Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chambers of Commerce: Tracking Mine Down for Lunch

One of my goals this year is to expand my writing business. I recently read a recommendation that I should join my local Chamber of Commerce because so few writers do. Next thing I know I'm attending the Lincoln Park Chamber's annual luncheon yesterday at the delicious Adobo Grill.

Let me tell you, it was a window to a new world. Clearly, these people operate a big chunk of business on the north side. I just never paid that much attention to them before.

Some of the "scene" I expected: aldermen, hand-shaking, name badges, clapping. Some of it I didn't: police commanders, standing room only attendance, and genuinely-friendly-not-schmoozy people. At least at my table.

I met:

Republicans! Kevin White is running for Congress against incumbent Rahm Emanuel in the 5th Congressional District on the city's north side. He feels Emanuel is never in the district and thus divorced from the realities and needs of the people who live there. He identified the botched communications in the Brown Line renovation as an example of an issue that needs better attention from Emanuel, particularly given that much of the funding comes from DC. He was accompanied by Kent Griffiths, a Republican ward committeeman. He was kind enough, too. (I could not find a website to link to for White.)

Rugya Marshall and Sara Klinzing are store managers for Ethel's Chocolate Lounges on Michigan Ave and Armitage, respectively. The stores, launched by the same company that owns Mars Candies, are a pilot project. If they fly here, they'll soon come to a city near you. Rugya's and Sara's excitement about their jobs was genuine. They said they loved the company and their work and, of course, the chocolate. They said the chocolates were hand-made in Las Vegas and shipped out twice a week. (Think of it -- putting a chocolate factory in the desert!) The company chose Chicago supposedly because of its history with candy-making and love for chocolate. I kind of wonder if our status as one of the nation's fattest cities had something to do with it, too.

Jerry Bransfield lives in my neighborhood and has launched a computer consulting business. His goal is to fill the market need for individuals and small businesses who can't work with giant computer consulting firms but who can't configure or fix their computers themselves either. He said that one benefit of using him is that he would be the guy who comes back again and again, thus allowing clients to avoid the hassle of re-explaining the computer's history.

Finally, I met Allison Beck at the door when we arrived at the same time. She's one of those people that you meet at one of these things and you a) instantly like them and b) are instantly grateful for them. I know you know the type of person I'm talking about. She made a point of making me feel welcome, and it came completely natural to her. She is managing partner of Chicagoland Caregivers. Go give her all your caregiving business.

Coming Soon: Notes on what's up according to Alderman Vi Daley and Alderman Ted Matlak.

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