New executive for the Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce

The Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce has a completely new executive who are excited to see what they can do to support the business community in the municipality. The Chamber held their annual AGM in December, when the new slate of directors was elected. Robyn Eagle, of RW Eagle Carpentry and SawnYah’s Signs & Stuff, is taking over from Yves Grandmaitre as Chamber President, Robyn Fredrickson, who owns The Village Bean, is Vice President, Janet Gaskell of Nelly’s Room is the Secretary, and their Treasurer is Jennifer Ritskes, a local real estate agent with Royal LePage. Yves is still on the Chamber board as a director at large, along with Nick Previsich of Merrickville Antiques and Alessandro Guiliani who owns Stella Luna.

Robyn is excited about the new executive and the possibilities for the Chamber in the coming year. “I am really excited, because we don’t really have anything in place to say we have to do this, that, or the next thing,” she says. “We basically inherited a clean slate.”

The Chamber has identified membership, marketing and promotion, partnerships, networking, and communications as the four areas on which they will be focusing for the next year. With one of the executive members leading each of the committees, they hope to connect with members of the community who have the specific skills they need to be successful in their efforts. “We’re going to reach out to people who really know what they’re doing when it comes to pushing marketing and promotion of their products,” Robyn says. “Let’s get some help for everybody.”

Throughout her term as president, Robyn hopes to get a strategy in place for the Chamber and seek out new ways of bringing value to their members. “Nothing really happened last year, and the year previous. I was looking at the AGM notes and there seems to be some common threads and one is basically making the Chamber relevant to Chamber members.”

Robyn believes the best way of doing that is through communication and including residents in their discussions. She notes that there were a lot of visitors in the Village this past year, which was great for business, but worried residents, as some people weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. The marketing and promotions committee has their work cut out for them when it comes to promoting the municipality’s businesses within the context of COVID-19. “I’m all about collaborating and networking and partnering, and with this COVID-19 pandemic thing we have to do it in a new way.”

According to Robyn, the Chamber will also be focused on supporting the service-based businesses that don’t necessarily always benefit from the tourism traffic in the village. “We have to find ways of focusing on our businesses and services and to make them relevant.” For example, she would love to see a service-based business, like a psychotherapist, teaming up with another store in the Village to cross promote each other. “Wouldn’t it be great if, before or after a client comes, they get a coupon to go and have an ice cream cone, or a coffee, or something like that? That marketing and promotion is going to be our big focus.”

The Chamber will also be looking at working with store owners to have more consistent business hours in the Village, as well as creating a “made in Merrickville” trademark that they will be able to use for marketing and promotion. “Maybe a postcard, or maybe a shopping bag, or something like that, that has a consistent byline so you know it’s Merrickville,” Robyn says. “It also speaks to collegiality and cohesiveness among the store owners and services.”

Finally, Robyn is hoping to forge a more productive relationship with the municipality and council, which she believes is even more important right now, with communicating the requirements and protocols associated with the pandemic. “There’s always been bit of a challenge having open communication, and I really want to forge forward and build that partnership.”

With so much potential development in the Village, Robyn hopes that the Chamber will be a one-stop shop for newcomers, introducing them to the municipality’s urban and rural roots. They have a completely redesigned website, which they hope will help guide residents and visitors to the great businesses that are available in both Merrickville and Wolford. “We want to make sure we can make a difference for everybody in our community, because if our community is healthy, and everybody’s kind of working together, then that’s good for business.”

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