More than ever, millennials are changing the way destination corporate meetings are held, according to Karen Shackman, president of Shackman Associates, a special events management company. “They want highly social events that are out of the boardroom and, instead, under the boards in a location like a barn,” Shackman says. New Jersey offers a wide variety of traditional venues, yet these spaces often tend to lack that wow factor. It’s time to start thinking outside of the box; you might just ,be surprised at what you find as the perfect locale for your next conference or event.
Meet Me at the Mall
Bloomingdale’s is well known as a destination for shoppers looking for the latest fashions, but what many don’t realize is that it also offers an exciting space to host events, meetings and charity fundraisers. The four stores in New Jersey offer spaces conducive to meetings and events; The Mall at Short Hills includes a 40 Carrots restaurant which can also double as a unique space to host functions, small meetings or provide refreshments for other in-store events. “The store can provide meeting rooms of various sizes,” says Marlie Massena-Pattillo, public relations manager for The Mall at Short Hills and Bridgewater Commons Bloomingdale’s. “Partnering directly with the store is the best way to determine how to accommodate your event or function, as there are large spaces that can be used for multiple purposes.”
Teaming up with the different departments within the store also offers an interesting experience for event attendees and can be the ideal place for vendors to gain a qualified and attentive audience. Groups looking to host meetings of any size benefit from the large area available and the added benefit of a fun, fresh and constantly changing backdrop for their members. “Many organizations who choose to host an event at Bloomingdale’s do so because the stores are iconic and provide a beautiful and captivating backdrop for galas, charity fundraisers and school and community events,” Massena-Pattillo says. “The stores are often willing to partner with the different organizations and groups to add a certain element of fun and elevate events to another level.”
Bloomingdale’s has great connections with local vendors, which can come in handy when planning a nonprofit event or adding interactive and engaging activities. The store regularly hosts fashion shows, charity fundraisers and meetings for corporations, public appearances by celebrities and local influencers, school groups and community groups such as the Junior League. “We also host events with clients such as the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation, which hosted a panel of doctors and experts to discuss the importance of early screening among young women,” Massena-Pattillo says. “In this case, hosting the event at the Bloomingdale’s in Short Hills meant they were able to also host a runway show styled by local stylist and fashion expert Felicia Marie Geller—an element they could not duplicate elsewhere.”
According to Massena-Pattillo, Bloomingdale’s prides itself on its long-standing history of being an integral part of the communities that its stores are located in. “Bloomingdale’s encourages a culture of varied experiences and perspectives and demonstrates its commitment to the groups and organizations in the community through its various local events,” she says.
An Aquatic Atmosphere
The Adventure Aquarium in Camden is the place to go to see sharks, hippos and penguins, but it also offers one of the most unique meeting spaces in the state. “Currents Ballroom has three movie screen-sized viewing windows in to the Shark Realm Exhibit while overlooking the Philadelphia Skyline,” says Ken Goldbach, general manager. “Guests are captivated by the panoramic views of the 550,000-gallon salt water tank exhibit, home to over 20 sharks.”
Its Currents Ballroom offers 5,000 square feet of space, which can be divided into three smaller spaces, allowing meetings for 20-300. Rental fees are determined by the day and time of the meeting or event, and it also offers allday meeting packages, which include breakfast, lunch and breaks. A full à la carte catering menu and customized menus are available for cocktail parties and dinner events. “We have many clients that regularly hold meetings in Currents Ballroom, as the atmosphere is relaxing and inspires ideas,” Goldbach says. “Attendance to meetings held in Currents is generally much higher than in a typical ballroom as it is a beautiful atmosphere to hold a meeting or event. This space is closed to the public and can only be viewed through a private meeting or event.”
The aquarium hosts corporate functions, cocktail receptions, speaking engagements, holiday luncheons and dinners, retirement parties, fundraisers and military balls. “We can also offer admission to the Aquarium to the guests at a discounted price on the day of their event as well as hold up-close encounters with some of our animals,” says Goldbach. “It’s an exciting place to be.”
The Show Must Go On
Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank is a fully restored National Historic Landmark built in 1926. On any given night, you can see legendary performers take the stage. In addition to presenting a who’s who in the music industry, the theater also doubles as a meeting hall and is available for events, allowing you to take advantage of its state-of-the-art A/V system. “Our business is live entertainment and we host over 200 performances and events every year. In the last 12 months, our stage has been home to Ringo Starr, Chazz Palminteri, Harry Connick, Jr., The Monkees, Alice Cooper, Chris Cornell, John Legend and many more,” says Izzy Sackowitz, vice president of operations. “We’ve also hosted shareholder meetings and corporate retreats from some of the area’s most successful businesses.” Depending on the time of the year and proximity of the meeting to one of its events, the venue will offer group discounts to a performance, or the opportunity to rent one of its spaces before or after a performance for a private reception.
“The theater features an ornate and grand lobby and a beautiful auditorium. If you’re looking for an inspiring venue to host a meeting or event, this is your place,” Sackowitz says. “Hotel spaces can be beautiful and are agile with their meeting set-up options. We can only offer a few things, but we make up for it in the ‘wow’ factor. The looks on the faces of attendees when they enter the audience chamber for the first time is priceless.”
The main audience chamber at the Count Basie Theatre seats 1,568 people. Its lobbies are also great meeting spaces as well as the classroom, Studio 99, which seats 50 for a meeting or 75 for a standing cocktail party or mixer. It also boasts a beautiful patio, available May through October, with room for 100-300, depending on the format, and protection from rain. Finally, the Carlton Lounge features a private bar and comfortable lounge seating.
Room for Many Cooks in the Kitchen
As one of 10 Miele Centers in the country, the Miele Center at Princeton is an appliance resource center staffed with knowledgeable, friendly associates ready to provide guests with in-depth product demonstrations, unforgettable events and a wealth of ideas for one’s home and lifestyle. “What makes this unique in our area is that we are actually a showroom of high-end kitchen appliances, but, at the same time, we have live kitchens that we can conduct classes in, plus host meetings and special fundraising charity events,” says Mary A. Moulds, culinary events manager. “We match the culinary part to the event. So, while people can check out the great appliances, they can also do a cooking event and really have fun in the kitchen.”
The space can accommodate up to 200 people for a standing cocktail event, and 60-70 for a sit-down class and demonstration. The Miele Center also has several smaller conference rooms located throughout the building as well, typically used for corporate and management meetings. “If you just hold something in the typical hotel space, you are basically just paying for a ballroom and to have audio-visual. This is so much more,” Moulds says. “What I love about the space is you get that culinary uniqueness you’re not going to get anywhere else.”
The Miele Center offers classes that can be used for team-building exercises, corporate retreats and clients just interested in learning how to use the appliances in a hands-on kitchen environment. By being active in the local Chamber of Commerce, many businesses come in to take advantage of this different meeting experience. “At the end of the night, not only do they learn how to use the appliances, but they have spent a few hours having fun in cooking a meal,” Moulds says. “They create the entire meal as a team and it helps people learn time management, creativity and working together.”
“We host a culinary school on-site with eight professional kitchens where we host teambuilding events, and we try to incorporate those events with our meeting when we can,” says Christopher Pica, general manager of the Culinary Conference Center at The Hudson County College Culinary School. “Clients can work side by side with our chefs and learn the techniques of the professionals.” The venue can also make its meeting packages custom-made to a client’s needs. “We allow our client to create an event that works for them rather than the client adjusting to what is offered,” Pica says. “Our food definitely separates us from the competition, including our competitive pricing. We are on average 40 percent cheaper than our waterfront competition.”
“Attendees work with the culinary school chefs on unique food themes and then enjoy them afterward,” says Karen Shackman, who has booked private events at the school. “Corporate meeting attendees can also create unique designs for ice sculptures and then watch the school’s expert make them a reality.”
Back to School
Kean University’s Green Lane Building is the school’s newest addition to its Union based campus. In addition to housing Kean’s School of Global Business, Michael Graves School of Architecture and Robert Busch School of Design, the building features a 24-seat circular conference center room with state-of-the-art audio, visual and conferencing capabilities. “This unique space is sure to inspire productivity, innovation and lifelong learning, and is perfect for board meetings, executive lunches, training seminars or multiple-day conferences,” says Paul DiNero, director of the office of conference and event services. “Located on the sixth floor of the building, guests have exclusive access to a rooftop terrace with dramatic views of the campus and New York City.”
The Donald R. Conklin Conference Center is located on the sixth floor of Kean University’s New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM), the state’s premier academic center for the teaching of science, mathematics, and biomedicine. “Conveniently located just minutes from New York City and accessible by road, rail and air, this modern and spacious top-floor venue features stunning glass walls and an outdoor terrace with charming views of the Manhattan skyline—all sustainable and environmentally conscious in design and furnishing,” DiNero says.