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  • Writer's pictureGreenwich Chamber

The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce in the times of the pandemic

The Greenwich Journal & Salem Press

Darren Johnson

What do you do when things change all at once? When Kelly Eustis became the Managing Director of the Greater Greenwich Chamber of Commerce nine months ago, he couldn't have predicted what would happen in March, with most businesses either closed or challenged to find new ways of working.

I recently sat down with Kelly at the Chamber office in Village Hall on Academy Street to talk about his first nine months, his goals for the future and how the Chamber has pivoted to meet the needs of businesses during the pandemic crisis. The Chamber's mission is to support and promote members in supporting one another, and to find ways to help each other boost business and meet goals. So when the shutdown was put in place in mid-March, Kelly thought about what the Chamber could do to help business owners in Greenwich; as it turned out, businesses all over the Battenkill Valley were in the same positions. And since the virus that caused this shutdown is still very much with us, probably the most difficult thing is that no one is sure about what the next year will bring. Kelly conceived of a project that he calls Battenkill Strong, and he developed a website to help guide business owners through the shutdown and beyond: The site pulls relevant information into one place. Business resources are listed, including the rules and guidelines for who is allowed to be open and who isn't, and now the 10-point policy for reopening. The loan and grant guidelines for small business are detailed. Social Distancing Dining Out provides information about which restaurants are open for take-out. Local Community Support and Healthcare resources are listed. And finally, the latest COVID-19 information is listed, including where to get tested.

Through the Battenkill Strong brand, the project has facilitated conference calls with elected officials at the state and federal levels. All the Battenkill Strong resources are available to any business whatever their membership status. The information is updated as it changes. Much of the effort of the Chamber goes into organizing the two biggest annual public events in the Village: the Whipple City Festival, in June, and the Annual Lighted Tractor Parade, in November. After only 7 years of parades, the event has put our Village on the local map and brought thousands of visitors. Although because of the COVID-19 status, the Chamber Board made the decision to cancel this year's Whipple City Festival, the Chamber is planning an alternate festival. The idea is for a community-wide event to reboot the local economy: Back to Business! Street Fair. Main Street in Greenwich will be transformed into a festive, pedestrian street fair with local businesses and organizations lining the streets with tables and tents. The date isn't set yet, but as guidelines become clearer, the Chamber will announce a day and time. When he began in this position at the Chamber, Kelly had set two major goals for his first year: create a new Chamber website, updating the design and content as well as the user experience. The second goal was to increase Chamber membership. These goals haven't been put aside. The new website will launch on June 1, and one of its features will be microsites for every chamber member. Kelly works on increasing members one business at a time through personal outreach. Kelly encourages businesses to get in touch with the Chamber and go to the site as well as the sites for information and ideas.


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