Coronado Chamber Of Commerce ...

At a recent Sharp Coronado Hospital Volunteer Appreciation event, CEO Susan Stone, left, thanked Sue Gillingham, Executive Director of the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, and Robin MacCartee, President of the Rotary Club of Coronado, for their significant contributions to the clinic’s success. Also pictured on the right is Ana Ramirez, Volunteer Coordinator.

Coronado Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sue Gillingham announced that she will retire from her position in September. Gillingham has been with the Chamber since 2015 and guided the organization through one of the most difficult years in history for local small businesses.

“I know she thought of retiring sooner. She stayed to help the City and the businesses through the pandemic. That passion for the Coronado community really stood out during these last 15 months. And the community appreciates that,” said Chamber Chairman Mike Woiwode.

Gillingham shared, “I think it’s time for fresh ideas and new blood to take the Chamber to a new level. I’m ready to spend time with my two grandbabies, and travel.” The Gillingham’s daughter and son-in-law and two granddaughters live in Imperial Beach.

She said she will miss the personal relationships of the job, “It’s nice to be plugged in to what is going on in the city and trying to make a difference. I will miss that connection to things.”

Gillingham was a small business owner herself so she understands the needs and challenges of running a business in Coronado, and she brought that perspective to the Chamber.

In 2009 the Gillinghams, Sue and Dave, and their business partners opened the 1906 Lodge. They built the business from scratch with Sue serving first as Project Manager and then General Manager until they sold it in 2013.

Whether it’s starting a business or finding creative ways to serve the business community during the unprecedented shutdowns of 2020, Gillingham handles challenges with a calm and steady leadership style.

During the pandemic she rolled up her sleeves to find new ways for the Chamber to serve the community. “I enjoyed the challenge of doing something different, not business as usual,” she said.

Past Chamber Chairman Dean K. Eckenroth Jr. recognized the value in Gillingham’s leadership during the past year. He commented, “The COVID pandemic created unique challenges for all businesses in Coronado. For the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, the challenge was to find new and creative ways to be a positive support system for local businesses. Sue and the staff, Rena Clancy and Belinda Jones, dug into that challenge with unmatched enthusiasm. From working with the City on business assistance loans, to take-out dining programs and helping support COVID volunteers, Sue and the staff were always moving toward the Chamber’s purpose of helping businesses succeed so that the community prospers. Even in the depths of being locked down they were always working, always looking for the next little thing that could prove helpful to Coronado businesses. Sue really did the Chamber, and the City, proud over the last year.” 

In addition to working closely with business owners, Gillingham also collaborates with City staff and provides regular updates to the City Council. In a year-end update sent to the City this month Gillingham focused on the Chamber’s key activities from the past year, including the status of the Community Grant program funds provided by the City. Highlights include:

Implementation of Coronado Visitor Center Website Grant: A completely remodeled website featuring over 1,000 new photos and raising the profile of local businesses with travelers. The website kept up to date information on business openings/closings and “live buttons” for restaurant takeout and delivery options. Additionally the website was able to repurpose during the pandemic to accommodate the City’s special project -

Allocation of $5,000 from Holiday Parade budget to market reopened businesses in the spring.

Update, printing and distribution across the San Diego of 9,000 Orange Avenue brochures.

Promotion of Coronado and its Business Grant focusing on keeping residents informed on restaurant and retail status. Promoting local businesses using a combination of print articles and social media. Creation of a new Facebook page called “Orange Avenue Deals and Specials.” 

Consistent and proactive communication with and for local businesses regarding Covid related information; available assistance, grants, and changes in regulations.

Supporting the community through educational events such as an SR 75 Relinquishment update, City Council Candidate forums, and partnering with the City on the Spreckels Park Dine Out Program. Additionally the Chamber supported the City and Sharp Coronado Hospital’s vaccination clinic by soliciting contributions from local residents, businesses and organizations to purchase lunches from local restaurants to feed the volunteers.

Creative modification to the forced cancelation of the Annual Holiday Parade: the Chamber produced a 20 minute video with highlights from previous parades; created a 10 minute Happy Holidays video featuring over 40 local businesses and nonprofits; organized a Sidewalk Sale to replace the parade night shopping and dining.

In her letter to the City, Gillingham summarized the year as follows: “The Coronado Chamber of Commerce, like never before, strives to fulfill its mission of helping businesses succeed so that our community prospers. This year, we are focused on helping our businesses survive. We appreciate the confidence that the City of Coronado has bestowed upon us through the Community Grants and are ready to face whatever 2021 brings to Coronado!”

Woiwode added that the Chamber is in a strong position coming out of the pandemic and going forward. He credited Gillingham, “She’s left us with a strong board, strong finances, increased membership, credibility with city officials, and appreciation by residents of the Chamber’s importance.”

According to Woiwode, the search for the Chamber’s next executive director will begin immediately.

The Coronado Chamber of Commerce was established in 1937 and its membership consists of more than 250 community-minded businesses and individuals.

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