Decatur businesses find new employees at Job Fair on the SquareThe city of Decatur and the Downtown Development Authority hosted Job Fair on the Square on Monday, June 7, and several businesses accepted applications during the event. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — The City of Decatur and Decatur Downtown Development Authority hosted a job fair on the Square on June 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. About eight local businesses accepted applications and conducted interviews during the event, including restaurants, retailers and hotels.
The first hour of the event was reserved for students from the Decatur High School career academy program and the businesses in attendance received many applications from students looking for summer jobs.
“We had people here ready to go when the different businesses opened up. They were ready to start applying,” Downtown Program Manager Shirley Baylis said. “But we wanted to support our businesses and getting employees because that’s a huge thing right now — businesses trying to find employees and the right employees.”
She has noticed that local businesses have been struggling to find employees as they have signs out and have posted about job openings on their websites or social media pages.
“I think this morning has been good,” Baylis said at the event. “A lot of the young people in the community have come out to apply for jobs and that was good to see.”
“I estimate that about 40 people came out to apply for jobs today, and all of the vendors I spoke with told me it was a good pool of applicants,” Baylis said in an email following the job fair.
The idea for the job fair came from Fleet Feet marketing manager Lauren Blankenship. She asked if the city had ever considered doing a job fair and Baylis organized the event.
Fleet Feet provides shoes and other supplies people need for running. The staff scan customers feet and use a pressure plate to determine where someone needs more cushion in their shoes. From those assessments, the staff are able to make shoe recommendations, Fleet Feet Retail Experience Manager Neli Manova said.
“We outfit you from the bottom to the top,” Manova said. “It’s basically everything running, walking, active lifestyle living.”
The store is not currently hiring, but the staff is always on the lookout for potential employees. Manova was impressed with a couple high school students who attended the job fair.
Fleet Feet was struggling at the beginning of the year to find employees, but hired several people when the store opened up a couple months ago. Blankenship had posted job openings on social media and in the store’s newsletter and didn’t receive any resumes or applications at the time.
Manova had started asking customers during shoe fittings if they were looking for jobs and that was how she hired some employees. The store has now been fully staffed since about March.
“It was very stressful at some point. I was working like 45, 48 hours a week just because we couldn’t get anybody to work,” Manova said. “But now it’s over. It’s all good now. Hopefully it’s going to stay that way.”
Blankenship also enjoyed getting to know other business owners and managers at the event to see how they can support each other.
“It’s been fun getting to know more of the businesses and actual faces and really see how we can educate people on what we do and then partner with them because we’ve got our group runs back up going on Wednesday and Saturday [mornings]. That really engages the community to see that we’re more than just a running store, we’re not just only here to sell you shoes,” Blankenship said. “This has been fun for me to meet more people just to see how we can help each other drive business back and forth.”
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream also set up a booth at the event to seek applications for store ambassadors. Shopkeeper Jaylen Jamerson started the morning with about 20 applications and had four left at about noon. He had seen lots of high school students who have either recently graduated or are rising upperclassmen.
The ice cream shop has been able to find part-time employees and almost has a full staff currently. Jamerson said he needs about two more people to fill leadership positions and needs about five or six ambassadors.
“Well as an ice cream shop, when it’s warm it is busy, so we’re out here right now looking for, mostly, part-time employment so like ambassadors to be able to work for the summer especially with the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions,” Jamerson said. “We are seeing more and more customers coming into the store because of that and as such we are going to want to be to have our current team and our new team members be able to take time off if they need to.”
The store hopes to have enough staff to be able to also staff the shop and make sure they can take care of customers when lines get really long, Jamerson said.
As businesses have struggled to find employees recently, Jamerson said Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has struggled more to retain employees rather than find employees.
A new Decatur business participated in the job fair as well. Hattie Marie’s Texas Style BBQ and Cajun Kitchen will be opening in the Courtyard Marriott on June 25 and is actively hiring for at least 25 openings that are front and back of the house positions, everything from dishwashers to cooks to bartenders and servers.
“It’s actually going really well. A lot of students involved looking for summer jobs and jobs during the school year,” Assistant Manager Cornelia Bell said about the event. “We’re a brand-new restaurant. There’s a lot of room for growth because there are going to be two more locations opening underneath the owner coming soon.”
Bell added that she had received applications that could fill a majority of the open positions. She also hoped to make new connections with other businesses at the job fair and also help the city to know that the restaurant is in the city and is opening soon.
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