Tag Archives: Professor Justin Watrel CEO & Co-Founder

Bronx Zoo Light Show

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Eight: My Christmas during the era of COVID December 1st-January 10th, 2020-2021

Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.

The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.

They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.

My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.

Christmas Tree sales

The trees were really nice this year

I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.

The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020

We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.

Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/15853

Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees

The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.

Bill O'Shea's Florist & Gifts

Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gift at 231 Boulevard

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/151

Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.

Bill O'Shea's Florist VIII

Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays

In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.

Heights Flowers IV

Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/130

Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.

Heights Flowers V

The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store

Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.

All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.

Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays

This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.

The Circle at Hasbrouck Heights

The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.

The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa

There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.

Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/14025

I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.

The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.

The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade

It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.

Steuben House BCHS

The Steuben House at Christmas

Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.

Linda Russell Lecturer

Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society

There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.

The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.

Campbell-Christie House Xmas

Campbell-Christie House at the end of the tour:

My blog on The Bergen County Historical Society:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/531

My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”

As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.

My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/15954

The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.

I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.

“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ

After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.

Beach Haven Beach

The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon

The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.

Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world

My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.

Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream Sandwich

Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg

Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.

Chicken or the Egg

The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven

https://www.facebook.com/chegg609/

I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.

My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/15226

The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.

Bud N' Mud logo

One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project

My blog on the “Bud N’ Mud” project:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/16124

With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.

The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020

My blog on “Santa Around Town” 2020:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/16150

On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.

I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.

Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.

Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.

I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.

My blog on Exploring Downtown Red Hook, NY:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/14144

My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.

AC Hote

AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street

We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”

Rockefeller

Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year

I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.

Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?

When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.

9th Avenue Deli

9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue

We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.

Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.

What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.

Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.

When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.

As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.

Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant

We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.

The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.

I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.

Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter

The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.

My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2137

Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.

Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.

Demarest Farms Christmas

Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ

My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/16128

Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021

The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.

The Bronx Zoo Light Show

I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.

Bronx Zoo Christmas tree

The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo

In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.

My blog on the Bronx Zoo:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/5013

So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.

Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.

The holidays were just different this year.

Places to Stay:

AC Hotel New York Times Square

260 West 40th Street

New York, NY 10018

(844) 631-0595

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/nycma-ac-hotel-new-york-times-square/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60763-d12695463-Reviews-AC_Hotel_New_York_Times_Square-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Eat:

9th Avenue Deli

769 Ninth Avenue

New York, NY 10019

(212) 258-2600

Open: Sunday-Saturday 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4758581-Reviews-9th_Ave_Deli_Corp-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d15162978-Reviews-AM_PM_Deli_Grocery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/762

Golden City Chinese Restaurant

423 Ninth Avenue

New York, NY 10001

(212) 643-9232/736-4004

http://www.goldencitynyc.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm/Monday-Friday 10:30am-11:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3930125-Reviews-Golden_City_Chinese_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Hell’s Kitchen Deli

535 Ninth Avenue

New York, NY 10018

(212) 594-3393

Open: Sunday-Saturday 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d15167472-Reviews-Hell_s_Kitchen_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

The Bronx Zoo

2300 Southern Boulevard

The Bronx, NY 10460

(718) 367-1010

https://bronxzoo.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday & Sunday 10:00am-5:30pm

Fee: Members Free/Adults-Full Experience $39.95/Senior Full Experience $34.99/Child (3-12) $29.99/Child (under 3) Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47369-d136079-Reviews-Bronx_Zoo-Bronx_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on TripAdvisor for the “Holiday Lights Festival”:

https://static.tacdn.com/AttractionProductReview-g47369-d19708232-Bronx_Zoo_Holiday_Lights-Bronx_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/5013

Staatsburgh State Historic Site(The Mills Mansion)

75 Mills Mansion Drive

Staatsburgh, NY  12580

http://www.facebook.com/staatsburghSHS

Open: Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48676-d107418-Reviews-Staatsburgh_State_Historic_Site_Mills_Mansion-Staatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.

Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2137

The Bergen County Historical Society

1201 Main Street

River Edge, NJ 07661

(201) 343-9492

http://bergencountyhistory.org/

Open: Special Events and weekend hours check the website site

Fee: Depends on events/donations

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46776-d7603554-Reviews-Historic_New_Bridge_Landing-River_Edge_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Visit the Sister Entry on this blog of the Campbell-Christi House VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/872

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/531

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11225

(718) 623-7210

http://www.bbg.org

Open:  Sunday and Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday  8:00am-6:00pm

Admission: Depending on the time of year/please check the website

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103900-Reviews-Brooklyn_Botanic_Garden-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2785

Brooklyn Museum

200 Eastern Parkway

Brooklyn, NY 11238

(718) 638-5000

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm/Monday & Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d110213-Reviews-Brooklyn_Museum-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Bud N' Mud Logo

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Five: The Creation of the Case Study of the shop “Bud N’ Mud” December 21st, 2020

The Creation of the shop “Bud N’ Mud” a Coffee/Flower Shop:

Every semester when I am teaching ‘Introduction to Business 101’ at Bergen Community College, I have my class create a major class project in which the whole class becomes part of an Executive team of a mythical company. This way the class benefits from getting to know one another and starting to form their connections with each other both professionally and as a student body. As a commuter campus, you don’t get to know each other too well.

In the past we created Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc., my main company that I have used for the last three semesters, Orion Malls Inc., a Mall design firm and Buscomonzefi.com, my tech company. Each was an example of how a business team needs to interact with one another and create their part of the business. It was a real chore last semester when the College shut down because of the COVID pandemic and we had to do finish both projects virtually.

The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. logo from last semester

This semester because the classes were all virtual and stayed virtual, I had to create an individual project that each student could do and had to be consistent with the rest of the class. Inspired by a real life store, Remi Flower & Coffee in the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan, at 906 Second Avenue, I created the a similar store, “Bud N’ Mud”. “Bud” coming from the part of the flower that blooms and “Mud” which is slang for coffee.

One of my student’s “Bud N’Mud” logos

From here as we covered Chapter by Chapter of the textbook “Understanding Business” by Nickels and McHugh covering such subjects as job creation, small business creation, customer service, hiring and job descriptions, store design and flow, ad creations and promotions and Mission Statements for a firm. I also got the students to think less as students and more as new entrepreneurs. I wanted this project to be a stepping stone in creating a new business which many of them put as one of their goals in class.

Another great “Bud N’ Mud” logo created my one of my students

First I assigned the project. I had just finished walking the Turtle Bay neighborhood for my blog project, “MywalkinManhattan.com” and passed Remi Flower & Coffee when I was walking around the neighborhood.

Walking in the Turtle Bay neighborhood:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/9245

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/9125

I thought what a clever idea it was to combine the two totally different products and thought that the students would come up with some interesting ideas if I let their creativity run wild. It was to be an interesting semester in watch the project unfold.

Remi Flower and Coffee

Remi Coffee & Flowers at 940 Second Avenue

https://www.reminyc.com/

So chapter by chapter we built the store from ground up. First I had each student create a logo for their store, then we moved on to the menu of the items that they each wanted to carry in their store, then we moved to store design and layout, where they had to show me how the flowers were going to combine with the food and beverages.

Their menu’s got very creative with various beverage and pastry options

We moved next on creating a Mission Statement for their store. I asked them what their business was all about and who did they want to be in the community. I had them then create a job description to hire employees as their business grew and the last thing I had them do was design an ad for a Bundling idea to promote sales in their store (Bundling is a business concept when you promote various items with one price like a two for one or a combination meal).

The store designs got very creative

The ideas flowed out of these students as if they were currently running the business and I saw many different approaches on how to run a business. When I wrapped the project up at the end of the semester, I heard from all the students on what they learned from the project and how they felt about the business they created.

What I enjoyed was that many of them thought they were really running the business as we were creating it and how much they took each part of the project personally especially when I questioned them on how they would do what they were doing and how it would make a profit. Some of them didn’t realize that you can do just what you want to do precariously. You had to have reasons and think it through. I saw a lot of students grow in this class without ever meeting them.

Some of the students even created flower menus

This was the interesting part, I felt like I was teaching blind. I had no idea who these students were or what they looked like because when I offered the optional lecture twice a week so few students (especially many who needed it) did not take advantage of it. When they did, I never got to see what they looked like because they hid behind the computer. It did add an air of mystery to it but still I like to have that one on one with my students. This is something that COVID has robbed from most in the teaching profession.

Bud N' Mud Logo

One of my favorite “Bud N’ Mud” logos

Still the project was a complete success for the class in general and I saw quite a few students really put their all into their work. They really did run their own business for three months. This is what makes being a CEO & an Consultant fun as a Professor. You get to live out your own dreams while watching others do the same. I credit my Fall Semester students with their creative and ingenuity of the above work.

Wait until you see some future projects of mine.

The “Bud N’Mud” project:

Bergen Community College Athletic Program

Day One Hundred and Sixty-Four: Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. presents “Go Bulldogs Go-A Student Ambassador Program”-Introduction to Business Project-Bergen Community College April 24th, 2020

I had the strangest semester this quarter at Bergen Community College where I work. The semester started off normal and was the typical night class. I would get in about an hour and a half early and prepare for class. Then it was lecture, class participation and then quizzes and exams. I had just given my midterm exam and then we left for Spring Break. I knew the outside issues that were surrounding us but the problems of the COVID-19 seemed so far away.

Even so in the back of my mind I knew this was going to be a problem experiencing what I did at the New York Restaurant Show and at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown in the same time frame. Even Groundhog’s Day and the Big Ten Championship seemed subdued. I guess I just waited for someone to finally pull the plug and did they EVER IN A BIG WAY!

Two weeks before we left for Break, I reopened the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. concept for my Introduction to Business class and gave out the Team Project and went over the guidelines of the project. I have to say that the students seemed pretty excited about the prospect of running a company. My President and Senior Vice-President were raring to go and the next two classes, the last one being the night of the Midterm, we were able to meet and it gave the students time to meet up and get to know one another. I knew it would be a successful project.

Bergecco-Parc Logo

The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. logo

I had thought about this semester’s Team Project for the class while we were presenting the Paterson Project last semester and thought about what many students had told me about their experiences at the College. Most seemed alienated from the other students. Others who had attended bigger four year colleges in the past felt their was no cohesiveness to the school, no connection because it was a commuter school. Others told me that they did not know anyone at the school until they did their group project. The one thing was true was there was no school spirit.

This gave me the idea this semester to do something to focus on the students and their experience at the college. While my Marketing class created a project for tourism in Historical Bergen County, I had my Introduction to Business class create a Student Ambassador Program that would welcome students to the college starting with the student getting accepted in high school and then take them on the whole experience of welcoming them once they got to Bergen Community College.

I decided to expand the “Welcome Week” project I did two years ago (see ‘Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven’ in MywalkinManhattan.com) that welcomed students and alumni back to the college and create an ambassador program as another part of welcoming students to campus.  The Welcome Week project gave the students an opportunity to be involved with the campus when they graduated but I wanted to see something when they first got the letter of acceptance. So I created a Team Project that would combine the whole experience.

The Welcome Week Project-“Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College-Welcome Week 2019”:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8022

BCC Bergecco Parc Welcome Week Logo

The Welcome Week Logo of 2018

My questions was ‘How do we engage students when they are accepted to the college and then when they get here?’ ‘How are we sure that they do not get lost in the crowd?’ Since it is a commuter campus, how do we keep them engaged once they start classes? This was the challenge for the students to tackle with this Team project. We used the last two classes of the semester to meet and get everyone acquainted and have the Teams start the project. It started very smoothly.

Here was the inspiration for the Ambassador Program:

Here was the welcome to the college from the “Welcome Week” Team!

While on Spring Break, I got a memo from the college while attending the Restaurant Show that the college was going to extend the Spring Break a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do to handle the COVID-19 situation.

So I just continued on with the first week of break, attending the Restaurant Show, going to Blondie’s on the West Side to the Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championships, attending a 90’s Tech retrospect at the Anthology Archives and going to the Members night at the Met Breuer. All of this while I felt that everyone I was with at these events  with were looking over their shoulders wondering what would happen next (See Day One Hundred and Sixty-“On Leave from “MywalkinManhattan.com” in MywalkinManhattan.com).

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/12972

I was planning on visiting my mother on Thursday of first week of break so after the Restaurant Show closed I got my car serviced, my haircut, my dry cleaning and banking done and finished my housework in anticipation of my upcoming trip. Still everything loomed in the distance. The next morning all hell broke loose and the borders were shut in the United States and the stock market went wild! The market was dropping like crazy.

So in between talking to my mother, my broker and other family members everything was cancelled and I stayed home and by March 13th, the whole country started the lock down. I could not go into the City and continue my walk of the Theater District or work in the Soup Kitchen as everything in the City immediately shut down. I just wondered how this would play out with the College. Even before the break many of my students had been asking questions about this that I could not answer.

While we were on break a lot of my students kept in touch with one another and we were working on the project during the second week of the break. I was only allowed to email students if they emailed me (they were still on their break) but I would CC everyone on my emails to keep the lines of communication open. It was only at the end of the second week that we knew we would not be going back to school and all the classes would go virtual. It was then I was emailing my students and going over what we needed to do to proceed with the project. This is when the project got interesting.

Some of the students had kept in touch over the break and had gotten the framework done for their sections and had some ideas of what they wanted to do. So we were better prepared than the other class I had who had one afternoon to get their game plan together. When we realized we would not be going back to class and everything would have to be virtual, it made the class even more interesting and a big challenge. Most of the students had a good handle on the work and many parts of the project had been started.

The Ambassador Project:

BCC-Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. 2020 III (Revised)

The project was broken down into sections. Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. (an acronym for Bergen Community College-Paramus Campus) is a hierarchy in company form. I set up my Executives and broke them down into different divisions. My President and Senior Vice-President ran the show. They would report to me and let me know how the project was progressing. They were in charge of putting the Power Point presentation together and finding our headquarters.

 

Bergecco Parc Consulting Inc. saying

The slogan that the Team came up with for the project.

My Talent Division was in charge of setting up salaries, the benefits package and the office space design for a three month period that we would be working on the proposal for the client. Once the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations found the location for the offices, it would be the Talent Team’s responsibility to design and furnish the office. They would also set up a series of ‘perks’ for the office, things like snacks for the office, team building projects and employee relation items like Daycare and transportation reimbursement.

My Marketing Team was responsible for setting up the Corporate Website (based on the one that had been set up for the Paterson Project) and expand it to include all Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. projects from the past, shoot commercials welcoming students to campus and what it is like to attend Bergen Community College and set up the logos along with the Spirit Division and then find ways to ‘market the college’ to the incoming students. They were also in charge of designing the new “Ambassador” uniforms for the Student Ambassadors to wear when attending events.

My Spirit/Special Events Team was responsible for all the ‘spirit’ related projects. They were responsible for setting up our Spirit Welcome’s to incoming high school students and once they got to campus, organizing a series of events to get the students involved in the campus. They were also assigned to set up the special events to welcome parents and students to campus.

On the High School Level, the Spirit/Special Events Division was to create a “Spirit High School Welcome” that entailed the Student Ambassadors visiting each high school in the are where students had been accepted to Bergen Community College along with some students athletes and hold a “Meet & Greet” over a pizza lunch with the incoming students to welcome them to campus.

Here is the commercial that welcome’s new students to campus!

On the College Level, the Spirit/Special Events Division was to create a series of events for when the incoming students arrived as well as events that current students could attend called it the “College “Bulldog” Spirit Welcome” and this included:

*A formal Campus Tour that each student was to take when they arrived on campus. This way each student knew where things were located on campus and become acquainted with what services were available to them.

*A Parent’s of Athletes Reception and Pep Rally which was to be an evening exclusively catering to student athletes coming to Bergen Community College and their parents which included a light dinner and pep rally that included the cheerleaders, the dance team and other student athletes that was to be held the night of our rival Men’s Basketball game with Passaic Community College.

*A Parent/Student Barbecue which was to be held the weekend of the first home Men’s Soccer game that invited all incoming students and their parents plus the members of the Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams and their parents. The barbecue was to have an extensive menu of all sorts of fall favorites.

*A First Night at the College that was to be held the First Friday after the College resumed that included a night in the gym getting to know the clubs and organizations on campus. This also included snacks provided for the evening and then the evening ended with a concert for all the students.

The Spirit/Special Events Team was also responsible for designing a new School Mascot, Spirit Shirts for the the Men and Women’s Basketball Teams and create a School Fight Song. I know it would be a lot of work but it is fun to see the creativity of the students when put under pressure.

Here is the commercial that promotes the college when students come to campus!

It was even more pressure when we did not return to campus and the whole project had to be done by email and then Zoom meetings. I would not see my students again for the rest of the semester and because of  school policy I could not speak to them over the phone. Until I learned what Zoom was and was allowed to have video conferences with them toward the end of the semester, I have never written so many emails before in my life. I swear I was on the computer everyday all day especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I never left my home office the whole day.

It got even more confusing when a few of my students disappeared at the beginning of the semester, a few students got sick and then it was the disagreements and misunderstandings you have when emailing people. I had never worked so hard pulling a project off before. Communication was limited until the use of Zoom videoconferencing came into play. Even then that was toward the end of the project so everything was being done through long lengthy emails.

Then for about two weeks I heard nothing from the team as members of the Executive Team had not been in contact with me. We were at the height of the COVID-19 crisis and I was worried about my students. Some just stopped answering emails and I would find out later that some of them or their family members were sick. It was a trying time in the trenches.

Then I sent out an email about two and a half weeks before the presentation and everyone started to contact me. What floored me was how far the students had come along with the project with little assistance from me.  Some of them took me ideas and just ran with them.

Some of them came up with their own version of my ideas which I liked. They created home and away shirts for the basketball games, set up spirit sections, came up with new ideas for food venues like having Boston Market take out meals for the ‘Parent’s of Athletes Reception’ and the Team’s creative ideas on a new school fight song. The Team even developed a new school mascot, “The Bulldog”.

Bulldog Mascot

The new Bulldog Mascot Costume

We ended up having both a WebEx meeting and a Zoom Meeting before the presentation on Friday, April 24th at 8:00pm. It was so nice to see everyone again. I had not seen my students since the Midterm exam and it was good to see that everyone was doing okay. Their lives like my own were turned upside down but we all had to make the best of it.

On the night of presentation was interesting. It was not the most pleasant weather and I was afraid that the computer would go down. We lucked out that everything went by smoothly and the presentation went by fine. What was nice was our Head of Athletics and our Head of Public Relations for the college were able to join us for the presentation.

Here is the new Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc Website:

https://bcpccom.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/the-bergen-community-college-student-ambassador-program/

Here you can see the full Power Point Presentation and the Commercials.

I could not have been prouder of a group of students who under all the pressure of not being in class, people suffering from the illness. family situations at home, job issues and personal stress made the project work.

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The students at Bergen Community College’s Business/Hotel Management School proved to me that they can compete with the best. I was happy to give a lot of “A’s” this semester!

Justin Watral

Professor Justin Watrel, CEO & Co-Founder

Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.