It’s about economic growth, mutuality, and giving back to the community.
That was the theme championed by local and state dignitaries at Mars, Inc. in Hackettstown Tuesday afternoon, when the private business joined forces with the municipality to unveil a street sign and cut the ribbon on a temporary retail store on Main Street.
Mars, Inc., the producer of the M&M brand, among others, now has a portion of High Street–where its factory has been located since 1958–named M&Ms Chocolate Avenue, unveiled by Hackettstown Mayor Maria DiGiovanni.
“Today is a day we can proud to be Hackettstown,” DiGiovanni said in front of the Mars, Inc. factory to a crowd of more than 100 employees and spectators.
The idea was borne from a lunch in March of this year between DiGiovanni and executives from the company, when the two sides sat down to get acquainted, the mayor said.
Along with the honorary street renaming, Hackettstown proclaimed Oct. 16 as Mars Chocolate North America Day.
In the economic climate of poor job growth and outsourcing overseas, Mars, Inc. has kept more than 1,400 employees stateside, and one New Jersey official was thankful for that.
“I have to thank Mars, Inc. and the M&M brand for sticking in New Jersey, and continuing to grow,” Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno said at the ceremony. “And we’re here to help you grown in New Jersey. Whatever we can do to help economic growth, we will.”
While the ceremony at the factory, along with the ribbon-cutting and tour of the new ‘pop-up’ store lasted just an hour, it was months in the making. Even though the process could have gone on longer, one official helped turn a dream into reality.
Mars, Inc. President Debra Sandler thanked her employees for their hard work, but named DiGiovanni as one of the core supporters behind Tuesday’s events.
“When we first began talking about this idea,” Sandler said, “we were told it would take a while. But I have to thank the mayor; she’s the one that made this happen so quickly.”
Grand Opening, Minor Stay
While the M&M ‘pop-up’ store will only be open through Oct. 31 at 160 Main Street, it’s the intrigue and uniquity that will keep the store’s products moving from the shelves.
From pillows to clothing, souvenirs to coffee mugs, and every “Made in Hackettstown” trinket in between, the pop-up store’s interior, while small, packs a bright, candy-filled punch for consumers.
“We’ve had members of the M&M Fan Club from Virginia and Pennsylvania come all the way up already,” said Glen Tetreault, the store’s general manager and member of the Mars, Inc. retail group. “People were coming into the store while we were setting it up.”
The store isn’t just about the retail aspect, however.
“(Mars, Inc.) being for 54 years, this is a great opportunity for the company to support the plant that handles so much,” Tetreault said.
Beyond that, profits from specially marked merchandise at the store will go to the Hackettstown Business Improvement District fund, and the store has partnered with Abilities, a New Jersey agency that assists in improving the employment opportunities and quality of life for people with disabilities.
“It’s companies like Mars that are letting (New Jersey) stay in the game,” Guadagno said while perusing the store’s merchandise. “It gives us a seat at the table and allows us to be competitive. This is just fabulous.”
No mention has been made of bringing a permanent retail store to Hackettstown, or anywhere outside the company’s “world” stores, located in Orlando, Las Vegas, London and New York, but for now, customers and locals alike can enjoy the two-week’s worth of offerings.
While the store, for now, will be short-lived, the smell of chocolate hanging in the Hackettstown air will remain for generations to come.