Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce: 10th Anniversary

Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce celebrates a decade of involvement with the business community

Founding member, Warren Whitaker speaks at the 2007 banquet.

Through trials and tribulations, the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce has stayed the course, focusing on enhancing benefits for its membership, which has been the vision since inception. Soon, the chamber will celebrate its 10th anniversary, recognizing its history and looking optimistically toward the future.

“It’s kind of like birthing this idea that has taken off and grown into a beautiful element of the community,” said founding member, Amy Masterson. “I’m so excited to have been a part of something that I feel just benefits the entire business community as well as the city and citizens of Beech Grove. I’m very proud.”

The chamber started in 2007, after a group of businessmen and women spent nearly a year working to transition the Greater Beech Grove Business Association, for which Masterson was president, into a chamber.

Warren Whittaker at podium, Ed Aide sitting in front, Terry Shaw and Diane Stone at the 2007 banquet.

“It was through multiple conversations with other business leaders in the community that felt we needed to step up our game to become a chamber to take advantage of the things the state offers to chambers,” Masterson said. “My early support for this dream truly came from Warren Whitaker, who was a pilar of our community and is greatly missed, not just by me but the community as a whole for what he provided. There were a lot of sleepless nights early on, trying to figure out how to take the previous organization, convert it to the chamber, the research, the spreadsheets.”

The original board which formed the chamber consisted of Masterson, Whitaker, Terry Shaw and Ed Aide.

“A chamber has so many benefits to a business, specifically people starting out,” Shaw said. “We were a resource. We were a network. Our focus was, what can we do to better your business, who do you need to

From left back, Jim Coffman, Tom Keeley, Dawn Whalen, Samantha Knowles, Allyson Collins, Karyl Davis, Ed Aide. Front, Sr. Mary Luke Jones, Laurie Daeger, Melody Stevens, Elizabeth Schoettle, Amy Masterson.

meet, what service or contact can we provide? That encompassed our monthly speakers. We tried to bring in people that most everybody could benefit from.”

Shaw was appointed as the chamber’s first executive director, taking on a new and undefined role. The first office was located in City Hall.

“I got involved in other chambers to do some research and background,” Shaw said. “One of the jobs of an ED is to create events and fundraisers. We did the first Beech Party and golf outing. We were just trying to build the membership up. I had so much fun doing it. It was one of those things, I couldn’t wait to go in every day.”

After two years as executive director, the board relieved Shaw of her duties because the chamber could not financially support the position. She remained a member for a couple more years before she left. The chamber was board operated for a couple of years, before hiring Lisa Battiato, who served a little more than a year. The chamber was board run again until it hired Laura Barnard in 2014.

Sr. Mary Luke Jones, Bill Ciriello and Sr. Sharon Bierman 2010 Golf Outing.

“We were a completely, 100-percent board supported organization,” Masterson said. “Dawn Whalen was our president during that time. She was the glue that kept the organization together. She was running her full-time business as well as running the chamber. We had other presidents as well before we hired Laura.”

When Barnard took over the position, the chamber had less than 80 members. When she left, March 2017, it had 120 members.

“We had a pretty significant growth in that three-year time period,” Barnard said. “I was pretty excited with the board’s enthusiasm for community events, with the community fair that would take place in the late winter, early spring. That was a great way for the community to come out and see what services were available to them in

Dawn Whalen speaks at a 2013 chamber dinner.

that area, and an opportunity for some of our members to demonstrate their services. Another event I was proud of the chamber for undertaking was Music on Main. I realize they were not able to do that this year, but it is something they can do again in the future. It  was a great way for not just members, but any vendor in the Indianapolis area to come experience Main Street and see the great transformations that have taken place in the city. It was just a fun, family event.”

After Barnard stepped down due to her family relocating to Alabama, the board spent six month searching for her replacement. It hired Ron Mayes in August. Now the chamber’s focus is as it’s always been – to grow and enhance its membership to improve the local business economy in a manner that also benefits the community.

Don Stowers, of the Beech Grove Lions, and Felicia at the 2014 banquet.

“It is a chamber of commerce,” Masterson said. “The main focus is about the businesses and how we can continue to help businesses increase their bottom line which increases the community’s bottom line. It has continually grown into that role. As with any early stage organization, there is growing pains. The needs of our membership continually change as the membership changes. We’ve had three different cellphone numbers. We’ve been housed in four different locations, and so all of those things over the last 10 years form some of those difficulties but I think having a stable home where we are now gives a lot of energy to the movement of growing from this point forward. Over the last three to four years, it’s really picked back up and it’s starting to be again what it was supposed to be back then. I’m really excited to see the growth and the direction it’s taking. I just see it taking off. I see it doubling or tripling over the last 10 years.”

Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner

When: Oct. 19, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Primo Banquet Hall, 2615 National Ave., Indianapolis.

Cost: $30 each or $50 per couple.

Info: beechgrovechamber.org

Prepared to enhance

Beech Grove Chamber celebrates its 10th year with new executive director, Ron Mayes

Ron Mayes. *Photo by Nicole Davis.

Since the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce hired Ron Mayes as its new executive director on Aug. 4, he’s spent his time better getting to know the organization’s policies and procedures, renewing memberships and getting organized. Now that he’s becoming comfortable with how the chamber operates, he said he’ll soon switch his focus to improve the quality of the chamber’s membership.

“I want to work hard to enhance our membership,” Mayes said. “Right now, I’m focusing on what do we do for our members, what might we be able to do in addition to that, how can we better communicate to members about the benefits they’re receiving.”

Mayes grew up on the Eastside of Indianapolis. He attended Arlington High School, Indiana State University and finished his doctorate at Indiana University. He spent his career at several school systems in Central Indiana as a teacher, principal and superintendent. Upon his first retirement, he relocated to Florida where he worked for a charter school company. He came back to the Southport area and was looking for another position, outside of education, but where he could still utilize his experiences.

“This opportunity seemed to be a good fit,” he said. “This is part time, which is what I was looking for. My teaching area was industrial education. I’ve always had some involvement with local businesses and industries. I’ve worked with different chambers as a member at a number of different communities. My education background has more to do with management than curriculum. It seemed to be the right time for me to work with a nonprofit.”

Mayes said he’s impressed with the chamber board which has voluntarily assumed the roles of the executive director for the six-month gap in the position.

“That’s different than what I experienced in the past,” he said. “I hope to relieve them of some of that responsibility.”

The chamber currently has 130 members. Mayes said its most valuable asset it the networking opportunities for members to connect with one another and share resources – many members share member-to-member discounts.

“Then our Website, our members can participate in the Virtual Academy, a set of approximately 400 videos on staff development, moral, salesmanship, marketing, all kinds of things,” he said. “All of our members through us can receive full access to those videos. I think it’s a service that’s being underutilized. I hope to become familiar with that video library myself and offer myself as a consultant as to what training we have. That’s a valuable service.”

With the chamber’s 10th anniversary celebration on the horizon – Oct. 19, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Primo Banuquet Hall – Mayes said he’s looking forward to getting to meet even more members and businessmen and women in the community.

Testimonials: What has membership in the Beech Grove chamber meant to you or your business?

Bruce Bye, individual member

To be able to hear highly qualified speakers, and networking with other business owners is of great value. The quality of the speakers is high and they can also address needs on an individual basis. Running a business is complicated and this is one resource that can be valuable to any business owner or a person who is working with a business as a volunteer.

Jim Coffman, owner of Eckstein Shoes

The Greater Beech Grove Chamber has been a great resource for me and my business!  When we purchased Eckstein Shoe Store 6 years ago, we were new to the Southside business community. The Chamber helped us meet other local business owners and also helped us spread the word that our store was still open for business! 

Dawn Whalen, owner of Whalen Realty Group

I have been a Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce Member since the beginning.  I have met many great like-minded small business owners who I have been able to call on for my own business needs.  The relationships and friendships that have been built by being part of this organization have been phenomenal.  I know that I can trust my fellow Chamber members with my business needs, and am confident in referring them for my client’s needs as well.

Kay Denning, Little & Sons Funeral Homes 

In the late 1980’s I became a member of the Beech Grove Business Association which turned into the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce ten years ago.  As a Charter member of the Chamber It has been a privilege to watch it grow to become the great organization it is today.  It has brought our businesses together to better serve our community. I am wishing the Chamber even greater success in the future. 

John Ausbrooks, owner of Access Mobility

“We have found the Chamber has allowed us to learn relevant business information and stay up to date with the development of our town. It has also been a good source of information related to our local political candidates. Events, meals and training sessions give us the chance to get to know know other local business owners, some have become friends.  Being a member has been a good investment. We wish the Chamber the best success in the future!”

“I’ve loved getting to know the leaders in this community and have found Beech Grove is a wonderful community to live and do business in. For my home care company, I have loved talking with our Beech Grove clients and see how they love to live in a clean, assessable community.”

Beth Bigham, owner of ConForCare Home Care

The chamber has been one of the big big parts of us just getting out in the community a lot more. Our goal from the beginning has been to have a bigger community impact, trying to educate and help our communities be happier and healthier and the chamber through their networking and the events that they do and sponsor has really helped us branch out, reach into the community and they provided a vital role in that.

Jake Koziel, AlignLife Chiropractic & Natural Health Center

The chamber has been one of the big big parts of us just getting out in the community a lot more. Our goal from the beginning has been to have a bigger community impact, trying to educate and help our communities be happier and healthier and the chamber through their networking and the events that they do and sponsor has really helped us branch out, reach into the community and they provided a vital role in that.

Tammy Hanna, Rustic Root and the Tea Room of Rustic Root

Being a member of the Beech Grove Chamber has connected me with other business leaders and has brought people and customers into my place by promoting both my business and the surrounding businesses. The chamber benefits the community because it brings people and business members together to help each other, to promote each other’s businesses, and to educate and learn.