Community profile: Western Garfield County Chamber Exec Director Julie Van Hoek envisions small business mecca |

Community profile: Western Garfield County Chamber Exec Director Julie Van Hoek envisions small business mecca

Julie Vanhoek, executive director of Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce, sits with her dog Bo at Centennial Park in Rifle. Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Around 1:30 p.m. on an overcast October day in Rifle, Julie Van Hoek was just getting to lunch.

The Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce director sat beside a cardboard to-go box carrying a half-eaten sandwich from Capitol Deli, the place down the street. The meal sat atop a cluttered conference table.

Across the conference table sat chamber consultant Julia Durmaj. Meanwhile, a muffled echo emanated from the front office as administrative assistant Natalia Campbell spoke on the phone with a client.

Van Hoek, who took the helm as WGCC’s executive director in June, delved quickly into the benefit of developing symbiotic relationships, commercially speaking, across the valleys.

“We need to drive up and down the corridor and visit each other, to do the things that we need to do in life,” she said. “That’s one thing that I’m bringing to the table, is that connectivity.”

Van Hoek’s connection to Main Street commerce and the entire business industry stretches back to the Front Range.

Originally from the Denver area, it was 1984 when Van Hoek began operating a cleaning and concierge service. Renting out, furnishing and cleaning 88 condos weekly as well as cleaning another 330 homes per month, one of her biggest clients was AT&T.

By 1990, Van Hoek transitioned into real estate.

“I became a managing broker, managing 150 real estate agents back in the day when it was boom time,” she said. “And a lot of my work was in development, land development and bringing in syndicated money for development.”

In 2008, Van Hoek said she became a neurological therapist. She spent the next 11 years helping clients struggling with drug and alcohol issues.

Van Hoek, moving to Glenwood Springs in 2018, began selling advertising for Western Slope Communications. Later, she’d sell advertising space for Swift Communications.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Van Hoek began selling television advertising space in Grand Junction.

By June 2021, Van Hoek took over for former Western Garfield County Chamber Chief Executive Officer Tanya Doose, a position Doose held since May 2019.

Van Hoek’s position as executive director is in its infancy, but her stated mission to promote local commerce is already taking shape with projects such as the launch of the chamber’s new website.

First, Monday marks the launch of the chamber’s new website.

“Websites are no longer the business card. They need to be interactive and progressive, and that’s what we’re building,” she said. “And with that, it’s going to be awesome for businesses because a lot of our small businesses have been struggling. They just can’t get it done. They don’t know how to do it. And it’s too cumbersome. They don’t have the time.”

Van Hoek said this is partly due to one main element: money.

“Money is a big deal,” she said. “And, coming from the advertising side, I know how many times each of us need to be seen and heard or touched in order for people to recognize and remember who you are so we can impart that knowledge to them free of charge.”

In addition to digital progress, Van Hoek encourages every small business to join the chamber, because small businesses hold a distinct advantage in small towns.

“It’s easier to shop here, because everything’s there,” she said. “But I think the draw is, people still want the hometown feel. They thrive on it. But the chamber drives commerce; that’s where we celebrate the businesses.”

Though more work is still ahead, Durmaj said Van Hoek is the person to lead the chamber into the future — and help local businesses connect with customers.

“I just think that she is an awesome person,” Durmaj said. “She definitely has a pulse on the beat of what’s happening. So I think she’s gonna do a great job here in Rifle and Colorado River Valley for the Chamber.

“Because she’s an all-encompassing kind of person,” she added. “(Van Hoek’s) got so many aspects to her and so many layers. That’s why she’s the perfect person for the chamber.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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