The pandemic has been pretty stingy with silver linings. But a Morristown shop found one of them, and ABC’s Good Morning America will shine its light on the small business this week.
Just Jersey has sold Garden State-themed gifts on South Street for seven years. It’s among several New Jersey destinations slated for the program’s Rise and Shine series on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.
“It’s just an incredible story of resilience,” GMA Supervising Producer Greg Tufaro said of Just Jersey.
“We had our best year ever last year. We’re one of the lucky ones. We realize that and don’t take that for granted,” said Paul Miller, who founded Just Jersey with Tina Bologna.
Citing “incredible community support,” Miller said online sales picked up when the store had to close its doors for three months last year.
Bologna mounted a vigorous social media campaign. Money from the Payroll Protection Program helped. Corporate customers came through, too.
Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center bought 50 gift boxes last April for nurses from other states who came to help, said Miller. This spring, the New York Jets ordered 300 tailgate-themed gifts to send to their partners and sponsors, Miller said.
The hospital had learned of Just Jersey via a merchandise display that Miller used to drive to events. The Jets became fans when the shop won the team’s Small Business Showcase competition in 2019.
Just Jersey was inspired by a gift catalog Bologna posted in 2012 as a fundraiser for local schools. She joined with Miller, a founder of the nonprofit Sustainable Morristown, to launch Just Jersey as a Christmas experiment two years later. Within weeks, they opened for good.
They sell items crafted by 300 artisans from across New Jersey. Charities get a piece of the action; Miller said a slice of greeting card revenues bought hundreds of sandwiches for Morristown’s former Community Soup Kitchen(now nourish.NJ).
There have been some growing pains. A Montclair satellite store folded ahead of the pandemic. (Miller thinks he caught COVID-19 while packing up that shop.) And part-time employees were laid off during the health crisis, Miller said.
RISE AND SHINE
Good Morning America has been visiting states since May to showcase things to see and do as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
Footage shot at Just Jersey last week is scheduled to air sometime between 8:10 and 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, in a package hosted from Asbury Park.
Other featured destinations statewide include the Surflight Theatre, Cruisin’ Tikis, Grounds for Sculpture, Greenwich Lavender Farms, Holsten’s Ice Cream Shop and the Stone Pony Theater.
New Jersey tourism officials connected GMA with Morris County Tourism Bureau Executive Director Leslie Bensley, who pitched Just Jersey.
She is delighted to help get this local feel-good story in front of the show’s 3.5 million viewers.
“It’s very impressive, what they were able to do,” Bensley said of Just Jersey. “We’re so proud of them, and glad they are our members.”
Tufaro said Just Jersey is just perfect for Rise and Shine.
“In terms of an actual storefront, I don’t think you could do Jersey without having done Just Jersey,” he said.