‘Let’s get back to business’: Western Garfield County chamber changes name, plans to return First Fridays to Rifle | PostIndependent.com

‘Let’s get back to business’: Western Garfield County chamber changes name, plans to return First Fridays to Rifle

One Jewelers owner Nick Beightel cracks jokes with Colorado River Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director JulieAnn Van Hoek on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Major changes are on the horizon for the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce.

First, the organization that aims to strengthen local commerce in Parachute, Rifle, Silt and New Castle has now changed its name to the Colorado River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Next, Executive Director JulieAnn Van Hoek said the newly renamed chamber will soon offer members a multitude of new discounts, sponsorship opportunities, marketing perks and a digital benefit package valued at $4,000. This package aims to connect entities to an IT team, which can help bolster modern-day amenities like websites and mobile apps.

“We build them a landing page that goes directly to their website,” Van Hoek said. “They can access a calendar of events. They can track their advertising, like a dashboard. They have the ability to put everything on an online catalog, if they’re retail.”

In addition, based on membership level, the chamber now offers either limited or unlimited amounts of discounted ski passes to Aspen Mountain Ski Resort.

In an effort to boost downtown Rifle commerce and build community connections, First Friday events are slated to make a return to Rifle starting next month. From 5-7 p.m. Feb. 4, participating businesses will welcome the general public for meet and greets while they host various promotional events.

On Tuesday, Whitt & Co. Clothing store owner Mandy Whitt said the revitalized First Friday, formerly a city-run event that fizzled out some years ago, should be larger than before and well attended.

“I participated in every first Friday, but it didn’t seem like a lot of downtown businesses have participated,” she said. “Then with COVID, it went by the wayside completely. But it sounds like we’re going to rejuvenate it, and a lot more businesses have agreed to participate.”

Just down the block, One Jewelers owner Nick Beightel offered a similar perspective on upcoming First Fridays. Downtown spent most of 2021 undergoing a major renovation construction project, in the process deterring accessibility to storefronts and foot traffic.

Beightel hopes First Friday events lure patrons back.

“I think it’s a good idea for the downtown district with the street being torn up the way it was,” he said. “I think it’d be great to get people to come back down here because a lot of people are still avoiding Third Street.”

Across Third Avenue, Cafe Kape owner Erick Perez said First Friday should help more people and businesses get involved in the community.

“I had someone come in here and tell me, ‘What events are going to be happening around the community?’” He said. “Now that I hear about First Friday, it gets me really excited, because I think that’s very necessary for the community to actually get involved.”

Whitt & Co. Clothing owner Mandy Whitt speaks with Colorado River Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director JulieAnn Van Hoek on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Name changes, business packages and restarting business events come amid rebuilding time for the chamber, which has set out to double its current membership of 285 by the end of this year, Van Hoek said.

“Let’s get back to business. We want to be valuable to our business community,” Van Hoek said. “It’s critical, because they’re suffering.”

Caring Kids Preschool owner Juan Alvarado, who just signed up with the chamber, looks forward to benefiting from its new digital packages. Just about a year into operating his day care, Alvarado said he continues to find challenges gaining more clients.

Alvarado said bolstering his digital presence should help get his name out there.

“People are going to (more easily) recognize this school,” he said. “This is how they’re going to help me.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.

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