Siree and Ayanna Morris, a couple from Newark, New Jersey, have opened a drive-thru movie theater called Newark Moonlight Cinema to bring entertainment to people while considering health precautions in the midst of the pandemic.
The duo of filmmaker and real estate developer thought of the idea from the screening of Ayanna's documentary Why Is We Americans? that was held at an outdoor film festival earlier in 2020. It is reportedly the first drive-thru movie theater that has operated in the city of Newark since the mid-1960s.
Newark Moonlight Cinema, which is located at the former Newark Bears baseball stadium (new location in 2021), can hold up to 350 cars per screening. Moviegoers can enjoy the movies from the comfort of their cars via a 55-foot screen and audio that's available on each car's radio. There are also food and snack options available via the Fanfood app.
Since launching, the new outdoor theater has shown movies such as Just Mercy, Girls Trip, Set It Off, and Creed 2 that highlight Black filmmakers, talents, and arts as well as those that emerged from Newark.
For more information about Newark Moonlight Cinema or to buy tickets, visit www.newarkmoonlight.com
This Happily Married Couple Opened Their 'Little Chapel Of Love' To Help Others Make Lasting Wedding Memories
ORDAINED MINISTERS SHINELL AND LANCE SMITH ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF HELPING COUPLES IN NEW JERSEY DEFINE THEIR OWN LOVE STORIES ONE WEDDING AT A TIME.
Married ordained ministers Shinell and Lance Smith are in the business of helping couples in New Jersey define their own love stories, one wedding at a time. As Beyoncé once famously sung, “Who wants a perfect love story any way? Cliché. Cliché.” For Shinell and Lance, their imperfect story has led to the romantic adventure of a lifetime. Shinell, who worked for the Township of South Orange, New Jersey as a deputy clerk performing marriages and civil services, was completely done with dating in August 2014 when Lance, her on again, off again beau, came back into her life for good. After years of friend-zoning each other, they’d both grown and something felt different between them this time around. “We hadn’t talked in a while, but she was on my mind,” said Lance. “When Shinell came to my house, and I opened the door, it was like I saw a glow around her. Right then and there, I knew this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.” On Thanksgiving Day, after only three months of dating, Lance popped the question to Shinell and the couple married on December 13, 2014, taking the next step in a once-in-a-lifetime love.
Fast forward to February 2015. A trip to Las Vegas to celebrate Lance’s birthday turned into an impromptu elopement when the couple’s childhood friends decided to get married at the city’s famed wedding chapel. Seeing a chance to add their own spin on the idea, Shinell and Lance headed back to New Jersey with love in their hearts and a new business idea on their minds. A few savvy business moves later, in August 2016, in Newark, New Jersey’s historic Mansion District, their Little Chapel of Love was born. Since its opening two years ago, Shinell and Lance have unified hundreds of couples and done their part to build stronger neighborhoods, cultivate communities and spread Black love through marriage. But what do you expect from a couple related to Frankie Smith of The Monotones, a man who literally sang about writing the book on love? ESSENCE.com caught up with the couple to find out more about their Little Chapel of Love and their secrets to starting a long-lasting marriage off on the right foot.
What do you think makes The Little Chapel of Love so unique? Shinell: This business is such a dynamic situation because we’re fresh, we’re only three and a half years, almost four, in and loving this marriage thing. We’re loving love. This just makes this business even more amazing because we’re loving what we’re doing, bringing two people together in marriage. It’s wonderful.
What kind of services do you provide for couples? Shinell: We’re getting into theme weddings. With our little space we’re going to do hip-hop backdrops and 90s and 80s themes where you might get married by Lance dressed up like a cross between Elvis and James Brown. In 2019, we’re going to do pet commitment ceremonies too. We also want to start doing couple trips, enrichment programs, and stuff like that, just to keep this love together.
What tips do you have for someone looking to maximize their wedding, but minimize their budget? Shinell: Listen, the first tip would be to come on down to the Little Chapel of Love because this is where big dreams come true. In our boutique, chic, elegant chapel we’re giving you everything that you want, everything you could desire, but within 200 square feet. Only the most important [people in your lives] are invited, and by coming to us, you’re minimizing your budget and afterwards you can go and have a reception. Or you can do something down the line, we’ve had situations where clients say hey, “we want to get married today. We’re trying to buy a house or put down on a house” And it’s like, listen, save yourself the headaches. Come to us. Lance: Also we decided to provide couples with pictures of their special day too. Most people, at their weddings, they want budget, but they still want to have lasting memories and some photos to have forever. I take tons of pictures, we edit them, and we give them to the couples for free.
What would you tell couples who come to your chapel is the key to a long-lasting marriage? Lance: Honesty. The trust, the honesty, and the communication are the glue to longevity. You’re going to face many challenges. But, if you can communicate through it, that seems like the glue to the situation. Shinell: Communication, but it’s not easy. It’s something you constantly practice, because sometimes emotions get involved and you’ve reached certain levels. Like, “You know what, I’m just going to shutdown”. And, we as women, sometimes have to know when to back off. Especially for alpha women, you’re like, ‘No, I want an answer right now, I’m going to tough this out right now, I’m going to solve this right now.’ And, it’s just like, when he says, ‘Babe, give me break, not right now, we will pick it up later,’ then just back off. When cooler heads prevail, talk about it. Take a drive and discuss things. We have our best conversations in the car. (We call them the car chronicles.) You get through things. I know it works for us. But everybody has their own thing. There’s no one wrong or right way to this marriage thing. It’s trial and error. But at the end of the day, I think communication is key.
Original article featured in Essence Magazine: www.essence.com/love/married-couple-little-chapel-wedding-new-jersey/
When Brooklyn-born Allan Suarez saw a debilitated mansion in Newark, New Jersey, a lightbulb went on. Many lightbulbs. As a co-owner of New York City-based All Renovation Construction, which specializes in remodeling and restoration of historic homes, a vision for a cowork space emerged. He turned the mansion into the Newark Foundry in 2017. A place where locals could feel like they were working from home or for those unable to afford higher prices downtown. Suarez, a long-time builder, and his team restored the mansion to revitalize a block, and a mindset.
Newark has been on the verge of transformation from its once broken-down streets to a new resurgence of luxury hi-rises and rent increases. Suarez saw a big gap that he could fill. He didn’t feel like the community should settle for less, when they had resources like landmark buildings they could use to realize their own dreams.
Maryann Reid: What was that first moment like when you realized this mansion could be a coworking space?
Allan Suarez: Once I toured areas like Lincoln Park and the High Street district, where we purchased our building, and saw beautiful historic mansions available to buy, I knew we could execute our plan to revitalize a blighted mansion and bring entrepreneurs back into the community. We were initially worried because of Newark's negative reputation, but we were pleasantly surprised of Newark’s steady transformation and revival.
Reid: There were other options: a bed and breakfast or an office for one company. Why a cowork space?
Suarez: No other options. The vision was always coworking and executive suites. In 2012, I assisted my collegiate friend Joel Pool with the online marketing for an idea that would eventually become The Port Workspaces in Oakland, CA. Visiting his 1st and 2nd coworking locations, thereafter, inspired me to launch a similar business on the east coast.
Reid: Newark has seen revitalization in the last several years. What are you doing to keep this cowork space accessible and affordable to local people, and not just the new people moving in?
Suarez: We have remained constant with our pricing which is below market rate. We remain very active in Newark attending and sponsoring local events and having events on-site at our space. We allow not only our tenant members to create events, but also invite local entrepreneurs to present their business services to our members. We are also keeping our space affordable by charging a flat monthly rate for our member office suites which included base rent, utilities, internet, conference room access, and one parking space.
Reid: If you could do anything to make your cowork space better, what would it be?
Suarez: I wish we had more space to hold larger events. One of our tenants is a company called Little Chapel of Love LLC which is helping locals with affordable weddings at our mansion. This is the type of entrepreneurial spirit we love at our space and enjoy tremendously
Reid: Walk me through the steps of realizing this was the perfect building to completing the restoration. At any point did you feel this was a crazy idea?
Suarez: The goal was to find a property where we could aptly re-use the services and experience gained as owners of All Renovation Construction. We had originally put in an offer on a beautiful brownstone in the Lincoln Park district, but that fell through so we immediately jumped on 569 MLK Blvd, an historic gilded age mansion built as a convalescent care center for Newark residents over 100 years ago. We had 16 rooms already designed as clinical rooms so it was an easy retrofit to individual office suites. Our family support and the welcome we received from Newark's Economic Development Corporation and Newark City Hall via Mayor Ras Baraka and Deputy Mayor Carmelo Garcia was extremely uplifting and kept us going to the finish line.
Reid: Where did you find the money to buy the mansion?
Suarez: My company All Renovation Construction has had a long standing relationship with our current bank. Through this fostered business relationship we were able to purchase the property fully funded by bank mortgage.
Reid: Coworking spaces are not known to be very lucrative or make anyone a millionaire, unless you're a WeWork. Many break even. Are you offering other services to make profits?
Suarez: We purchased the property at the right time when it was still a buyer’s market. We also were able to fill our available spaces within a six-month timeline of opening our doors officially. Currently, we make available to rent our conference room to non-members and offer mailbox services for local entrepreneurs. We are making a profit.
Reid: You decided to move your cowork idea from Brooklyn to Newark. What motivated that?
Suarez: I am close friends with Silvia Alvarez who was then Senator Corey Booker's State Press Secretary in 2014. I had told her I was looking for a location to start a coworking initiative in Brooklyn, NY. She immediately had me redirect my attention to Newark due to her history with the Mayor/Senator. I also lived 20 minutes north of Newark with my family in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, so the renovation phase was manageable.
Reid: What is your ultimate vision for this space?
Suarez: My ultimate vision was to use my construction background together with my love for historical buildings and create a unique collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs in Newark. Since launching Newark Foundry and using my participation in Project REAP as a catalyst I would like to create a youth real estate initiative introducing inner city youth to real estate development processes through apprenticeship positions and internships within companies that represent real estate, banking, development, construction, engineering, and architecture.
Reid: What's next for the space? Are you working on any new initiatives?
Suarez: Yes, due to our successful launch of the Newark Foundry Workspaces we submitted a response to an RFP by the City of Newark for land available in the East Ward. We have taken steps to initiate an Affordable Housing development with a community center outfitted with a Kitchen space focusing on healthy food preparation for urban families. The Engine 10 Village is aptly named due to the fact that the land is the former location of Newark's decommissioned Engine 10 Firehouse.
Reid: What's an important book that you read? Or personal mantra you live by?
Suarez: Beyond Entrepreneurship - Turning Your Business Into an Enduring Great Company by James C. Collins and William C. Lazier. A must read for any entrepreneur who wants insight how to build the foundation of a successful business. I have a current mantra printed out at my desk: 'Stay Engaged'. I use this to motivate me on a networking level, client level and team leadership level. Staying engaged to me means reaching out to people on a personal level all the time so they know who I am and that I care about our interaction. In the world of cellphones, texting and iPads it's really important that we do not forget to "Stay Engaged" with our family, employees, clients, and friends.
Reid: Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Suarez: I am a huge fan of advocates or champions who uplift you, your ideas or anything positive you are bringing to the table. I implore people to surround themselves with this type of community because this will help you grow personally and professionally.
Article featured in Forbes Magazine: www.forbes.com/sites/maryannreid/2019/02/21/founder-allan-suarez-newark-mansion/
Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Deputy Mayor Baye Adofo Wilson, Acting President and CEO Aisha Glover, and All Renovation Construction LLC and the DDBR Group LLC will host a ribbon cutting celebration on April 24, 2017, 1 pm for Newark Foundry Workspaces, the city’s newest co-working space located at 569 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Newark Foundry Workspaces is a 6,200 sq ft late-19th century mansion converted to co-working and professional office spaces. Located in the revitalized High Street District of Newark the mansion has been restored to it’s original grandeur and is poised to become a unique collaborative hub for Newark entrepreneurs and innovators.
“Our goal was to introduce a coworking model in Newark through a unique and underutilized property, this would allow us to successfully showcase our development strategy going forward in Newark” says Newark Foundry Workspaces founder Allan Suarez. “Also our decision to execute came down to the fact that we strongly believe Newark is on the cusp of being recognized as a legitimate tech hub leader and could be a viable alternative to New York City’s overcrowded and expensive coworking options.”
The founders of the Newark Foundry are Allan Suarez and Pietro Calabretta of All Renovation Construction LLC. Together they have over over 30 years of cumulative construction and restoration experience. The core objective for Newark Foundry Workspaces was to restore the mansion to it's original form and reintroduce the property with new technology and efficiency to be used as commercial office and coworking space. For more information please visit http://www.newarkfoundry.com.
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