By Jaimie Julia Winters
Sure, Israel Cronk likes clean streets, but helping merchants to get customers into their stores was the goal for the Montclair Center Business Improvement District (BID)’s executive director.
“He is a genius at merchandising, branding and communications,” said Peter Polgar of Glenmont Consulting. “He got what the locals needed and was kind of a matchmaker for the services they needed.”
Now, Cronk will be trading Montclair’s downtown for windshield wipers.
Cronk will leave his position in October to move to Florida to market and brand his friend’s company, Clix Wipers.
“My friend’s mom sold the wipers basically out of her car up and down the Parkway,” Cronk said. “Her sons have now joined, and they want to take the company to the next level.”
Cronk has been executive director of the BID since 2016, the third person to hold that title. He was a board member with the BID and the manager of Bangz Salon and Wellness Spa when he applied to succeed Luther Flurry in April 2016.
“I called Tom Lonergan, the center’s first executive director, and he said there were four things needed for the position: to be approachable, be accessible, be responsive, be an advocate for the businesses,” Cronk said. “That was the best advice I could have gotten.”
Assistant Director Diane Israel said the BID crew embraced Cronk’s quirkiness and energy from the onset. On his first day of work he rode his motorcycle — his preferred mode of travel.
“The first day he came in, his motorcycle helmet [which had a built-in Bluetooth headset] immediately started ringing,” she said with a laugh. “He didn’t miss a beat, sat at the desk, put the helmet on and started helping the person on the other line. He talked on his helmet most of the day.”
Under the leadership of Cronk, the BID expanded its lineup of public events that included Women’s Empowerment Week, Small Business Saturday, the Crane Park Market and Oktoberfest, which drew thousands to the area, according to BID president Phil Cantor.
“This job is more about relationships than anything else. You are the line of communication between the township, property owners and businesses,” Cronk said. “ You advocate for an honest, vibrant downtown … and stay clear of the politics.”
His favorite part of the job was the meet-and-greets with downtown merchants that quickly turned into an extensive series of educational seminars focused on marketing, e-commerce and beautification.
“We would talk about what hurts, what we should celebrate and where we need to focus,” Cronk said.
Working closely with township officials, and the BID board and staff, he also initiated streetscape programs such as parklets, plantings, banners and wall murals.
At the Montclair Fashion Show, Cronk showed his support by wearing a kilt one year and an Emmy-worthy black taffeta skirt the next.
He formed partnerships with Montclair State University, the Montclair Public Library, YMCA, Partners for Health and SAVE of Essex to further the BID mission.
Cronk wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, said Cantor.
“Israel brought incredible enthusiasm, energy and creativity to our downtown,” Cantor added.
The BID Board has begun a search for Cronk’s replacement.
Formed in 2002, the Montclair Center BID represents the interests of nearly 600 businesses and properties in a one-mile stretch of Montclair’s downtown business district along the Bloomfield Avenue corridor. The BID is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization with a $567,000 annual budget. BID revenue is derived from a special assessment based on the total assessed value of all retail and combination housing/retail properties within the district.
According to the 2018 BID budget, the salary for director was set at $95,000.