Food for the Soul

Many of us are yearning to be with those we love for the holidays. Yet, COVID-19 still threatens the safety of doing so. After eight months of altering our lives to stay healthy and safe, we need a way to feel fulfilled. Food has a way of helping to heal some of these wounds (as many readers’ scales may attest to!). The right foods can bring back memories, create new ones and warm our souls. So, where better to find the best foods and recipes than amongst the amazing array of restaurants in the Princeton area. We reached out to some favorites and asked them to help us enjoy the season by sharing special recipes with our readers. Each chef or owner has a recipe that reminds them of their family and Thanksgivings growing up. They are also offering up a unique opportunity for you to create one of their restaurant dishes – one they are serving this Thanksgiving season! Whether you’ll be eating for one or a few, we hope these foods help you feel connected and nourish your soul. If you can’t be around the same table, share the recipes with your far-away loved ones and you can enjoy eating them together, virtually, this holiday season.

Raoul Momo, of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group, satisfies many Princeton-area eaters at his restaurants Teresa Caffe and Mediterra. His mom (born in Italy) loves food and loves where she came from. As he grew up, Thanksgiving provided an opportunity for her to share both through her cooking.

“Immigrants, they don’t let go of their traditions,” shares Momo. “But at some point they become American and they have to start a new tradition, Thanksgiving. That’s what my mom did. She totally adopted Thanksgiving.”

She embraced it by spending three days preparing, in order to provide a full spread of her Italian favorites as well as a traditional American Thanksgiving feast.

“We had all the Italian offerings like Italian wedding soup, lasagna, and also Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes and who knows what else. We’d start eating about 2pm and it went throughout the night. Then we’d eat for days! And my mother never wanted any help,” Momo recalls.

At Terresa Caffe, they have to utilize recipes that can be made for 300-400 people on a busy night, so Teresa Momo’s lasagna has never been served. Yet, it was such a part of his Thanksgiving growing up that Raoul Momo is sharing the recipe now. It had, like all of her other dishes, been something his mom made through touch and feel but he recently started to ensure his nearly 80-year old mom’s best recipes are written down. He’s even sharing her homemade ragu sauce to use in it, too!

Mediterra serves up food that stems from nearly 24 cultures that surround the Mediterranean Sea. This season, it’s also offering a traditional Thanksgiving Box-to-Table, that could include a separate turkey if you don’t want to cook at all! One of the side items you can choose from is Okinawa Purple Sweet Potato Gratin. The blend of large purple sweet potatoes with butter, cheese and spices is sure to bring you and your loved ones some added comfort this year. The blending of cultures is a part of Momo’s childhood memories, and something you may want to try, too.

Foreign foods also played a big role in the childhood of Rocky Hill Inn owner and chef, Evan Blomgren. Oyster Dressing (in America, we often call it stuffing) stems from his mother’s British tradition of cooking with oysters.

“She’s Norwegian, Native American and has English origins,” notes Blomgren. “The stuffing is more British. I grew up eating that (Oyster Dressing) with Thanksgiving. And then at Christmas, we’d continue the tradition with more oyster dressing and my mom would make oyster soup on Christmas day.”

Blomgren, who developed his own cooking skills over the past 25 years, recalls enjoying the dressing with some traditional Thanksgiving foods, and some non-traditional ones.

“The stuffing is good inside of goose, so sometimes we’d make goose instead of turkey. It goes well with the gaminess of the goose,” he adds.

An only child, Blomgren recalls he enjoyed Thanksgiving with cousins when he was younger, then his family moved around a lot, so many years were just him and his parents. These days, he’s often surrounded by many cooking at the Rocky Hill Inn.

Blomgren purchased the site in 2008 and crafted it into a reputable gastropub serving craft beer and burgers in addition to modern versions of pub favorites. For the Thanksgiving season, The Rocky Hill Inn has prepared a new version of its famous turkey burger – a turkey burger with pancetta, granny smith apple stuffing and cranberry mayo on a waffle bun. If your family has British roots, perhaps you want to change up your stuffing this year and try the Oyster Dressing. Or you can warm the cockles of your soul with some good old comfort food and try out this burger!

A relatively newer restaurant to the Princeton scene is The Meeting House, which aims to use seasonal ingredients in its simple American cuisine. Chef Eswin Belteton, who is known to his co-workers as Chef Fito, grew up in Guatemala. Through his training, another chef taught him how to make Pork Chop and Bean Cassoulet, a French Country dish which instantly reminded him of a favorite from back home.

“I said to my chef that it reminded me of a dish that my grandma and mother used to cook called Caldo de Frijoles Blancos con Puerco,” Fito reminisces. “I would help them cut the vegetables while they were cooking the beans and pork and I would smell the incredible aromas.”

The dish is made with cannellini beans, a common Central American staple.

“It’s amazing how this dish became a great memory of my childhood,” says Fito. “To this day every time I cook this dish I think of those incredible days in the kitchen with my grandma and mother.”

While The Meeting House focuses on American cuisine, it also gets crafty with cocktails that change with the seasons. Those are served alongside locally brewed beers and an assortment of wines. In keeping up its changing seasonal menu for this Thanksgiving season, Fall Squash Soup has been added. Chef Fito offered up this recipe as well as the Pork Chop and Bean Cassoulet for our readers, so you could try one or both with your holiday meal.

Everyone has different ways of coping and getting through this difficult year. But one thing we all have in common is food – and the way it can comfort us and help us connect. We hope through enjoying their family and restaurant favorites, the chefs and owners can help you find enjoyment this holiday season and beyond.

Gobble, Gobble, Turkeys are Here

We live in the Garden State, which immediately brings to mind farming. But, did you realize that beyond the fruits and vegetables grown fresh around New Jersey, turkey farming is also here? Turkeys are raised and cultivated at four turkey farms in our area, bringing you fresh local meat you can enjoy for Thanksgiving and year-round.

The oldest, Lee Turkey Farm in East Windsor, raises 3,000 turkeys a year, selling them directly to consumers. While the family has been on the farm since 1868, turkeys are something they kind of fell into in the mid 1900s.

“Turkeys were started by my father when he was 11, it started as a 4-H project,” explains Ronny Lee, who owns and runs the farm today with his wife, Janet. “He wanted to be part of 4-H and the only area that had an opening was the turkey club, so all by default he got turkeys!”

The farm started raising more and more turkeys through his father’s high school years, home to a few hundred by the time he was called to serve in WWII.

“When he came back, my grandfather was tired, warn out and in debt. The Depression came and he wanted to sell the farm. Instead, my dad suggested they start raising turkeys by the 1000s, and the turkeys brought the farm out of the dire straits they were in.”

Today, Lee Turkey Farm also has a robust fruit and vegetable crop including 700 apple and peach trees. As Thanksgiving arrives, Lee says he’s definitely seeing a preference for smaller birds, likely due to smaller-sized gatherings this year. The farm started planning their Thanksgiving crop months ago. It takes approximately 11 weeks for a turkey to become a cleaned, read-to-eat 13-pound meal. While their orders for Thanksgiving turkeys began over a month ago, he notes they have never sent anyone home without a turkey – something he learned from his mother!

“Years ago, we were getting ready to have our turkey dinner. I was in high school at the time, all the relatives were over, and a young couple came to the door upset,” recalls Lee. “They had bought a turkey from someplace else and when they opened it up, it didn’t smell right. That’s all I remember hearing but when it came time to eat, we had macaroni that day! My mom gave them the turkey right out of our oven.”

Common traits of the fresh, local farm turkeys in Mercer County mean the birds receive no antibiotics, no hormones and are nourished by a combination of foraging and locally-sourced feed. They are also free range, meaning they are out in pasture, in open-faced barns or live between both. The pasture can be a great experience for the turkeys, as well as those living on the farm.

Courtesy: The Chick Hatchery

“At times turkeys escape – they’re fast,” says Kristin DiPaola, who helps run the DiPaola Turkey Farm which her grandfather started in 1948. “I have 4 children, and every now and then when they’re out on the range a turkey will scoot through the fence, and it’s exciting. The kids chase them down!”

Her family’s farm in Hamilton employs a tradition of USDA quality meats as it breeds white domesticated Broad Breasted turkeys, which is one of the turkey breeds farmed in our area. They are sold at their farm store and at markets around New York City.

“Some people grow heritage turkeys, ours are white. The breast is larger and therefore juicier,” adds DiPaola.

The white traditional turkey can also be found at Griggstown Farm, which raises and processes turkeys only for Thanksgiving. In addition, they offer the Bourbon Red Heritage breed, the closest breed to what Pilgrims ate which has a darker meat with broader legs and thighs. To get a 7 to 10-pound Hen or 14 to 18-pound Tom, the process begins in April.

Courtesy: eFowl

“It’s all weather based and everything. If it’s hot out, they don’t eat, if it’s cold out they eat. So that’s where the science gets a little tricky,” clarifies Griggstown Farm General Manager George Rude, Jr. “A couple days before Thanksgiving, I can’t go out there and tell the turkey to stop eating, so I tell people there’s a 5-pound range. I think we’ve got it down to a science. Hopefully it’ll work out like it has every year.”

His father, George Rude, Sr., started by raising some quail in the historic village of Griggstown in Princeton in 1975. Today, they have more than 65 acres that are home to pheasants, quail, chickens and for Thanksgiving, turkeys. The farm processes about 500 Bourbon Reds and 2,500-3,000 white turkeys each season, and certain sizes are selling out at their farm store as well as at farm markets in Philadelphia, Bernardsville and Flemington.

“We have some bigger ones left, a decent amount of 18 to 22-pounders, but the 14 to 17-pounds are almost gone. We also have boneless turkey breast, capon and pheasants. But we’ve sold out of geese and ducks,” notes Rude, Jr.


If you like heritage turkeys, two other varieties are sold at Hopewell’s Brick Farm Market from their Double Brook Farm. Owners Robin and Jon McConaughy found the process of developing their Spanish Black and Bronze heritage turkeys this year to be a bit therapeutic in these complicated times. From collecting and incubating eggs to watching them hatch and grow, they’ve enjoyed being a part of cultivating food people will enjoy with loved ones.

“The interesting things about our birds is they all exhibit natural behaviors – they fly, roost in the trees, sometimes inside an enclosure which is about 10 acres, sometimes they’re outside the enclosure,” details Robin. “They exhibit natural tendencies, scratching of the ground, finding some food. They are fed a non-GMO grain mixture grown for us by local farmers, so a combination of being a heritage breed and also being the way we raise them in fresh air, out on pasture, eating bugs naturally (a portion of their diet) it creates a bird that is a healthier bird and they’re slightly leaner and really hard to dry out. Extremely juicy and tender.”

The farm the McConaughy’s started in 2004 also raises pigs, ducks, chicken and sheep on acreage around the township. They also grow vegetables and use their crops and meat for foods sold at Brick Farm Tavern and Brick Farm Market. This year, the turkeys are selling fast. So, if you haven’t decided yet, now is the time to consider a locally farmed turkey.

“Sometimes we do have turkeys available for walk up, this year is going to be  –  well, we’ve already outpaced our numbers for last year, so not likely a good risk. We get calls on Thanksgiving every year – ‘My wife is going to divorce me! I was supposed to order the turkey can you save me?’ We always have something we can do to help them, but I don’t know about this year,” Robin shares.

Of course, you can purchase a supermarket turkey (or get your free one from Shoprite!). But Ronny Lee boasts there is nothing like a freshly farmed turkey.

“We all like McDonalds, but when you eat filet mignon, you know there’s a difference. There’s definitely a difference in the quality of our meat and the flavor.”

If you are interested in a local farm turkey, you’re advised to plan for 1-pound per person. Here is how you can order:

Lee Turkey Farm: Reservations can be made by calling (609) 448-0629.

DiPaola Turkey Farm: Email with pick-up location, date, and size range.

Griggstown Farm: Click to go to their website to pre-order for curbside pick-up.

Double Brook Farm: Click to order online at Brick Farm Market by November 20th.

Editor’s Note

2020 is a year no one could have predicted. Most of what has happened this year has felt out of control. But there is one way that you can take an active part in how the future plays out…by voting.

Last year, in the general election (notably not a Presidential election) only 28% of Mercer County voters cast a ballot. Whether you feel strongly that our existing politicians should stay in office or insistent they be replaced, casting your vote is the only way to have a say.

Our mission at Princeton Perspectives is to share content and information that matters to Princeton. To that end, this entire issue, 2020 Elections: Everything You Need to Know to Vote Locally & Informed!, is dedicated to our 2020 general election, in a hyper-local way. If your Vote-by-Mail ballot is sitting on the counter or you are waiting to go to the polls on November 3rd to cast a provisional ballot or, if disabled, vote in a booth, our articles will help enlighten you about every detail you need to be an educated voter. If you’ve already filled out your ballot, read on to learn more about who you voted for and to open your eyes as to what others in local politics and around town feel in today’s political world.

Beyond the candidates, it’s the issues that concern voters amid today’s elections. What issues are most important to people living in and around Princeton? This month’s Pulse of Princeton asks that very question. Play the video to see what’s on everyone’s minds.

Additionally, the talk around town is about Vote-by-Mail ballots. Facebook has been flooded with misinformation about whether other forms of voting will or won’t get counted, and whether your vote counts more if returned one way over another. Read on to clarify. Properly filling ballots out and returning them is essential for your vote to count, but you also need to know who you’re voting for. Princeton Politics: Everything You Need to Know to Cast Your Vote provides you with all of this information, including insight into everyone listed on your ballot: local, county and national political candidates (there are no state elections this cycle). We share every detail, down to when you may really learn the voting outcome!

Of course, our Presidential election is of the highest priority for most, but in Princeton, the Board of Education candidates are the other major contest on November 3rd. Though information has been publicized about all eight candidates, it can be hard to decipher fact from opinion and compare one to another to decide your top three choices. Princeton Board of Education Candidates, Simplified uncomplicates things for you. Our easy-to-read drop-down menu allows you to read multiple candidate’s responses to a question, in a comparative way, next to each other. We asked them the three things that are top of mind, so you can vote confidently about our school’s future.

Finally, we reached out to both sides of the aisle to try to understand what the other is thinking. Are you a member of Princeton’s Democratic majority? One of 10% registered Republicans in town? Or are you one of over 6,500 Princeton voters that register 3rd party or unaffiliated? Wherever you stand, knowing how the other parties think can expand your mind and open your eyes to other perspectives. Our two guest writers this month are major political players in our municipality. In Political Perspective: From a Princeton Democrat and Political Perspective: From a Princeton Republican we posed the questions you want to know, to understand how the party operates, locally, and to provide a balanced and introspective look into their standpoints.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton received 55% of the votes in NJ compared to Donald Trump’s 41%. Our state gets 14 Electoral College votes. Who will get them this year? We likely will not yet know who our President-elect is when our November issue posts next month. So, we look forward to getting your mind off politics for a bit and look towards Thanksgiving with our local take on Mind, Body & Soul: Healings for the Holidays. What favorite holiday traditions are you determined to embrace, despite the pandemic? If you’d like to share your thoughts with our readers, click here and provide your name and email address so we can contact you to share your video for Pulse of Princeton.

Until then, get your vote out and stay safe!

The Pulse of Princeton: With the election upon us, what issue is most important to you and why?

What favorite holiday traditions are you determined to embrace, despite the pandemic? Share your perspective for our November issue! If you’d like to contribute your video thoughts next month or for a future Pulse of Princeton, please click here and provide your name and email address to be contacted.

Princeton Politics: Everything you Need to Know to Cast Your Vote

Your mail-in ballot has arrived. Should you fill it out and mail it, place it in a drop box or wait and go to the polls on November 3rd?

It is a big year as we vote to keep President Donald Trump or elect former Vice President Joe Biden, but there is more at stake than the Presidency. New Jerseyans are voting for one Senator, and in the 12th District we are choosing to re-elect our Congresswoman or replace her. Additionally, we have several county and municipal political offices at stake.

Who are the local candidates and what do they stand for? What is different his year and how will it all work? Every detail you need to know to vote is here.


To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy decided that Vote-By-Mail will be the primary mechanism for the 2020 November elections. A mail-in ballot has been sent to every registered voter without the need for a request, that’s 230,00 ballots sent out in Mercer County. There are no sample ballots this year, the one you receive in the mail is your real ballot. If yours hasn’t yet arrived, it should soon, though you must have registered by October 13th to qualify. To submit your vote, you have 4 options:

  • Fill in the mail-in ballot and mail it back via the United State Postal Service. Postage is pre-paid, but the ballot must be postmarked by November 3rdand received by 8:00 p.m. on November 10th.
  • Fill in the mail-in ballot then personally drop it into a secure Mercer County drop box. In Princeton, one is located at 400 Witherspoon Street. There are additional drop box locations throughout Mercer County and more may be added. You can find a complete list here.
  • Fill in the mail-in ballot then personally walk into your designated polling location on Election Day, by 8pm (these have been consolidated to only 5 Princeton sites, detailed here by district). You will have to sign a book before dropping it into a small, secure lock box at the polling location.
  • You can go to your polling location and cast a provisional paper ballot. Voting booths are available only for citizens with a documented audio or visual impairment.

The Mercer County Clerk’s office has stated that every ballot will be counted, whether mail-in, provisional or via voting booth. However, Vote-by-Mail will be counted first.

“Vote-by-Mail has already been vetted,” explains Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello. “For provisional paper ballots, registration must be checked. And you must sign a certification that you are disabled in order to vote in the booth, but poll workers are going to call the Board of Elections if a disabled voter arrives to ensure they did not already vote by mail.”

Very specific directions must be followed for your mail-in ballot to count, so do so carefully:

  • Do NOT use red ink or pencil, only blue or black ink will be allowed.
  • Votes must be completely colored in, no crosses or checkmarks are accepted.
  • Place your voting ballot inside the initial envelope which you seal and sign (with likeness to the signature on file with your registration).
  • Place that envelope inside the mailing envelope that is addressed to the Board of Elections. Be sure your name on the interior envelope shows through the window of the exterior envelope.

To avoid concern about whether or not your mail-in vote has been received, a tracking system has been set up. You can click here to register and track your ballot.

But first, educate yourself so you are prepared to make informed votes.


The municipality of Princeton will be bringing in a new leader, with Mayor Liz Lempert not running for re-election and her term ending on January 1, 2021. Two seats are also opening up on Princeton Council. There were no Republicans or other party candidates entered into the primary for any of the three seats (though there was a contest amongst the Democrats for Council), and there is one Democrat running for each current opening. Your vote demonstrates support but there is no minimum vote required for them to win.

Mayor of Princeton is elected for a four-year term. In that role the official presides over all operations of the municipal government, including the Council and all those that have been appointed as officers of the municipality. This role is also responsible for seeing that all local ordinances and state laws are properly executed.

Mayoral Candidate: Mark Freda (D) is running unopposed

Mark Freda says he has spent his adult life preparing to hold the position of Mayor of Princeton. Starting out as a volunteer on the Princeton Fire Department and Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad in the 70’s, he went on to spend 13 years on Borough Council. Amongst other positions, Freda has volunteered on the Public Works Committee and Planning Board and was the Township’s first Director of Emergency Services. Professionally he spent years in facilities management and now works locally leading a non-profit.

“Being an elected official is something I actually enjoy doing. The work is interesting and meaningful,” says Freda. “My goals are pretty simple. Represent everyone in our community. Be open and honest at all times.”

As Mayor, Freda hopes to expand the municipality’s relationship with Princeton University, the county and the school board. He is also focused on affordable housing, expanding the town’s transportation system and building on our new Climate Action Plan. To be effective, Freda says he plans to work hard to do what is best for his community.

“Leadership is about communicating, it is about truly listening to others, it is finding the balance between exploring an issue and then acting on that issue,” he adds. “I’m the first to admit that I am not an expert on every topic and listening to people that know more than me is an important part of my leadership style.”

Princeton Council works very closely with the Mayor. The six member-panel advises and approves appointments of municipal subordinate officers and serves as the legislators of local ordinances. Two current council members are running uncontested for re-election to their two available spots.

Princeton Council Candidates: David Cohen (D) and Leticia Fraga (D)

David Cohen is an architect by profession, currently in the position of Council President serving as a liaison between the Council, Mayor, and municipal staff. He played a key role in coordinating the settlement agreement for Princeton’s Affordable Housing obligation.

“It was an arduous process to reach an agreement which met the goals of all the parties in a way that will truly enable us to adhere to Smart Growth principles, protect the schools from drastic enrollment shocks, spare the taxpayers, and most importantly, welcome those of more modest means to share in our wonderful community,” explains Cohen. Closely involved with the Climate Action Plan the Council endorsed with the help of Sustainable Princeton, he seeks to continue implementing its recommendations in a new term.

“We see the impacts of Climate Change pummeling many parts of our country right now with wildfires and hurricanes, but the northeast is not immune,” Cohen notes. “We have seen a dramatic increase in the frequency of extreme rainfall events in recent years, which stress our infrastructure, do millions of dollars of damage, and endanger our residents.”

Leticia Fraga looks forward to serving alongside Cohen for another 3-year term. Her last campaign focused on affordability, inclusiveness and quality of life and she feels that with the assistance of a strong municipal workforce and the variety of volunteers she’s collaborated with, she accomplished a lot.

“Together, we have worked to increase our affordable housing stock; addressed the issue of food insecurity in our community; and most recently, I have been working with colleagues and community partners on strategies to ensure our residents and business community can recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation,” explains Fraga.

Seeking community-driven solutions, Fraga worked with the Princeton Police Department and Public Safety Committee to develop more trust and respect with the community. She hopes to continue her work on equity, affordability and inclusion while also offering continued assistance navigating the pandemic.

“It is unclear just how long we may need to react to the rapidly changing economic landscape,” she states. “Our utmost priority must be to ensure the wellbeing of all of our residents during this health and economic crisis, while also continuing to provide essential services.”

Some of these services are additionally provided for by Mercer County and there are candidates to consider in our county races as well.


For Mercer County voters, there are 3 County elections taking place: Sheriff, County Clerk and Board of Chosen Freeholders. 28% of your tax bill goes towards county taxes, so these decisions are meaningful.

Sheriff is the only local race that is contested, meaning there are multiple candidates vying for the office. In the uncontested races for County Clerk and Board of Chosen Freeholders, one vote could get them into office. However, your vote will signify confidence in their resuming or taking over the position.

Sheriff is the head law enforcement officer for the county. The office is responsible for security at the Criminal Courthouse in Trenton and at Trenton- Mercer Airport. It also has several units including an Emergency Response Team, Detective Bureau/Fugitive Unit, K-9, Task Forces, prison transport and education programs.

Sheriff Candidates: John “Jack” Kemler (D) and Bryan “Bucky” Boccanfuso (R)

John “Jack” Kemler is the incumbent and has served in this role since 2010. He has a 27-year career in law enforcement that began in the Trenton Police Department and transitioned into roles at the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, ultimately as Sheriff. To maintain continuity in leadership and service to our county, he hopes to win re-election.

“Today, I continue the Sheriff’s Office’s long-standing history of working closely with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to keep our communities safe,” Kemler states.

If re-elected, Kemler feels the trust he has developed with county residents will allow him to continue to fulfill the Sheriff’s office’s duties well in today’s world.

“Everyone in our community has been affected by loss or disruption during this pandemic,” shares Kemler. “Add to it unsettling racial tension, and civil unrest. Frankly, these events can put officers, civilians, and the general public under great pressure, and create anxiety and uncertainty for what the future holds. These are major issues that merit great attention and high-quality leadership in Mercer County.”

Trying to outseat Kemler is Bryan “Bucky” Boccanfuso, who has over 26 years in law enforcement, beginning with the Princeton Police Department then a career with the Robbinsville Township Police Department. Boccanfuso says the 150 officer Sheriff’s department is not well utilized and needs to do more and be seen more.

“Visibility is a deterrent! The Sheriff’s department is a countywide agency that should be more visible to residents of Mercer County” he exclaims, citing with the county courts closed due to COVID the Sheriff’s officers should have made themselves available sooner to assist places like Trenton in countering its homicides and Hamilton, when it endured numerous power outages due to the hurricane remnants.

“I saw Hamilton officers out directing traffic and Sheriff’s officers could’ve been out assisting them so they could be out assisting others in Hamilton. The Sheriff’s department is not as proactive in assisting other police agencies in a time of need” adds Boccanfuso.

If elected, Boccanfuso plans to meet with the police chiefs and directors to share more resources and collectively work together. He also wants to be more involved in countering the opioid and heroine epidemic

County Clerk is the office that files and records documents for things such as real estate ownership and transfer, County and Veteran ID cards, U.S. Passport applications, small business trade name registration and more. It is also one of three county offices that oversees elections.

County Clerk Candidate: Paula Sollami Covello (D)

Paula Sollami Covello is seeking her fourth term in this office and is running unopposed. For its part in elections, the County Clerk’s office prints ballots, counts electronic machine votes and issues the Vote-by-Mail ballots. The Mercer County Board of Elections, which is a bipartisan commission, oversees the polling locations and ballot counting, and the Superintendent of Election’s office handles voter registration. In this way, checks and balances are put into place so not one office has total control. Additionally, Covello ensures that during an election year in which she is on the ballot, an extra provision is put into place

“I personally do not draw for ballot positions in the years that I run for office. I designate that to the Deputy Clerk so that he can draw the ballot positions,” she explains. “The drawing is always done ahead of ballot layout and although I am not mandated to do this, I do it to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”

Electronic recording of records and enhancing computer systems has been her greatest effort through her previous terms. In her next term, Covello hopes to ensure that all county records are scanned and easily searchable online. She also plans to continue enhancing the voting systems throughout Mercer County, creating a verifiable paper trail.

“This simple change can make the difference between a safe and secure election, with an auditable result, or a false outcome,” Covello notes. “The fact that voting machines are not equipped with a paper trail here, or throughout New Jersey in 2020 is unacceptable. We have a State with a highly educated population with some of the greatest educational institutions in the country and yet, we lag in our commitment to secure elections.”

Board of Chosen Freeholders is a seven-member group of elected part-time officials serving as the legislative branch of county government, formulating policy and checking the powers of the Mercer County Executive. This year, two seats are open with two Democratic candidates running unopposed. Like that of County Clerk, a vote for them signifies confidence in their jobs.

Board of Chosen Freeholder Candidates: John A. Cimino (D) and Lucylle R. S. Walter (D)

John A. Cimino is a Director of Sales & Marketing for an environmental consulting company and has spent the past decade as a part-time Freeholder, including two terms as President. He had previously served several roles in Hamilton municipal development. Cimino cites his involvement in preserving more than 1,000 acres of open space as his greatest Freeholder accomplishment.

“We are fortunate to have a recurring funding source via our open space tax that voters have overwhelming supported over the years for us to have an Open Space program as well as a Farmland Preservation program.”

Upon re-election, Cimino hopes to continue to protect our environment and balance that with the need for economic growth. He sees carefully modernizing Trenton Mercer Airport as a tool to drive more economic resources to our area.

“The airport allows Mercer County to open our region and brand Mercer County as a destination with our rich history and quality of life,” explains Cimino. “The County should also take a more prominent role in working with the City of Trenton to drive economic growth. The City has tremendous potential and the County should be partnering with the City as it looks towards revitalization of its community.”

Hoping to continue working alongside Cimino, Lucylle R. S. Walter is a Special Education teacher who has held the role of Freeholder since 1998. Prior to her county role, Walter served on the Ewing Board of Education and for the municipality. Having worked through 21 county budgets, she feels she helped prepare Mercer for the pandemic.

“Mercer County was in a better position to weather this crisis than many governmental bodies across the state because of the stability of our long-term budgeting. I spearheaded and supported budgets that funded needed services while maintaining a surplus for use in times of crisis,” notes Walter.

Looking ahead, budgeting remains an important issue for her to ensure public safety and additional election costs are properly accounted for. This all must be balanced with supporting job opportunities in the area.

“As an elected official I will continue progress in support of small business owners as they emerge from the economic damage of COVID and also support major employers such as the hospitals, universities and Fortune 500 companies that reside in Mercer County,” Walter adds.

Locally, though there are many candidates running unopposed, it is important to cast your vote. New Jersey doesn’t have any state legislative races during a Presidential election year but nationally, there is opposition in both the Senate and Congress races.


In addition to the Presidential race, it is important to know that in this part of NJ, you are voting for one Congressperson and one Senator this election.

U.S. House of Representatives (Congress): There are 435 Congressman/Congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives. Princeton votes for the 12th Congressional district, for which the seat is open this year.

Congressional Candidates: Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) and Mark Razzloi (R) as well as two additional candidates, Edward “NJ Weedman” Forchion and Kenneth J. Cody (Truth Vision Hope). We’ll highlight the major party candidates here.

Bonnie Watson Coleman is the incumbent.  After serving 8 terms in the NJ State Assembly, she has represented our area, the 12th Congressional District, since 2015. Watson Coleman is the first African American Woman to represent NJ in Congress.

“She is a strong fighter for progressive values and has dedicated herself to the service of her community” her website details.

A supporter of the recent economic stimulus package, Watson Coleman has spent her tenure working for vulnerable populations, for healthcare coverage for all, to help women, and against discrimination.

Hoping to unseat her is Republican Mark Razzoli. A former Democrat, Razzoli changed parties, stating Democrats have gone too far left. A retired detective from the Jersey City Police Department, he is currently an Old Bridge Councilman.

“I don’t consider the role of representing the people of the 12th Congressional District in terms of being in a position of power. My Democrat opponent, and many other Democrats these days, have forgotten that the power of this great nation is wielded by its citizens,” he shares.

In an effort to regain the trust of the Americans, Razzoli is in support of lower taxes, a stronger economy, and less interference from state government.

“From listening to and talking with the people of the 12th, they want a representative who will not sacrifice public safety for votes,” he adds. “I’ve also made my position on issues crystal clear. For example, I will never apologize to Iran or China for defending the United States of America. I also oppose the BDS movement against Israel. We should be supporting our allies, not using them to advance a radical agenda.”

U.S. Senate: There are 100 U.S. Senators, two from each state. NJ will elect one this year and another in 2024.

Senate Candidates: Senator Cory Booker (D) is running against Rik Mehta (R) as well as three 3rd party candidates, Veronica Fernandez (Of, By, For!), Daniel Burke ((LaRouche Was Right) and Madelyn R. Hoffman (Green Party). We’ll highlight the major party candidates here.

Cory Booker has been NJ Senator since 2013. Stamford, Oxford and Yale trained, Booker went from Mayor of Newark to U.S. Senator where his focus is on criminal justice and equal justice and opportunity for everyone.

“Cory believes in an economy that values American workers and benefits everyone, not just the privileged few,” states his website. “He is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans, has advocated to expand access to health care to every American, and is committed to addressing climate change with an eye toward its impact on vulnerable communities.”

A first generation American, Rik Mehta was trained at Rutgers University, University of Arkansas and Georgetown University as a pharmacist and a lawyer and is a biotech entrepreneur. He spent time working at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Consumer Safety Officer and is focused on healthcare reform. If elected, Mehta hopes to work hard to counter the pandemic.

“The Federal Government should immediately release the remaining $135 Billion in unspent funds appropriated for small business loans, and reopen the application process for small business owners that employ fewer than 100 people,” his website notes. “Priority should be given to business under state mandate to remain closed, and those which have not been allowed to fully reopen.”

As there are ample resources dedicated to informing voters about the Presidential race, we won’t do that here. But as a NJ voter, there are also three public questions to vote on this year.


There are some provisions the NJ State Legislature is not able to act upon without amendments to the NJ state constitution. Therefore, public questions are placed on the ballot. Yes votes for these questions will create the amendments. Don’t miss them, the public questions are on the backside of your ballot.


The legalization of marijuana in NJ.

  • Voting YES for this question would mean that you support legalizing the use and possession of cannabis by anyone age 21 and older.
  • Voting NO would mean you would like it to remain prohibited.

This constitutional amendment would also make it legal to cultivate, process and offer retail sale of marijuana. If passed, the NJ State Legislature and Cannabis Regulatory Commission would then devise limits on possession and how/where it can be grown and sold. Medical Marijuana has been legal in NJ since 2010.


Extending property tax relief to all honorably-discharged military veterans, regardless of whether or not they served during a time of war.

  • Voting YES for this question would mean that peacetime veterans would be able to deduct $250 in property taxes, veterans that incurred permanent service-related disabilities but didn’t serve in wartime would get 100% property tax exemption, and the surviving spouse of those veterans would continue to receive the deduction or exemption upon their death.
  • Voting NO would mean the $250 property tax deduction and 100% property tax exemption are not extended to those that did not serve in a time of war nor to their surviving spouses.

For honorably-discharged veterans, there already exists a $250 property tax deduction and a 100% property tax exemption for disabled veterans, both that served during a time of war. Widows and widowers of wartime veterans also currently receive the benefit after the veteran’s death. This would extend that opportunity to those that served in the military or became disabled during peacetime military service.


Allow the state’s legislative redistricting to be postponed if there is a delay in receiving the latest Federal Census data.

  • Voting YES means you will allow the 2021 elections to take place using the existing 2020 state districting layout and enact the constitutional change for future cycles.
  • Voting NO means you require the new districts to be created as currently required, within one month of receiving the Census data, or February 1st (whichever date is later)

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the collection of Census data that is used to create the state legislative districts. This data ensures that residents have equal representation from elected officials. There is concern that if this information isn’t received by February 15, 2021, there will not be enough time for new districts to be drawn for use in the 2021 State legislative primary and general elections. If not received by that date, this amendment would allow the existing districts to be used for 2021, and then redistrict, as necessary, based on the new data for use in the 2023 state elections. This would not just affect the 2021 elections, it would be a permanent change for all Federal Census cycles going forward.


There is no question this election is unique. Voting options are state-mandated and vary greatly, and it is unlikely winners will be known close to the November 3rd election date.

Due to Governor Murphy’s Executive Order for Vote-by-Mail and guidelines by the State Division of Elections, the deadline for counting of the ballots by the Mercer County Board of Elections has been extended to November 20th.

The Board of Elections counts the votes, then the County Clerk certifies them. Covello must have certification complete by November 23rd. The NJ Board of State Canvassers must then meet and certify the result of the general election by December 8th. So, unless there is a legal battle, that is likely the latest date we will know how New Jerseyans voted.

Princeton Board of Education Candidates, Simplified

In Princeton, 48% of your tax bill goes towards the schools. That money goes into the budget of the Board of Education (BOE), overseen by 10 elected members (9 from Princeton, one from Cranbury). It has become the most contested local race for these November elections with eight candidates running for three open spots – two incumbents, one former BOE member and five newcomers.

The Official School Board Election Ballot lists the candidates in columns I through N at the bottom of your ballot. It is important to note 3 of the candidates (a slate) are listed together in one column, but they are individual candidates. You are able to vote for any three running candidates, in any combination.

The candidates have put themselves out there for voters to know, through forums, Q&As, promotions and more. In our attempt to inform you as a voter, Princeton Perspectives reached out to each candidate and created a simple comparison tool to share their thoughts with you. The more you know, the more informed your vote is.

Simply click on the + next to each candidate’s name to compare their responses to our three important questions.

Why are you running for Board of Education?

I’m running for a second term on the Board of Education because I believe effective, equitable public education is the cornerstone of our democracy, and I care deeply about preparing our students for the future. I’m the daughter of immigrants; my family benefitted enormously from public schools, and we were taught the importance of giving back to our community. During my first term on the Board, we made big changes and accomplished a lot for our students; I’d love to continue the work and build on the positive momentum we have going. Selecting a new permanent superintendent, mapping out a strategic plan for the future, making real strides towards equity, planning how to welcome more students in appropriate learning environments.
I want to maintain excellent and affordable schools for all Princetonians. While the schools have incredible financial resources available to them, Princeton Public School has the 3rd highest spending per student of 97 school districts in our peer group. And yet in the past, I believe we have had mis-managed budgets lay off people who do the essential work, teachers and Academic Intervention Specialist coordinators (AIS). New Jersey itself has the highest property taxes of any state in the country and the schools in town are responsible for 48 percent of the tax bill. This is unacceptable to me. By cutting wasteful spending, living more within our means, and favoring our essential teachers over non-essential and expensive construction projects, as part of the board I can help us drive money back into classrooms and ensure that there is respect and transparency throughout the district.
I seek to serve each student and their family, the administrative and support staffs, as well as the broader community of local advocates, volunteers and taxpayers--all of whom are Princeton's "educating community" by sharing the assets of my professional and personal background to further equip the Princeton Public Schools in fulfilling its mission. The assets I bring to service on the BOE include experience leading and working with innovative educational, advocacy and youth-serving organizations and communities; identifying, nurturing and mentoring talented leaders; and leading processes of envisioning the future, planning for growth and change and development of resources to advance excellent opportunities for all.
With the myriad challenges facing our schools, the new administration at PPS, and the growing movement across our country surrounding racial justice and equality and opportunity for all, I am seeking the opportunity to lend my skills, intellect, and helping hands. My approach to problem solving is practical, and as a lawyer and social worker, I've been trained to look at issues from all sides. I tend to rely on research, data, and collaboration and conversation with people who hold both differing and similar vantage points. The role of a Board of Education member is to set goals, offer guidance and implement policy to support and enable the administration to run the District and provide the best education possible for our children that the community can afford. If elected, my goal is to work hard and to do so collaboratively and openly to strengthen our schools and community. I would do this by bringing my experience and ideas as well as the ability to work well with others. My family and I appreciate all that we've been fortunate to experience as residents in Princeton. I'd like to give back and work to help foster consensus and collaboration around difficult issues facing our public schools.
I was on the board for three years with my term ending at the end of 2019. I considered whether or not to run again last year but I was too frustrated at the lack of (1) openness at the top levels for new and creative ideas and (2) a willingness to make changes. However, with an interim superintendent and the opportunity to help select a new superintendent, I saw an opportunity for our district become a leader rather than a follower, but that was not enough to sway me. Then I found creative thinkers like Paul Johnson and Karen Lemon who were willing to form a slate to give the majority needed to make real changes. That pushed me over the edge to throw my hat in the ring as part of a slate of candidates.
As the late, great John Lewis so eloquently put it, “To get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” We are at a crossroads in our society and we must be proactive rather than reactive. It is time for a change on our school board, it is time we tackle our issues of equity/equality head on, without reserve. It is time for us to be honest with ourselves and admit we have fallen short of the promises we have made to our children in this town. We have failed to be leaders for social justice and reform. I am running because I believe I can be part of the necessary change which will ensure our students and families a better tomorrow. I am running because I genuinely care about the outcome of my five children, three of whom attend Princeton Public Schools (grades 3, 5 and 11) as well as all the children in our community. Most importantly I will work tirelessly until every kid and every family in our town feels like they belong. I will make sure our schools remain diverse, our town remains affordable, and there will forever be trust and transparency between the board and the public.
My biggest concern is the current Board of Education leadership believes we just need consistency. I believe we need strategic and creative leadership if we want to deliver excellent education and support our community in remaining affordable. The achievement of our low-income students, black and brown students, and special needs students has stagnated. We need to focus on the success of all children, and this is not sufficiently occurring today. 48% of our tax dollars go towards our schools. I believe there is an opportunity to improve spending through reducing the use of consultants, leveraging the reduction in our costs associated with bonds retiring in 2022 and 2023, implementing efficiency measures (i.e. I would look to move some of our IT resources to the cloud and consider shared services), and going after public and private partnerships. This will allow us to address not only the opportunity gap of our students but ensure we can meet critical capacity and facility needs, while working to hold the line on our taxes. Along with Paul Johnson and Bill Hare, I believe we can regain our reputation for providing excellence in education for all students, in a diverse community while doing so in an affordable manner. This must be done by including the voices of our teachers, families, and community members. We will push for a transparency as the board makes decisions on spending your tax dollars. We know that building community trust is critical in all working together.
I am a candidate for re-election to the Princeton Board of Education because in these critical times, our challenges require thoughtful, experienced and independent leadership. We have a great school system, and I am committed to ensuring that it is great for every child.

Why should voters choose you?

I have a proven track record of making progress for our kids. Under my leadership, by working collaboratively as a board, with our administrative team, community partners and expert volunteers, we’ve addressed a pandemic and moved the District forward on multiple fronts. I bring professional skills in law, finance and governance; two decades of committed community service in Princeton; experience with PPS as a parent and volunteer, and; strong relationships with my board and district colleagues, across the community and around the State. In the past two years while I’ve been Board President, we’ve successfully hired a team of talented senior administrators and found significant cost savings (over $500,000 to balance the budget pre-COVID), stabilized District finances (we’ve got a $3 million surplus to cushion against at least $1.4 million in COVID-related expenses and uncertainty in future State funding), made big strides in improving our facilities (implementing taxpayer-approved referendum projects, updating school facilities with HVAC and health and safety improvements and hired a new facilities director who has jump-started building maintenance and cleanliness) and made concrete progress in support of equity for all students (initiating free Pre-K with dual-language and 3/4 classes, adopting a restorative justice approach to discipline and approving a revenue-neutral, strategic device initiative that provides all students equal access to technology through district-owned computers and providing broadband connectivity thanks to an anonymous donor).
Education is in my family's blood. I am a teacher at the State Division of Children and Families (DCF) working with at-risk students in Trenton. I grew up in Princeton and went through the entire Princeton Public School (PPS) system, from kindergarten to high school. My mother was a teacher in the then Princeton Regional Schools (PRS) for over 35 years, while my father was the President of the BOE during the tumultuous late '60s to early '70s. I believe that my background and experience can help prioritize spending on that which is most important for our students and community. It is my opinion that in the past too many members of the BOE have blindly supported the Superintendent and his administration without asking all the tough questions or exploring every option. As a BOE member and an independent thinker, I promise to scrutinize closely all spending requests and leave no path undiscovered.
I'm not running against anyone, but FOR all the constituents of the Princeton School District and community. I'll let people (voters) make their choices based on their knowledge and appreciation of each of our qualifications. Though I'm not a native Princetonian, I've served the community in a variety of ways as a past member of the planning board, past district committeeman (D), member of the Municipal Consolidation Transition Task Force, chair of the Jim and Fannie Floyd Scholarship Committee of MCCC, active participant in the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association, and others. I helped start the Academic Success Today program at the then, John Witherspoon Middle School with Principal Johnson and Mrs. Linda Meisel, Corner House Executive Director; the High Quest--A Bridge to Success (now Summer Bridge) program of the Princeton-Blairstown Center when I was Executive Director (1993-2004) and brought programs of experiential and social/emotional/character development to Princeton, Newark and Trenton schools.
I think my professional skills and background combined with volunteer service help to position me to serve as an effective member of the Board of Education. My work has enabled me to: (1) learn how a premier nonprofit educational institution functions at the highest level; (2) counsel organizations on an array of practical, strategic and legal issues; (3) manage and negotiate contracts while stewarding resources; and (4) effect strong public policy using evidence and data to inform decision-making. I currently lead the contracts management program in the Office of Finance and Treasury at Princeton University. Prior to that, I practiced law and served as policy director for NJ Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker. I enjoyed five years as the liaison between Princeton University's Office of the President and its Office of Development during a large capital campaign. As an attorney, I have counseled non-profits, municipalities, school districts and a union and spent six years with City of Philadelphia Law Department defending cases in state and federal court. Prior to earning my law degree, I was a hospice social worker in Philadelphia.
The board of education is arguably the most important elected position in Princeton with the goal of educating our kids and overseeing a budget of about $100,000,000. Recognizing the importance of the board of education on every resident of Princeton, Paul, Karen and I sought each other out with the objective of making a difference. Paul’s family has been here for four generations, Karen and her wife want to be here for life, and I don’t plan on ever moving away from our house on Jefferson Road. By necessity, the future of Princeton is important to us. We have some common goals, such as reducing the achievement gap while keeping Princeton affordable and bringing some much-needed transparency to the Board of Education. But each of us brings a different perspective. When I was on the board I focused on searching for cost savings that would provide significant savings to the district. To name a few savings we recommended: (1) start patients on generic versus brand drugs, (2) move to high deductible health insurance plans with accompanying health savings account, (3) switch the specialty pharmaceuticals provider, (4) regularly review bus routes and usage and then rework the bus routes to ensure a desired level of capacity, and (5) provide supervisors the opportunity to teach at least one or two classes. All of these would save money, none of these would have a negative impact on education or on the employees of the district. Some would have been easier to attain than others but I was frustrated at the lack of willingness at the top to push for these savings. Paul, Karen and I believe that running as a slate of candidates for the board of education is the best way to achieve these goals.
Voters should choose me because I am a 4th generation Princetonian, who is as much vested in this school system as anyone else in our town. Not only do I have skin in the game with three kids who attend Princeton Schools we have a blended family consisting of different races, religions, as well as a special needs child, which gives us insight to many of the issues kids and families deal with on an everyday basis. It has been my life’s work as a student-athlete, coach and mentor to help kids from all walks of life reach their full potential. While we have many other issues, we must also tackle as school board members I believe it is essential that we always remember to keep the children at the forefront, because they are truly what matters at the end of the day. They are our driving force and our guiding light; they will lead us to a brighter tomorrow. I not only have the passion to drive PPS to become a leader and example to the rest of the world, I also have the fortitude to stand up to status quo when it falls short and hinders progress. I have always been a leader and captain and in this position, you can expect nothing less from me.
Paul, Bill and I are running as a slate. We are doing so because we have a vision which we believe is different from those running and those currently leading the board. Our vision is to: Ensure all children receive an equal opportunity education in a safe and nurturing environment; Ensure all parents, guardians, families, staff and our community have a voice in our district; Ensure we can all live and grow and work in a diverse and affordable community. We are also running because we have specific; near term actions we want to put in place to realize the vision. Examples include: accelerating equity training and implementing a cultural awareness course for all rising freshmen, establishing forums for dialoguing with staff and families including the Board of Education meetings, and implementing common sense budget efficiency measures. Then we want to measure how we are doing and share it with the community. Speed is important. The student opportunity gap has existed for years. Leadership and action are needed.
In one word, experience. As a 30-year resident of Princeton, I have served in a variety of roles, serving the community as an elected (Mayor and Township Committee) and appointed official (Commissioner, Princeton Housing Authority) and as a volunteer (Girl Scout Leader; Member, Princeton United Methodist Church). While the other candidates have stated a commitment to equity, fiscal responsibility and excellence, I have a record of service that demonstrates that commitment. As Board Vice Chair, Chair of the Equity Committee and the Labor Negotiations committee, and a member of the Policy and Personnel Committees, I have gained intimate knowledge of the strengths and challenges facing our schools. I am the parent of two children who have attended Princeton Public Schools and excelled. I want the same for all children. And most important, I know how to get the job done.

If elected, what is your top priority and how would you tackle it?

My top priority would be to continue to focus on and improve the experience of our students in the Princeton Public Schools. I want our students to overwhelmingly report that they feel welcome, affirmed, engaged, safe and comfortable in our schools. I want them to report, as graduates, that we have met their needs and that they are prepared for the next step on their life journey. This requires us to listen carefully to student voices and hear how the policies and processes we adopt at the board level play out for our kids -- of every color, ethnicity, ability, sexual preference or otherwise -- on a daily basis. This requires the Board to (i) hire a superintendent who can inspire and lead the PPS organization, as a team, forward toward this vision, and (ii) support and partner in developing and achieving clear and measurable goals — around equity, curriculum and climate, facilities and finances — step by step, year by year, to make it happen.
We need to use our existing facilities more efficiently. Educational capacity at Princeton High School (PHS) and John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) is based upon a utilization factor of 75 to 80 percent. I believe we cannot afford to leave 20 to 25 percent of our classroom space vacant. I feel we should be able to increase utilization to 90 percent with class scheduling software and other efficiencies. I favor teachers over expensive new facilities. We need to take better care of the buildings that we have. I also favor cost-effective and affordable solutions for projected enrollment growth such as adding a classroom into existing schools such as Johnson Park (JP) or Riverside (RS), or the middle school if necessary. JP and Riverside have beautiful campuses with room to add a wing with 6 to 8 classrooms cost effectively, for expansion. Also, I would not support a new facilities referendum before the old referendum debt is fully repaid on February 1, 2022 and February 1, 2023. I will only support the current $27 million referendum that reflects our genuine needs. I will not support a facilities referendum that burdens the operating budget and could lead to tax increases and reduction in teaching staff.
My top and immediate priority as a member of the BOE is to ensure that students, families, teachers, and staff who are returning to school now--in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other issues that have brought considerable disruption to life--have all the support and resources they need for their education, including their emotional and social well-being. I've kept abreast of the work the current board and the Interim Superintendent and staff are doing to facilitate the most positive learning experience for all students. I applaud them for all they have done! As a new member of the BOE I will join in the efforts by offering my support and experience in helping organizations in times of crisis and transition. Concurrent with this priority is, of course, the hiring of a new permanent superintendent. I will actively participate in this process, ensuring that the school district seeks and hires a person of broad, deep, innovative and effective experience in leading excellent, broadly diverse and fully equitable education for all students.
If pressed to choose a single priority, it would be the hiring of an experienced superintendent with strong management skills and a demonstrated commitment to the principles of equity, access and inclusion. A strong leader will help us address the other challenges we face, which are: Protecting the health, wellness and safety of our children, families, teachers and staff as we face the pressures of educating our children during a pandemic; Closing the achievement and opportunity gaps; Providing our children with meaningful racial literacy tools and instruction while fostering authentic dialogue within our schools; Ensuring equity for all of our kids and charting the path forward to ensure that all of our children receive an education to enable them to lead lives of joy and purpose; Facilities planning and maintenance in the face of growth in student enrollment; Educating our children as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible; Advocating for legislative changes to support our schools and community.
My top priority is reducing the achievement gap while keeping Princeton affordable. While technically I’ve given two top priorities, they are closely related. Reducing the achievement gap will have a cost and we need to apply some new creativity to control costs, reduce the achievement gap, and stay within or below the 2% cap. Based on my three years on the board, I fail to see why this isn’t readily possible. The first step is to make sure the new superintendent we hire is someone who is excited about both reducing the achievement gap and finding/implementing cost savings in our operating budget. The other first step is turning to our teachers, the experts in our district, to tell the board and community what needs to be done to reduce the achievement gap. Based on my own kids’ experience in the district, I’ve seen enough excellent, caring teachers to know we have already hired the experts and we can do this.
The top priority is the issue of equity. It was and has always been the Pandemic before the Pandemic we call COVID-19. We must always begin with acknowledging that this is much bigger than a black-white issue, or a have vs. have-not issue. It is an issue of humanity, an issue of moral code, and most importantly, an issue of self-preservation of the human race. It stretches far beyond the electives and a few online courses of racial literacy. It is that which binds us and ensures that every child can achieve their full potential and know they are loved. It is that driving force that allows our children to know their worth and that we value them. If elected, I believe it is essential that we begin to tackle this issue with our search for the next superintendent, because they will be our leader, our captain who will drive and guide our faculty, staff, and students (our team) to a brighter tomorrow. They will uphold and maintain our goals and values. It is also essential that we use the scope of equity in everything we do from policy to educating and everything in between. It is essential that our efforts don’t fall to the wayside and that they are ingrained in the day to day operations of our institution.
My top priority will always be the safety and wellbeing of our students. To that end, I believe the critical areas of focus are: Diversity- we must respect and support all students and families in our school community; Affordability- Princeton Public Schools receive almost 50% of your property taxes and the Board of Education needs to recognize its impact on the ability for everyone to live in Princeton; Trust- Board of Education members are your voice to the school district and all members should conduct themselves accordingly.
When I ran for the school board in 2017, my priority was achievement of academic and social equity for all students in our schools. That has not changed. For the past three years, I have tackled this complex challenge by considering all issues and decisions through a lens of equity; Exhibiting the courage to speak out AND VOTE for (or against) initiatives that disproportionately favor or disadvantage certain groups of students and District staff; Ensuring that our perspective on students is broad and inclusive and does not neglect the needs of our Special Education, LGBTQ, low income and English Language Learners; Calling for accountability, measurement and objective assessment of the District's stated goals. When they are not met, I have demonstrated a willingness to speak out and withhold support until the desired outcomes are met. Understanding the role of a Board Member (The Board does not run the schools, we make sure that the schools are run well) is not easy and requires that we ask hard questions and make difficult decisions.

Editor’s Note

If you drive through downtown Princeton lately, people are out and about. There may not be as many as there used to be, but it’s not the abandoned wasteland it was in the spring. Diners are enjoying food in make-shift areas outside their favorite restaurants and shoppers are picking up their needs inside open retailers. But are they eating and shopping enough to make up for the turbulent road these businesses have been on since March?

To help our community understand what it is like to own a local business these days, we reached out to several area business organizations and owners. We know sudden closures and physical restrictions on brick-and mortar businesses threw many for a loop, so we wanted to know how they’ve adapted to the times. Some had to lay off or furlough workers, which made the pandemic even tougher. In our September issue of Princeton Perspectives The Working World: Princeton’s Business Climate Today we delve deep into all of these workforce issues.

To be a surviving business, you need customers and clients. What are you doing to support local businesses? Take a look at this month’s Pulse of Princeton for the perspectives of some of our locals.

To really get an understanding of how local owners are faring today, we connected with a variety of establishments. Some are downtown, other’s around town. Some operate as a storefront, others on location. Read COVID Effects: Princeton’s Current Business Climate to get a sense of how this pandemic has affected our local merchants.

Employment – having a job and money to spend – is an essential part of the local financial structure. Princeton’s Employment Status During COVID – How to Find a Job Today shares some good news about employment levels in our area. If you are out of a job or looking for a change, read on to get job hunting tips and find out about the resources available to you – many for free!

It is interesting to learn that certain industries have fared the pandemic better than others. For some, it was due to government restrictions and allowances. For others, it was about the needs of consumers. In Local Businesses Find Stability Through Bouts of Success we share which industries have had the most success in New Jersey, Mercer County and Princeton.

Creativity, forward-thinking and adapting to the times also played a key role in some business’ stability. Personally, I hope online ordering and curbside pick-up stick around for a long, long time! It is fascinating to see what else our local merchants did to maintain customers and ensure their product could reach the local community. Close-up: Adaptations Help Café Turn Adversity into Blessing shares how one local owner worked to ensure a future for his business.

The warm weather months have been a haven for many, allowing people to follow their outdoor passions and businesses to utilize outdoor space. As we enter fall and then winter, there are a lot of unknowns. So, get out today and support our local community.

Then come back to us in October to be well-prepared for the upcoming election. More than 12,000 voters have already used NJ’s new online voter registration tool which launched earlier this month. If you’re not already set up, make sure you’ve registered to vote by October 13th. Mail-in ballots are being sent out October 5th. Princeton Perspectives will provide you with everything you need to know to vote in 2020! If you’re not already on our mailing list, sign up here to get every issue in your inbox!

The Pulse of Princeton: What are people doing to support local businesses?

If you’d like to contribute your video thoughts for a future Pulse of Princeton, please click here and provide your name and email address to be contacted.

COVID Effects: Princeton’s Current Business Climate

Filled with a large variety of local businesses and a vibrant downtown district, Princeton, NJ’s business climate has been greatly affected by the past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since Executive Order 107 was signed by Governor Phil Murphy on March 21, 2020, business as we know it has been altered. Non-essential retail businesses were then closed to the public, essential businesses could stay open at only 50% capacity and work-from-home arrangements were suggested wherever practical. Restaurants opened for outdoor seating on June 15th and non-essential retailers could open at 50% capacity that same day. Most recently, on Friday, September 4th, restaurants and gyms were permitted to open indoors at 25% capacity, as well as arcades, movie theaters and performing arts venues.

According to the latest U.S. Census, there are over 1,500 Princeton-owned businesses. With the exception of a few key industries, most locally-owned brick and mortar merchants have found the pandemic to be a struggle. Kitchen Kapers, a staple in Princeton’s Palmer Square for years, closed its doors in late July. On Nassau Street, Panera is no longer and Princeton Pi closed, stating “current conditions make it impossible for us to operate.” At the Princeton Shopping Center, after 19 years, One-of-a-Kind Consignment Gallery shut its doors September 4th. Marlowe’s Jewelry could no longer maintain the storefront it’s had there since 1989 and left in June.

“In this climate, I couldn’t hold out on a store of that size and continue,” explains owner Marlene Marlowe, who decided to close her store just when the Governor permitted retail spaces to re-open. “I said, I can’t go back knowing I lost 3 months and then and I’m going lose the next few months. I don’t have a spring or fall season. My business is based on repairs and special work, so people did it all year round.”

Courtesy: Marlowe’s Jewelry

Marlowe’s Jewelry is continuing to operate out of her home via her same store phone number and through her website by selling her inventory, making custom jewelry and dropping off batteries to long-time customers around Princeton. She hopes to open up a smaller shop somewhere in town when conditions improve.

“Our local businesses are the heart and character of the community,” insists Christina DiDonato, owner of Bella Boutique in the Princeton Shopping Center. “It’s imperative to our survival during this traumatic time that we keep our money in our town and support each other in every way we possibly can – even when it might be slightly less convenient.”

At the time store closures were mandated in New Jersey, Bella Boutique had just received its spring shipment – it’s second largest of the year. There were also imminent plans to expand into the neighboring storefront, which is still expected but has now been pushed back. Thanks to help of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and through creative efforts to sell merchandise using social media and by dropping off curated boxes of goods to existing customers and their friends, the store stayed relevant and got through the hardest hitting months at about 20% its normal income. It is now slowly building back up.

Courtesy: Bella Boutique

“We’re being very cautious. I’m constantly cleaning and sanitizing, maintaining capacity,” states DiDonato. “I now sell a ton of masks. People are coming out slowly, but people have nowhere to go so even though many clients still have money, they’re not having the same excitement to buy nice clothes. I had to cut out heels and silks and now carry more joggers, loungewear, masks, sanitizer candles and self-care items for home.”

To help move forward, Bella Boutique was one of 70 recent recipients of the Small Business Resiliency Fund grants awarded in August.

“The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation was presented with an opportunity in late March or April,” explains John Goedeke, Foundation President, “to offer grants with a set of criteria, defined by Princeton University and the township, and targeted just to Princeton merchants.”

The $5,000 grants for COVID relief and restart were initiated by Princeton University, committing an initial $250,00 with a promise of up to $100,00 in matching funds if same was raised by the community. The community met that challenge. The university, led by Kristin Appelget and town, led by Mayor Liz Lempert and Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, then joined forces with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Union County Economic Development Corporation to help them to create criteria for earning the grants, manage the process and disseminate the money.

“We’re aware most rents start at $9000, but [the $5,000 grant is] just a little bit of help for some adjustments that needed to be done such as getting hand sanitizer, cleaning products and things like plexiglass for protection between the person taking care of you and the consumer,” comments Esther Tanez, founder and CEO of ESTIR Insurance and a board member and Chair of Membership with the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA). “What we’re trying to do as a PMA is give everyone resources, keep everyone connected and informed.”

To help them through, PMA has been offering weekly Zoom meetings to bring the business owners together. People have been eager to figure out what relationships or expertise they might have to help each other.

Bon Appetit, the longtime eatery and market at Princeton Shopping Center, is having difficulties in the current climate and hopes its relationships might help ensure a future. The owner, William Lettier, is currently working with his landlord to try and adapt the existing business model to find success in a COVID world.

“It’s a tough time for everyone. The food business is no exception and we are struggling,” shares Lettier. “The lunch crowd has disappeared and the everyday shopper has a smaller footprint and they are mostly focused on going to online shopping or just going to traditional grocery stores.”

Courtesy: Landau

Lack of everyday shoppers is also affecting Landau, the 106-year old retailer on Nassau Street, which had temporarily closed March 8th and is trying to figure out how to approach a future for its business.

“It was getting to the point it didn’t make sense to stay open,” says Robert Landau, who partners in the business with his brother. “We started sensing something weird was going on at the end of February, but it was getting worse and worse and the signs in the news weren’t good. Most of our employees are not teenagers and we were sensitive to the fact eldery people were the most susceptible, so why be open? We didn’t want to endanger people’s safety.”

Landau is lucky to have a patient landlord who has worked with them through this time. The store remained closed until the first weekend in August, when it opened with limited hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Most of its clientele are 50 -70-year olds with disposable income – people largely not going out these days. They also feed a lot on traffic from Princeton University, which is now mostly non-existent.

“Now the university is pretty much shuttered and I don’t see anything positive to say about what’s going to happen in Princeton until the university opens and the pandemic eases,” laments Landau. They are working on reaching out to existing customers but his product really relies on people coming into the store.

“Our product isn’t a generic something. It’s, in most cases, something you’ve never heard of or seen before or if you have it’s limited exposure and that made us successful but required you come in and touch it, feel it, try it on.”

Further north on Nassau Street, eatery Qdoba is also feeling the sting of missing university students.

“Definitely not having students around impacted us more.  A lot of them were still here in the spring. But once summer hit, now that they’re gone, we’re realizing sales are going down,” shared Qdoba manager Dida Hous. “Compared to last year, sales were down about 30-40%. Since about late July they’re starting to pick up. Now we’re waiting to see how students not being here will affect our business.”

Palmer Square Management, which manages the retail, residential and office operations for the entire downtown Palmer Square complex, including Nassau Inn, is feeling the squeeze as well.

“Retail leasing is suffering at this time, particularly with so many national tenants filing bankruptcy plans and restaurants (having been) unable to open for indoor dining,” notes Lori Rabon, Vice President of Palmer Square Management and the Nassau Inn. “All tenants are feeling the pressure of the closures and uncertainty of the economy.”

Within their operations, in addition to the loss of two retail tenants, some staff at the Nassau Inn had to be furloughed. However, Madewell is preparing to open soon on Nassau Street, one sign there is positive movement out there, too.

A few blocks up Nassau St., Proof is planning to open in the site that once housed Princeton Pi. Though they believe business could be better, some other retailers in Princeton are feeling the positive vibes, too. Rita’s, a franchise, opened its doors on May 14th at a time many stores remained closed. It’s walk-up window set-up at the Princeton Shopping Center allowed for a safe opening. Owner Jeff Antell couldn’t hold a grand opening celebration, but his debut seems to have worked out.

“We basically turned the lights on and opened and said let’s just see what happens. We had no idea what to expect in terms of what was going to happen. It ended up being great. It was definitely not how I pictured opening.”

Rita’s Princeton didn’t get the spring business it had projected from the Princeton Little League families that were to gather at the nearby baseball fields, the usual shopping center summer concert series that was canceled or from large orders for picnics, family gatherings and other catering because people can’t gather. But the opportunity for people who were stuck home in late spring/early summer to have someplace to go created excitement and customers.

Beyond retailers, the other brick and mortar business hit extremely hard this year is the restaurant industry.

“There’s a number of companies that are dipping into their savings, companies that live on that regular cash flow,” adds Peter Crowley, Executive Director of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Even with the opening of restaurants for 25% (indoors), that’s probably not profitable for restaurants to bring in staff, cooks, food. They’ll have less service but the fixed costs are high.”

Courtesy: La Mezzaluna

La Mezzaluna, an Italian restaurant on downtown’s Witherspoon Street, knew hard times were coming after owner Michele Moriello returned in January from a trip to Italy. Having seen what Europe was starting to experience, he began saving money. The restaurant eeked through the hardest months by providing food to those in need and on the front lines. Local organizations Share My Meals and Feed the Frontlines paid a small stipend for each meal. Additional meals were donated through the buy-one-give-one program created by Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project. In all, Moriello says they cooked 15,000-16,000 meals for these organizations. Then, outdoor dining opened and he was able to open with seating available out front and along the side of the restaurant.

“It was exciting in the beginning, though I was very nervous. I thought people would be nervous, but we got a great response,” exclaims Moriello. “We did amazing business, record-breaking numbers since we opened the outside on Father’s Day weekend. It was so busy, and it never stopped. We make 100s of meals a week.”

One of the reasons La Mezzaluna is benefitting in a way other restaurants aren’t is that it has 24 tables outside with an opportunity to seat 75 customers. Inside, which currently remains closed, there are 22 tables with a 70-guest occupancy. The restaurant is doing 3 times the business of a usual summer and has no plans yet to open for indoor seating.

“When we were cooking meals and the restaurant was closed, I was putting money on my credit cards and believed. I try to always look forward. That’s the type of person I am,” Moriello shares. He has started to look into heaters for his outside dining area. “Now I’m working on the winter, how to make it work, how to make sure I survive but most importantly all my co-workers survive. I could never do anything without them.”

Part of La Mezzaluna’s success was thanks to the help of Josh Zinder and his local firm, Joshua Zinder Architecture & Design who put together the master plan for the town to rework outside dining space in town.

“We put together 3-4 plans, then worked with the town, planned and refined it with them. Then we refined it with the town engineer and the outcome of that was what you see out there today. It’ll be interesting to see whether people want to maintain outdoor dining environments after COVID is gone,” says Zinder.

Business has been moving along is his industry. Light office spaces are attempting to open in some of the vacant retail spaces in town, companies are consolidating from rental spaces into singular buildings and residents are looking to create home office and learning spaces.

Zinder adds, “We have a lot of people asking us to do significant projects on properties they’ve just purchased, commercial is bigger but also residential.” Noting, there has been enough work to keep all of his employees more than busy.

Some of the work is coming out of the now burgeoning realty market which struggled from March thru August. Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty was concerned back in April, getting by with the help of the PPP loan. As of mid-August, Princeton home sales were still down 7% overall in contracts this year from last year.

“January and February were the busiest first quarter in a long time. It was interesting to have such a busy time then March came, we were cranking along, then the back half fell off. April was down 73% versus a year ago (pending contract sales for that month),” notes managing member Judson Henderson.

Late April, people started to come to our area from places including New York City, Philadelphia, Hoboken and Jersey City looking for housing. By June, pending contracts were up 3%, with an 84% increase in July and a 27% increase in August compared to one year ago.

“That first wave was very much people abandoning leases and not just high end – more people were leaving $3,200/month Brooklyn rentals and buying their first house for $600,000 in Lawrence or Hopewell,” Henderson adds. The Princeton market, with an average home sale price of $1.025m, saw the rise come in August. “There wasn’t as much exposure for us in the high end.”

To date there have now been 12 deals over $2m, versus 16 this time a year ago. 8 of those 12 have been since July 24th. As of September 10th, Princeton has 102 houses on the market. Bidding wars on houses, mostly those that are turnkey and allow one to move right in, have become common as of late, though buyers may become more selective if the inventory keeps increasing. Features including a swimming pool and a home office have also been sought out. The volatility of the market leaves one not knowing what to expect for the rest of the year, but there is hope in the next big season.

“It stands to reason we’ll have a busy spring. In Princeton the number of rentals was up by 8% through August, and I think a lot of those people will be buyers in the spring,” says Henderson.

A busy spring would be great for all businesses around Princeton. But first, they must get through the winter months. Peter Crowley reminds us that “every dollar you spend in the community is $.88 back to the community.”  So, merchants want to make sure you know – if we want to keep having local, keep supporting local.

Local Businesses Find Stability Through Bouts of Success

It has been a difficult time to own and run a business – for many! While some saw business stop or drop off with the arrival of COVID-19 and are struggling to stay open, others found a surge in business is helping to even out the bad times.

According to the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce (PMRCC), industries including commercial HVAC, cleaning services, construction and digital marketing companies have seen great strides through this time. Liquor stores, bike stores, local farms, furniture stores and technology companies have also seen spikes and our local owners are hopeful it will pull them through the winter months.

“Companies thriving in that secondary sense are really just surviving and moving forward as opposed to blowing it out the doors,” states PMRCC Executive Director Peter Crowley.

A June survey by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) showed only 2.45% of NJ businesses (NJBIA members and members from other partnering business associations who are participating in the New Jersey Business Coalition) are operating and performing better than normal with 1.8% experiencing a surge in revenue. Though our local WalMart has closed, other locations and “Big Box” companies seem to have fared the best overall, thanks to the classification as essential services.

“They’ve really crowded out our mom and pops,” explains NJBIA CEO Michele Siekerka. “WalMart was able to stay open and provide all of their services, not just essential food, but the downtown clothing store was forced to close. Now there’s the convenience of ‘I can go to WalMart and buy food and at the same time buy clothes for my children,’ whereas otherwise you might have gone to the downtown store to get clothing for your child.”

Siekerka states that Best Buy and other stores where you would buy computers or office furniture have seen strong sales. Locally, technology companies found success on the tails of these stores, because when the pandemic hit, big chains weren’t initially sending techs into people’s homes.

“We found workarounds for that with Zoom meetings and having clients show us their homes on their phones and we could walk them through how to set up their router that way,” explained Alison Rush, who owns Technician X, with her husband Chris. The company specializes in computer repair and upgrades, basic IT support and networking servers with a small storefront in Skillman.

Technician X saw a 50% increase in sales and service in the first weeks of the pandemic. Once the initial set-up panic leveled out, a 25% increase has helped them through the past several months. The normal back-to-school increase isn’t happening this year, but business is still on the busier side.

“It was in such huge demand making the switchover so businesses, parents and students could all make the switch from work and school to being home in a safe fashion,” shares Rush. The furniture industry has also seen a change during the pandemic.

“If you look at stores like Raymour and Flannigan – these bigger furniture stores – they are doing better because people are at home, trying to fix up houses. If people have to work and spend this much time at home, they need to have a nice office,” shared Christine Curnin, PMRCC’s Head of Membership Development. One industry insider told Princeton Perspectives that business at Raymour and Flannigan may be up as much as 35%. Local furniture stores, like Homestead Princeton, have seen some spike in specific furniture sales but it’s not all rosy.

“We did get the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program loan) and have been able to hire the large majority of our employees back, but it’s affected all small businesses,” states Kristin Menapace, owner of Homestead Princeton with her husband, Ron. That being said, there has been some uptick in local furniture purchases. “Because of the pandemic and everything going on with people at home, working from home, we’ve definitely seen an increase in the need for desks but also redoing spaces because they’re spending more time at home.”

Overall, Homestead Princeton feels a significant impact from the forced closure of their brick and mortar store from mid-March until June 15th, though it did maintain an online and call-in/curbside presence. A staple in Palmer Square since 2012, it recently relocated to the old Princeton packet building on Witherspoon Street.

With people seeking outdoor activities more than ever, local bike shop Kopp’s Cycle didn’t have a big box competitor to contend with and the start of the pandemic was very rewarding.

“Business did get busy when things started in March and April and the guys at the shop were working day and night to make people happy,” explains owner Charles Kuhn.

America’s oldest bike shop, which first opened in 1891, tells Princeton Perspectives it saw a 10% increase last spring, but also had to cover increased payroll and overhead. And while cycling became and has remained extremely popular, the supplies have not. Tires and tubes are on backorder and there’s little product to market.

“We’re doing the best we can, but because of shortages, we’re not able to take advantage of the business that’s out there and available,” Kuhn adds. “I’m realizing the business we have done already this summer is what’s going to carry us through the winter.”

Kopp’s Cycle is missing the arrival of 10,000+ Princeton University students and a back-to-school cycling craze that usually makes September its best month of the year.

The liquor store industry also saw a big early spike in sales. Joe Canal’s in Lawrenceville experienced a huge surge when the isolation measures went into effect.

“We were doing probably 400-500 online orders a day compared to pre-COVID which was about 20 a day. There was quite a change,” says Isaiah Pettis, a store manager. “Things started to level out by mid-May. We’re still doing well but it is definitely not the rush we were seeing in spring.”

One smaller local Princeton liquor store shared they saw an increase in sales of items like cocktails, bitters and other supplies needed to be a home bartender when people realized they couldn’t get out during the pandemic.

Solid through the past six months has been the hardware store industry, which was deemed an essential operation and was able to stay open and continue serving their communities. Recent research conducted by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) shows 87% of the independently owned hardware stores, home centers and lumberyards are reporting that same-store sales have increased over 2019 and the NJBIA has seen it surge in New Jersey as well. Ace Hardware in Princeton Shopping Center is among those stores that has seen success this year. NRHA has found that amongst those reporting a 2020 increase, the average increase in sales is about 24.5%.

According to Food Marketing Institute’s 2020 Power of Produce report, 69% of consumers look for locally grown or produced foods. Two-thirds buy produce at farmer’s markets, and six in 10 shop at a farmer’s market at least occasionally. That explains why anecdotal evidence from area farmers indicates business has been good and solid, above normal. When locals were anxious about going into supermarkets in March and April, turning to outdoor or smaller local farm stores felt safer. Peter Furey, Executive Director of NJ Farm Bureau, says this was a great advantage to many.

“Since local farm markets opened, they’ve been selling like crazy. It’s the outdoor experience, safety and that’s what’s helped them. It’s true for the garden centers as well. Potted plants, landscaping – people were home because of the pandemic and started gardening like crazy.”

Alec Gioseffi left his Princeton-area farm in October to become farm manager at Ironbound Farm in Hunterdon County. Ironbound has experienced this unexpected craze.

“We have not stopped since the pandemic happened. The demand has grown to be larger than what we can actually produce. However, we’ve had to shift how we get product to a consumer,” said Gioseffi.

Ironbound was planning to phase out its dwindling Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share business, then COVID hit and instead it grew 5x. They also shifted from wholesale business with restaurants and now partner with two home distribution businesses. One distributor in Brooklyn went from servicing 300 boxes pre-COVID to 3,000 boxes a week with a multi-thousand-person waitlist. To support the buy-local trend, Ironbound has turned its tasting room into a farm store and utilized outdoor space for dining facilities. Mercer County farms also adjusted their structure to take advantage of the local desires as Meredith Melende, Agricultural Agent III at Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County explains.

“Some farms shifted their planting schedules to accommodate consumer demand for spring greens, others maxed out on their CSA shares, and many implemented online sales and varying pick-up methods and locations.”

What must be noted is that even though sales have been strong, additional labor expenses and out-of-pocket costs such as protective gear, plexiglass dividers and the need to pre-package produce instead of having it in open bins has increased farmer’s costs. So, while the sales may have seen an increase, the profit isn’t extraordinary. The hope, for many of the farmers that Furey has spoken to, is that the discovery of locally grown and sold food is one that will carry over with consumers and not just be a phase of the pandemic.

Personal life coaching thrived as a business in the weeks after the isolation measures went into effect.

“People needed immediate support, their life was falling apart,” notes Anais Bailly, who owns the NJ-based consulting and coaching practice ABM Structured Solutions.

The life coaching takes places mostly over the phone, so it was easy to address the need without leaving home. After June, when the social justice movement began to build, more diversity, equity and inclusion training requests began to come in. Many companies are seeking out ways to ensure they are complying in this way.

“If you’re really trying to be a multi-cultural and inclusive institution, we have to address what the people of that organization feel,“ adds Bailly.

It’s a business that is building, and Bailly and her husband were able to transition their practice into a virtual one to keep up with the trainings.

These business owners know they are lucky to be in industries that have seen bursts in a time many are struggling, and all know they have to stay innovative and vigilant. There is hope amongst all of them that the surges will continue, and if not, the ones they’ve experienced will be enough to sustain them forward and through the unknowns of what lies ahead.