Anyone who has ever visited popular Morristown in New Jersey knows that parking is at a premium. Filled with restaurants, bars and shops, the town is brimming with pedestrians and activity.
That’s why Kendra Arnold opened her vegan bakery and grocery shop in the center of town last year. Feasty Vegan is the blood, sweat and tears result of her work, starting from local bar basements to a statewide Vegan Fest that she launched with a business partner.
A tiny store in the back of a row of eateries, Feasty Vegan was given just one assigned parking spot. It’s vital for her business, Arnold said.
“People come in and out and if they don’t have parking they leave,” she said.
There’s a sign noting the spot is for Feasty Vegan customers only. Yet people desperate for parking in the swanky town take up her one space, taking off to hit downtown shopping and dining without buying any vegan goods.
Arnold has tried to reason with people, talking with them, putting signs on cars warning of tow. Sometimes she’s confronted by angry people who rip up her signs, swear at her, and are generally unkind. Frustrated, she talked to her customers about the parking dilemma. She didn’t want to have cars towed, but not having parking really impacts her business, especially when non-customers park and disappear for several hours.
Customer and friend Bob Karp, a former Morristown resident who now lives in North Carolina, came up with an idea: Why not treat scofflaws to a smile and a cupcake?
“What if you caught someone and gave them a free cupcake and wished them a great day?” Karp told Arnold. “I thought word would spread and maybe people would be more respectful and kind towards my friend.”
In April, Karp offered to anonymously sponsor the first four cupcakes, which are $5 each. That started a movement. Arnold loved the idea. She mentioned it on social media and more customers started to donate money to buy cupcakes to give to people who parked illegally in her one spot. There’s even an Instagram page dedicated to the famous parking spot,
“I’ll leave a note on their car saying a group of my customers who asked me to not tow people and treat them to cupcakes if they come in,” Arnold said.
People did respond to kindness with kindness. Last month, a person who parked in the spot and was about to take off decided to go into the vegan shop for a free cupcake and bought some vegan cheeses.
Karp, the original funder of the cupcake club, is thrilled that a smile and a cupcake works to deter scofflaws.
“Kendra is absolutely one of the kindest, giving human beings I’ve ever met,” Karp said. “Don’t know if it helped, but if people can be exposed to kindness, maybe these people could start being more kind to someone else.”