HIGHTSTOWN, NJ -The Pines Manor in Edison banquet hall is used to preparing thousands of decadent meals a day to serve during once in a lifetime events, and employing over 100 people in the community to do so.
The sprawling historic building which sits on five acres of land is one of the largest and oldest venues in New Jersey. The coronavirus has caused an unprecedented dip in business.
“This venue has been through the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War II, a fire in 1972, and now it’s going to survive COVID-19. I don’t want this to fold on my watch,” said Joe Amore, owner of the Pines Manor.
“2019 was the best year they’ve ever had and when the pandemic hit, we were getting ready for proms, weddings, and so many other big events. We’ve had 1,000 events cancelled.”
During the warm weather months, Pines Manor was able to do some outdoor events at limited capacity but since then, only a few events have been held indoors, at either 25% or 35% in compliance with current state guidelines. So business is bad for Amore, who bought the restaurant five years ago with Executive Chef Jeff McNamara after serving as Director of Operations since 2004.
One of the Manor’s most consistent customers has been FeedNJ, the initiative by non-profit SoupKitchen411 to buy meals from local restaurants and serve for free at soup kitchens and houses of worship. The first Saturday of this month, they prepared 250 meals to be served at Hands of Hope in Edison.
“For these great community events, our staple has become the chicken francese with rosemary roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables. It’s a delicious, nutritious meal that has a level of decadence, but doesn’t break the bank to make,” Amore added.
Amore sells these meals to FeedNJ at cost, only $8 per meal, enough to cover ingredients and labor for the furloughed or part-time kitchen crew that are used to preparing thousands of meals every day.
These meals came from a donation by Government Strategy Group, a Shrewsbury-based consulting firm that has donated several times to FeedNJ.
The long-time vendor to Edison’s Finance Department made a $5,000 donation in the municipality’s honor, to purchase meals for this month's service, and two other meal services at Hands of Hope.
“Pines Manor is a local landmark, and the owners do so much for the local community, including hosting Blood Drives and free outdoor movie screenings. We are proud to support the mission of FeedNJ to ‘Save a Restaurant and Feed a Community’ and honored that Government Strategy Group, a firm we’ve had a wonderful working relationship with for many years, is so dedicated to fortifying our community,” said Ashley Gotz, Assistant Treasurer at the Township of Edison’s Finance Department.
Since the start of the pandemic, Pines Manor has hosted three blood drives with the American Red Cross, attended by an average of over 100 blood donors.
Pines Manor has delivered over 1,000 meals purchased by FeedNJ across Middlesex County. To date, FeedNJ has served over 35,000 meals in 13 counties across the state, but nowhere more than in Middlesex County, where it has served nearly 11,000 meals at Hands of Hope, New Brunswick’s Elijah’s Promise, Woodbridge’s Trinity Soup Kitchen, Perth Amboy’s Renovation House, and Perth Amboy’s Salvation Army Corps.