By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce is living what it preaches in these pandemic times: finding new ways to run old business with fresh steps forward to keep up with the demands and uncertainties of the day.
Sadly, the wildly popular Trick or Treat Street will not take place this year, but the race for honorary mayor of Riverview will, and it’s set to run from Oct. 27 through Dec. 8. Candidates are asked to plan both virtual and in-person events, in keeping with current health and safety protocols. Candidates, as always, will raise funds for their associated nonprofits, with 90 percent of the proceeds passing through to the benefiting organizations.
“We do a lot of work behind the scenes to make the race successful, but we give the charities 90 percent, and that’s huge,” said Tanya Doran, the Riverview Chamber’s executive director, in an interview Monday, Sept. 14. “We’re very proud of that.”
Meanwhile, the chamber itself is moving forward with some events that focus on live interaction, most notably with this month’s first in-person monthly membership meeting, which was held Sept. 15 at the Barn Theatre at Winthrop.
Space was limited for this first event in what chamber officials are calling the “Rediscover, Innovate and Celebrate” series of programs and activities.
“We’re adhering to the 50-person limit, and we sold out last week,” Doran said. “We asked people not to attend if they tested positive over the past 14 days, if they felt like they were getting sick, if they’ve been exposed to someone who is sick or if they were waiting for their test results to come back.”
The Barn luncheons will supplement the traditional monthly membership meeting, held the fourth Tuesday of the month, which will continue to be held virtually, where a more formal agenda will be in place, including covering the recognition of new and renewing members and other chamber business.
As a microcosm of society, the chamber is facing its own challenges during this era of COVID-19. “We’re seeing a decrease in revenue simply because we’re not doing events like we traditionally do,” Doran said. “But we’re doing just fine. I have a very responsible board of directors that really did a great job saving for a rainy day. Quite honestly, we thought it would come in the form of a natural disaster and not a pandemic.”
Members are staying loyal, with 10 new members and 43 renewing members this month alone. “I cannot complain about that,” Doran said, “Unless they’re closing their doors, they’re renewing.”
And that’s where the rub comes in.
“We are expecting some businesses to close their doors, and that’s very sad and it’s tragic,” Doran said. “But I think that’s the reality right now. It’s like losing a friend. But with that said, and I know this sounds very cliché, there are opportunities out there. It just means that this chapter has closed, and you’re going to start a new one.”
Still, “It’s very emotional to close a business,” Doran said. “It’s emotional for them; it’s emotional for us. It’s not an easy task. But if closing their business is the only option, we want them to close with grace and dignity and on their own terms.”
As for losing their chamber life, that is not necessary, Doran said. The chamber has a $49 annual membership for community-minded folks who don’t run or promote a business. It’s a great option for people bridging the gap between closing down and reimagining their futures.
As for the future of small business in the Riverview community, Doran is counting on it. “Business owners are geniuses when it comes to that, figuring out how to do business in the now,” Doran said. “COVID-19 and the pandemic truly are not positive things. But I know we are going to have positive impacts on our businesses and community when we come through this. Because across the board, impacted businesses and industries have had to be more creative and innovative than ever before.”
For more, call the Riverview chamber at 813-234-5944 or visit www.RiverviewChamber.com.