The Glendale Chamber of Commerce is shaking the dust off and looking to revitalize the neighborhood by bringing local businesses back together.
In the past, the chamber played an essential and active role in the community and consisted mainly of German immigrants looking to start a new life in New York.
The group continued to grow and by the mid-20th century was thriving.
“The chamber was a powerful entity in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” former Glendale Chamber of Commerce President Werner Lehner said. “There were a lot of people looking to get involved in the area at that time and it did dwindle as time went on but we are trying to do some revamping.”
Lehner, who owns the Zum Stammtisch restaurant in Glendale, became chamber president in 1998 but with a second shop, Stammtisch Pork Store and Imports, newly opened, Lehner couldn’t devote as much time to the chamber as he used to. To top it off, membership was on the decline.
“I was at a meeting for the Kiwanis Club and Werner was there promoting that he needed someone to take over as president,” member Pat Gatt said. “I am familiar with marketing so I raised my hand and asked what was involved. He told me and I agreed to take over.”
Though he has stepped down as president, Lehner has committed to being the chamber’s treasurer.
For the time being, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce is small, with about 30 members but Gatt said she expects that to change in the coming months. Already, the group has gained 10 new members over the past two weeks.
“Chambers in general are about bringing together local businesses,” Gatt said. “And for Glendale, we are hoping that by reworking the chamber, we can gain new members and work to bring out people from other neighborhoods, who normally wouldn’t patronize the stores in Glendale and show them what makes this a great area.”
Most recently, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce sponsored an Easter event for the neighborhood. About 200 families came to meet the Easter bunny, and children were each given a free plush bunny.
Up next for the chamber is a business card and networking exchange at which local business owners can meet and network with one another. Gatt, who is a Queens Chronicle account executive, and Lehner are hoping the event will round up a significant number of new members.
“Members just pay $100 a year and with that they get a decal for their window to show that they care for the neighborhood,” Gatt said. “They also get a lapel pin that they can wear at the general meetings.”
Gatt said the process is a joint effort, citing the continued support from the Kiwanis Club, Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and surrounding civic groups.
“What I want most for the chamber is for membership to increase and for us to be active in the community again,” Lehner said. “We rely solely on membership dues, so without members, we cannot afford to hold events that benefit the area.”
The chamber is accepting new members and will continue to do so throughout the year.
Those who wish to join the Glendale Chamber of Commerce may contact Gatt by calling her cell phone at (516) 835-1433 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We really just want to do well by the businesses,” Lehner said. “We want to get people involved like they did in the past and we want better for the community because it really is a great place to be.”