Montgomery Business Journal

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TLC from the TRC

Companies Benefit by Participating in Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign

Story by David Zaslawsky

Photos by Robert Fouts

When Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce members converge on Charlotte’s Jewelry for an after-hours event in November or December, at least 15 to 20 of the female attendees fill out a wish list.

“Several of them come back and add to their list,” said Charlotte’s Jewelry owner Charlotte Evans. “Once the ladies start adding to the list and it starts paying off, they keep up.”

Those wish lists are sent to the significant others with all the pertinent information to buy jewelry for a birthday or anniversary or Christmas or other occasion and buy what somebody wants. The women may show their gifts to friends and family and of course add where they got it from.

charlottes“Nine out of 10 women want a piece of jewelry and the other is lying,” Evans said. Her goal is when people have a jewelry need, they think of Charlotte’s Jewelry. That is why she has sponsored the Chamber after-hours for the past four years; is sponsoring another this year; and plans to purchase a sponsorship this year for 2015 during the Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign (TRC).

It is during the TRC that businesses and individuals can sponsor a wide range of Chamber programs/events with a wide range of prices. The TRC, which is under way and scheduled to end in November, also funds publications and websites while assisting in recruiting new members.

One of those networking events is a 60-minute coffee, which Brantwood Children’s Home has sponsored the past four years. Unlike Charlotte’s Jewelry, which is widely known and located two short blocks from the busy intersection of Taylor and Vaughn roads, not everybody has heard of Brantwood or knows where it’s located. Those coffees exposed the business community to Brantwood, a non-profit organization that simply put, “for 97 years has provided a home for young people, who have no home to grow up in,” said executive director Kim Herbert.

What better way to spread the message about Brantwood Children’s Home than sponsor a coffee and have 125 to close to 200 people attend the event? “What a great problem to have, with absolutely no parking (left) on campus, and you couldn’t fit one more person in our dining room area,” Herbert said. “Those are great problems to have.”

One direct result of sponsoring a coffee was that an Alabama Power employee noticed that the facility had old, single-pane windows – not terribly energy-efficient. The utility worked with Brantwood for new double-pane windows and an energy-efficient grant paid 100 percent of cost, according to Herbert. The facility also changed to more energy-efficient light bulbs to reduce costs. “Those kinds of things have certainly been by-products” of sponsoring the coffees, Herbert said. “It doesn’t take long to walk around our campus and realize that there are some things that money could change.”

Some of the young people living there – ages range from 10 to 21 – have received part-time jobs from people who attended the coffees. If the coffee is held close to a fund-raising event such as a golf tournament – that is promoted.

The coffees have resulted in numerous partnerships with businesses and individuals, Herbert said. “If you can do a good deed for Brantwood and then put that on résumé – ‘That hey, this company … look at what they do and partners with Brantwood Children’s Home,’ then that’s a win-win for both people.”

The coffees help Brantwood Children’s Home connect with the business community. “If everybody leaves with a positive impression of what’s going on up here, (that benefits) our young people,” Herbert said. “People that come to this Chamber coffee … when they are in their Sunday school class or their civic group and trying to decide what they are going to do with the money they have collected, somebody thinks: ‘I noticed that all the trim at Brantwood needed painting or Brantwood was using that old, old, old this or that and let’s put together a service project to help with that or a fountain that wasn’t working.”

And now that fountain that wasn’t working on the patio is, thanks to partnerships “from people who have attended the coffees,” Herbert said. “It’s such a pretty area. The kids love that area in the evening especially. It’s shaded; it’s cool. That patio area is full of our kids playing cards; some others play basketball; sometimes there is a lot of music going and (people) practicing their new moves – all around that fountain area,” she said.

Brantwood Children’s Home was scheduled to sponsor a coffee earlier this month and plans to buy a sponsorship during this year’s TRC to sponsor another in 2015.

Meanwhile, the owners of Newk’s Eatery – JMH Dining – became Chamber members before their restaurant opened last year on Halloween. Matt Collins, who is vice president (owner/operator), and his wife, Amberly Collins, who is the marketing director, were a sponsor of the 15th annual Chamber Open and the military salute at Riverwalk Stadium through last year’s TRC.

“We’re originally from Mississippi and coming into a new market, we really saw a lot of value in the Chamber of Commerce as a way to meet new people and help get a new brand into a new market,” Matt Collins said. “The Chamber is a great way to make connections and we’ve met some really good people. It’s also a good opportunity to get involved.”

Amberly Collins said: “Name recognition was one of the things we wanted to do so when we came, people had heard of us because we were breaking into a new market. We wanted to get our name in front of people and as many eyes on our logo as possible. We definitely view (Newk’s) as a business-lunch kind of place or a family dinner place and that those were the types of people we wanted to get our logo in front of.”

Matt Collins met John Foshee, owner of Foshee Design & Construction, at a Chamber event and Foshee became a Newk’s customer. The two have discussed opening a Newk’s in the Foshee’s Market District on Lower Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery. That may be a couple of years from now, but the family owns another Newk’s in Opelika and is looking to open restaurants in Columbus, Georgia, Dothan, Troy and Prattville. The Prattville location would at The Exchange at HomePlace next to either Outback Steakhouse or Panera Bread, which is under construction. Matt Collins said they hope to open the Prattville Newk’s in the first six months of next year. Each of the restaurants has 50 to 55 employees.

“Not being from Montgomery, we wanted to show that we were not coming in just to open a restaurant and make a dollar,” Matt Collins said. “We wanted to come in and be part of the community. We bought property here and we spend half our time here. Being a part of the Chamber and really getting involved in things they do to support the community – we wanted to be a part of that.”

At last year’s after-hours event at Charlotte’s Jewelry, one of the attendees didn’t know that the business has a jeweler on her 10-person staff. “She thought we had to send everything out,” Evans said. “She had been quoted a price someplace else – almost 2½ times the price we quoted her to correct the problem she had with her ring. And she left it that night.”

To ease some customers’ concerns, Charlotte’s has a camera and will take pictures of their diamonds “so we can show them this is the diamond you left and this is the diamond you’re picking up,” Evans said.

For Herbert, bringing people to Brantwood benefits the young people there. “It’s an opportunity for them if they like to dress up and be a greeter,” she said. “Usually that morning after everybody leaves, it’s a great celebration because they all feel so good about themselves. It’s a great opportunity for their self-esteem.

“The things that are closest to our young people that touch them and impact them every day – we want that part of their lives to look the same as any other family out there. Young people come here with very little and our community connects and helps them have all of what they need and some of what they want.”

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