- Our Town
Bowen businesses move forward without the Chamber
Last week the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce sent a letter out to its members stating that the organization has “reached an impasse where membership dues and fund raising do not cover the costs to properly run the organization.” Chamber President Rod Marsh is resigning from his role, but will seek membership in the West Vancouver Chamber in order to continue accessing the benefits accorded with being a member of a Chamber of Commerce. As noted towards the end of the letter, Bowen businesses have already started to organize themselves beyond the umbrella offered by the Chamber.
Jan Stevens, owner of the Lazy Bowen Hideaway and the organizer behind the Bowen Island Accommodation Association (which started in July of this year) says she’s disappointed to hear of the demise of the local Chamber, but thinks that becoming a part of the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce sounds like a good move.
“I haven’t joined yet,” says Stevens, “but I plan to, especially seeing as there are no Bed and Breakfasts in the West Vancouver Chamber, I think we would be well represented.”
Stevens said her initial intention with the Bowen Accommodation Association was to bring all 48 owners of accommodations establishments on the island together for monthly meetings to brainstorm ways of marketing together and supporting one another. However, she said that as of October, the Association decided to only have quarterly meetings.
"It's hard to get people out and hard to get people to commit to working on these kinds of things, which I can imagine the Chamber struggled with as well. Within the Accommodations Association, there were a core group of 15 people who have worked really hard on this, but because I live part time in Nevada, I really need someone to take a leadership role in this other than me, and I haven't found that yet."
Stevens says she is still hopeful that Bowen Business owners will find creative ways to pull together and "fill the gaps" that wouldn't exist if there were a fully-functioning Chamber of Commerce on the Island. She points to ongoing conversations with Glenn Cormier of the Bowen Island Pub about how restaurant owners and accommodations can collaborate to get more visitors enjoying what the Island has to offer.
"You might have heard about what we've come up with," says Cormier. "The idea is called Taste Bowen, which would be something like Dine-Out Vancouver at the beginning of the tourist season."
Cormier says that while he agrees that joining the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce is probably a good idea, there still needs to be some line of communication specifically for local businesses.
"I'm not sure what that looks like," says Cormier, "Maybe we operate on an event by event basis, I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem to work when people sign up and pay their dues then just wait for things to happen."
Up at Artisan Square, businesses have also started holding meetings to improve communication and organization.
"People don't come up to the Square unless they have a reason," says Margaret Miller of The Office. "But once they're up here, they tend to do more than just the one thing that brought them to the area. So hopefully by working together we can find ways to tap into each other's plans and events, and we can all benefit."
Miller says the Artisan Square businesses met for the first time about a month ago, and since then they've put up both a public Facebook page and a private one, for internal communications.
"I think it's taken the collapse of external organization for businesses to realize they've got to do it themselves," says Miller.