Mt. Airy’s businesses are seeing a new face along Germantown Avenue these days. Mt Airy USA has hired Jamie Shanker as its new Commercial Corridor Revitalization and Business Association Manager.
Shanker takes over the position previously held by Elizabeth Moselle for eight years before she resigned this summer.
MAUSA’s Executive Director, Anuj Gupta says the selection process took two months, during which the organization put on its annual Street Fare food truck event. Shanker stood out among several strong candidates for her role in generating the food festival’s most successful turnout to date.
She was initially hired as a consultant for the festival, but “after Street Fare, it was hard not to figure out a way to make her a permanent member of the team, ” said Gupta.
Advocate and foodie
Unlike her predecessor, Shanker is a newcomer to the neighborhood. The Queens, NY native currently resides in South Philly’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood. She has a background in law and social justice, but her passion for food is what put Mt. Airy on her radar.
Shanker admits that the first time she became familiar with the Northwest neighborhood was a little over a year ago when, as a four-year food writer for Midtown Lunch’s Philly website, she was invited to a media preview event for last autumn’s Street Fare.
She came away impressed with Mt. Airy’s sense of community, but says she had no idea that the visit would eventually lead to a new career direction.
Besides writing about Philadelphia’s restaurant scene, Shanker also hosts culinary tours through Chinatown. Two years ago, she held a five-month stint as developmental director for the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association (PMFA), where she was involved with marketing, event planning, networking and assisting the board with legislative efforts.
Shanker says her work as a coordinator on Street Fare was similar in scope to her role with the PMFA, as she assisted folks support their own small business dreams.
For local restaurants and retailers, she intends to draw on her social media skills and web presence to bring in new customers.
Shanker also notes that as a lawyer, she has worked as an advocate for low-income individuals and families and wants to put that experience to use by informing residents and businesses of services that may be available to them.
Getting down to business
In the short term, Shanker will close out the year by hosting a small business workshop in November and a holiday pop-up event.
But her key focus will be getting to know the local businesses better to find out what their needs are.
Gupta noted that past business promotions had centered around the neighborhood’s restaurants, but MAUSA recognizes a need to diversify its programming in order to give all 80 members of the Business Association of Mt. Airy value.
The surveying and subsequent planning process is expected to take up to three months. Shanker says her goal is to increase foot traffic along Germantown Avenue. Online shopping continues to hurt local brick and mortar retailers, but she hopes to develop new ways to break internet shopping patterns and encourage visitors to spend their time and money in Mt. Airy.
“That’s where events come in,” Shanker explained.
As she gets up to speed on MAUSA’s longer term projects such as plans to renovate Lovett Library and its adjacent park, Shanker says she’ll also reach out to area businesses regarding available facade and commercial corridor improvement funding.
One such source is the InStore Forgivable Loan Program offered by the city’s Commerce Department, for which retail spaces between the 6300 and 6700 blocks of Germantown Avenue are eligible.