CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - If you build it, they will come.
That's what the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce hoped would happen when it invited nearly 300 local restaurant owners, merchants and other professionals to its inaugural meeting Wednesday night.
While not all businesses attended, nearly 50 representatives packed New Castle Town Hall to join the chamber and hear from its temporary board members, Tara Mikolay, Robin Murphy, Rich Glotzer, Linda Degelsmith, and Rob Greenstein.
"We built the house and now we need to decorate the rooms," Greenstein said. "The goal right now is to spread the word and get everybody involved."
Greenstein and the other temporary board members have been working behind the scenes for months trying to bring a chamber of commerce to New Castle, feeling there was a disconnect between the residents and the merchants.
"We're just trying to find ways so that we can get the word out there and get people shopping local," said Degelsmith. "Because people forget that 'Oh we have a local hardware store. I'm going to shop there instead of the other guy across town.'"
Degelsmith will serve as the chamber's executive director, which is the only paid position on the board. Degelsmith, who will receive 50 percent of all dues paid by new merchants, said she cut back her hours as a nurse at Mount Kisco Medical Group to commit herself to the chamber.
In addition to the businesses that signed up Wednesday night, Greenstein said the chamber also has the support of Deputy Supervisor Elise Kessler Mottel, the Chappaqua PTA, and Police Chief Charles Ferry, who will act as liaisons.
Greenstein also revealed possible plans to revitalize the downtown Chappaqua area, which he referred to as being "dead." He said a plan is under way to bring a performing arts center to the downtown area and that would bring with it 250 additional elevated parking spots.
The plan also includes installing turf and possibly lights to the playing field near Senter Street. Greenstein said a lease was also just signed to bring an ice cream and burger store to Chappaqua.
Marketing plans, rewards cards, and other ideas were also discussed at the meeting, but the chamber said it is taking "baby steps." Future meetings will be held the second Wednesday of every month at New Castle Town Hall, with times varying due to the availability of business owners.