Forming a new Chamber of Commerce is like putting a puzzle together. It requires bringing community members together, figuring out how they fit together, and like putting the non-profit together piece by piece.
In 2019, Spring Grove community members identified a need in the community. They came together to organize a Chamber of Commerce for Spring Grove and the surrounding area to meet that need.
Founding member Teresa Fegyak described, “I saw a strong need to coordinate a little bit better. We have no problems with people stepping up and doing things and having a strong community. So, when we had a brainstorming session for the businesses, collaboration was one of the main points.”
The initiative to form the Spring Grove Area Chamber of Commerce was led by founding members Stephanie Gulbranson, Edina Realty; Jacqui Van Minsel, Spring Grove Communications; Jessi Strinmoen, Shooting Star Native Seeds; and Teresa Fegyak, Merchants Bank, with help from the city’s Economic Development Association (EDA) Director Courtney Bergey Swanson.
Based on discussions with community leaders, business owners, non-profit leaders, and residents, the community envisions the Chamber as, “More than a membership organization, the Spring Grove Area Chamber is the core of our community where businesses, individuals, and resources come together to strengthen the vibrancy of our local economy.”
The mission statement is the driving force that provides direction to the Board of Directors. The mission states that the Chamber will, “Serve as a catalyst for strengthening vitality and continued growth of the Spring Grove region.”
The current Board of Directors includes President Gulbranson, Vice-President Van Minsel, Secretary Strinmoen, Treasurer Fegyak, City Liaison Julie Amundson, Director Jana Elton, Minnesota Secured Title; and Director Jess Morken, Winneshiek Medical Center.
The board contracted with Administrative Director Marlene Deschler and Communications and Public Relations Director Angie Solie to assist the board with membership development and communications as well helping set up the Chamber’s structure. The future plans of the Chamber are to have at least a part-time person to handle membership development, advertising, activities, and events.
Spring Grove businesses are very supportive of the Chamber. Currently, there are approximately 20 members, and hopefully, within five years, the Chamber will boast 80 to 100 members.
President Gulbranson shared, “Our members have a passion and love for Spring Grove. Steeped in Norwegian heritage and tradition, our town is thriving, and a significant reason for this is our business district. Despite the challenges with COVID-19, our local business owners showed their resilience and determination to ‘weather the storm.’ They handled themselves in stride and worked hard to support each other. As a result, we felt compelled to get this Chamber off the ground to work closely with these businesses to advance their efforts and encourage the importance of supporting our local merchants and entrepreneurs.”
Supporting local businesses in Spring Grove is made easy with Chamber Bucks, a monetary check issued by the Chamber. Chamber Bucks are available in $5, $25, $50, and $100 increments and are redeemable at any Spring Grove area business that accepts checks. Chamber bucks can be purchased from Chamber members.
One of the pieces of the puzzle is to determine what the Chamber will look like in five years. President Gulbranson explained, “Our goal is to continue to support our local businesses by meeting and exceeding their needs and strengthening our already vibrant business district. We provide them with opportunities for growth and encourage the businesses to complement each other with events and local happenings.”
Fundraising activities play a significant role in the day-to-day operations of a Chamber. In addition to recruiting members, the Chamber sponsored a photo contest on Facebook and selected four recognizable images – Black Hammer School House, Christmas in the Village, Spring Grove Water Tower, and Wilmington Lutheran Church. The photos were used to create a collection of four different 500-piece puzzles. The puzzles are available for purchase at the following Spring Grove locations, Merchants Bank, Turquoise Tomato, and city hall.
What is coming up this summer in Spring Grove to look forward to? According to event organizer Fegyak, “Music & Market is all scheduled to go.” Every Wednesday, from May 11 through October 12, the Chamber will host Music & Market. The live event is from 4–7 p.m. during the summer and 4–6 p.m. during the fall in downtown Spring Grove on Maple Drive next to Viking Park. Enjoy live music, food vendors, and the farmer’s market. Attendees will be treated to the tasty entrees of Abby’s Concessions, Trinity, the Houston County Cattlemen, and other local food vendors. Dance to the sounds of Cat and the Fiddle, Buck Hollow, the Executives, and other favorite musicians.
Fegyak said, “At this time, we do not have a brick and mortar or a phone number. It is just our board, and we have Gmail. We have our Facebook page. We facilitate a lot of communication through our Gmail, and people ask a lot of questions on Facebook.”
The Chamber’s Gmail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Their Facebook page can be found @sgareachamber. More Chamber information is available at www.springgrovemn.com. The membership application can be found on the website and Facebook.
Fegyak summarized the Chamber’s role in the community, “We want to be the go-to source for businesses and community members who are looking to coordinate things. That is what we are gearing towards.”