By Paige Schoenberg
What do a restaurant, a preschool, a clothing retailer, and a dentist have in common? All are members of the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce, a local association that aims to bring together New Castle businesses and the community.
The Chamber was founded just over one year ago in 2012 by Rob Greenstein and Christine Yeres, who hoped to help local merchants expand their businesses while at the same time creating a sense of community that many felt had begun to fade over the years. When the Chamber was first formed, only a few of the town’s many businesses were members. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the Chamber Board, that number has grown to include over 170 diverse local enterprises
A Community-Minded Mission
The Chamber supports these and other establishments with the “Shop Local” initiative, which encourages residents to shop at smaller stores in Chappaqua and Millwood instead of at big-box chains. This helps merchants by increasing revenue and benefits customers by providing a unique, personalized shopping experience that cannot be found at larger retailers. As part of their plan to boost the local economy, the Chamber promotes the 3/50 Project, which reinforces the economic benefits of shopping locally. For every dollar spent at a local store, more money is returned to the community than would be if that money was spent elsewhere.
Of every $100 spent locally, $68 comes back to the town through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures, as compared to only $43 for every $100 spent in a national chain.
The Chamber also participates in the American Express Small Business Saturday, a nationwide program advocating the importance of supporting small businesses.
The program, which provides free marketing materials for merchants, is run by the American Express Company and backed by corporations such as Facebook, Twitter, and FedEx.
Helping Business and the Community Thrive Together
These campaigns are important to revitalize the local economy, but the Chamber recognizes that creating a sense of community is of equal value. To achieve their goal of making local businesses a part of the greater community, the Chamber has held several events, designed to increase spirit and bring residents into stores and restaurants. Recent events include the first annual Tails to Trails pet fair in Millwood, sponsored by Drug Mart and the Millwood Animal Hospital, and the May Madness Sweepstakes, which gave customers a chance to win one of four iPad minis by registering at participating merchants. Free family-friendly movies were shown in Millwood Park on Friday nights in June and July.
During July, the Chamber worked with the New Castle Recreation and Parks Department to host the Summer Concert Series, which featured the Chappaqua Orchestra and Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond cover bands, and local food vendors were on hand to provide refreshments.
The Chamber hopes that these kinds of larger events, in addition to the popular Sidewalk Sales in late July, will draw crowds from the surrounding area as well.
Ready for a Busy Fall
New Castle residents have several upcoming events to look forward to. In October, the Chamber will organize its second annual Fall Festival in downtown Chappaqua. Planned activities include pie-baking and doughnut-eating contests, hayrides, and food tastings by local restaurants. Stores will sponsor activities, and merchandise will be available for purchase. The Chamber will be running a Community Day table to highlight future happenings.
Two returning events, the Taste of Chappaqua and the Holiday Stroll, will take place in November or early December. Last year’s Holiday Stroll featured carolers, ice sculptures, and refreshments as part of a joint event with the New Castle Historical Society’s annual tree lighting, at which the Horace Greeley High School Madrigal Choir and the Chappaqua Orchestra performed.
Residents can also expect new lighted snowflakes in time for the holidays, which will add a bit of winter sparkle to the Rt. 120 bridge and throughout the downtown area.
The decorations are part of a combined effort with the New Castle Beautification Advisory Board to boost foot traffic by improving the appearance of Chappaqua’s downtown area.
The Chamber actively participates in town matters and encourages residents to get involved. Currently, the Chamber posts a weekly ChamberChat on the New Castle NOW website to publicize town meetings and community activities, as well as special promotions from merchants. The Chamber also sends updates through email blasts and the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce Facebook page. An independent Chamber website and mobile app is in the works.
Paige Schoenberg is a senior at Horace Greeley High School. Growing up, her favorite book was Put Me in the Zoo.
*Editor’s Note: Carolyn Simpson of Doublevision Photographers graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Photography. Through her lens she has photographed many things, from the cobblestoned streets of Italy to the smiling faces of families at holiday time. With over 20 years of experience, Carolyn strives to always capture the essence of the moment. She specializes in Events, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Portraits and Architecture Photography.