Gates-Chili Chamber of Commerce History
GATES CHILI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 1967-2017
Loretta Simmons had been an active member of the Greece Council before she moved her business, Blair Supply, to Chili in the mid 1960’s. In 1966, she partnered with noted local builder, Joseph Entress. On June 27, 1967, their collaboration resulted in the establishment of the Gates Chili Council, a suburban member of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. Loretta Simmons was the first President and Joe Entress, the second. Loretta Simmons was the first woman to head a suburban council of the Rochester Chamber. As of May 18, 1967, the Gates Chili Council already had 116 members.
As the group grew, motorcades to visit new local businesses, regular meetings with outside speakers, and participation in Rochester Chamber activities shaped the first years of Gates Chili Council. By 1982, the Council had established its Outstanding Citizen of the Year award and by 1985, added two Civic Beautification Awards, one for each town, thanks to the tireless promotion of civic beautification by Chamber Board member, Nick DiCesare. In 1986, the Joseph Entress Memorial Award was added to honor those businesses which had made a sustained effort to improve the area. The Innovative Business Award was created in 1997 followed by the Culture and Arts Award in 1988. The annual Awards Gala Dinner has become one of the major events in the community, rivaled only by the popularity of the Council’s annual Summer Golf Tournament at Brook-Lea Country Club.
Monthly programs for members along with major events such as the Christmas Party traditionally held at the Brook-Lea Country Club brought in businesses, small and large, as well as other interested residents of the two towns. Pivotal to the success of the Council was the support staff of the Rochester Chamber. Presidents of the Gates Chili Council had a staff liaison that provided fiscal, membership and other support services for the suburban councils. Presidents of the suburban councils could attend the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Board meetings and there was a Gavel Club of suburban council presidents that met occasionally to network and share ideas. 2005 brought a rebirth of the Council as an independent Chamber of Commerce, ending its 38-year suburban council status with the Rochester Chamber of Commerce by then the Rochester Business Alliance.
From 2005 on, the Chamber has functioned very successfully as an all-volunteer Chamber. We developed our own membership and monthly program and networking activities to promote the newly redesigned chamber. The first presidents of the newly independent chamber were blessed with hardworking volunteers who stepped forward to ensure the new chamber’s success. The annual Awards Dinner is one event which has topped even the Holiday Luncheon for attendance. Proceeds from the annual golf tournament now benefit the public libraries of both towns and is a major event on its own. Civic leaders address chamber members annually at the State of the Towns program and at the State of the State program. New businesses in town are welcomed with publicity and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Chamber’s website keeps up with technology providing online registration for events, membership applications and a yearlong event calendar.
The Gates Chili Chamber has added a Business in the Spotlight quarterly award and holds monthly meetings with a noted outside speaker or event to attract local business participation. Membership is open to any individual or business interested in the two towns. Membership which sank to a low of 36 in 2005 has rebounded to 125 and growing. The separation from the Rochester Business Alliance was a blessing in disguise with businesses in the two towns benefiting as a result. On for the next fifty years!
Susan Swanton, Chamber Historian and President 1982