CAZENOVIA — The Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce (GCACC) is in the process of establishing an events committee with financial support from long-time GCACC member and local business owner Ralph Monforte.
The committee, which is seeking additional volunteer members, will be responsible for continuing and evolving the GCACC’s traditional events, including the Fourth of July, the Christmas Walk, Block Fest, Ladies’ Night Out, Men’s Night, and business after-hours, and creating additional events.
“With the last few years being very hard due to COVID, a lot of the ‘normal’ activities stopped,” said GCACC board member Barb Houghton, who is co-chairing the committee with GCACC President Sara Wean. “With that [came a drop in] membership, [and therefore] volunteers. With the donation made by Ralph, we are hoping to bring back some of the events and add a few more.”
During the May 3 GCACC board meeting, Monforte, who owns Cazenovia Jewelry on Albany Street and in Fayetteville, announced that he will be donating $10,000 to start the new committee off with a healthy amount of funds to support local events.
The business owner said he is also very excited to invest in Cazenovia by renovating his storefront at 49 Albany St. starting on Jan. 1, 2024. The work will involve rebuilding the front of the building to feature a 19th-century-style, handicap-accessible center entrance. While the renovation is underway, the Cazenovia store is expected to be closed from January through approximately May of next year.
“Emotionally, I’m very connected to the [Cazenovia community], since we bought that business in 1985,” said Monforte, who was a member of the founding board of the GCACC. “We started there and that’s really been the foundation for the success that we’ve had. Because we’ve been so successful in our Fayetteville location, we are making an investment in Cazenovia.”
According to GCACC member McKenzie Houseman, who owns 20|EAST & Cazenovia Cut Block, she and Monforte attended the May 3 GCACC board meeting to help figure out how downtown businesses could come together to support the chamber in reinvigorating the community’s event offerings.
“The past couple of years have been a little rough for everyone,” said Houseman. “I had some personal medical issues that took me away from the chamber board and my shop. COVID was the worst culprit, taking away many of the events many people in the community really enjoyed. I believe the restrictions created by COVID created an environment of isolation for many businesses. We were all just trying to keep our doors open, and this didn’t allow much time to plan the fun things we had counted on in the past. . . The majority of people coming through my shop want these events back. . . The committee is so important because these events truly take a village. A variety of creative and motivated minds who love this community will be unstoppable. I look forward to working with others to see what should stay the same and what needs to be added to create the most positive events that make our area such an amazing place to live.”
According to Monforte, the GCACC has traditionally funded its events by approaching local businesses beforehand and asking if they would like to donate and/or participate.
Monforte said his donation is intended to enable the new events committee to be more financially independent.
“I think if you present a good enough plan and show that you can execute [it] effectively as a committee, other people will want to participate and feel better about the money that they do contribute to an event,” he said.
Monforte added that he hopes other businesses will donate as well and that he would like to see another $10,000 raised to provide further support for future community events.
“I believe very strongly that if all the businesses work together, we can accomplish a lot of great things, as we have in the past,” Monforte said.
The mission of the GCACC is to benefit the local economy and enhance the community’s quality of life by actively serving, representing, and enhancing business growth and success, and by providing programs and activities to improve interaction between local businesses and the Cazenovia area communities.
For more information on the GCACC, visit cazenovia.com.