Small businesses are no stranger to Chestnut Hill. Shops, boutiques and restaurants flood Germantown Avenue. Whether it is an upscale clothing boutique, a small frozen yogurt shop or a historical store a customer wants, their needs can be met all within one street.
With business so abundant, it shouldn’t be a surprise that an association to help handle the businesses would be a necessity. That is where the Chestnut Hill Business Association comes in. Founded in the mid 1950s, the Chestnut Hill Business Association has grown to a membership organization for retailers and restaurants throughout the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood.
“We do a lot of everything here. We do events and marketing. I do administrative work. We have over 200 members who we provide benefits for,” said Peggy Miller, deputy director of finance. “We work with our members. It’s a nonprofit, so you learn to do everything.”
“We encourage all of our shops to join as a member, they get various benefits by doing that, but the most important one is we band together as a community and we have more power so to speak as a group then we would as individuals,” Miller said.
The Chestnut Hill Business Association helps shops with social media and plans events to help increase business for their members; dues fund advertisements and promotional efforts. The association is run by a paid staff and a board, which consists of 20 recruited members who are all volunteers. The fact that members oversee the association proves the partnership between the business owners and the association.
“Seeing your efforts come to fruition, working hard on an event and then seeing your event come and everything works out the way it’s supposed to which – knock on wood – doesn’t always happen, but it’s good when it does,” Miller said. “It’s knowing that an event or promotion that we ran translated into increased business for our members.”
Anything from a pothole in the street to a huge event warrants the association’s attention. The upcoming event is the Home and Garden Festival in May where home products and nurseries will be available. In October, the association puts on the Fall for the Arts to broadcast artists and craftsman. However, one of the most popular events is the Harry Potter Festival in October, which the association has in conjunction with Chestnut Hill College.
“Chestnut Hill College puts on a Quidditch tournament. We have a pub crawl on Friday, and then Saturday is Harry Potter Day,” Miller said.
On a nice day, these events can attract upwards of 25,000 people. The association also holds a food and fashion show for their retailers to promote business.
Andrea Leonhart, manager of Heirloom said, “We have two restaurants that are part of the business association.”
Restaurants like Heirloom and Paris Bistro are a part of the association and also participate in Chestnut Hill’s Restaurant Week.
The association even holds a Dog Days of Summer for the pet lovers of Chestnut Hill.
“Every time we do an event like that, we close down half a street somewhere, so we have to talk to the residents about that and the city and get a permit. Sometimes that takes some time, sometimes it’s easy. There’s always a challenge with everything we try,” said Kate O’Neill, deputy director of operations. “One of the things that makes life very easy is we’re very easy to work with, and we really like people and we really like doing benefits and customer service, so we work well with other people who are doing the same thing. It makes for a nice relationship with a lot of different people. We’ve learned a lot over the years.”
Events and promotions keep the association busy with meetings and planning year round. With a paid staff, board of directors, a variety of committees and even an intern, the association requires teamwork to get things done.
“We’re planning our festivals. We’re planning our year’s events all the time … we have staff meetings, we have one-on-one meetings, we have business meetings, and we have festival planning,” O’Neill said. “We have a lot of different things going on.”
Despite being busy all the time, that hasn’t made the association lose sight of its purpose. The association and community are close and rely on each other for events, promoting business and keeping Chestnut Hill business friendly for residents and customers. This association comprised of leaders has taken on a leadership role in the community.
“The members are our friends, too,” Miller said. “It’s nice – we feel like we’re helping people that we like and know. It’s a small community, but it’s a close-knit community. It just works, the neighborhood works.”
– Text, images and video by Paulina Jayne Isaac and Maryrose Kelkis