The Bethel Chamber of Commerce is working hard to further the revitalization of downtown Bethel. Bobbi Jo Beers, director at the Chamber, is passionate about that goal.
“People complain about the empty shops downtown, but if people were shopping downtown, we would not have empty shops,” she said.
Beers highlighted many of the ways in which residents can support the changes in their town. “The Shop Bethel Initiative is the first step in the snowball effect of building a better Bethel,” she said. “If people only shop at the mall, Stony Hill and the downtown area will continue to suffer.”
Beers said that it is unlikely that businesses would move to Bethel if people don’t shop here. “This movement is so important. Shopping local is true harmony. It plays into the overall good feeling in the town. Shopping local is environmentally friendly, too. It eliminates trucking, using excess fuel, and pollution.”
“Ninety percent of the jobs for high schoolers come from local businesses. We look to our local businesses to give our kids their first jobs,” Beers said. “People complain that the shops are closed on Sunday or aren’t open late, but if the shops were busy, they would stay open.”
Resident of Bethel for 32 years, Lorraine Clark shared a table in Molten Java with a few friends. The women talked about the way Bethel used to be. “There was mom and pop clothing store where you could buy decent quality clothing for the whole family,” Clark said.
The ladies named others that used to line the street, “There was a craft shop that had really wonderful things; another shop called Booklet, where they sold gifts.”
“We have enough pizza places,” Clark added, then said, “Look out the window. Dolan Plaza has become downtown.”
First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said that Bethel is better off now than it was a few years ago. “ A new pizza place comes in every year and they never go away,” he said. “The restaurants are doing well. They are always filled. We have a tremendously diverse assortment in town and in Stony Hill.”
Knickerbocker said that the Bethel Chamber of Commerce’s Restaurant Week was tremendously successful. “It brought in a lot of people, and they may do another one soon.”
“We have been looking for ways to have a vibrant community. Bobbi Jo and the Chamber of Commerce have really worked hard on this idea,” he said.
Knickerbocker said that people don’t want to be controlled by big government, but when times are bad, most do want the government to step in. “If business comes in, it grows the grand list and lessens the tax. It is in the towns best interest to want to have a successful retail business.”
Beers agreed and said, “People complain that we don’t have a strong tax base. Having a good community and schools can bring in the new businesses.”
Beers believes the entire town will benefit by shopping local. “Ninety percent of donations for schools come from businesses, so not only are we supporting business, we are supporting our schools. We can lower personal taxes if we bring more local shops in town. You will get better service because the people helping you are your community members.”
Perhaps the ultimate reason, Beers said, “If you invest your community, you will be less likely to leave the town.”
“I hope the program will bring shops back to the downtown area the way they used to be, not too long ago,” Knickerbocker said. “I hope we can bring those retailers back.”
The Bethel Chamber of Commerce has several opportunities for getting involved in the community, including Thursday, June 7, Casino Networking Event for Chamber of Commerce members and anyone interested in a fun evening of rolling the dice for big prizes including an iPad, Sony camera, Garmin GPS, and a big screen TV. Click here to upload a flyer with more information.
Also, the Bethel Chamber of Commerce Summer Festival, July 20-22 will feature home made items, crafts, foods, locally grown, sidewalk sales, vendor and craft fair, games, and more.
Contact : The Bethel Chamber of Commerce, firstname.lastname@example.org