Eastern Market Main Street (EMMS) will shortly begin looking for new leadership. Current Executive Director (ED) Charles McCaffrey announced that he would step down officially as of Oct. 15, although he will provide support throughout the search for his successor.
McCaffrey came to EMMS in November, 2019. After guiding the Main Street through the HollyDays, the team took a break from events to plan a new strategy, he said. Then March came and changed everything.
He said despite the hard times that framed his tenure at EMMS, the experience has been wonderful. “I have enjoyed helping the businesses, and being engaged with the community and city leadership to help out and work though everything, despite the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded it.”
He has accepted a position as Associate Director of Career Services with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, where he will help disabled veterans get jobs, he said, and hopes to add entrepreneurial services to the slate of resources.
“We are certainly sad to see him go, but we wish him well,” said EMMS Vice President and Treasurer Mary Quillian Helms. “He’s been a real asset to Eastern Market Main Street –and frankly the whole Capitol Hill Community throughout the pandemic.”
Helms said that McCaffrey rolled up his sleeves and jumped in when the pandemic hit, becoming a cheerleader as he supported small businesses in pursuit of grants and other support, and organizing events such as the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to small businesses from Eastern Market’s North Hall.
“He was just invaluable throughout this time,” she said.
The Small Business Bug
In doing so, McCaffrey will again draw on his vast experience which gave him a uncannily suitable background to lead EMMS during a pandemic.
Surrounded by water as he was in his hometown of Great Falls, Montana, McCaffrey joked that he was bound to join the Navy, which he did at 17 straight out of high school (Great Falls is notably flat and dry).
Leaving the service to become a government contractor, McCaffrey was bitten by the small business bug when together with a friend, he opened a deli in central Pennsylvania. It was called “Agostinelli’s Deli” after his partner in the business. (“They didn’t think that “McCaffrey’s Italian Deli would cut it,” he said of the name).
As his interest in government contracting began to decline, McCaffrey’s interest in small business increased. So, McCaffrey went on to work with a not for profit out of George Mason University, helping small businesses get off the ground, before moving on to the Small Business Administration (SBA).
At SBA, he helped found the mid-Atlantic Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program, which offers resources to veterans who are interested in starting or growing a small business.
McCaffrey became EMMS Executive Director after 10 years working as a Resource Partner for SBA. That put him in a good position to help businesses navigate through the challenges of COVID-19, albeit in a less traditional Main Street role.
The Search is On
McCaffrey is looking forward to working with the veteran community again, but he said it has been an honor working with EMMS. He said he appreciated the way that he was embraced by the residential and business community and the local not for profits and government agencies.
EMMS President Manuel Cortes said that he was surprised when he learned that McCaffrey was moving on. “He’s a good guy,” Cortes said. The search for a new ED will likely begin over the next couple of weeks, Cortes added, after the EMMS Board reviews the job description and the plans for the next year. “It’s a process,” Cortes said of finding a new ED. “It will be a challenge.”
McCaffrey expects to be available to EMMS through the end of the year. “I’m proud we’ve remained safe and vibrant, and how we’re now talking about putting on events,” he said. “Now we [EMMS] can talk about energizing the area and activating the space.”
He means “we”, because McCaffrey is not gone quite yet –while he begins working remotely from home, McCaffrey said he will make himself available to the Board of Directors and Executive Committee to offer support and the search for the new EMMS ED, a role he said will likely require a slightly different skill set than he brought to the table.
“It was a pleasure to work collaboratively during probably the most difficult health and economic time many of us have seen,” McCaffrey said, “and to be able to come out the other side feeling good about what we’ve accomplished and feeling great about where we can go from here.”
Learn more about Eastern Market Main Street (EMMS) by visiting www.easternmarketmainstreet.org