Saranac Lake chamber alive and well

The Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce almost folded a couple of years ago: deep in debt, paying the executive director an annual salary of $65,000, discarding the logo pin with the “green side of the big apple” – in my opinion, one of the best marketing tools ever – holding legislative breakfasts as their main event and then the final straw, moving the chamber office out of the town hall and away from Main Street.

Isn’t our goal to get people downtown, not direct them to get back in their car and drive to the chamber office away from downtown? A couple of people objected, saying there is parking at the present offices in the North Elba Town House. Yes, and there are a hundred or so parking places about 100 yards from the former chamber offices in the town hall on Main Street. There needs to be a bigger conversation about all of this.

Tim Hesseltine is now the president of the chamber. There is a new board of directors, they are reorganized, active and out of debt.

Katy Van Anden is the executive director and has a part-time assistant, Anna Lapizak. They have separate offices with the ROOST staff, Visitors Specialist Courtney Powers and blogger Pam Merritt. But I think the bhamber office should be back in the Harrietstown Town Hall, a move that a lot of merchants and other people agree with.

Chambers of commerce are disappearing because of our digital culture. I have met with Tim and with my friend Jim McKenna, CEO of ROOST in Lake Placid, and I am trying to get a better understanding of the new mission of the chambers now and how much things have changed since I was on the chamber board many years ago.

Attracting small associations

Commerce means “business dealings or trade”; the original name of that organization in Saranac Lake was the Board of Trade, later the Businessman’s Association. There are hundreds of associations in New York state that have full-time persons just planning their meetings years in advance. I am convinced there is a role here that can be filled by our chamber.

The restored Hotel Saranac is going to be a tremendous anchor for the downtown. It is going to help the other motels to fill rooms and help the local merchants do more business.

Now, just stick with me here for a minute: While many of the local conditions have changed drastically, some have not

Enterprise excerpts

July 25, 1938 – “Invitations to four New York State Associations to hold their 1939 conventions in Saranac Lake were extended to officials of the organizations during the past week by Mayor Thomas P. Ward.

“Should the village obtain the four conventions it will have a total of six during the summer of 1939. The Elks and Knights of Columbus have already voted to convene here. The four organizations invited were: New York State Association of County Clerks; New York State Association of County and Town Officials; New York State Association of Sealers of Weights and Measures and the New York State Association of Election Commissioners.”

Meetings in Saranac?Lake, 1938

The Enterprise, July 14, 1938 – “Loyal Order of Moose and Women of Moose Open 3-Day Conclave – The 24th annual conclave of the New York State Loyal Order of Moose and the annual Conference of the Women of the Moose opened this morning when Clifford W. McCormick, of the Saranac Lake Lodge called a joint session to order at the town hall at 9:45 o’clock. Mayor Thomas P. Ward, Vice President of the State Moose Association, gave the welcoming address.”

The Enterprise, July 15, 1938 -“More than 250 police chiefs and other law enforcement officials are expected in Saranac Lake tomorrow for the 36th annual convention of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police which will continue through Thursday.

“The convention will be officially opened at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning at the Hotel Saranac by Lacey C. Abel, Chief of Police of Binghamton, President of the Association.

“Among other notables addressing the conclave are Chief Inspector Albert D. Moore of Albany, head of the state police; Inspector W. H. Drane Lester of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Deputy Inspector John J. O’Connell of the New York City police department.”

The biggest meeting of all

The Enterprise, July 30, 1938 – “Arrangements for the New York State Volunteer Firemen’s Association convention to be held in the village during the third week of August pressed ahead with final plans today.

“According to Matthew M. Munn, general chairman, more than 2,000 delegates to the annual convention are expected to gather here. Reservations are filling so rapidly, Mr. Munn said, that the number of delegates may reach the 3,000 mark.”

Ambulance benefit party

The Enterprise, June 8, 1938 – “With a crowd of 500 guaranteed on the basis of advance reservations, the ambulance ball and card party at the Hotel Saranac and the Harrietstown Town Hall tonight will attract close to 1,000 persons.

“Leo McKillip, Chairman of the party and Commander of the American Legion, sponsor of the party, stated that a few tables are still available and asked that all players bring their own cards.”