Ramsey resurrects Chamber of Commerce

Ramsey resurrects Chamber of Commerce

Thursday June 14, 2012, 10:16 AM


Ramsey Suburban News

RAMSEY – There are more than 1,000 businesses in the borough and almost
1/10th of them have joined a new group devoting itself to promoting them:
the Ramsey Chamber of Commerce.

To Rob Tilton, who owns Wireless World on Main Street, that’s a good start. “Maybe some people aren’t aware that what you’re traveling to Route 17 and Route 4 for are right in your backyard,” said chamber member Tilton from
behind the counter of the store he’s owned for almost 11 years.

The chamber – with backing from the mayor and Borough Council – is ready to
strengthen the already-strong merchant community. Its first meeting was held
last month and its approximately 80 members will soon embark on both short-
and long-term goals aimed at bettering the borough’s economic opportunities.

While there is no shortage of businesses in the borough, the owners of some of
them say there’s room for improvement. For example, Tilton said, people have
come in asking whether his store was still open. Borough signage laws prohibit
certain types of advertising that business owners feel is necessary.

This isn’t the first chamber to come the borough’s way. A previous group “fizzled
out” in the 1980s, Tilton said, and local businesses are incorporated into the
Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Tilton said the Mahwah chamber represents a regional collection of businesses,
while he’d like to see a Ramsey chamber be “local business-driven – real
grassroots type of stuff.”

Regarding the Mahwah chamber, Tilton said, “Feedback that I have heard
mostly is that a regional chamber of any [other] town just doesn’t have that
local flavor.”

To be a member of the borough’s chamber, a business must be located in it,
the owners must live in the borough or 50 percent of its business must be done
in Ramsey.

“We’re looking for more mom-and-pop” stores, Tilton said of prospective
members. “It’s more, ‘How can we help Ramsey?’ than strength in numbers.”

Discussions so far have touched on creating downtown V.I.P. cards, holding
sidewalk sales, holiday parties and, merchant days and greater involvement in
Ramsey Day. The chamber also could sponsor events like 5K runs or movie nights,
Tilton said.

The overall aim is to get “more involved with the community,” Tilton said.
Because there are a number of “duplicate businesses” downtown, he’d like to see
a sharing of best practices and creating interchangeable “food cards” for which
frequency would yield gifts for the cardholders.

Over the next three to four weeks, Tilton said, he plans to meet with the heads
of smaller chambers, such as the one in Ho-Ho-Kus.

Ramsey Councilwoman Vanessa Jachzel, who addressed merchants at their first
meeting last month, said she “shared with attendees that the mayor and council
fully support the revival of the Ramsey Chamber of Commerce,” and particularly
the efforts of Tilton and January Bourke and Kelly Velasquez – both of Oritani
Bank – “in making it happen.”

“When they hear the mayor is involved and two council members [Jachzel and
Ken Tyburczy], there’s a sense of purpose,” said Tilton, who had been in touch
with Mayor Christopher Botta six months before the chamber was formed.

Down the street from Tilton’s store, Rick Woelky is busy at Accurate Locksmith,
where he has worked since 1987 and owned for eight years.

Woelky echoes Tilton’s complaint about the lack of awareness among customers
about how long he’s been in business. Furthermore, he said, the borough has
made changes in the past that have affected the businesses without involving
their owners. And signage regulations are among the problems.

“We never really had a voice,” he said of the businesses in the borough.
“Hopefully with a chamber, we’ll get a voice.”