RICHMOND – The Richmond/Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce got its start in August 1993 as the Greater Area Richmond Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce.
“That was a mouthful,” chamber founder Dave Kielpinski said of the original name. “It still may be.”
Kielpinski said he started the chamber “because there wasn’t one, and it needed to get done. I thought chambers were effective in other places, and I thought it would be effective here.”
Kielpinski, a Richmond village trustee and CEO of Lar-Cyn Design, is serving his third term as chamber president.
“We started in August 1993 with a goal to have 100 members by Dec. 31, and on Dec. 30 we got our 100th member,” Kielpinski said.
The first member was Len Swederski Concrete of Spring Grove. Today, the chamber boasts about 225 members.
Kielpinski said it was an economic decision to combine the towns into one chamber. “You need someone to be paid to run something like this. To be able to pay an executive, we needed to combine the towns, which were too small at the time.”
Laura Ferris has been executive director of the Richmond/Spring Grove chamber for the past year and a half. “She was quite a find for us,” Kielpinski said. “She has an overwhelmingly strong passion for her job. She has great ability to network, meet people and make people feel comfortable.”
Ferris said the role of an executive director is stressful but rewarding. “You have to wear several hats, especially if you do not have a staff,” she said, noting her assistant was let go last November for budgetary reasons.
Before becoming chamber director, Ferris had a career in real estate.
“When I was selling real estate, it wasn’t the checks that were making a difference in my life, it was the hugs at closing. If I can help a business stay afloat and help them with their advertising, that’s what I’m all about.”
Ferris said the chamber added 10 new members during a recent week. “It’s my personal goal to have 300 members by the end of the year,” she said.
“Word is getting out that the chamber is actually doing things for the members.”
Membership is split pretty evenly between Richmond and Spring Grove, “but we have members from Antioch, Crystal Lake, Fox Lake, Genoa City, [Wis.], Hebron, Johnsburg,” and continuing down the alphabet to Woodstock. “We’re all over,” Ferris said.
“What I tell my new members is that it’s great to use your chamber because it’s very affordable marketing and advertising for you. However, just realize that any proceeds we get from our events stay in Richmond and Spring Grove.”
She said funds raised from the recent Charity Auto Show will go to the Richmond Food Pantry. Other chamber events coming up include the Twilight Golf Outing on Aug. 30 and the Fall Wine Walk on Sept. 28.
At the end of August, the chamber will unveil its new website design, which will include a mobile app and advertising banners available for chamber members. “It will be user friendly,” Ferris said, and it will have the same address, www.rsgchamber.com.
The traffic along Routes 12 and 173 is enough to attract any business to Richmond or Spring Grove, but there’s more to it, Ferris said. “It’s that hometown, quaint shops, the charm of the area,” she said.