By Harriet Diamond | For AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY — Evan Sanchez’s approach to life embodies many positive aphorisms created to motivate, such as “follow your dreams” and “don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.”
The one he lives by, above all else, is “There is no ‘I’ in team.”
Sanchez left his home in Atlantic County to attend Columbia University. There, he majored in American Studies, a course designed for the curious-minded like him, encompassing social, political, historical, and other aspects of American culture.
Sanchez found this multidisciplinary path a catalyst for his approach to building business and community alliances. Ever focused on broadening his personal bandwidth, he spent his junior year studying in Spain.
Back at Columbia in his senior year, he connected with Noah Glass through a mutual friend he met while studying in Spain. Sanchez’s earliest experience as an entrepreneur grew out of that relationship.
Glass had just started a company that would ultimately become Olo, a pioneer in online and mobile ordering, connecting restaurants with customers through texting in its earliest iteration, as this was prior to the iPhone. Glass not only introduced Sanchez to entrepreneurship, but to the value of partnership as well as the ever-transferable art of bringing together the customer and the provider.
Listening and Collaboration
So, how did Sanchez become one of Atlantic City’s major entrepreneurs? In 2015, he and his wife Kelly, decided that New York was not where they wanted to stay long term. They had gone to high school together in Atlantic County and felt a pull to return.
They wanted to see what life here was like. How had it changed? What was happening? True to his Columbia major, Evan came to learn.
“I went on a listening tour,” he explained. He saw many valuable organizations and individuals working hard to build a better Atlantic City, oftentimes faced with limited resources and band-with.
His “tour” included attending community meetings, joining business and charity association meetings and events. He saw the need to build and the strong possibilities in the collaboration among small and big businesses as well the area’s key anchors, Stockton University, AtlantiCare, and AC Devco.
Authentic City Partners & The Orange Loop
Not one to pursue his goals in isolation, Sanchez teamed up with his high school friend, Zenith Shah. Born in India, “Z”, as Sanchez calls him, went to Holy Spirit High School and Drexel University. Once they reconnected, sparks flew. They created Authentic City Partners, the umbrella organization for their many projects.
Sanchez not only listened; he read. He appreciated Jim Johnson’s 2018-19 report that stressed a neighborhood-centric approach, beginning with small projects. His outreach to major anchors and the City reflect Johnson’s “principle of a shared economy.” Another influence was Teddy Roosevelt’s call to ‘Get Action’: get things done, then refine.”
Thus, the birth of the Orange Loop. This tiered approach was recently reinforced by Mayor Marty Small‘s comment in his State of the City address, “Not everything has to be a grand slam.” Sanchez said he found that “heartening to hear” as his project continued to take shape.
The Orange Loop, named for classic Monopoly streets, began with one new business, The Leadership Studio on Tennessee Avenue, which blossomed and grew to neighboring business opportunities and multiple venues on Saint James Place and New York Avenue.
The Orange Loop now includes Hayday Coffee Shop, the Leadership Studio, Bourre Food, Anchor Rock Club; the Irish Pub, Pic-A-Lillie Pub, Cuzzie’s Pizza, Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, Rhythm and Spirits, and Bar 32 that features chocolate, cocktails, and dessert.
Soon to come is a Medical Marijuana business, Be. The Leadership Building, which includes the Leadership Studio downstairs, was recently completed with ten new, now fully rented apartments. Authentic City Partners also created living space above Hayday Coffee shop on New York Avenue.
The Orange Loop is a model for a neighborhood-centric approach to development. Sanchez sees this project as “a marathon,” comparing it to a snowball as it rolls downhill gaining speed and heft.
Key to Sanchez’s understanding of Atlantic City and its growth potential has been maintaining his Listening Tour, during which he not only learned from but contributed his leadership skills and knowledge to the Atlantic City Arts Foundation, Atlantic City Community Fund, the Absecon Light House, and Meet AC.
This brings us to another pillar of Sanchez’s in-progress plan to revitalize Atlantic City. He created the Thrive AC Fund to support the city’s non-profit organizations with a $1 million commitment over the next five years.
You haven’t seen the last of this dynamic duo. On the drawing board is a boutique hotel and restaurant, Cardinal.
But wait! Don’t miss the Orange Loop Rock Festival, slated for June 10-12, bringing yet another player into their collectivist orbit, Showboat, on whose Festival Grounds the event will take place.
Evan Sanchez is both a true believer and a wise, patient doer. Atlantic City is lucky to have him and his talented team investing not only financially, but with wholehearted commitment.
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