MAYWOOD — In the spring of 1979, an ailing Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to its members warning them about the imminent demise of the organization--unless strong support materialized--because of a lack of money and an inactive membership.
A month later, after receiving just one call of support, the chamber closed its doors.
The chamber, at that time down to 78 members out of 470 businesses in the city, "died . . . a horrible death," Councilwoman Betty Rogers said.
Now, Rogers and Councilman Henry Santiago are spearheading a drive to revive the organization. The two council members say they are making good on a 1984 campaign promise to work toward starting a new chamber, especially since the city is beginning to attract new businesses after two decades of economic decline and boarded-up storefronts.
This time, they say, the outlook is brighter. Already, 116 businesses in the city have signed up to join the new chamber, which will hold its first meeting Wednesday.
"Maywood is coming up in the world," said Mayor Rosemarie Busciglio, adding that the renewed interest by businesses came about because of a revitalization going on in the city.
"A lot of projects are going on right now," Santiago said. "We want to inform (businesses) that things are changing."
The mayor and council members point to the Maywood Town Center--an 18-store corner shopping mall that includes a Boys Market, McDonald's restaurant and Thrifty Drug Store--which opened in August as a catalyst in organizing the new chamber. Two other projects slated for commercial development--one on the northeast corner of Slauson Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard and the second on Randolph Street and Atlantic Boulevard--are in the works.
Start-Up Fund Set
The council has set aside $13,000 from its 1985-86 budget to start the chamber. It also has offered the use of facilities for meetings until the chamber acquires its own office, Santiago said. "We're trying to help them get it going. Then they can run it themselves."
Many reasons were given by former chamber members for the demise of the organization. Some say members were unhappy with the chamber's stance when the city raised its business license fee, which went from a flat rate to a gross receipt rate in 1978. (Although the chamber initially opposed the fee, it later worked with the city to devise a schedule more acceptable to business.) Others say a lack of financial support from the City Council spelled its death. Still others blame the poor business climate in general.
But all agree that it will take one essential ingredient to make the new organization work: participation.
"Money alone won't make this work. We need manpower. We need bodies," said Dr. Leonard Feld, general partner of the Southeast Dental Center and former chamber board director. "If there is a new spirit of revitalization, (the chamber) will need enough people to make it a thriving and successful organization."
Because of poor participation, the old chamber at best was ineffective in carrying out its functions, said City Clerk Leonard Locher, adding that the same group of seven or eight members ran everything because of a lack of interest. Locher, who represented the city at chamber meetings, said the new chamber will work "if members will participate and if they find somebody who is an enthusiastic chamber manager."
Besides the new projects in the city, Santiago said businesses like the idea of a new chamber because it will open lines of communication among the 474 businesses nestled in the 1.4-square-mile city.
"The biggest function they could have is for businesses to get together and communicate," Feld agreed. "That alone will be a tremendous help for the area."