Edgebrook, Sauganash chambers announce merger


The Edgebrook and Sauganash chambers of commerce have entered inter an agreement to merge the two organizations over the next few months.

Sauganash Chamber president Dennis Hammer said that the merger makes sense given the proximity of the Peterson-Cicero and Devon-Central shopping districts. Hammer said that the shopping districts would naturally blend together if it were not for the Edens Expressway separating them.

“People in Edgebrook shop at Whole Foods, and people in Sauganash shop at Happy Foods,” Hammer said. “People bank at my bank from both communities, and people shop at Edgebrook Ace from both communities.”

“It’s good for the community,” Edgebrook Chamber president Barbara Eastman said. “It’s going to eliminate the redundancy and the overlap. We already work well together. This is a wonderful opportunity for both.”

Hammer is a senior vice president and regional director for North Shore Community Bank, 4343 W. Peterson Ave. Eastman is the owner of Happy Foods, 6415 N. Central Ave.

The organizations have a history of co-sponsoring business seminars and networking events, and combining resources will allow more effective marketing and bigger community events sponsor, Hammer said. Many businesses belong to both chambers.

The Sauganash Chamber board of directors approved a merger plan at its Dec. 14 meeting, and the Edgebrook Chamber board approved it on Dec. 15.

The Edgebrook Chamber was formed in 1964, while the Sauganash Chamber was organized in 2004. In effort to attract more members from the Cicero-Peterson area, the Edgebrook Chamber renamed itself the “Edgebrook-Sauganash Chamber of Commerce” in the late 1980s, but “Sauganash” was removed from the name in 2004.

The Sauganash Chamber was formed at the request of Alderman Margaret Laurino, whose 39th Ward lost Edgebrook in the ward redistricting that took place in the early 2000s.

Following the redistricting after the 2010 census, the ward picked up half of the Edgebrook commercial area while maintaining all of Sauganash.

Both chambers receive city funds, which are used primarily to pay for an executive director, and the decision to merge will not affect the funding, Hammer said.

Plans call for Sauganash Chamber executive director Jennifer Herren to remain in that position for the newly named Edgebrook-Sauganash Chamber of Commerce, while Edgebrook Chamber executive director Andrea Simon is being retained as a consultant in the role of a business ambassador. Nick Haak, who does consulting work for the Edgebrook Chamber, also has been retained.

The existing offices of each chamber will remain open. The Edgebrook office is in North Branch Arts, 5421 W. Devon Ave., and the Sauganash office is in BQS Realty, 6023 N. Cicero Ave.

The Sauganash Chamber is the service provider for the Sauganash Special Service Area, and that role will remain separate from the merged organization because funds from the taxing district can only be spent in the Peterson-Cicero commercial district, Hammer said.

The special service area is funded through a property tax which is levied on commercial properties, and the funds are used primarily for beautification improvements in the district, Hammer said.

The Edgebrook-Sauganash Chamber will be overseen by a board of directors, which will include five members from the Edgebrook Chamber, five from the Sauganash Chamber and five people who currently serve on the boards of both chambers.

The board will consist of president Dennis Hammer, vice presidents Barbara Eastman and Deanna Minkler, secretary Jenise Celestin treasurer Bob Klairmont and directors Harriet Luden, Glenn Nadig, Cindy Cannizarro, Marti Corcoran, Jillian Holley, Helmuts Lackajs, Adam Eckert, Kelly Leggett, Bob Smith and Frank Spula.

Another area business organization, Everyday Edgebrook, is not affiliated with the chamber, although some Devon-Central businesses belong to both groups.

Everyday Edgebrook has sponsored several community events in recent years, including farmers markets and art walks.