SALEM, Ohio – A common theme permeated the 75th annual meeting of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday: It has been a tough year, but the business community has persevered.
Prior to recognizing several award winners during the luncheon meeting at the Salem Golf Club, chamber President Jeff Christopher talked about challenges faced during the past year.
“Covid brought about some tough choices for all of us, whether personnel or business and financial. Covid is still playing a daily role in how we live, in how we’re conducting business, in how we’re shaping the future that’s to come,” he said. “I do know in a community like this, it’s the members that’s making the chamber come through it.
“A lot of chambers didn’t make it through this tough time,” he continued. “We’ve come through in a good place with a strong membership. We’re starting to get back, and things are progressing in the right way.”
He commended Executive Director Lori Jewell and Administrative Assistant Laurie Anderson for the chamber’s success in these tough times, saying, “Hopefully, we’re on the right track and keep moving forward and come out stronger and better.”
Jewell also spoke of the effects the Covid pandemic played on the chamber’s activities during the year, noting the board had the insight at the beginning of 2021 to schedule all in-person events for the second half of the year with the hope Covid protocols would loosen.
“And we can tell they were right to do that,” Jewell said.
Despite many changes, Jewell said that, as it did in 2020, the chamber continued to serve as a resource hub for those chamber members adversely affected by Covid, providing financial assistance opportunities with grants and loans.
She said the marketing committee started in late January on the marketing sponsorship campaign, ultimately setting a record by attracting 37 marketing sponsors this year. Jewell and Anderson also conducted numerous membership drives during the year, generating 23 new chamber members.
Other projects and events were undertaken during the year by the chamber, but the “biggest news,” according to Jewell, is the upcoming unveiling of the Chamber Master online management tool.
The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation provided the initial funding for the Chamber Master program, which Foundation President George W. Hays said integrates communication, marketing, event planning, committee work and billing.
Hays spoke of the Foundation’s activities during 2021, saying it continues to survive and thrive despite continuing concerns over the coronavirus. The Foundation held several events, including its largest fundraiser, a reverse raffle, which netted nearly $15,000.
“We have great days and we have days that are more challenging, but the bottom line is we work together every day and are moving the chamber forward and finding new ways to bring ever more value to chamber membership,” Hays said.
During the luncheon, awards were presented to Shane Franks, Citizen of the Year; Salem Computer Center, Small Business of the Year; Salem Giant Eagle, Large Business of the Year; and The Salvation Army- Salem Corps, Nonprofit Organization of the Year.
Franks was named parks director in 2019 for the Salem Parks & Recreation Department after having served since 2013 as the department’s recreation supervisor. His lengthy list of community involvement includes serving as a Salem High School basketball coach, as a Junior Scholastics teacher, Rotary Club board member, adviser for the Salem Shade Tree Commission, marketing sponsor for the chamber, Salem Tourism Board member and more.
In accepting the award, Franks said, “I’m standing up here today because of all of you. It’s as simple as this: I’ve had the good luck and great fortune to be surrounded by and helped by and supported by so many outstanding co-workers, organizations, clubs, churches, businesses and so many other outstanding citizens. This community is chock full of them. I love Salem.”
Salem Computer Center owner Frank Zamarelli Jr. said on the day he opened the business 35 years ago, he was visited by the chamber’s executive director at the time and a Rotary Club member who invited him to join.
“Our success is not only because of those two gentlemen but many other mentors I’ve had over the years, many in this room here today,” Zamarelli said. “The Computer Center’s connection to the chamber is a long and proud one.”
He also thanked his employees over the past 35 years.
Mark Siegal, owner of the Salem Giant Eagle, was accompanied by four of his employees, who he said have a total of 140 years experience in the business. The grocery store was started by his parents as Foodland in 1982 and has undergone many transformations.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes. We’ve been through snow storms, through roof leaks, a tornado, a fire, and with all those things, I have to say nothing could have prepared us for what we’ve been through the last several months. It has been a difficult time for everybody. It seems our industry turned upside down,” he said. “I thank my whole team for showing up day after day to serve the community. I’m so proud to stand beside them each day. I think back to March of 2020 and there was so much uncertainty and fear, and, you know what? They came to work every day and served the community and did what we needed to do.”
Captain Angelica Spence and Gene Spence of the Salvation Army said it takes an entire community to function. Gene Spence thanked the businesses that welcome the Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles to their doorways each holiday season, saying the funds collected “help us do what we do throughout the year,” such as providing food, electric and energy assistance and answering calls for help from the police and fire in the middle of the night.
“Without a lot of the businesses, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” he said.
Also recognized during the luncheon were winners of the Downtown Dining event, with Janet Keene, chairman, presenting awards to Erich Henkel of Ezio’s; Lesley Kline of Kast Iron Soda Works; and Kayla Yousko of Coaches Burger Bar. There were 13 participants.
The chamber voted during the meeting for new chamber directors for 2022: Shelley Bergman, Consumers National Bank; Eric Ehrenberg, Schroedel, Scullin & Bestic, CPAs; Michael McCulloch, Hunter Associates; Dave Russell, MAC Manufacturing; Michael Santillo, Salem Regional Medical Center; and Anthony Shivers, BOC Water Hydraulics.
Outgoing board of directors members recognized were Vicki Hall, Consumers National Bank; Janice Jasinski, Schroedel, Scullin & Bestic, CPAs; Tom Baker, Salem Welding and Supply; and Jamie Benner, Salem Regional Medical Center.
Pictured at top: Recognized at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce were Shane Franks, Citizen of the Year; Frank Zamarelli Jr., Salem Computer Center, Small Business of the Year; Captain Angelica and Gene Spence, The Salvation Army-Salem Corps, Nonprofit Organization of the Year; and Mark Siegal, Salem Giant Eagle, Large Business of the Year.