2007-01-12 / Community

New Chamber Of Commerce President Hits The Ground Running

Going Door To Door Looking For New Members
By Howard Schwach

Alan Camhi, the new president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways, at his installation late last year.Alan Camhi, the new president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways, at his installation late last year. If you do business in Rockaway, chances are you're going to get to know Alan Camhi, the newly-elected president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways.

Camhi, who owns and operates Condor Pest Control in Rockaway Beach, sees his role as an activist one rather than as an administrative one.

"If you're going to make a change, you've got to be visible, to spend time going from store to store, finding out what issues face the Rockaway business owners and trying to increase the Chamber's membership roles," Camhi says.

The new president admitted that the organization is "running in the red," and has been for some time. He blames the fact that many local businesspeople join the Chamber and then fail to pay their annual dues.

"I'm going to put on my good suit and tie," Camhi, who most often wears work clothes, said. "I'm going to go to those owners and find out what we can do for them."

Camhi points out that the new housing stock in Rockaway is growing by leaps and bounds, but commercial development such as stores and restaurants has not kept pace.

He hopes that the new amenities planned in the massive Arverne By The Sea project centering on Beach 73 Street will make a difference.

"We're going to have a new shopping center with a supermarket in Arverne and there are plans for stores and restaurants. That should add some impetus to the Dayton Plaza Shopping Center as well and then things should escalate," he said. "Everybody is going to have to upgrade to compete with the new businesses. Things are going to have to change."

Camhi says that he has a number of goals in addition to building membership in his organization.

First and foremost, he wants to bring businesses in both the east end and the west end together in one comprehensive organization, as it was two decades ago.

"At one time," he said, "business in Far Rockaway was dominant. Then, when Jay Steingold ran the organization, that shifted as the east end shopping area deteriorated and the move was to the west end."

Two years ago, the Rockaway East Merchants Association was formed to address the Far Rockaway shopping area. Camhi would like to bring them back to the fold.

Then, he would like to insure that the shopping areas in Rockaway, from east end to west, become part of a state Economic Development Zone (EDZ) that he believes will bring great benefit to local business owners.

"We have to get people to sign up for the EDZ," he says earnestly, admitting that it will take lots of work to get long-time business owners to sign on for the state program.

He would like to build his own group as well. The chamber no longer has an executive director since the leave-taking of Joanie Omeste in December. Without the funds to hire another one, Camhi says, the organization will rely on a secretary and an intern to keep its Beach 116 Street office open.

He has hope for the future, however. He recently signed up 12 new members, he says, including a new pharmacy in Rockaway Beach and an engineering company and party planner, both in Far Rockaway. He is looking to add as many more as he can by hitting the bricks.

"I have a positive idea in my head and a long list of contacts from the other organizations I have been involved with," says Camhi, who has been involved in community organizations such as the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, the Kiwanis Club and the Peninsula Hospital Center. A 40-year resident of Rockaway, he has been in business here for nearly 37 of those years.

"I want to keep business here in Rockaway and I want to give shoppers a place to go so that they don't have to leave the peninsula," he adds. "To do that we have to build business and help businesses know what's going on in the peninsula. We have a lot of work to do."

"This is a new look, a new day," he concluded. "We are all neighbors, from Brooklyn to Long Beach, and we have to learn to work together for the betterment of everybody in that area."

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