BLUE HILL — The Blue Hill Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has closed its office on South Street but has a plan to reach visitors and provide more direct support to members going forward.
COVID-19 hastened the office’s closure, but the plan had been in the works for a while, said Chrissy Allen, chamber board president.
Because of the Governor’s stay-at-home order and direction not to meet in groups larger than 10 people, the chamber had canceled its annual fundraiser. The fundraiser in past years has been a casino night, and it funds a chunk of the organization’s operating income.
Allen said several chamber members decided not to renew their memberships, which is understandable given the current business environment.
Lori Sitzabee, who had been working part time as the chamber’s executive director since 2016, has joined the board.
“Without being able to continue with our annual Casino Night, that made our revenue stream very difficult,” Sitzabee said. “So, my resignation became effective immediately and transferred my position to the board of directors.”
“I could not be completely finished with the chamber after working as hard as I did,” Sitzabee said. “I believe in the chamber and the benefits that it brings to our members and the economic vitality of the region.” Sitzabee is also artistic director of the New Surry Theatre, a position she has held since March 2019.
“Over the last four years, I have worked very hard with the board to build a stronger and more vibrant chamber,” the former director said. “We have seen an increase in membership, more financial stability, a sharp decrease in outstanding debt and a much stronger engagement with our members and the community.”
Allen added, “She [Sitzabee] and I are doing the brunt of the work because I’m the president and she knows everything. We’re really trying to remain a positive resource and get the word out.”
To that end, information that the chamber provided previously, from its office, which was open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, will be provided at kiosks at chamber businesses throughout the peninsula.
“If it’s a Thursday in July at 11:30 a.m. and you’re staying on Naskeag Point, you don’t want to haul to Blue Hill,” Allen said of prospective visitors. “But maybe you’ll go to Leaf and Anna.”
Tradewinds Marketplace, which is open daily, will host a kiosk for Blue Hill, Allen said. Another will be positioned at Strong’s Brewing in Sedgwick.
“I think it’s a sound decision, and since we are so centrally located on the peninsula we are happy to host a kiosk,” said chamber member Mia Strong, who with her husband, Al, owns the brewing company.
Allen said the plan came from a “listening session” at the Blue Hill Inn and was suggested by someone who wasn’t a chamber member but has since joined.
“It was great to have that feedback from people,” said Allen. “It helps us to stay relevant.”