While Germantown still has a need for improvement, the community has come a long way in the past few years. As owner of Acclaim Academy and chairman of the Germantown Special Services District, Joseph Martin has impacted the community in more ways than one. From striving to make the streets cleaner, to implementing murals to brighten the environment, Martin is well on the way to restoring Germantown.
“The ultimate objective is to present a better Germantown,” said Martin regarding his vision. “A cleaner Germantown, a safer Germantown, a more prosperous Germantown.”
Businesses like Lightning Beauty Supply Store have seen nothing but progress ever since Martin threw himself into bettering conditions for businesses.
“He’s always concerned about his neighbors,” said Gwang Han, the owner of Lightning Beauty Supply. “Constantly pushing to make it safer – with video cameras outside and changing the shutters from see-through to more solid and secure protection outside.”
With a high rate of crime in the area, preventing theft, damage and loss of revenue is crucial to business owners. According to the Spot Crime website, robbery and theft are the most prevalent types of crimes in the area, so improved and intense measures of security are a serious concern to all Germantown shops alike.
The desire to see the streets progress came from experiencing poor conditions firsthand as a business owner.
“When I first opened Acclaim Academy, I would come up every morning, open up at 6:30 and literally sweep trash off the front of my property because I wanted a presentable place for my families to come into,” Martin explained. “I would drive down Chelten Ave. to get to Germantown Ave. and it was just a corridor of trash. Unappealing. As a business owner, that’s not a good environment. I made my feelings known and I coordinated with other businesses on my block to help clean my block.”
In order to better the conditions and reduce trash, a tax was established on surrounding businesses to fund a cleaner environment. About 93 percent of business owners in the vicinity pay the tax in support of the movement to rid the streets of trash.
Trash removal is not the only objective on Martin’s agenda to fix the community. Rather than having harsh metal security gates when the school is closed, Martin had a mural painted on the gate to eliminate what he finds to be ugly and prison-like. Making the area and surrounding businesses more appealing, he believes, increases the property value of the area and creates a more enticing shopping environment.
Martin not only carries out his business savvy ways with fellow business owners, but with his employees as well. He not only acts as a boss towards the staff but as a mentor, helping those around him reach their full potential.
“He’s very business minded,” said Acclaim Academy assistant director William Hayes-Webb. “He wants you to succeed. He wants to put people in a position to start their own business. So, for me, I’m always learning from him. He inspires me.”
For GTown owner Jin Lee, the actions of Martin have not only made his business look better, but they’ve generate more customers and revenue as well. Lee particularly appreciates that Martin makes it a priority to make sure all business owners have a voice and a platform to fix any issues they may have.
“He works hard,” Lee said. “He helped me get a loan from the Commerce Department of Philadelphia to improve my store. As you see, my store is totally new thanks to him. My store display was about 30 years old, old fashioned. And then I got the loan and changed the whole store to the ceiling. It was all-possible through the help of Mr. Martin.”
General encouragement and positivity are a part of Martin’s daily interactions with his fellow Germantown business owners. Han, the owner of Lighting Beauty Supply, appreciates the fact that Martin not only has been a loyal customer for years but he has encouraged others in the area to buy from Han as well. Martin makes frequent visits to all surrounding businesses to ensure that they are doing their best.
“He’s very influential,” commented Eddie Stew, owner of Urban Celebrities Salon, located directly across from Acclaim Academy. “Providing education and jobs in the area—he does a lot for the community.”
– Photos, text and video by Nikki Svec and Rose Daraz.