Why does New Jersey get such a bad rap? It’s often the punchline of jokes from late-night comedians, and just saying the words “New Jersey” can elicit a chuckle and an eye roll. Maybe because it lives almost literally in the shadow of the skyscrapers of Manhattan, or maybe because of television’s portrayal of the Housewives and the inhabitants of “the shore” (who I’m told are really from New York, according to several Jerseyites). I was bound for Newark, itself the butt of many jokes, and I was about to find out for myself if Jersey’s rough reputation was well-deserved.
Flying into Newark is interesting, because you can see both the skyline of NYC on one side, and the much smaller skyline of Newark on the other. I navigated the tangle of highways heading north out of the airport and was surprised to see Manhattan getting closer as I left Newark behind me. I was headed to Passaic, home of Passaic-Clifton Driv-Ur-Self System, Inc., a NationaLease Member. I met Andy Kanter, and we drove to nearby Clifton for lunch at the Barrow House. We beat most of the lunch crowd and got a chance to sit in the back room of the converted farmhouse, in a spacious room filled with light, thanks to the massive skylights. I ordered the pork roll, not realizing that it is the unofficial state sandwich of New Jersey. For those of you not familiar with this concoction, it consists of pan-fried Taylor ham, which is a processed pork product, along with a fried egg and American cheese served on a bun. It is delicious! I enjoyed a great conversation with Andy, mostly about the grandkids, but also discussing our purchasing programs and some of the new business they had acquired. Passaic-Clifton has been in business 65 years and Andy’s son Jared is now actively involved in the business as the third generation of the family. I left Passaic, and once again drove toward the ever-present, iconic skyline as I passed through East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Metlife Stadium, ironically the home of the New York Giants and Jets. From there, I headed south to East Brunswick, found my hotel, and called it a night.
The next morning, I had the chance to visit H.K. Truck Services, Inc., a NationaLease Member in South Plainfield, NJ. Vanessa Ciervo gave me a tour of their facility, and I chatted with Hank and Henry Knabe and Greg Fazekas about their growing business and the opportunities NationaLease provides our members to continue learning, especially as the next generation is poised for leadership within our member companies. Among other resources, NationaLease offers an Introduction to Full Service Leasing course every June, as well as a Sales Meeting in November. We also have the NationaLease Young Executives Club, which offers our members’ up-and-coming leaders the opportunity to learn and network with their peers. Vanessa showed me some of the great marketing they are doing at H.K., including a calendar that features photos of the team and stories about various team members each month. What an awesome way to share their story!
From there, I drove to North Brunswick and met up with Jay Hagerty, National Account Executive for NationaLease, and Glenn Garland, President of Lease Line NationaLease. We had a great conversation and discussed, among other things, the upcoming ELD Mandate and the challenges it will create for our members, specifically for rental trucks. We talked about the efforts the Truck Rental and Leasing Association (TRALA) is making on behalf of our industry to request a delay in the implementation of this rule as it pertains to rental trucks. We also talked about the changes Glenn has seen over the years. Lease Line has been in business since 1973, and a member of NationaLease since 1993. Being relatively new to this industry myself, it is always a pleasure for me to learn from our members who have so much experience and knowledge of the industry.
The hotel where I was staying was in a great location for accessibility to the highways and central to all the members I was visiting, but not great for dining and entertainment options. However, Rutgers University was just a few miles away, so I hopped in the car to do some exploring. Not far from the campus, I came across a quaint little area with brick buildings, twinkling lights, and lots of young people taking advantage of the warm April evening to take a stroll. I picked a cute, red brick restaurant with striped awnings called Delta’s. The inside was every bit as warm and welcoming as the outside, and I quickly found out that Delta’s is known for its Southern style cuisine. I happened to be there on a Wednesday, which meant it was Souldizio night. Souldizio is Delta’s Southern take on Brazilian Rodizio, better known as the all-you-can eat meat served at Brazilian steakhouses. In addition to the scrumptious cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and green beans, there was an endless supply of fried chicken, catfish, ham, pork chops and short ribs. Everything I had was so good that I wanted to try it all, but my eyes were much bigger than my stomach, and I wasn’t able to sample every dish. I left Delta’s very full and very happy.
The next morning, I went to South Brunswick to meet with Guy Battaglia and Tony DiJoseph from A&D Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Member. I had the chance to learn more about their business, as well as that of their sister company, High Grade Beverage, a distributor of malt beverages, wine, spirits and soft drinks. We also talked about NationaLease’s Reciprocal Service system, which allows our customers access to over 600 NationaLease service facilities throughout the US and Canada, assuring them that they will always have assistance in case of a maintenance or repair need over the road. Tony educated me on the special challenges of taking care of trucks that break down on the Jersey Turnpike! From there, I went to the nearby Hermann NationaLease and met with Rich Hermann. Over lunch, Rich and I caught up on some of the changes and growth in their business. In addition to full service lease, Hermann provides logistics, freight brokerage, warehousing, dedicated contract carriage, and maintenance services. They have been in business for 90 years, and are now run by the fourth generation of the family
Since my previous evening’s expedition to Rutgers had been so successful, and I hadn’t really seen the whole campus, I decided to do a little more exploring. I parked in what appeared to be a pretty popular area just off campus and walked around to check it out. I quickly spotted a restaurant that I couldn’t pass by—Caribbean Café. Cuban food is one of my favorite cuisines, so I was delighted to find this little gem. The interior was very simple, but the food lived up to my expectations. The shrimp mofongo was just as good as it looked!
Now, I know that Jerseyites will tell me that I only visited a small part of the state, and that doesn’t represent the whole thing. I also know there is a distinct difference between the North Jersey folks who associate themselves with New York and cheer for the Giants, and the South Jersey folks who associate with Philadelphia and are die-hard Eagles fans. All of that aside, my visit to New Jersey bore no resemblance to the images portrayed on TV by the comedians and reality stars. Just like every other place I go, I got to spend time with great friends and hear the stories of their family businesses and the success and growth they are experiencing. They have customers that have done business with them for years, and they are passing on their passion for service to the next generations who will continue that great tradition. They do whatever it takes to keep their customers and fellow NationaLease members’ customers up and running—even if they break down on the Jersey Turnpike.