By Steve Sears
The Township of Wayne may soon have a new, official Chamber of Commerce.
Christian Sees, owner of Integrus Financial, one of the founders of the young group, explains its genesis. “We are essentially still in the start-up phase of this thing,” he says. “There was an idea that started maybe around a year ago. Some small business owners kind of got talking, and these things kind of happen organically.”
Discussion ensued about having a Chamber of Commerce in Wayne. “There wasn’t one, and that was the big thing,” Sees says. “The college (William Paterson University), the organizations, there’s just so much.” Sees recalls hearing that perhaps there was at one time a chamber that had merged into a tri-county chamber, which is much bigger geographically than just Wayne, and was originally headquartered in Wayne but moved. “When that happened,” he says, “it seems like the focus kind of came off Wayne. You know, if there’s ever a ribbon cutting for a new place in Wayne, you never see a member of the Chamber of Commerce there, which is just odd.”
Therefore, the notion of a new chamber. In early February 2020, 15 business owners gathered for dinner to discuss the idea and gather feedback, such as social media being used to communicate with the community. Then COVID-19 hit, but Sees still created a “WCC’s Downtown Wayne” Facebook page. “From there, we started trying to help small businesses get attention, and the different initiatives going on in Wayne. There was a frontline appreciation group, and we were just trying to help promote what they had going on. Then the group started to grow.” And the name? “Wayne doesn’t have a center of town, it has like five centers of town the way it’s laid out,” says Sees with a chuckle. “So, what we were trying to do is create a virtual downtown. Again, we’re at the beginning stages of that.”
Via the group, a few events have taken place. The first was a Wayne Eats Out event. Different restaurants chose to participate in a virtual restaurant week, featuring different specials and contests. Residents would post a photo picking up food at a participating eatery, their name put in a hat for gift cards. “It worked out really, really well,” says Sees.
Another event was held to benefit the Passaic County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), a group which represents foster children. Sees learned that the group has a huge back-to-school drive and other fundraisers which took, in his words, “a detour” thanks to the pandemic. “There was this huge back-to-school event to get school supplies for these kids.” The young chamber got involved to help out, and then a lot of the town. “Different businesses, sports organizations, the Mayor (Christopher Vergano) and his wife – it was great. We got 120 backpacks filled with supplies for them, and a whole bunch of donations of money. It was such a great event, and I felt so good about it. We were helping these kids. They were so thankful.”
“Then I knew that there is such a need for an organization like a Chamber of Commerce.”
Formalization is being looked at, and a new website will be unveiled, as will the officers of the group. “This is 2020,” says Sees, “I don’t want this to be your father’s Chamber of Commerce. I want it to be fresh and new, interacting with the community, and not just a Tuesday morning, once a month networking meeting at a local restaurant.” And, although the group is not yet completely solidified, Sees says, “We’re really excited about the potential it has.”
To get involved, contact Christian Sees directly at 1 (551) 206-5280.