Fighting for themselves

DOWNTOWN — The ideas started flowing in 2008, when Mayor John Drayman began meeting regularly with a collection of small business owners and representatives from the city’s chambers of commerce and merchants’ associations.

There were suggestions for a website, with links to every business. The group could share ideas about battling common obstacles.

They could develop citywide promotions. They could have a united political voice.

Drayman and the city facilitated the meetings, but as fallout from the economic crisis started to hit Glendale, he and other officials could no longer afford to devote time to organizing them, putting the future of the developing organization at risk, he said.

So Drayman and members of the small business task force suggested that it take on a life of its own, apart from City Hall, and become an independent organization that could help business owners promote themselves and work to overcome individual obstacles through collaboration.

A handful of businesspeople have been meeting in an attempt to push the idea forward by creating a nonprofit organization called the Glendale Business Coordinating Council, which could become an umbrella organization for the variety of chambers of commerce and merchants’ associations in the city, Drayman said.

“To be able, especially in these economic times, to coordinate your promotions, to coordinate your advertising, to coordinate your public events, is very beneficial,” he said.

Planning for the group is still in the early stages, said Patrick Campbell, a member of the Downtown Glendale Merchants’ Assn. and owner of Damon’s Steakhouse.

Campbell has been meeting with a few other businesspeople in an attempt to create the umbrella organization, although the group has not yet contacted many of the business groups in the city to offer details on the project, he said.

The lack of communication has led to misperceptions and confusion in the business community about the course of the organization and whether it might be turning exclusive or neglecting some groups, he said.

But the group of business owners has initially been focused on organizing the nonprofit, he said.

“We’re just a few businesspeople,” he said. “We don’t have staff to do this. We’re trying to do this on our own.”

If it comes together, the organization could be helpful for businesses throughout Glendale, Campbell said.

Attracting more shoppers to Glendale might eventually have perks for everyone, he said.

“Now, more than anything, people need a little more exposure, a little more networking,” he said.

It could help create unity and a common political voice, but it has yet to be determined how substantive the organization’s efforts would be, said Judee Kendall, executive director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re really in the beginning stages,” Kendall said. “And we’ll watch it as it progresses, and if it’s an organization that’s a viable one and it’s going to benefit the city, we will be involved, and if it isn’t, we wouldn’t.”

Marian Jocz, executive director of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, was similarly uncertain about the potential group, although she thought it could be a valuable unifying force, if executed properly.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at

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