A new chamber of commerce for Matlacha has been established to help promote the businesses, as well as draw more individuals to the area.
During a meeting held Sept. 20, the group unanimously voted Leoma Lovegrove as the president of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, Mike Shevlin as the vice president, Karen Moran as the secretary and treasurer and Donna Loibl as the parliamentarian.
The mission statement was also determined during the same meeting, which is to "promote Matlacha as a destination for shopping, business, ecotourism, fishing, and the arts district. Foster and maintain the favorable relationship with local government community groups and local residence. Actively pursue the unique and artistic qualities of historic fishing village of Matlacha through the business community."
Matlacha Chamber of Commerce Vice President Mike Shevlin and Secretary and Treasurer Karen Moran. Not pictured President Leoma Lovegrove and Parliamentarian Donna Loibl.
The board of directors agreed that they do not want to take anything away from the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce as the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce grows.
Although Lovegrove, owner of Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens, will remain a member of the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, she said Matlacha really does not need to be under the umbrella of another chamber.
"We can do more for Matlacha as one voice," she said. "We can concentrate on just us."
What: Matlacha Chamber of Commerce
Officers: President Leoma Lovegrove, Vice President Mike Shevlin, Secretary and Treasurer Karen Moran and Parliamentarian Donna Loibl
Lovegrove said since they do love Pine Island, they would promote St. James City and Bokeelia when individuals stay in the area for longer than a day.
"If they are daytripping, chances are we are going to be keeping them in Matlacha. We can keep a family busy in Matlacha all day and all evening," she said. "We want to help all, if they are here for the weekend, we are going to send them everywhere."
Shevlin, a Century 21 Sunbelt Realty Inc. broker and Realtor, said he thinks what the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce has done for the community is wonderful.
"I think that is an excellent chamber and they have done a wonderful job through the years," he said.
The Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, he said, is a little more specific for the needs of the businesses in Matlacha.
Shevlin said they are not trying to take away from the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, but rather enhance the communication between business people of Matlacha and other areas.
"Hopefully it will be a great organization," he said.
Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce President John Paeno said the start of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce has not affected the GPICC at this point.
Lovegrove said a group of individuals has been meeting since last spring to start the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce. She said they have already filled out all the paperwork necessary to form the organization.
Moran, a full-time resident and small business owner in Matlacha, said the number one goal of the chamber is to help the businesses.
"The number one goal of the new Matlacha Chamber of Commerce is to work with and help local businesses overcome the business challenges we all face," she said.
Moran said she would love to see a series of monthly "Lunch n' Learn" programs started through the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, that would address a variety of topics ranging from how to start a new business to taping into marketing programs already available.
Loibl, a commercial property owner of Matlacha, thinks that the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce will do well for the business owners because it will only enhance the community.
Lovegrove said that Matlacha is very different than a dozen years ago, due to the net ban that took place for fishing, which is another reason she wanted to form the chamber.
"Tourism has definitely taken over and of course the city has changed quite a bit in the last 12 years, we have become a destination," she said. "We want them to plan their destination; we want to be a part of their destination when they hit Florida. Our goal is to get our hotels and motels filled up and our B&Bs filled up here year round. We don't want them to happen upon us, we want to be a part of their vacation plans."
Shevlin said a number of years ago a group got together to talk about Matlacha, so things could be discussed about the historic district, as well as generate ideas between business individuals.
"We had a couple of meetings and it didn't go very far," he said.
So when Lovegrove contacted him about a chamber of commerce for Matlacha, he was on board.
"It seemed to be a perfect venue for the business people in that specific location to be able to talk and discuss," ideas and thoughts through a chamber, he said. "Matlacha is turning into a destination for people in Lee County, or elsewhere to come and take a look at this really unique village in Lee County."
Moran found the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce to be a perfect fit because she was looking for an opportunity to work with and help her neighbors.
"We all face the same concerns of keeping our small businesses alive in a down economy," she said. "I felt an organization focused solely on the unique challenges we experience on our tiny island, from hurricanes to the delayed bridge opening, was the most efficient way for me to become involved in a community I wish to grow old in."
The Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, as of right now, will not have a physical building, but rather an online presence to promote the businesses.
"That is not even our goal," Lovegrove said of a building. "We want to keep the integrity of Matlacha preserve what we have."
Shevlin said rather than having a building, it makes more sense to have little kiosks for people to pick up information as they are walking along the strip in Matlacha. He said he hopes to include a map of Matlacha, as well as a list of the different shops and businesses located in the area.
Shevlin said the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce would also act as a board for issues that may come up that needs to be addressed from residents or business owners.
"It seems like a good mesh for the whole community," he said.
The Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MatlachaChamber, is already up and running for those interested in learning more about the chamber. Moran encourages individuals to like the Facebook page, as they will update the page once the website matlachachamberofcommerce.com becomes live.
"They can also sign up to receive emails about events, specials and area promotions on the Facebook page," she said.
In addition, Moran said if a Matlacha business has a unique event coming up and it needs help promoting it, they could email her the details at Karen@magnetsocialmedia.com, so she can place it on the growing Facebook page.
"This is the very early stages," Lovegrove said. "We want businesses in Matlacha to become involved."
There is no membership fee charge for businesses that are located in Matlacha that have a certification of occupancy, Lovegrove said.
"We felt that we should not charge any business person in Matlacha," Lovegrove said.
The first event of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, Merry Matlacha, will occur every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the month of December. The idea behind Merry Matlacha is to promote businesses through specials - naming a specialty drink, special menu item, promotion of artist, etc.
The consultants to the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce include architect consultant Roger Wood; historical consultant Chris Pendleton; marketing consultant Katrina Salokar; legal consultant Tim Bruel; Lee County Preservation consultant Gloria Saijou; tourism consultant Kathy Jones; social media consultant Karen Moran and attorney Bruel & Wager.
Positions that are pending include a business, government, Matlacha beautification and grant consultant.