MADISON — The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Holiday Party was held at Rocco’s Bar & Grill, 30 Cook Avenue, on Tuesday, January 15. This annual social event hosted more than 50 guests who enjoyed an evening of networking and celebrating the end of a successful holiday season, as well as, the 75th Anniversary of the organization.
The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization that works to promote the economic interests of its dues-paying members and Madison. The Chamber is an independent business league that was founded in 1943 in the midst of World War II “by local citizens eager to provide outstanding customer service and civic-minded dedication to the community,” said John Morris, president of the Chamber.
“Tonight we celebrated seventy-five wonderful years of our Chamber. And give one giant salute to the thousands of dedicated and loyal Chamber members past and present,” said Karen Giambra, executive director of the Chamber.
During the event, Mayor Conley delivered a proclamation in honor of the 75th Year Anniversary and congratulated the organization on the achievements of its members, past and present, and saluted the vital efforts made in making Madison a special place in which to visit, work, and live.
The Chamber is an independent business league that was founded in 1943 in the midst of World War II “by local citizens eager to provide outstanding customer service and civic-minded dedication to the community,” said John Morris, president of the Chamber.
“Today’s Chamber members, which number 185 businesses and non-profits, salute our forebears for setting the Madison business community of a solid foundation of care, progress and prosperity,” said Peter Daniele, Chamber vice president.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States issued a Certificate of Organization to the Madison Chamber on November 30, 1943. “We’re calling that day our anniversary date due to the national recognition it provided to Madison,” Morris said. “Certificate number 3431, which is about the size of travel poster and framed under glass, has a green color and motif that has some semblance to a U.S. Army tank. That’s fitting to that era.” said Morris.
Earlier in 1943, local business person John Scinto promised the residents and shoppers of Madison that the Chamber “is to be formed for the promotion of the economic, industrial, business, professional and civic interests of Madison.” In time, Scinto became the first Chamber historian.
For the most part, the founding members of the Chamber were owners of small business, many of them operated by families. Several of the founders were also members of either the local Rotary or Kiwanis service clubs.
The first Chamber Board, which included Scinto, was comprised of twelve individuals and they conducted their initial meetings at the Madison YMCA and other local venues, said Giambra.
Sam Gordon of Madison Food Center was elected the Chamber’s first president and Kathryn Earley of Kathryn Earley Shop was elected the first membership chair.
According to a 1943 advertisement in the Madison Eagle, some of the Chamber’s 101 charter members included the following: Scinto Shoe Store; Roth’s Madison Theatre; The Central Service; Fritz Barber Shop; Kurtz Men’s Shop; Miller’s Army & Navy Store; Rose City Market; Otto Gerlach; Weiss Wine & Liquor; James Lassiter & Sons; F.W. Woolworth.
Some other charter members were: Hope Dairy Farms; Tot’s Bazaar; Vic’s Service Station; Larison Pharmacy; Kluxen Winery; Madison Department Store; Madison Feed & Seed Store; Madison Iron Works; Madison Esso Station, Donald F. Zeek, Prop; and The Madison Eagle.
“Even though we were very young then, my friends and I fondly remember many of the early businesses and the people who worked there,” said Carmine Toto, Jr. a longtime Chamber Board member. “My father knew the business owners very well. To me they were great people who loved their town,” he said. Toto served as Chamber president from 1993 to 1995 during the Chamber’s fiftieth anniversary.
“According to the incomplete records we have, Gerlach’s Jewelers and the Madison Eagle are the longest continual Chamber members,” Daniele said. “If people happen to have Chamber documents or artifacts from 1943, we’d love to hear about them.”
According Michael Odell, Chamber treasurer, “Today’s Chamber is still mostly governed by rules, organized by procedures and dedicated to principals first established seventy-five years.” The full Chamber Membership elects the Board of Directors, which is responsible for guiding the organization. Every two years the Board elects from its own a president, two vice presidents and a treasurer. The Board also appoints the Executive Director of the Chamber, Odell said.
Since 2008 Karen Giambra has been the executive director of the Chamber, a full-time, professional position.
In the last ten years, the Chamber “has re-committed itself to increasing the value of membership so that its members and Madison can reach new heights of progress and prosperity,” Giambra said.
“The Chamber’s main role is to share the good word about shopping and dining in Madison, New Jersey, through programs, events, advocacy and learning,” Giambra said. “We’re improving existing programs and adding new ones when it’s in the best interest of the membership,” she said.
The current members of the Chamber Board of the Directors included Dr. Allison Adams of Adams Dental; Peter Daniele of Rose City Collision; Sam DeAngelis, Esq., of Chiarolanza & DeAngelis, Esqs.; Frank Iannarone of The Madison Pharmacy; Georgeanne Limbach of Adams Dental; Salvatore Minardi of Salvatore Minardi Salon; David Morozoff of Haven Savings Bank; John Morris of Stewart-Morris Awards, Gifts & Flags; E. Michael Odell, CPA, of Odell & Critchley, P.C.; Gwen Riddick of Madison Area YMCA; Robbin Salmeri of Cleaners Advantage; Andy Simpson of Stamford Web Design; Carmine Toto, Jr., of C. Toto & Sons Restoration; Nadine Vitro of Investors Bank; and Marsha Ann Zimmerman of Investors Bank.
For 2018-2020 the Chamber officers are Morris as Chamber president; Daniele as 1st as vice president; Salmari as 2nd vice president; and Odell as treasurer.
Some of the Chamber’s current town-wide activities include Easter Fun Fest, Halloween Parade & Magic Show and the Madison Gift Check. Chamber’s many local partner organizations help to enable the production of the Taste of Madison and the Madison Car Show and similar events, Giambra said.
Every June, the Chamber holds both the Fire Extinguisher Inspection Program and then the Annual Awards Dinner, which honors the successes of previous fiscal year. The Chamber Holiday Party is held every January after the rush of the holiday season.
Chamber’s Focus on Foot Traffic meetings for retailers and service providers are held twice a month. Chamber’s Networking Breakfast and Happy Hour are held every month.
The Chamber Hall of Fame, which is a relatively new circle of distinction, has inducted three people: Carmine Toto, Peter Daniele and Judy Mullins, who was an owner of Poor Herbie’s and an esteemed community volunteer. Hall of Fame recognition is given for extraordinary service to the Chamber, the business community and Madison.