Formerly known as Ft. Brewerton Chamber of Commerce, group changes name to reflect its inclusive policy — adds 20 new members within year
By Stefan Yablonski
“Hello … is this the museum, the fort?”
Calls such as this were the impetus for a chamber of commerce to change its name recently.
“The paperwork was filed [in June] and we are just kind of waiting on that. We changed the name to be more inclusive — for a couple of reasons. Number one, because it was called the Fort Brewerton Chamber, we were always confused with the historical society. People would call and ask, ‘Is this the museum … the fort?’ And we’d say no it’s not, this is the chamber of commerce,” according to Debbie Bilello, administrator, Greater Oneida Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“And, two — we also found that sometimes we weren’t engaged with businesses on the north shore. Our region covers the entire Central Square School District. We have multiple towns, two counties and the entire Central Square school district … Brewerton, Central Square, Hastings, Mallory, Caughdenoy, West Monroe, Cleveland, Constantia and Bernhards Bay. The towns and villages located on the west and north shore of Oneida Lake. So it’s a real large area that we cover!” she added.
Many of the north shore businesses saw it as ‘the Brewerton’ chamber.
“I guess identity crisis may be a good way to put it into perspective; the North Shore didn’t feel included. That’s the last we want is to exclude any business in our region. We are here to support all businesses,” Bilello said. “We wanted to make it more inclusive. So calling it the Greater Oneida Lake Chamber of Commerce makes it a better choice — a more inclusive kind of name. We’re not just the Brewerton chamber.”
The chamber now has 142 members.
“That’s a nice increase,” Bilello said. “In the last year, we have welcomed 22 new chamber members since our last annual meeting in November 2022.”
At the annual meetings they elect officers and do any official business that needs to be done.
At November 2023 meeting, they adopted some changes to bylaws, adding a new membership level.
“We have some members of the community that don’t own a business, but want to be involved in the chamber in some way. So we added a social member level,” Bilello explained. “Someone can come in and enjoy the chamber and be involved in the social events. It’s important for people to be able to socialize with other members of the community and with other businesses.”
The new member level doesn’t have voting rights, she noted.
“We had a member who went out of business, but still wanted to be involved in the chamber. But we had no place for him. Now we do; so that was important that we added the social membership level,” she said.
The chamber does a free holiday social for members, scheduled for Dec. 19, at Central Square American Legion. And new in 2023, they held a small business season contest.
“For five weeks on our Facebook page and by email, I’ll send out a graphic encouraging people to go into one of our members or any local business. It’s a buy local campaign — we want them to take a selfie with their receipt and show us the member or business that they visited and how much money was spent at that business,” Bilello said. “They will get two entries into a drawing if they visit a member and one entry if they visit a non-member but bought something. And then at the end of the week, we will draw a name and they will win a gift card to one of our members.”
The contest is a way to encourage people to visit the chamber’s members (and other local businesses). Also, it will allow them to track how much money is being spent locally during the holiday season.
“We’ve never done this before. I’ve had multiple businesses donate gift cards that we can award as prizes,” Bilello said. “
We have a good solid foundation of really good people.”
During the 70th anniversary meeting Nov. 14 at The Pier in Central Square — attended by about 60 people —several members were recognized. They are:
• Community Service Award was given to Pandora’s Barn and its owners Tom and Victoria McFall;
• Rookie Business Award: Brewerton Ace Hardware, owned by Jeff Parzych;
• Economic Development: Restore CNY / The Hub, Sarah and Ryan Lucas;
• President’s Award: Debbie Bilello, Virtual Office Solutions and chamber administrator;
• Board Award: Jason Bronner, Rosie’s Corner;
Lifetime dedication awards were given to the following businesses who have been members and have supported and contributed to the growth of the Greater Oneida Lake Chamber.
• Alice Peron, Embroidery House;
• Nadine Walsh, Central Square Family Chiropractic;
• Chiropractor Dan Walsh, Central Square Family Chiropractic;
• Bob Walczyk, attorney;
• Nick Chervinsky, Brewerton Pharmacy & Village Pharmacy;
• Pearl Wilson, former chamber secretary;
• Nancy House, Reymore Chevrolet.
For more information about Greater Oneida Lake Chamber of Commerce, contact Debbie Bilello at 315-668-3408 or visit www.oneidalakechamber.com.