Were it not for the vision of Isabel and
Joseph Fernandes and the help of the State of New Jersey,
Malvern Street in Newark’s Ironbound district may
never have been greeted by the aroma of roasting coffee
each day. Mr. and Mrs. Fernandes bought two storefronts
in the Ironbound section with the hope of converting an
empty warehouse into a bustling business, So Café.
Today it is clear that they have obtained their goal, servicing
over 400 customers, many of whom place weekly orders.
Ingredients for success:
The 2000 gallon underground storage tank being removed.
When Isabel Fernandes bought the 41-43
Malvern Street site, she was unaware of an underground storage
tank lying beneath the property. When refinancing the business
five years later, she discovered a 2000 gallon fuel tank
under the sidewalk, and contacted the Office of the Ombudsman
in the New Jersey
Commerce and Economic Growth Commission in order to
obtain financial assistance with the impending remediation.
Manager Lauren Moore, along with the Office of Business
Advocate in the Small Business Environmental Assistance
Program, helped Mrs. Fernandes make contacts at NJDEP who
assisted her as she navigated the regulatory process and
obtained financial assistance.
The street after the tank was removed and the site was
So Café received a $123,468 grant
for tank removal from the Petroleum
Underground Storage Tank Remediation, Upgrade and Closure
Fund. A Conditional Hardship Grant expedited the clean
up without placing an undue financial burden upon the business.
Says Joseph Fernandes, "We could have never absorbed
the cost of removing the tank and cleaning up the site without
the direct and complete help we received from the state."1
The New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection determined that the So Café project was
eligible for the funding, while the Economic
Development Authority determined that the business was
financially qualified. With the oversight of case managers
Carol Lynn Heck and Ellen Hutchinson, the cleanup progressed
in a financially feasible and environmentally sound manner.
Whitman Associates is still working on the site, and a No
Further Action letter is expected in early 2004 once final
soil and groundwater samples are collected and a CEA is
So Café is both an environmental
and an economic success, and as a thriving minority woman-owned
business, it is an inspiration. What was once a warehouse
has become a lively enterprise, adding to the vibrancy of
1 "New Jersey's Business
Community Has an Advocate in the Business." New Jersey
Commerce & Economic Growth Commission Press Release,
April 16, 2001. http://www.newjerseycommerce.org/news/newsarch/releases_2001/p041601a.htm