By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
WILLIAMSTOWN — Dr. Renee Thompson said she sees the Williamstown Hall Event Center, a facility she opened last month, as a place for the community — and she has even bigger plans.
With hopes of opening a funeral home soon, Thompson said she wants Williamstown Hall to be a gathering place for family and friends to break bread, share and create memories in a comfortable and relaxing environment. Thompson, who has five advanced degrees, including a doctorate in educational psychology, said the event hall is actually in “her wheelhouse.”
“As a minority business owner, I believe we will do well in an area where people need people that look like them to service them,” Thompson said of her and her fiancé, who is a mortician. “People are now running the hall to celebrate their family and their loved ones when they couldn’t do so in COVID-19.”
With support from family and friends, along with organizations like the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Southern New Jersey Chapter, Thompson said she plans for Williamstown Hall to serve the needs of the community during times of celebration, mourning, remembrance and in memorial.
The Renee Thompson Profile
Name: Dr. Renee Thompson
Business: Williamstown Hall Event Center
Address: 800 N. Black Horse Pike, Williamstown
How Long Have you been in business: Opened in July
Specializing in: An all-occasions banquet and gathering facility
Contact Info: 856-266-4233, https://www.williamstownhallnj.com/
1. What led to you becoming a business owner?
Renee Thompson: This is really a family endeavor that I wanted to do. When I was younger, I wanted to open a hall for my family so when they retired, they would have a gathering place. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My uncle used to own an apartment building. The building had an office space, and we would go in there and hang out. It was just a lot of fun family time. So I said one day, I will open a hall where my family will come and gather. It’s funny, my career looks so different from this avenue.
2. What led you to enter this field to create Williamstown Hall?
Renee Thompson: This event space is in my wheelhouse. I’ve been a wedding coordinator, a funeral officiant, a wedding officiant and event planner. I sat on the boards of organizations where I’ve always been the vice president of fundraising and planning events. My bigger vision is a funeral home located on the same premises, but we want Williamstown Hall to establish its own identity first. For families, we hope the hall is the start of creating a one-stop concept where they can have their funeral and repast. We want to be the only minority business in the Williamstown area that offers that service.
3. What do you enjoy the most about being a business owner?
Renee Thompson: While this is new to me, I’ve watched some family members work their business, and they always told me how much they enjoy working with the community. So when I told my friends that Williamstown Hall is a community center, they thought that I was downplaying my business, but I was not downplaying it at all. That’s exactly what I mean. It is a community center. I am in nonprofit organizations, a part of who I am giving back. If I can give back to the community, that means more to me than anything. It is a gathering place for family and friends and it’s not costing you a lot of money. You can have events catered by your family and if you want to hire a catering service, that’s fine. You know you can come to a nice place and have a good time.
4. Can you talk about Williamstown Hall, your future funeral homes business and how that could have an impact as far as being a positive African American business role model.
Renee Thompson: I will be the only minority black woman to own a funeral home and the Williamstown area. I think that’s pivotal in the sense that it will change lives. People go to places where they see people that look like them. My friend died about six years ago, and she was an inspiration to me. She was a president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women at one time. She told me before she died she had planned to go to a non-minority funeral home and I said, ‘Well, there’s nowhere else to go, so I have to go there.’ I said you know, my fiancé is a mortician and she ended up choosing him. Her family was immensely pleased with the work he did. His work is impeccable. I started thinking there may be a niche here where we can serve the community.
5. Anything else you would like to add?
Renee Thompson: Williamstown Hall is for all occasions, from a family and friends venue where you just come together and gather for various reasons, to anniversary parties, birthday parties. I didn’t know children’s first birthday parties are becoming a popular event. Basically, what we advertise is simple. If you have an event planned, we have the space for it.
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