A New Executive Director-
We are please to introduce our new executive director, Amy Petrie.
Steven Paul, her predecessor, helped us tremendously, as we worked to sustain and grow our downtown support. As he moves onto his new role, we thank him for his dedication to our wonderful downtown district.
New Beginnings Inspired by Our Past —
Amy Petrie grew up fascinated by the history and culture of Bridgeton. ‘My belief is that if people are able to personally connect to history, then they’ll feel a greater connection and appreciation of the area. That is why I make it a point to drive our local youth around Bridgeton and tell them the history of Ivy Hall, Cumberland Nail and Iron Works, the Freedom Trail, Oberlin Smith, Jeremiah Buck, and the local history that has shaped our community and the world. I want them to understand that Bridgeton has always been a town of invention, inspiration, and reinvention — and will continue on with that same spirit. I even throw in the story of Roadstown native, Charles Elmer Hires, the inventor of root beer, as it is my favorite soft drink, plus there’s a reliability to it.’
Amy, a Bridgeton native, recently moved back to town, with her husband and three children, after being offered a position directing the New AmeriCorps program, based in our downtown. She has always felt that she belonged in Bridgeton and ‘doing great things’ for her community. Through that program, Amy reconnected with the downtown she grew up frequenting while connecting with new people which has renewed her dedication to her hometown. Her crew hosted many cleanups, mentored many inspiring youth, supported many local organizations and initiatives, and painted the mural on the iconic Laurel Theater.
In addition to her stint as the Program Director for AmeriCorps, Amy founded a social-educational organization, South Jersey Adventures in 2015, inspired by Bridgeton’s diverse history and landscape. ‘I wanted people to slow down and look deeper at what they drive past- the history, the adventures, the uniqueness — it’s right there if you actually take a look.’ In 2016, Amy formed her small business, South Jersey Made, to provide free promotion for small business and artists in South Jersey. She also hosts festivals and pop-up events, giving South Jersey only artists and makers and platform on their home turf. Both are going strong, but her true focus is her hometown.
Amy also serves on the board for Cohansey Area Watershed Association and the Bridgeton City Zoning Board.
Dream Come True —
Having her office in the historic Sheppard House is a dream come true for Amy. ‘The building, built in 1791, overlooking the park and downtown district, is a perfect metaphor for this city. It has been many things — a prestigious and very progressive school for young women, a sanitarium (which my father tells stories of visiting patients as a Cub Scout), and a restaurant for many years before sitting vacant and seemingly forgotten — but ultimately was brought back because of people who cared. I’m honored to be sitting atop of Commerce Street Hill, in a building that as seen so many of Bridgeton’s stories, working to bring back the city that I care so deeply for.”
Dedication, Revitalized —
With Amy’s passion for her town, a town that she describes as making her the ‘savvy, scrappy, and dedicated person’ that she is, Amy brings a new energy to Bridgeton Main Street Association. Her focus is on bridging the nostalgia of the past with the merchants of today and the future. ‘One of my favorite memories of the downtown district, was walking the sidewalk sales and car shows. I’d like to bring back the essence of those times while fusing them with the beautiful and diverse cultures of today.’
Amy’s plan for Bridgeton Main Street Association is twofold; support of the merchants and shining a spotlight on the unique authenticity of the district. ‘We offer aspects many other downtown districts do not. We have diverse flavors, architecture, history, and nostalgia. We should be rallying, not knocking that. There’s real value there, not just potential.’
Amy is excited to serve her town, as it has served her, and create opportunity and support for those who call Bridgeton home. With her experience in marketing and small business, combined with her passion of local history and art, Amy hopes to renew the love of the downtown district and change the perception.
She plans on hosting small events to bring our community back into the heart of our city, in hopes that they will enjoy the downtown and realize that the accessibility and walkability of yesteryear is still quite there.
‘We should be supporting the dreams and ambitions of our merchants, as these are our neighbors. Their children are our future. We have to bring back the culture of supporting local business in our downtown. If we want our merchants to invest in their storefronts and our city, we have to first make them feel a part of it and allow them the opportunity to fuse their culture with ours.’