Since Revolutionary times, strong and accomplished women have helped shape life in Greater Morristown.
The Morristown Women In Business honored some of them at its March meeting, in a place that symbolizes the entrepreneurial achievements of modern ladies.
Sima Hakakian welcomed guests to J&S Designer Flooring. She and her husband Javid emigrated from Iran a quarter-century ago and built a thriving business on Mount Kemble Avenue that now includes a 20,000-square-foot showroom and 30 employees.
“We did it with an engine running on ambition and hard work,” Sima said with pride.
Photos by Bill Lescohier and Kevin Coughlin. Please click icon below for captions.
Carol Barkin of the Morris County Tourism Bureau recounted contributions by Abigail Byram Condict, a Mendham woman who traced her lineage to the Mayflower and helped keep Revolutionary War soldiers fed and clothed when they encamped in Morristown for two long winters.
During the Gilded Age, Morristown became known as the “inland Newport,” with perhaps the greatest concentration of wealth in history, Carol said. By 1906, a hundred families worth $1 million resided here, in mansions inspired by the baronial castles of Europe. Carol estimates these families were worth a combined $450 million–nearly $11 billion in today’s dollars.
Many captains of industry–robber barons, some called them–who hung their hats in Morristown now are forgotten. But the good works of two wealthy women live on.
Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge and Elizabeth Donnell Kay each inherited vast sums of oil money and were beloved as great philanthropists when they died.
Madison owes its magnificent town hall and train station to the Dodge family, Carol said, and the Morristown-based Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation continues to support artistic, environmental and journalistic causes.
Elizabeth Donnell Kay bequeathed her 233-acre Hidden River Farm in Chester to the Morris County Park Commission, which renamed the farm the Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center to honor her vision of “a place where each day would bring a new wonder and challenge to learn.” She also left her rare botanical book collection to the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE, ONCE CUSTOMER AT A TIME
Cathy Earnhardt, Kathleen Ginty Hyland and Mary Agnes Parker, and Wendy Taffet are making a difference on a more personal scale. They were honored as owners of successful shops in Morristown, and as role models who have balanced the demands of business with raising families.
Cathy left a career as an art teacher 32 years ago to start the Dain Shoppe, selling lingerie.
“When you begin, it takes a little bit of courage and a whole lot of inspiration,” said Cathy. She was praised by WIB member Stacey Schlosser not just for adding spice to relationships–but also for helping restore the confidence of women recovering from breast cancer surgery.
“I’ve been so lucky, being able to help women who have gone through a devastating time,” Cathy said. “It’s part of our calling to help one another.”
Kathleen Ginty Hyland and Mary Agnes Parker are the unofficial outfitters of the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade; for three decades they have sold countless cardigans at Ginty’s Irish Gifts on DeHart Street.
What they really are selling is happiness, according to WIB Chairwoman Mary Dougherty, who worked at Ginty’s for six years.
“It’s a happy place. You step in there, you feel happy. The Irish are a happy people,” Mary said.
Kathleen, the former mayor of Morris Township, chalked up her business success to “the beauty of the products we sell… [and] loving our heritage.”
For 28 years, Wendy Taffet has sweetened special occasions with treats from Enjou Chocolat.
Wendy’s career started in a Mary Poppins sort of way. Her very first project in pharmacy school was to create a chocolate syrup to mask the bitter taste of medicine. After three years working for a pharma company, the Morristown native started Enjou.
In her shop next to Ginty’s, Wendy fashions designer candy of all shapes and sizes; the Morristown Beard alum appears frequently on television as an expert on the subject.
“I had a passion for what I’m doing,” Wendy explained. One formula, in particular, helped her surmount many challenges: “I always looked forward. I never looked back.”
The Morristown Women In Business meet again on April 24, 2014, for breakfast at the Hyatt Morristown. See their ad on MorristownGreen.com for more details.