Many benefits to chamber membership

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Janis Lerch, owner of the Elkader Floral Shop, believes Chamber membership strengthens individual businesses as well as the community and shoppers they serve.

By Pam Reinig, Times-Register

From networking opportunities to business promotion and recognition, there are many reasons to join the Elkader Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, which is currently 91 members strong, has four main goals: to promote civic service through the organized efforts of its members; to promote the welfare of the community and its citizens through active, constructive projects; to promote the growth, industry and business of Elkader; and to promote literary, cultural and educational activities through the work of active committees.

“I was aware of the chamber’s existence before becoming its director,” said Ann Gibney, who has been chamber coordinator since April 2019, “but I didn’t fully understand the breadth of its goals and activities until recently.”

Annually, the chamber sponsors events designed to increase both resident and non-resident traffic in local shops and restaurants. One of the group’s most successful efforts is Ladies Day Out, which takes place every March and draws hundreds of shoppers, diners and visitors to Elkader. A fall event—Witches Night Out—is on course to become as popular as the spring offering. Other recent events include Sidewalk Sales, Holiday Traditions Open House, Brownie Bash and the Chamber Golf Tournament. The latter is held the Friday of Sweet Corn Days weekend, and represents one the chamber’s biggest revenue streams. The other is membership dues.

“I can’t say enough about the importance of being a chamber member,” said Janis Lerch, owner of Elkader Florist. “As a business community, we need to work together to support and promote one another. When we do, that spirit of collaboration becomes apparent. I believe it creates a positive environment that shoppers sense, and it makes them want to come back.”

Another important chamber responsibility is keeping members and non-members informed. Most recently, Gibney has been active in posting COVID-19 information for businesses on Facebook and Instagram. She also shares posts she finds from other area organizations and news sources that might be beneficial to her audience. 

“It’s important to keep everyone updated, especially at a time like this when things are changing so rapidly,” Gibney said.

The chamber office is also the only place to get Chamber Bucks. Available in increments of $5, Chamber Bucks can be used at nearly every Elkader business as well as the St. Olaf Tap. Some area employers like Elkader Care Center and MercyOne Elkader are using Chamber Bucks to reward frontline employees for their efforts during this challenging time. In addition to recognizing employees’ efforts, it also helps to stimulate the local economy.

The chamber office is located at Elkader City Hall. The office is closed to the public right now but Chamber Bucks can still be purchased. Here’s how: Call the city clerk, (563) 245-2098; call the Chamber office, (563) 245-2857, and leave a message; or send an email to

If you’d like to become a chamber member, contact Gibney at the chamber phone number or at the above email. Dues are sliding fee based on the number of employees.

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