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Business is up for Wolfeboro and Chamber of Commerce

THE NEWLY-RENOVATED GARWOODS was the site of the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce quarterly meeting last Thursday, Sept. 1, sponsored by the Wolfeboro Friends of Music. Pictured are (l-r): Greg Roark of Garwoods, Don Holm and John Sandeen of Wolfeboro Friends of Music and Chamber President Tod ODowd. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
September 08, 2011
WOLFEBORO — The Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce held its quarterly membership meeting last Thursday, Sept. 1, at the completely remodeled Garwoods Restaurant.

Chamber President Tod O'Dowd of Avery Insurance opened the meeting with some good news from the Board of Directors. The first Community Cash Raffle, where customers of Wolfeboro businesses could purchase for $10 a chance to win $1,000 gift card, made money for the Chamber while promoting the 40 Wolfeboro businesses who participated. Greg Roark of Garwoods sold the winning ticket, which was drawn on Aug. 17.

The board also arranged with Wolfeboro selectmen to sublet the space in the Railroad Station occupied by the Wolfeboro Nursery School for the summer to provide downtown exposure to businesses located out of the town core. The New Hampshire Boat Museum jumped at the chance and moved in several boats. "It was an outstanding success," aid Hank Why, Boat Museum Chairman. Why reported that the museum acquired the Millie B wooden boat tour business on July 1 to give it additional exposure at the town docks.

The New Hampshire Association of Chambers of Commerce will hold its annual meeting at the Wolfeboro Inn on Oct. 27 and 28. Chamber Executive Director Mary DeVries is a member of the state association board and was instrumental in getting the group to come to town. Members who want to promote their businesses are encouraged to provide materials for a "goody bag" to be given to the 40 or so members expected.

O'Dowd said the board continues to work on getting downtown access to the lake during the winter, while protecting the town docks. The goal is to increase winter visitors, including snowmobilers and walkers, who will visit downtown stores and restaurants during their visits.

He also said the board was watching the improvements being made to Route 16 in Rochester. In the long run they will help bring tourists to Wolfeboro, but in the short term there have been problems: the Exit 15 sign directing travelers to Lake Winnipesaukee was taken down and it took some calls to get it reinstalled.

The directors formally endorsed the Conservation Commission's Front Bay Park project. It is the only fully handicapped-accessible park in the Lakes Region and another unique attraction for Wolfeboro.

O'Dowd went over the many benefits of Chamber membership, including a 25 percent discount on using Constant Contact (the Web marketing company), ribbon cutting ceremonies for new or expanded businesses, use of the Chamber's bulk mail permit in making mailings, and tourism advertising in the NH State Visitor's Guide and several tourist-directed magazines.

Two workshops are coming up on using Constant Contact for Web marketing. The first, on Thursday, Oct. 20, will be on using social media like Facebook as part of your marketing plan. The second, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, will be on "Power Female Marketing via Constant Contact." O'Dowd also said the board was planning sessions on advertising and marketing and on how to write press releases.

Wolfeboro Friends of Music

The quarterly meeting was sponsored by Wolfeboro Friends of Music, which has been bringing music to Wolfeboro since 1936. President Donald Holm and Vice President John Sandeen spoke about the group's upcoming season, including the Ramsay Lewis Jazz Concert on Saturday, Sept. 17, which is being sponsored by an anonymous donor who wants ticket proceeds to go to the Friends music scholars program. Holm said that Lewis just got back from concerts in Tokyo and Taiwan and that a big turnout is expected. Lewis will play on the 1919 Steinway Grand piano purchased this spring by the Friends after a community fundraising effort. In all the vintage piano will be used in three of the eight concerts scheduled this year.

Holm thanked Chamber members for their support during the piano drive and asked them to display the organizations posters on upcoming concerts.

Help needed

Chamber members also heard two appeals for help at the meeting. Pat Manning, co-chair of First Night Wolfeboro, said the organization needs help, financial and otherwise, to continue offering visitors affordable entertainment and a good reason to come to Wolfeboro on New Year's Eve. She said the group has been working since February, seeking sponsors and donations, and looking to change the program a little to avoid "getting stale." The goal is to support local artists, but they also hope to draw a celebrity to the event who will sign autographs and provide a buzz. One specific idea is to set up four telescopes around town trained on specific stars and manned by Planetarium staff.

Chamber Marketing Chair Judy Sabanek brought the news that the Scarecrow Festival is being discontinued, but that the Chamber is looking for someone to adopt it after nine years as a Chamber event. There is no doubt that it brings people into town, but participation has been declining. She reported on a survey sent to 300 local businesses through Constant Comment: of the 300 sent, 80 were opened, 55 clicked through to the survey and 44 completed it; 35 were in favor of continuing the festival but only 24 said they would do scarecrows. Sabanek said there had been up to 90 participants in the past, and the board decided that if the Chamber cannot do better it made sense to see if someone else could improve on the event. She said she was hoping to get a response from an article in the newspaper and added that she and DeVries would be willing to help turn things over to whomever steps forward.

She said the Sidewalk Sale Days brought good weekend traffic to most businesses and people were buying. The next event is Christmas in Wolfeboro that starts with a parade on Nov. 26 and includes Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 3.

A major marketing effort this year is getting member Web sites to link to one another, and Sabanek said the Chamber would have information soon to members on how to do it.

Other committee reports

DeVries reported for Rick Gagne that the Educational Partnerships committee is sending a letter to teachers at Brewster and Kingswood High inviting them to have Chamber members come to classes and speak about their businesses. The School to Work program is also actively placing students in businesses to gain work experience.

Amy Piper of Signature Events reported on Programs, Benefits and Services. Chamber socials are now booked through next year except for November 2012. The next social is on Thursday, Sept. 15, at Edward Jones Investments.

Piper also reported that this year a corporate family retreat that normally moves to a new site each year came to Wolfeboro and decided to come back next year.

Diane Levin of TD Bank reported that the Economic Development committee will be holding a series of six or seven business focus group meetings this fall where local businesspeople will be invited to discuss in small groups business opportunities that will fit in the area, how to extend the tourist season, and how to attract and grow business in town. The first session is planned for Sept. 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Huggins Medical Arts Building. People can go to other sessions if the session one is invited to is not convenient, and morning sessions are possible. Invitations will go out shortly.

Cindy Melanson of Melanson Real Estate said the Community Betterment committee met about signage with Public Works Director Dave Ford and Town Planner Rob Houseman. Ford is planning to redo the sidewalks and curb cuts at Hunter's IGA and Sal's Sunoco so there is one entrance on one exit, Houseman is working on banner signage for next year. Overall Melanson said, "Downtown looks great!"

Paul O'Brien of the Town Economic Development Committee reported that a Commercial Open House is planned for Oct. 19. Vacant properties for sale and rent in town would be shown. The committee is now pulling together a list of properties and has identified 16 pages of people to invite, including realtors. "The goal is not to change Wolfeboro but to get people who can support it to move here, whether they are commercial or industrial businesses.

Selectman Dave Bowers gave a brief report on projects the town is working on including road upgrade, the installation of sprinklers at the Pop Whalen Ice Arena, the development of Front Bay Park, and the board's consideration of phasing proposals for renovation of Town Hall. He invited members who have concerns to call Town Manager Dave Owen to get on the agenda for a selectmen's meeting and promised the board would be responsive.

Varney Smith
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