Multi-Use Venues Like Nancy’s Miller’s Space Could Be Key to Growth of Local Young Creatives, Economy


Image of the Taste of Soul by Ms. Nancy restaurant. Photo by Erika Heinrich.

BY ERIKA HEINRICH | South Jersey Information Equity Project

BURLINGTON Nancy Miller’s two locations in Burlington County may be a key to attracting young creatives and spurring economic development locally.

Known by patrons as Ms. Nancy, Miller is the owner of two businesses: Taste of Soul by Ms. Nancy, a soul food restaurant; and Soul Anchor, a three-story indoor and outdoor event space located just across the street.

With both operations located on High Street, Miller is innovating her businesses by opening her doors to just about any type of event within the community. Once a bank from the late 1600s, Soul Anchor stands as the possible catalyst for the block’s new awakening.

Photo by Erika Heinrich.

It is recognizable by the giant clock that stands at its entrance. Miller uses the old bank’s charm to her advantage, having renovated the old teller window for a bride or groom suite in the case of an outdoor wedding. The vintage vault makes a bold statement overlooking the dance floor.

The restaurant Taste of Soul stands out by offering catering packages among its services. Miller’s one-to-one approach with every client, and family-like business relationships, helps her to elevate all her events and to support many other businesses in the community.

She uses the same companies in the area consistently to strengthen the impact of grassroots efforts on High Street.

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Taste of Soul and Soul Anchor formed a perfect combination that has allowed for business to take off.

“It has been nonstop since we opened,” Miller told Front Runner New Jersey. “I haven’t gotten the chance to breathe!” she continued as another client came into Soul Anchor, looking to book her birthday party later in the year.

Miller also offers arts, music, business, and private events at both of her establishments, with the back of Taste of Soul serving as a venue. The restaurant has an additional medium-sized space for about 40 people, which on one occasion had been set up for a baby shower, complete with balloons and silk drapes of white, gold and sage.

She reflected on her past location in Merchantville, which was open for more than five years. Her customers that now take the trip to Burlington arrive for the good cooking, and the comfort reminiscent of Auntie’s kitchen.

“They said my business will grow out of my Merchantville location,” Miller said. “And it did. I’m so thankful my customers there followed me here.”

She hopes to expand her spaces to after-school programs for children or interactive workshops for senior citizens. The advice she offers to future entrepreneurs in Burlington County is to be a giver.

“Give as much as you can into the community to see everyone flourish,” she said.

Establishing Multi-use Venues in South Jersey

A multi-use venue is an open space in the community that can be used for many purposes at an affordable price. Businesses can function as multi-use facilities for creatives, such as musicians and multimedia artists. By increasing the presence of local venues in South Jersey like Soul Anchor, the economy can flourish while local businesses provide a space for community culture to grow and innovate.

Multi-use venues offer other artists touring in the northeast to see the value in South Jersey. Inviting niche musicians to play a show, or providing a space for a community business event would give entrepreneurs from South Jersey the chance to create businesses that provide real service for a variety of social gatherings, party celebrations, art shows, and musical performances.

The first steps to establishing this system may include forming an initiative of art and music expression-related businesses. This could be done by increasing small entertainment businesses on the main streets, as well as encouraging existing businesses with the open space and resources required to open their doors to different types of events.

Additionally, local venues provide a supportive environment for talented young adults to flourish and for culture to be created. According to electronic dance and club magazine Mixmag, local venues like these are essential for building a foundation of local identities. They provide a place for those who are driven enough to share their art and to do so within their home communities.

The presence of a multi-use venue can inspire others to revitalize their own strengths and talents, serving as a meeting place for organizations to discuss progress, becoming a safe space for poetry reading and art exhibitions, or simply be a fun place for a small band to gain fans one community at a time.

If South Jersey increases the presence of its venues, it could help patrons find an outlet for entertainment while allowing them to socialize within their respective communities and allow the opportunity to host business events or celebrations for those communities.

This could increase South Jersey’s economy, by maintaining and creating jobs within the venues and businesses around them. These businesses can include restaurants, as discussed above, or convenience stores, to name a few. The possibilities for multi-use venues in South Jersey are endless.

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