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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It was a heady time for the Chamber of Commerce

One night at the Gallery Walk, my friend Donna Sweeny and I were talking about Grove events and for some reason, health insurance and the Grove Chamber of Commerce came up and it appears that in the mid-90s the two went hand-in-hand; the Chamber was overflowing with people, getting as many as 88 new members a month and one reason was a group plan for John Alden health insurance.

According to an ad that ran in the Chamber newsletter in 1995: "As a Coconut Grove Chamber member, your business is eligible to participate in a special group insurance plan with low affordable premiums. $15 office visits, No claim forms, $250 deductible, company rated A+." By the way, the newsletter won a national award at the time.

It doesn't say what the premium per month was, but it must have been reasonable in 1995 and with it being a group and so many people joining, it must have been.

According to Donna, "The Chamber was run like a business with two full-time employees, Amy Simons and Jackie Balaban, and one part-time employee. To pay salaries and expenses, the Chamber held the yearly Taste of the Grove which one year netted $4,000 that was split with the Muscular Dystrophy Association."
Correction: 1996 the Chamber donated $63,000 to Muscular Dystrophy Assn. MDA was a partner in Taste of the Grove; overall $126,000 was made and the Chamber split it with MDA. 

The Chamber also held the Banyan Festival and several fund raising activities like Progressive Dinners, Luau at Scotty's Landing, the 1997 Chamber Golf Challenge at the Doral Park Silver Course and more.

The Chamber also held an annual town hall meeting with the mayor, commissioners, city manager and police chief, all there to answer questions and answer concerns. Refreshments were supplied by Grove restaurant members. The Chamber published a 32-page booklet edited by Peter Laird, current president, called "The IN Guide to going OUT in Coconut Grove." There were also active committees that met once a month: Membership, Think Tank, Grove Marketing and Public Relations, Police Liaison, Banyan Festival, Town Hall, Walk of Fame, and Progressive Dinner. They also sponsored a Coconut Grove Free Ride bus. The Installation Ball was black tie formal with mayor and all commissioners present. One year the Golden Coconut Awards had to be held at at the Sonesta in Key Biscayne because none of the Grove hotels had a ballroom big enough to hold all the people who attended.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the former Grove Chamber and former CGVC where actually useful and productive organizations.
Why can’t the present ones build on the success of those that came before? How is it that in recent years the Grove Chamber and CGVC have accomplished so little for the benefit of Coconut Grove?

January 29, 2014 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Out In The Cold said...

My partner and I attended a function several months back. Neither of us is shy, yet we were left to our devices. Seemed more like a gathering place for old friends than a chamber of commerce. Went back again, just in case it was one bad gathering, and the same experience repeated. We opened our business in Coral Gables instead of the Grove. As long time Groveites, it was a painful decision. The Gables has embraced us and we are doing quite well. We would so have loved staying in the Grove.

January 29, 2014 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out in the Cold, same as an anon, right, so lets do the math: attended a meeting November, went back so that's 2 weeks. You started a business in Coral Gables, i.e, renovated, elec, H20,fixtures, inventory, insurance, licenses/permits, employees, etc; what U do, wash cars, dogs, deliver pizza's & bash the Grove in between?! Take a hike, hit the road. stay put & keep out of Dodge!

January 29, 2014 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The health plan helped many of the chambers of commerce thrive in that era. Once the plans went away, you had to work hard for membership and get creative. Those were the days when potential members came running to you! As a long time member of another chamber I know it takes hard work of paid staff and many volunteers and I know some are doing it better than others.

February 02, 2014 12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI the group plan on the insurance for members is not available by law. I asked about that many years ago, and I was told that it wasn't a Chamber decision, it was only because the law changed. I think something similar may be available from National Chambers, but not local ones. The Coral Gables Chamber who has a large membership base does not offer it either.

February 05, 2014 7:04 PM  

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