2020 was a rough year for businesses in Eaton Rapids and elsewhere. The Eaton Rapids Chamber of Commerce is hopeful that 2021 is looking up and is making cautionary plans to help return some normalcy to the business climate in town.
One of the ways of doing this is with the election of a new Chamber president, Jerry Robinson, Jr. “I am very excited to be able to lead such a great organization that not only helps our local businesses,” Robinson said, “but also helps our community as a whole.” Robinson’s family owns Mr. M’s Pizza and Grinders on Knight Street.
“I think I was elected due to my enthusiasm and my drive to do it,” 22-year-old Robinson explained. “Plus, being single, I probably have more time to devote to the position than some of the others might.” With this going for him, he doesn’t think that at this time they will need to hire a Chamber Director. Robinson, as a volunteer, keeps regular office hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.
Robinson knows that those who have preceded him as president or director have set high standards. “I have big shoes to fill,” he said. “Many in the past did a lot, but especially Don Wyckoff. He’s really inspiring to me.”
It’s been fun so far, Robinson said. “I enjoy meeting our members and community leaders and building relationships with them.” He credits the Chamber board and its members for the efforts that they have made to bolster the Eaton Rapids business community. There are currently 61 members of the Chamber.
The Chamber is working on building its business focus, Robinson said. He recently visited some of the businesses downtown to see what they think about the Chamber. “We’d like to see it doing more,” he heard from several and took that as motivation to work on building relationships with the businesses and to further promote the value of shopping local.
Why would a business join the Chamber? “The satisfaction of helping the community, of being part of something larger than themselves,” Robinson said. “People want to be involved and want to give back.”
“We can offer the information needed to help your business to be a success,” Robinson said. “We get calls from new businesses wanting to move to Eaton Rapids and we are able to supply information about that.”
“After what we’ve been through with COVID, people want to get out and meet other people,” he added.
Currently, in the planning stages, the Chamber is working on a July 4 craft and vendor show. It will be located at The Grand River Marketplace — on the riverbank near the Playground of Dreams. This will be in conjunction with the City’s July 4 activities which will also be held there due to the construction at the GAR Island Park area.
They are still planning on their annual dinner which happens on Thursday, May 20, to be held via Zoom. The annual awards will be given out—The Ted Oliver Award, the Doug Stevenson Award, and the Eaton Rapids Public Schools Hall of Fame recognition. “The show must go on,” Robinson quipped.
The food for the event is being provided by the Big Cheesy Grill, a local food truck that will be parked at the Union Street Center for attendees to pick up their dinner from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m. A comedic magician is also scheduled.
The Chamber is also planning its annual golf outing and plans to have the Christmas parade this year.
The Chamber meets virtually the third Thursday of the month at 7:30 a.m. “I’m an approachable guy,” said Robinson. “If you need something, reach out. I’d love to talk if you have a concern.”
Contact the Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at eatonrapidschamber.org or call 517-663-2124.