EDGEBROOK — Determined to bring more foot traffic to downtown Edgebrook, about a dozen business owners that broke away from the Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce launched a new group designed to breathe new life into the area around Devon and Central avenues.
Everyday Edgebrook, founded by Local Goods Chicago owner Laura Guenther and Aqua Salon owner Noel Buican, will work to help the "brick and mortar" businesses in Edgebrook rack up more sales, Guenther said.
"We want the downtown area to look better," Guenther said. "We need more stores — and fewer empty storefronts."
The group, which celebrated its launch as a nonprofit group Saturday with a party, began in 2013 as a part of the Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce, but left the organization after a disputed board election several months ago.
"We're not trying to be a competitor to the chamber," said Guenther, who resigned as a chamber board member after the election. "We realized that we needed more than what the chamber was doing to bring attention to downtown Edgebrook."
Edgebrook chamber President Julie Schultz, a Realtor with Koenig Rubloff Realty Group, said the 50-year-old chamber does "a good deal" to help the Edgebrook business community.
"These business owners never gave us specific ideas," said Schultz, who has been a member of the chamber for 20 years. "We want to change, we want to improve. I would love to hear specific ideas."
Schultz said it was "unsettling" that the dispute has gone as far as it has, and said she hoped the members of Everyday Edgebrook who left the chamber would return, and new businesses join.
The empty storefronts along Devon Avenue are the fault of owners who set rents too high, Schultz said.
There are not enough members of on the Edgebrook chamber board who own retail businesses that depend on foot traffic, Guenther said.
"The chamber is not meeting the needs of people who have doors and need people to walk through them, Guenther said.
Most of the chamber's board members are Realtors, bankers and investors — all businesses that depend on word-of-mouth and networking rather than foot traffic, Guenther said.
The chamber's annual events — a golf outing, typically held in Bensenville, and an Oktoberfest in the parking lot of the Edgebrook Lutheran Church — don't bring more people downtown, Guenther said.
Schultz said she would love to hold more events in downtown Edgebrook, but not many of the businesses are chamber members eligible to host events.
Everyday Edgebrook intends to ask the city to withdraw its funding for the Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce, and instead allow Everyday Edgebrook to use it for a beautification project along Devon Avenue, Guenther said.
Recognized chambers of commerce get more than $30,000 a year for staff and programs from the city, officials said.
Chris Burrell, the owner of the Edgebrook Coffee Shop, said the members of Everyday Edgebrook no longer wanted to fight the chamber every step of the way in their effort to make Edgebrook a destination for shoppers.
"Edgebrook has been stagnant for 20 years," Burrell said. "We're not getting a lot of help from the city."
The group will act as a liaison between the business community, the city and the residents, with the help of the Edgebrook Community Association, Burrell and Guenther said.
"We need to take this on ourselves," Burrell said.
Jan Burns Kupiec, a Realtor with Baird and Warner, who also resigned from the chamber board and is a member of Everyday Edgebrook, said the new group planned to be active in the community and on social media to help attract attention to Edgebrook.
"We've got a lot of good things planned," Kupiec said.
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