Brenda Dowd of Makt Arts speaks with Michael Chait of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce during a meet and greet held at Santucci’s Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY

VENTNOR – About 40 local business owners attended a meet and greet happy hour at Santucci’s Original Square Pizza Restaurant Wednesday, Nov. 17. As the merchants mingled, many admitted they do not know each other, especially since there are five distinct business districts in the seaside resort.

The meet and greet follows an initial breakfast meeting to determine if the merchants should form a new business association following the demise of the previous Ventnor Business Association. There have been several iterations of business groups over the years, but all have failed to become a cohesive group with the resources needed to support businesses in the city.

The effort is being led by art gallery owner Brenda Dowd of Makt Arts, which is celebrating its third year in Ventnor. After hearing from city and Chamber of Commerce officials, Dowd asked those gathered to break into groups according to their business district so merchants could get to know each other.

“Whatever you need, let us know,” Commissioner Lance Landgraf told the group. “This is something we think we need here.”

Landgraf said the city stands ready to support the business owners. Limited funding may be available to support the group.

“The ground floor has already started here in Ventnor and the energy is building,” Commissioner Tim Kriebel said, encouraging business owners to express community pride by sprucing up their facades or store windows.

He said the city would promote local businesses on its website mail list, which has about 12,000 subscribers.

Michael Chait, president of the 400-member Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, attended the meeting to encourage the group to consider joining the chamber as a sub-group.

Chait said the chamber is comprised of business owners from all over Atlantic County, not just Atlantic City, and that several municipalities have their own sub-groups for their local members. However, being part of a larger organization can provide benefits, he said.

“What we bring to the table is accessibility, resources, and the ability to get grants,” he said.

Because the chamber is comprised of large and small businesses, it can gain access to state and local leaders and other resouces smaller groups may not have access to, he said.

“Please use us as a resource,” he said. “A connected business community gives us the best opportunity to thrive.”

Dowd said she would like to reach out to retirees to assist with development of the association. One volunteer with extensive business experience has stepped forward to help get the association off the ground and manned a table to collect contact information and personal skills that could help the group.

“It will not succeed unless you want it to success and are willing to be engaged,” Dowd said. “We need to have a purpose. For me, its because I want a sense of community. I want to know who is down the block so I can send people to you, and you can send people to me when they need a gift.”

The next step would be to form a steering committee to select a board of directors before deciding on a first project.

“Let’s pick something achievable so we can continue to draw new people,” she said.

A fundraiser is also needed to obtain funds for an operating budget. She suggested creating a business map, with advertising from local businesses, but would like to hear ideas from other members.

The group is currently promoting Shop Small Saturday, Nov. 27, asking business owners to post sales and specials on their social media pages using the hashtag #shopventnor.

For more information about the VBA, see Ventnor Business Association on Facebook.

 

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Categories: Downbeach

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.