Top News Stories of 2018, No. 5: Chamber moves to new location under interim director

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce has seen quite a few changes in 2018.

Chief operating officer Paul Miller resigned after the chamber's board of directors met July 16. Interim director Damon Henke said the reason Miller resigned is so the chamber can work on restructuring itself.

“He has been and continues to work with us to make sure the structure is sound in the future,” Henke said.

Miller’s position was eliminated, Henke said, and the chamber would be seeking another person to fill the position at some point. That person would likely be called the director of the chamber, Henke said.

“The future of the chamber will include the position. We typically call it a director,” Henke said, saying former CEO and president Tammy Thurow asked for a bigger title when she got the job in December 2015.

Interim director is not a new role for Henke. He served in this position after former director Mike Bishop was fired in March 2015 and said he knows what it entails.

“Along with the board, I’ll oversee the transition to a new location,” Henke said. “I’ll act as director of the staff for the visitor center, and I’ll make sure our social media presence, online presence and visitor service presence are all stable and effective.”

Eureka Springs should be presented as a “synergistic destination” for visitors, Henke said.

“That includes removing limits from Jackrabbit and the visitor guide so anyone can participate in our marketing for Eureka Springs, regardless of whether they’re a member of the chamber or not,” Henke said. “The guests sign our paycheck in Eureka Springs. Without the guests, we can’t move forward economically. We have determined our goal is to push the community forward regardless of membership.”

Later that month, Henke reported the chamber would be leaving its longtime location at Pine Mountain Village. The chamber was considering moving to a smaller location before the rent was raised at Pine Mountain Village, Henke said. When the rent increased, he said, it made even more sense to find another building. The chamber’s Pine Mountain Village location was about 4,000 square feet, and the members would like something about half that size. He said the chamber would move by Sept. 1.

Henke said the chamber would reopen the Eureka Springs Visitors Center at its new location.

“The visitor center should go basically uninterrupted,” Henke said.

By Oct. 1, the chamber was settling in at its new home at the Eureka Springs Community Center at 44 Kingshighway.

The new location works perfectly for the chamber’s visitor services, Henke said, because it’s even closer to the transit office. Henke said visitors commonly ask about the open-air trolley tour, saying chamber employees are happy to help with that. It’s important for the chamber to become a hub for visitors and locals, Henke said.

“The community center is the up-and-coming hub of Eureka Springs,” Henke said. “We hope to simply complement that hub and push it forward, not only as a visitor’s center but for the actual business community the chamber serves.”

Henke said locals should look out for chamber events at the community center. He expects to host the popular Chocolate Festival, Henke said, and Yards & Yards of Yard Sales at the chamber’s new location. Henke described how the Eureka Springs Farmers Market benefits the chamber, saying he’s grateful the market takes place right outside the chamber’s front door.

“Not only is that beneficial for the locals to be able to come and get some fresh produce … if you pull into the visitor’s center as a tourist and see there’s a farmers market on the front steps, it just adds to the depth of the community,” Henke said, “and makes your vacation that much more interesting.”

Henke said the chamber has enjoyed working with the community center’s board of directors. It was easy to make the move, he said.

“When we came to the community center and said we might be interested, they said, ‘It’s a perfect fit,’ ” Henke said.

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