Bayfield is growing fast, and with it, the board members of the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce are hoping to expand the town’s business organization as well.
“We’re trying to constantly think of things that we can do to drive business to Bayfield that can put us on the map,” said Brenna Morlan, president of the chamber.
The reinvigoration of Bayfield’s chamber started about four years ago when Ashleigh Tarkington, owner of the Billy Goat Saloon in Gem Village, joined the board.
“About four years ago, this group that’s currently on the board got together and said, ‘Ok, let’s try to make a push to legitimize our chamber of commerce. Bayfield needs one. It has enough businesses to sustain one, and it’s a good thing for your little town to have a chamber of commerce,’” Tarkington said.
Board members began by going out and knocking on doors to introduce themselves and recruit businesses. That ambassador program worked for a while, Tarkington said, but eventually, the group branched out.
These days, the organization hosts block parties, ribbon-cuttings, a monthly networking event and quarterly Lunch and Learns.
“We used to just do a monthly meeting at somebody’s organization and we just had a networking (event),” said Morlan. “That was it. There was nothing else involved to it. So, we’ve been trying the last couple years to change things up.”
One of those big projects included a website overhaul so those interested in becoming members could sign up online. Another of the group’s events are Lunch and Learns, where attendees can learn more about business-related topics.
“We try to incorporate something that helps businesses, whether it has to do with marketing or something along those lines,” Morlan said.
All three agree, however, that one of the most successful efforts the chamber has put forward is the block parties they host the third Thursdays of May, June, July and August, Morlan said. During the events, the chamber raises money for a local organization.
“We work with the town directly,” said Wendy Malarsie, a chamber board member. “Last year, we only put on three. We did it May, June, July, and this year, we’re going to add a fourth for August. So, that’s a big one even though it’s not directly chamber businesses; it’s definitely a great community event.”
Down the road, the chamber hopes to put on a passport program to drive business in Bayfield.
“You have a little book and you go to those businesses and you can award a reward at the end of that,” Morlan said. “We have hopes to have that in the mix toward the end of the year.”
There’s still a long ways to go. Board members are continually working to inform Bayfield businesses that the chamber exists.
“It’s hard out here. It’s hard to get the word out out here,” Tarkington said. “There’s a ton of businesses that don’t have traditional storefronts. There’s a lot of people that work out of their home.”
“I think our ultimate goal is just to get people to be more aware that there’s things to do in Bayfield,” Morlan said.
“There’s places to shop in Bayfield. There’s services that you can go to in Bayfield. ... I would say the majority of people, they go to Durango to do their shopping. What they don’t realize is when they use the services, even if it’s just gassing up your car, those taxes are going to Durango. They don’t go to Bayfield. No offense to Durango, but we have to support our town, too.”
Luring new businesses to the area falls more under the umbrella of the Bayfield Town Board, of which Morlan and Tarkington are a part of, but Morlan said the town is more than willing to work with businesses that might want to open in Bayfield.
“We have lots of space in Bayfield that’s affordable that businesses can move into,” Morlan said. “We have put into place some financial help when it comes to things like taxes and start-up costs. Each business (assistance) would be individual, depending on what their business is. But I know that the town board really wants businesses to come. So, it’s an opportune time that if you need a place to go and run your business, Bayfield is the place to go.”
Despite the challenges the organization faces, Bayfield is still a great place to work and run a business, but it’s time for the Bayfield business community to join together, Morlan said.
“Any chamber that you’re a part of, it has value, but it only has value if you come together as a community, and we need our community to come together on this,” Morlan said.
“If we want those things, like a nice grocery store and really great streets, it’s time for our businesses to come together and be a part of it.”