‘Podclair’ tells stories of Montclair’s businesses. Here’s the story of Podclair
The 101st episode of Podclair features an interview with the podcast’s team, by Montclair Local’s Andrew Garda. An episode set for release on May 30 features an interview with Garda and Montclair Local editor Louis C. Hochman
Find Podclair at Podclair.com, or on your favorite podcast app.
By ANDREW GARDA
When Joanna Seltzer Uribe first came up with the idea for a podcast centered on Montclair and its businesses, she didn’t expect to someday hit 100 episodes.
“You know, back then thinking like, ‘Wow, wouldn't it be great to have that many episodes?’ — and here we are,” she said. “I mean, there's so many stories to tell. People want to share. So it's nice.”
Podclair passed that threshold May 16, with its 101st installment — in which Montclair Local’s Andrew Garda (the author of this article) interviews Uribe, Podclair brand and marketing designer Tracey Diamond, and producer-host Margo Bruton.
Podclair launched on July 15, 2018 with an episode featuring Stellabird Creative artist (and namesake) Stella Bird, as well as the owner of the Montclair Riding Company, shortly before the motorcycle apparel store closed up shop. The first episode was sponsored by Amy Owens, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty.
Uribe, Diamond, Bruton and contributor Joanne Lamarca Mathisen were off and running.
“It doesn't even seem like it was that long ago that we started,” Uribe said.
Uribe said that even before that first episode, the community at large and the business community specifically were enthusiastic about the idea. The Montclair Center BID’s executive director at the time, Israel Cronk, told her, “Yes, we do need a podcast,” she said.
“That's what I needed. I needed someone that was really representative of the town to give me that push. And I guess I had talked to enough people that one person would say, ‘Oh, did you talk to this person?’ And that person would say, ‘Oh, did you talk to this person?’”
Eventually, one of those “did you talk to” conversations led Uribe to Bruton and Mathisen. The group connected with Diamond through a mutual friend who knew she worked with small businesses, doing branding and marketing.
Diamond remembered the friend told her: “It's all about Montclair. And that's all you do, is work in Montclair. And so that's like a perfect match.”
Bruton had worked in video and television production for years, including on “House Smarts,” which ran on NBC. Uribe worked in the medical field. Mathisen was a producer of television programs including NBC’s “Today Show,” which she returned to doing full-time in 2018 while also co-hosting a radio show on Sirius XM.
They all had a common passion for telling the stories of local retailers and restaurateurs.
“I had been listening to podcasts going back a long time, and when I was on maternity leave with my second child, I really got to do a deep dive during her feeding times,” Uribe said.
She’d taken note of the Guy Raz podcast “How I Built This,” centered on entrepreneurs — but big ones, the sort of folks who founded giant companies like Whole Foods and Instagram.
“I would listen to the show while I was lulling my daughter on for naps and I just felt like it wasn't relevant,” she said. “Like, I didn't need to hear the story of these unicorn companies. The story that I really wanted to know about was the furniture store on Valley Road, or the coffee shop
In Watchung Plaza.”
Bruton said early on, the team made lists of businesses, seeking out a variety of people and voices.
“That was interesting to us, because not everybody starts a business the same way, nor do they wind up in a business that they thought they would be in at the start,” Bruton said.
The pandemic required adjustments.
“Early on we were stunned,” Bruton said. The team’s members wondered. “Is this [going to be] for a long time or a short time?” she said.
At first, they figured things would be back to normal in a few weeks.
“Well, it became evident as things went along we wouldn’t be,” Bruton said.
As the podcast — and much of business life — paused, the group’s members considered how they might best help Montclair and its businesses. They eventually shifted focus from individual stories to those of group efforts.
Episode 84 delved into both the efforts to re-open businesses locally as well as into the impact of Black Lives Matter. Episode 83 talked about the impact of the shutdown on local youth, including how it affected plans for school graduations.
The Podclair team members still made sure if a business needed an assist, they would provide it.
“Who needs our help? We would hear about places closing down,” Diamond said. “We would quickly try to get stories out there so that [the places] hopefully wouldn't shut down, that they had the support that they needed. And if they were going to shut down, that we can help get them the support to try to get some income coming in for them before they did.”
Moving forward, as New Jersey and Montclair open further, means getting back to talking to more small local businesses. It also means securing donations and financial support for the podcast itself. Sponsors Owens of Keller Williams, Barbara Lemly of Identity in Design, and Fractal Science and Math Academy helped Podclair get through the year.
As Montclair begins to open up, the group’s members hope at least one thing they witnessed in the pandemic carries on — the goodwill and energy community members put into supporting their local businesses.
Bruton said she wants to see “that neighborliness and comradeship that we have felt in the worst of times” stick around.
“I think we need to carry that through now to the best of times, which is starting again — getting back to life,” Bruton said.