‘Excellent timing’: Benefactors contribute nearly $680K for Morristown business rent relief

Morris Pizzeria owner Farhad Naematulla greets customer Irene Avlonitis, at partial reopening of Morristown businesses, June 15, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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It started last month with an anonymous $250,000 contribution.

More philanthropists stepped forward. Now, 62 Morristown businesses will share nearly $680,000 in pandemic rent relief over the next three months, the Morristown Partnership announced on Friday.

Stacey Schlosser cuts cake, while son Scott snaps photo, Dec. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
HAPPIER TIMES: Stacey Schlosser cuts cake, while son Scott snaps photo, at 15th anniversary of Glassworks Studio, Dec. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“The timing is excellent,” said Stacey Schlosser, who was perilously close to closing Glassworks Studio after 18 years on South Street.

“This is the most astounding thing the Partnership has ever done for my business.”

“It’s a blessing,” added Farhad Naematulla, owner of the Morris Pizzeria. “We’re very thankful to the Morristown Partnership and to everyone who donated.”

“We are beyond grateful to have partnered with a generous anonymous benefactor, who values Morristown and the businesses that make the community so special, to create this Grant Program,”  Jennifer Wehring, executive director of the Partnership, said in a statement

“Once developed, we were able to procure additional donors and with their added support the Partnership now has the honor of distributing grant awards to 62 business applicants – all that applied – in downtown Morristown,” said Wehring.

Pitching in to bolster the Morristown Partnership Commercial Rent Relief Grant Program were the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Joe and Jeanne Goryeb, the F.M. Kirby Foundation, The Ranger Family and Kim and Finn Wentworth.

Grants of up to $20,000 will run from November 2020 through January 2021. The payments will go directly to landlords, who must agree to reduce rents by 20 percent during the grant period.

Lump sum payments are under way, the Partnership said.

CLEANLINESS FIRST: Farhad Naematulla, owner of the Morris Pizzeria, at partial reopening of Morristown businesses, June 15, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Initially, a lottery was advertised to choose which businesses would receive the relief. But the additional donations enabled all the applicants to get help, Wehring said.

The Morris Pizzeria has been among the luckier ones. Thirty-year customers followed the family business to its new South Street location for takeout in the depths of the pandemic.

Naematulla said the rent relief will help the pizzeria regain its economic footing after the costly move, which was forced by the shutdown of the Midtown Shopping Center for the M Station office redevelopment.

He had encouraged his new neighbors to apply for the grants, and was happy to learn they were successful.

“Hopefully, this helps people, and everything stays open,” Naematulla said.

Schlosser had to close her doors from April through June. Since July, she’s faced the daunting challenge of drawing customers back into a basement studio that previously hosted large groups, who socialized while making glass artworks.

Morristown Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Wehring, during virtual meeting with businesses early in the pandemic, March 18, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Despite rigorous safety practices, and reduced capacity, it’s been a hard sell. Prior to the grant, Schlosser told her landlord of nearly two decades that she might fall short on the rent.

“Okay, so when are you out?” was the response, she said, still dismayed.

Schlosser is a former trustee of the Partnership, a nonprofit established in 1994 to promote downtown businesses. It runs the Morristown Farmers Market and (in normal years), fall and Christmas festivals on the Morristown Green.

She credited Wehring with saving the day by recruiting contributors to the relief fund.

“It’s an outstanding level of effort and commitment that she made to keep businesses alive,” Schlosser said. “It’s a big deal.”


From the Morristown Partnership:

62 businesses in downtown Morristown awarded three (3) months of rent 

Morristown, NJ – OCT. 30, 2020. In keeping with its mission to support the Morristown downtown business community, the Morristown Partnership (“Partnership”) is pleased to announce the culmination of the Morristown Partnership Commercial Rent Relief Grant Program (“Grant Program”).

Under the leadership of Jennifer Wehring, executive director of the Partnership, a total of $679,672.00 was raised.

“We are beyond grateful to have partnered with a generous anonymous benefactor, who values Morristown and the businesses that make the community so special, to create this Grant Program. Once developed, we were able to procure additional donors and with their added support the Partnership now has the honor of distributing grant awards to 62 business applicants – all that applied – in downtown Morristown,” said Wehring.

In addition to the initial benefactor, donors contributing to the Grant Program also include the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Joe and Jeanne Goryeb, the F.M. Kirby Foundation, The Ranger Family and Kim and Finn Wentworth. The significance of their generosity is palpable and will not only benefit the businesses receiving awards, but also the residents, surrounding communities and visitors to the downtown.

Applications for the three (3) month rent relief were accepted over the course of 2 weeks beginning in late September, and at the conclusion all applicants were entered into a random lottery system to ensure fair and transparent selection of grant award recipients.

Only businesses selected via lottery were to receive grant awards to be used exclusively for three (3) months of rent, not to exceed $20,000 total, commencing November 2020 and concluding January 2021. While the lottery did go forward as intended, the success of the Partnership’s fundraising efforts allowed for all 62 business applicants that applied to receive awards.

Of note, a mandatory requirement of the application was the participation of the businesses’ property owners; awards were contingent upon their commitment to reduce their tenants rent by 20% for those months. Payment of grant awards, in one lump sum paid directly to the property owners, is underway.

“The Partnership is here to support the business community and thrives on collaboration with individuals, organizations and fellow non-profits in the Morristown community. We encourage long standing and new businesses, as well as those looking to open in Morristown, to utilize our services and communicate their needs so we can continue to make an impact on the community,” Wehring concluded.

A complete list of businesses receiving awards via the Grant Program is available via the Morristown Partnership website at morristown-nj.org/grants. For additional information, please contact the Morristown Partnership via email or call (973) 455-1133.

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Morristown Partnership is a Special Improvement District (SID) created in 1994, designated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. It supports Morristown’s vibrant business district by developing private/public partnerships among business, government, civic and community members. It is self-funded partly through special assessments on commercial properties located in the SID, foundation and/or government grants, promotional participation, sponsorships for community events and financial & in-kind donations.

The Morristown Partnership consists of more than 400 commercial properties and 1,000+ businesses physically located in the SID. If you would like more information on the Morristown Partnership, please visit the website at www.morristown-nj.org or call at (973) 455-1133 for business opportunities, as well as commercial space for lease and sale, in downtown Morristown.

Follow the Morristown Partnership on Instagram @downtownmorristown and Facebook @MorristownPartnership throughout the year for developing news related to special promotions, new businesses and information on all we do including: Morristown Partnership Gift Certificate Program, Morristown Restaurant Week, Meet Me in Morristown, Morristown Farmers Market, Morristown Festival on the Green, Halloween Trick-or-Treat and our month-long Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green. 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks so much, Kevin, for all your constant hard work providing us folks with up to date news and events…you really do a good job and deserve a lot of credit and also deserve many more donations to keep Morristown Green going.

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