Co-President of theLisa Whitmore said she is looking toward the future with excitement.
"We have some huge changes coming. We are revamping the website and coming out with great new features on our website so businesses can sell gift certificates," Whitmore said.
Focusing on making the site more user-friendly will enable people considering moving to Bethel to gain valuable knowledge about the schools, businesses and the "greater Bethel area," said Whitmore.
Whitmore, who owns U.K. Gourmet and grew up in Bethel, has been a member of the Bethel Chamber for the past seven years. Her colleague, Co-President Lorraine Schrameck, owner of , have been friends for more than 20 years.
"The Co-President position has worked well because Lisa represents the Stony Hill section of businesses and I am right here downtown so we cover all areas," Schrameck said.
The Bethel Chamber of Commerce moved into its new location at 184 Greenwood Avenue last week and is busy transforming it not only into a new and improved Chamber, but also as a visitor's center for locals and out-of-town visitors.
"It will be a place where visitors can come in, buy things from Bethel and really help to promote the town," Violet Mattone, executive director of the Bethel Chamber, said. They plan on selling ceramic pots, t-shirts and other items with "I Love Bethel" printed on the front.
Mattone and both presidents are very excited about their new, highly visible location.
"Ray at the Bethel Photo Shop put up some great old photos for us in the lower level and it looks really nice," Whitmore said. "A Country Touch did our decorations outside and it looks so beautiful when you drive down Greenwood Avenue at night and see all of the lights."
Mattone said she likes the view from the large front window. "We can look out and see the beautiful statue of P.T. Barnum," she said. "This is a much better location."
In addition to the new website, the new location and visitor's center, the Bethel Chamber has announced another change; Violet Mattone will be retiring this June after 42 years of loyal service.
"I hope that Violet will stay on and help us after she retires, she has been such a fixture," Whitmore said.
Mattone said she is not sure what her plans are after stepping down as Executive Director but said she enjoys going to Florida to get away from the cold during the winter months. Whitmore said they will be seeking a replacement and that interested applicants should contact her.
In the meantime, Whitmore and Schrameck will continue to do all they can to promote local businesses while running their own shops. Next Thursday, Dec. 16 they are hosting an and are encouraging shop owners to stay open late that evening. There will be a gift basket raffle and special sales.
The upcoming event, as well as many others that go on throughout the year, all serve to encourage residents to so that Bethel businesses can continue to thrive despite the state of the economy.
Many residents have expressed their concern over the many businesses closing shop - the most recent four announcing their closing" Maddington's, Video Exchange, Monkey Head Comics and Flower Corner Studio. All are holding store closing sales to liquidate inventory.
Whitmore felt that Video Exchange closing is more about "the evolution of technology," as opposed to the economy.
But just as quickly as businesses are going out, new ones are going in, Whitmore said. The former mortgage broker next to Famous Pizza as well as the Chamber's old location both already have new tenants, according to Mattone.
"I'm excited about what will rise from the ashes," said, owner of that will close at the end of December.
"Rather than focus on the negative I feel that change is good," DeLong said. "It's exciting to see what new businesses will come into town and we should do everything we can to support them." Delong is closing because she plans on relocating to Florida to be closer to family.
Whitmore said, "It is so important to shop local and to keep the mom and pop stores in business so that we don't have the big box stores taking their place."
Schrameck also said, "We want business owners to know that we're here to support them as much as possible and to encourage residents to shop local."
"We want people to recognize the area as a destination. The downtown area is adorable to shop, walk and eat, thehas been being developed and where else can you go where you get a school campus?" Whitmore said.
"Bethel is the best place to be. We love, we work and we play in Bethel," Mattone said.
The Bethel Chamber of Commerce is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Check out their website for the latest events.