A Recipe for Energy Efficiency: Vanguard Helps Jersey Girl Caterers Transform Culinary Space

In a world where adversity can make or break a person, there are remarkable individuals like Laurie Jones. A culinary-school-trained chef, Laurie ran a successful New York City restaurant until the 9/11 tragedy hit. She lost her business, but her drive and her passion never wavered.

The unstoppable businesswoman threw her talents into building Jersey Girl Caterers, a high-end catering venture poised for a banner 2020. Sadly, COVID-19 thwarted those plans. Two decades after her first closure, she faced the possibility of a second one.

A Shared Space for Survival

Always resilient and creative, Laurie transformed her 4,200 SF commercial kitchen into a shared space for fellow culinary professionals trying to keep their businesses afloat through the pandemic. But keeping the kitchen properly ventilated and temperature controlled was a nagging issue.

“My HVAC guy kept putting band-aids on the system and warning that I’d need to replace the whole thing very soon. Then I received a PSE&G email about the New Jersey Clean Energy program for small businesses. It led me to Vanguard Building Solutions, one of their vetted trade allies.

“I can’t say enough about Vanguard; they were overwhelmingly helpful,” she notes. “They went out of their way in so many aspects and they stand by you, which is hard to find these days. If there were a million-star review, that’s what Vanguard would get.”

Energy Efficiency Grants

Designing an energy-efficient system can be especially challenging when grants like the School and Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program are involved. That’s why working with a company like Vanguard, that understands the nuances of construction, engineering, energy efficiency and financing solutions, is crucial.

“You need to balance the clients’ operational needs, the building owner’s outlook, everyone’s budget and the design requirements of different federal, state and local grants, along with incentive programs offered by the utilities,” explains Michel’le Forrest Akman, Vanguard Regional Director of Energy Services.

Vanguard’s Michel’le Forrest Akman and Jersey Girl Caterers’ Laurie Jones

An Energy-Saving, Budget-Friendly Solution

Today, Laurie’s shared kitchen boasts a 10-ton Carrier cooling unit with electric heat, a Fantech energy recovery ventilator for fresh air intake with MERV 13 high filtration for superior air quality. Nearly 70 percent of the cost was covered by a New Jersey Clean Energy grant with an additional 14 percent from a PSE&G incentive. The balance is financed through a zero-interest, 60-month loan from PSE&G which appears as a line item on Laurie’s utility bill.

Year-Round, Long-Term Benefits

Thanks to the upgraded system, the kitchen maintains a comfortable temperature year-round while maintaining energy efficiency.

“My tenants are very happy, and so am I. My one worry was that energy costs would be very high this summer because it was so hot,” Laurie recalls. “But the system is so efficient that my utility bill was surprisingly manageable.

“In the long run, this also increases the value of my business. When I sell it, the new owner will have a wonderful energy-efficient cooling and heating system,” she adds.

Laurie Jones’s success story is a testament to her resilience and adaptability. “She is a role model for other women business owners and an inspiration to all entrepreneurs,” says Michel’le. “Her story is proof positive that business owners can transcend their circumstances and turn problems into opportunities for growth.”

If you’re a business owner, wondering how to increase the energy efficiency in your operation, the experts at Vanguard Building Solutions are ready to help.