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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

My “Why Support Local” Soap Box

Feb 26, 2015 05:24PM
Marianne Rosato-Romano

As far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed going to out of the way places to buy things from privately owned shops, and even searched them out. I like people and the personal connection the shops offered was important to me. That special unique quality, which could only be found in independent shops, also stirred the entrepreneurial spirit I inherited from both my grandmothers, one of whom started a business for her adult mentally disabled daughter by soliciting a steady clientele in need of laundry washed, pressed and folded.

In the mid 80’s, I explored the retail side of small business by opening a retail store in the Flemington Mall. It was here that I learned first-hand the ups and downs of running a business that depended on the support of its community. In the 90’s I learned more when I became involved in our family publishing business in Flemington. Our bi-weekly publication clientele consisted primarily of small business owners, many of whom became personal friends.

After we sold the publishing company in 2001, I took a trip to Argentina. It was there that I fell in love with the local, handmade handbags. I made a small investment and had a shipment sent back to New Jersey which I sold to boutiques in the metro area and tripled my profit. I quickly learned the handbag business and within a year I was co-designing. I loved the business, the creativity and travel. My clientele was privately-owned boutiques across the country where again personal relationships were formed. I got to know the boutique owners, not just as clients but as a people with business/personal highs and lows.

I too had highs and lows. My hand bags were in boutiques across the country and was picked by Fashion Facts magazine as the “new hot line” for the spring of 2005. But, a divorce ended my handbag business as well.  What to do next? Where could my love for people and personal knowledge of small local business be best used?

An old friend suggested I try banking. Like many people who know me, I laughed at the thought of a dyslexic person, who doesn’t even balance her own checkbook, working at a bank. But once I learned that community banks, especially ones like Hopewell Valley Community Bank, value people skills over banking experience, I gratefully took his advice.

That was in 2008, and I have been in banking ever since. I’m very fortunate to work for a financial institution that feels just like a family-owned, locally operated business. You’re not just an account number; you’re a person/business with ups and downs. Relationships with clients and employees matter. Here they value my strengths (creativity/people skills) but also support me where I’m challenged (structure/details). That’s the small business difference and a reason worthy of their support.

Local banking is key to the economic stability and quality of life in our own back yard. All of a community bank’s deposits come from local businesses and individuals which are then redistributed back into the community through lending to local businesses and individuals—all the money stays local. It’s truly neighbors helping neighbors. With a big bank, the money you deposit is often reinvested out of your community or even out of the country.

HVCBank CEO Jim Hyman said it best when I asked him of what he was most proud.  He replied, “Seeing the positive impact of loans given to individuals and businesses. Knowing the personal story of each loan and its effect on the community and knowing that HVCBank is giving a meaningful career to over 100 people.” That is the heart and soul of an entrepreneur!

Having been a business owner who now works for a community bank that, like other locally owned businesses, competes with big box/chains and on-line providers for the loyalty of the communities they serve and support, I felt the importance of sending out a message that is dear to my heart. Pat Ryan, chairman of the board of the HVC Bank, put it this way:  “Small businesses are very much the life blood of a community. The people who own and operate those businesses are the ones who will go out of their way to coach a sports team, run a book club, and sponsor charitable events on a continuing basis over the years.  Supporting those businesses only makes the community a better place to live.” If you live local…Buy Local and Bank Local!

Marianne Rosato-Romano serves as Assistant Treasurer, Market Development/Social Media for Hopewell Valley Community Bank (HVCBANK). For more information, visit

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