During hard pandemic times they extended credit for repairs to members of the community in need.

They deserve to be recognized for their commitment to their employees & the community!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

The business took safety precautions so that we can continue to operate during the pandemic. These included wearing gloves and masks and sanitizing the shop and customer’s car. In order to lessen the chances of exposure, we offered pickup and drop-off services.
Work was scheduled by appointments only, no walk-ins.

Weathering the storm of Covid-19 included going to work and returning home in order to keep the citizens of Hillside safe, while getting their service rendered. Not socializing is also a crucial part of keeping the business running here at Crincoli Service Center.

Fresh & Pretty Plus Florist

Nomination from Robert Rios

It is my pleasure to nominate Fresh & Pretty Plus Florist for Community Champion! During the dark and sad days of Covid this selfless florist donated many arrangements to sick homebound individuals.

These floral care packages gave people a reason to smile during the toughest times.

Even while profits were down and normal occasions were placed on hold, she managed to stay open and bring joy to her community!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

As a florist, my business includes providing fresh flowers and houses of worship (altar baskets), funeral homes, (Condolence arrangements and plants), anniversaries and birthday deliveries, However, during Covid everything came to a complete halt. With inventory still in the shop, I would make small arrangements and with the help of the senior center, attain addresses and donate them to the seniors here in town.

Standing back after a delivery and seeing the smiles on the faces of those in isolation brought joy to my heart (and often tears to my eyes). With the entire country in shut down I felt that this small gesture would at least make someone smile. And considering the alternative, losing inventory, this was an easy task. This community has been extremely good to my business over the years and yes, I lost revenue, but I gained so much more knowing that the community that I served still needed to know that they were loved and appreciated.

Survival financially during Covid is hard but having faith in the community that I both live and work in I know can be rebuilt. Yes, I have lost so much and so many friends and neighbors but by the grace of God I’m still standing.

Grilled Chicken Palace

Nomination from Dahlia Vertreese

While having a decrease in sales due to mandated closures GCP still put their community first.

Their willingness to help their community as well as frontline workers battling the pandemic is inspiring.

It’s not surprising that this generous restaurant remains open! They continue to feed our community’s heart & soul!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

When the decision was announced to shut down GCP, it was very scary. We had no idea as to what needed to be done to maintain.

After being closed for a month we were advised that the operation could reopen as a takeout only.

Luckily for us that is 95% of our business. Keeping in line with the mandated regulations we modified our hours & days. We also met each customer at the door to avoid entry.
Thinking of the acts that went on during those times makes me very thankful to still be here in Hillside operating our business for 13 years now.

GCP appreciates the loyalty & support that our customers have showed us throughout these difficult times.

Herb’s Diner

Nomination from Dahlia Vertreese

Herb’s Diner is one of the longest running businesses in Hillside and for good reason. Sylvia is hardworking and her home style cooking is pandemic proof.

She’s taken a lot of extra steps to keep her customers safe by having them call in orders and pick up curbside. It was a hard decision to make but she did have to reduce her staff and picked up all the additional work on her own. She worked very hard to keep Herb’s open and when things got better she brought back her staff.

She is staple in Hillside and I’m happy they have survived!!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

At Herb’s Diner it wasn’t easy to survive COVID-19.

We had to make a changes like disinfecting more often and making hand sanitizer readily available. To keep everyone safe we limited the number of people in the diner to two at a time and only took orders over the phone.

We also offered additional services like curbside pickup.
We had to let go of most of our employees for a few months until things started to pick up again.

We kept our customers by keeping our prices the same for as long as we could, it wasn’t easy with the prices of everything going up. We’ve made sacrifices & hope this will all be over soon.

Hillside Bagel & Deli

Nomination from Craig Epps

By this point, we’ve all read the headlines about COVID’s devastating impact on small business. The name of the game right now is just to survive and this small business is doing just that. They offer contactless delivery through apps and have brought in new business because of it. These apps are bringing in new faces, giving this small business a stronger presence among those who are comfortable with using technology.

For those of us who still run in to grab a quick bagel; the plastic partitions and the signage make feel comfortable going inside the store. They are supportive of their community and together we’ll get through this!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

There is no real playbook when it comes to handling Covid. We’re family run and our customers we consider our family, so safety was our first concern. Mostly a takeout business we still had extra things we had to do to keep everyone safe from COVID. We added plastic dividers and signage for safety.

We disinfect the counters regularly and have hand sanitizer when picking up orders. We also offer delivery services through apps for contactless delivery. If it wasn’t for the support of our community, we wouldn’t be in business.

Hollywood Laundromat

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

I choose Hollywood Laundromat for Community Champion- Sally’s positive presence in my neighborhood was staying open for families without their own washing and drying machines. There were new concerns with the virus and lugging bags of daily clothes to the neighborhood laundry mats.

Laundromats are shared spaces which can be off putting for some of our residents. Many are afraid their clothing could be bringing the virus home. Many shared fears with Sally as to how they could continue using her facility safely.

She took those conversations seriously. Sally took the precautions of wiping down the inside and outside of the machines including the buttons. In addition face masks are required for the staff and employees at all times. All the while reminding her customers to disinfect whatever tote was used to transport laundry. Sally struggled through this pandemic but has always maintained her love for her customers and her township. Even in her darkest days sally has remained a champion for us all!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

I have been struggling throughout this pandemic, for over eighteen months. Many difficult business decisions were made so I could remain open as mandated by the Governor. I navigated the ever changing pandemic landscape by following recommended guidance on personal protective equipment, social distancing, store maintenance, and garment handling procedures.

This public health crisis also brought structural changes complete with plexi glass safe guarding

I made sure to educate all of my customers on safety protocols all the while fearing my own economic struggles. I am thankful my business survived!

Lord’s Bagel

Nomination from Rob Rios

Brave is opening up a business during Covid – Resilient is keep one a float and surviving these uncertain times. I admire in many ways what it takes to pull off an idea-turned-business but what I admire more is the inventiveness and resilience of Lord’s Bagel who have made it through.

They have added items to promote social distancing like dividers and plexi glass. Everyone is fully masked and the team cleans frequently. Thankful to have them here in Hillside!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

We took a leap of faith starting our own business during the pandemic, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 2020 was tough for small business and we are seeing challenges into this year with growing concerns about the rise in Covid cases.

We learned an immeasurable amount about perseverance and how to keep adjusting plans. We initially had a larger menu planned but when we opened we shifted to items that were more take out friendly. We disinfect regularly, everyone is masked and we’ve put up glass to create some distance. Some things never change- We stick by the mantra that good food and quality ingredients should be available to everyone at prices that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

We’re thankful for our customers and staff that make this possible!

Naomy Dominican Beauty Salon

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

No one could prepare salons for what was coming in 2020. People needed community, they missed their routine. Naomy was there for her clients at a time when they valued their stylist more than usual. And even though most people were scared and wanted to stay inside, getting a hair touch up gave them hope and light.

Motivated by the feeling that we all still want to feel beautiful they are open by appointment only. It’s important for Naomy to make her customers feel as safe and normal as possible. The door is locked – the no walk in policy is strict but the sense of community is strong.

Their willingness to adapt for the sake of their clients shows the value in how essential their services are to their community in terms of self-care, confidence and mental health.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Covid has been a reflection what it means to survive! It showed me where we were succeeding, where we were failing and where we can do better. We changed a lot of practices in my business, and how to be creative in other ways.

Buying products at the salon was never a major part of my business. I had an idea it could be profitable, I never had (made) the time and investment. Now I realize just how important having other ways to bring in money. We were shut down we had to survive. Even when opening we couldn’t have our usual number of people inside. Appointment only – limited spaces. We tried to keep our vibes the same with music! We’re thankful for our customers and are happy to see their masked faces!

Nolasco’s Convenience Store

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

Nolasco’s Convenience store has served as a lifeline to our community during Covid. Being able to go to a local store without lines wrapped around the building gave me a relief.

They set guidelines limiting the number of people allowed into the store and put ample signage about social distancing. They stayed stocked up on all the essentials! They should be recognized for their hard work and dedication to the community!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

I know every person who comes into this store and they know me. I’m glad that I was able to stay open and stocked during these tough times. The need and rush almost reminds me of a blizzard. You get a snowstorm it’s busy for a day or so, but everybody knows that everything will be fine.

With this virus, there’s so much uncertainty its snowstorm everyday and people are stocking up. We worked very hard every day to ensure the store was clean and the shelves were stocked. We set limited to make people feel safe and always wear masks! Thank you to the community for your support!

Ola Café

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

This community café revamped their entire business plan to survive the pandemic. Without being able to have people inside the café during the lockdown they started a delivery service. When they are allowed to have people inside the café they enforce social distancing and provide sanitizers at every table.

They also have dividers in place to create a barrier and some additional safeguard distance.

Even though times were tough they still managed to give meals to families in need. They deserve our recognition for their good deeds and hard work!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

People throughout the world have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. At Ola Café, we are doing our part to help prevent the further spread of the virus and new variants, while also supporting the needs of our patrons, employees and Hillside community. We have – and always will – put the health, safety and security of people first.

Because of this we have always respected all CDC guidelines during the pandemic, regarding social distancing, cleaning protocols and mandatory use of masks inside our business. Also we made efforts to keep Ola Cafe opened to serve Hillside community when lockdown started in March of 2020.

We reduced our business hours and number of employees to keep serving the community and adapted to this new time offering delivery service to help our customers to be safe at home without exposition to the virus.

As a social responsibility with our community we have served meals and coffee for people that were in need and didn’t have means to afford it. After the end of lockdown period and reopening for indoor dining we still care about our patrons and employee’s health and safety. Because of this, we offer hand sanitizers in all tables inside our coffee shop, we encourage the social distancing and use of masks inside our business. We believe that way we can decrease the virus spread. We are also having outdoor dining option with tables outside for those customers who don’t feel safe to indoor dining yet. Since the coronavirus outbreak began, we have implemented additional cleaning and sanitization routines inside Ola Café.

After the authorization for reopening for indoor service by New Jersey government we kept the delivery service active (which increased since pandemic started), because many people don’t feel comfortable to be back to normal life yet and we respect people choices and concerns.
We strive excellence, health and safety and we are happy to serve our customers and Hillside community during this difficult time.

Pao de Mel Bakery

Nomination from Robert Rios

Pao de Mel Bakery is my source of comfort food especially during the pandemic. They are a safe place to decompress in the world of Covid! They have taken extra steps to make their customers feel comfortable with going out again.

They moved tables for social distancing and provided hand sanitizer to everyone in the store. Employees wear masks and gloves at all times; they are constantly busy cleaning areas that are frequently touched.

They remained opened during the pandemic when a lot of stores closed.

They are deeply committed to staying open for their customers and employees!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

When Covid started back in March 2020, it hit us really bad. I didn’t understand where all my customers had disappeared to, no one wanted to go out to buy anything, and everyone was locked inside of house worried about the virus. We wanted everyone to feel safe to come out again!

We took extra safety measures by wearing masks, gloves, making hand sanitizers available. When customers came back we did not allow anyone to be seated inside of store. We switched employee’s shifts to keep everyone working and give them breaks. We kept ourselves on a tight budget – we started doing food shopping less often and buying only necessary products to keep the store running.

We’re doing as much we can to keep the store open and keep the employees working. We’re proud to say that we kept the store open and never closed during of pandemic!

Phil’s Unisex Salon

Nomination from Angelo Bonanno

Barbershops have not been spared from COVID-19, they were among the hardest hit financially. Even now that they are allowed to open their doors there are a lot of the extra precautions they have to take that are so costly. I’m more than happy to go through the extra steps for safety -Phil’s is the best haircut in town!

From temperature checks to wearing masks and watching them disinfect I don’t worry about Covid when I sit in his chair. He took the time during the pandemic to put money into the business by not only disinfecting but overhauled the look. I’m glad they survived and can’t wait to see them soon!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Nicky came to America from Avellino, Italy as a young child and became a barber at age 16, taking three buses and working three jobs to pay for his schooling. He had owned 2 barber shops in Northern NJ before moving to Hillside and working alongside Phil Cardaci for over 30 years.
When Covid hit they had to shut down the barber shop. Unfortunately, during this time, Phil passed away.

After the shock and grief, Nicky revamped the entire barber shop. He hired professional cleaners to thoroughly disinfect and sanitize the entire barber shop. He repainted, redecorated and updated the furniture, equipment and supplies in the shop. He followed all safety and sanitation protocols. He currently disinfects every chair after a client is finished, using all new cleaned smocks and towels for every client. He takes everyone’s temperature upon entry to the shop and has sanitizer at the entrance and all around the barber shop. He also always wears a mask and requires all clients to wear one as well. If they forget theirs, there are plenty of masks available at the shop.

When the State allowed barber shops to reopen, it was by appointment only and a written record was kept of everyone who entered, along with their phone numbers in case contact tracing became necessary so he could let anyone know if they came in contact with a Covid positive client. Thankfully, no one contracted Covid but it they had, he was prepared to notify the client, town and county with all the necessary information.

Nicky continues to follow all safety protocols and is continually monitoring the situation in order to best serve the safety and concerns of his clients and employees. He is looking forward to working hard and getting this business back to its Pre-Covid self.

ProSign Print Shop

Nomination from Craig Epps

This small local sign business that prides itself is relationships offered deals to Hillside businesses during Covid. Instead of taking advantage the need for Covid signage they put home town relationships over funds.

This humble hardworking sign shop remains in business and their resiliency should be celebrated!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

The business did not get much funding from the State and we still have a pending grant application in process. The store was closed during the majority of the pandemic so I tried to maintain the clients I had. In short the way I guess that I have been able to survive is because I try to build relationships with people before I try to earn their business.

I’ve been in all different types of sales roles the past 10-15 years of my career that have prepared me. Each different role gave me the ability to try my best to perfect that craft. I attended FDU for business and finance so it was always a goal to open a business and god willing be able to scale in time.

It’s been up and down for years to say the very least, and close to closing the business countless times, but if you’re willing to put the work in any venture you take on, perseverance will always win in the long run.

Over the past 4 years I have been able to retain a lot of loyal customers which I am greatly thankful for, and that’s most likely why we survived for now!

TG Beauty Supply

Nomination from Craig Epps

Small businesses have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. These small businesses are the backbone of the community providing goods and services that we’ve taken for granted at times.

The widespread practice of “social distancing” in response to the spread of COVID-19 is dramatically reducing the revenue of small businesses in every community. TG Beauty Number One Store takes social distancing seriously!

They changed many policies to keep their client and staff safe. They even invested in stickers to promote the recommended six feet apart! They have mask mandates and limit the number of customers in the store.

The scarifies they have made to remain in business are admirable!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Like a lot of other small businesses, it has been quite challenging staying afloat especially during the lock down and the scare that came with Covid-19.

We could not open up and sell immediately after the lock down was called off but when we eventually did we had to put the following measures In place to help reduce the spread of the virus and ensure safety of staff, customers and the community at large.

We ensured everyone within the business premises have their mask on. Even now, in light of the aggressive Delta variant, we still encourage customers who are vaccinated to wear mask, knowing that people who are not vaccinated are at very high risk of getting the virus. We’ve made hand sanitizers available for staff and customers. We encourage our staff to their wash hands often.

We put up notices in the store to advice customers of new regulations In place to help check the spread of COVID-19 for example, customers are not allowed to try on wigs and if they have to, it will be with the help of a staff and they have to get a new wig cap and are encouraged to buy the wig they tried on. No exchange or return of hair and hair accessories.

With the use of the 6 feet stickers on the floor of the store, Customers are encourage encouraged to observe social distancing.

Also, being out of business for a period cost us some. We were able to get some products from our suppliers and then pay much later after sales and that was really helpful.

Above all, we acknowledge and appreciate the Hillside community for supporting and encouraging small businesses.

Revive Salon & Spa

Nomination from Lisa Bonanno

The relief of being able to go back to Revive Salon made me feel normal during these uncertain pandemic times. When they were allowed to reopen they took so many precautions to make everyone feel safe. They no longer accepted walk in’s and everything is by appointment only.

They continue to limit the amount of people allowed inside this most certainly hurts their profits. Even when experiencing financial loss they purchased plastic dividers to separate clients, face masks for all employees, and hand sanitizers at all stations.

With all of these extra precautions temperature checks are required. The level of concern they have for not only their employees but their client makes the environment feel like family. I feel safe and I’m actually able to relax while I’m there.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

There is no preparing for a pandemic like we faced this past year and yet many small businesses like myself, are still trying to recuperate from our losses. Despite the pain we all felt as small business owners, it’s nothing in comparison to those tragic lives lost. May God console and heal our community for those family members affected.

In order for my business to survive these difficult times during the shutdown and beyond… I planned ahead for the day our business would reopen.

During that 3 month period… I started ordering dividers, sanitizers, face masks, and all cleaning supplies in advance. I also developed a game plan with social distancing preparations, since we are a salon and we have direct contact with our clients on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, we are still in the negative since the pandemic began… but the preparations helped us survive and make our clients feel safe which was most important to me. Safety was my major concern so I implemented many rules for my staff to ensure our client’s safety.
We had weekly meetings to discuss how we can follow the state orders and protocols. My biggest joy was to hear my customers tell me how safe they felt coming to my business.

Once again, I’m extremely honored to be recognized for my team’s efforts to keep my clients safe and I feel blessed to be able to serve my community.

Survival financially during Covid is hard but having faith in the community that I both live and work in I know can be rebuilt. Yes, I have lost so much and so many friends and neighbors but by the grace of God I’m still standing.

Q + Beauty Supply

Nomination from Craig Epps

Q+ sells wigs, weaves, hair beauty products and everything in between. The store has always stocked gloves, but as the pandemic emerged demand greatly increased.

There were new requests for products they had not sold in the past like hand sanitizer and masks. They quickly accommodated the need for these items! Due to salons being closed the local community went to the store for supplies to up keep their routines.

Having a local store that carries these items helped with self-care and mental health during the pandemic. They made changes and have survived the worst of the pandemic!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Q+ Beauty Supply has been a family-owned and operated business serving the community of Hillside, NJ for 20 years. Within the same complex, just a few stores down the strip, stands our sister company Q+ Hair & Wigs. Both stores were heavily impacted by the pandemic and seeing firsthand the many mom-and-pops around us shutting down permanently was just gut-wrenching.

Although a significant part of our inventory always consisted of hygiene products as well as personal protective equipment from the start, we needed to shift our focus even more on these essential items given that the community was in dire need of them amidst a large shortage.

After closing our doors anyway for being “non-essential” and getting denied funding, we got right back up once the statewide restriction was lifted determined to remain open not only for our family, but just as importantly for our community.

We ramped up on sanitizing sprays, gloves, and masks by linking with the right suppliers overseas and had systems set in place inside the store locations to provide a clean/safe environment for our patrons. We even made direct in-person deliveries on many occasions for those who were unable to leave the house.

Although challenging in many different ways, our resilience truly would not have been possible without the adaptation, patience, and persistence of our customers.