by Brenda Erdahl
Maple Lake may be a small community, but it is far from small in the way its community members think. The Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce is evidence of that. With 84 members, it is not overly big, but it has done and continues to do big things, all with the goal of improving the vitality of the community, and making Maple Lake a great place to live and do business. “We’re a group of business owners looking out for the future of Maple Lake,” said Kathy Hennen, who owns Maple Lake Lumber Co. with her husband, Daryl. The lumber yard has been a member of the chamber since the 1960s, when Ken Hennen owned it. The chamber helps to make Maple Lake stand out on the map with events like Gear-Head Get Together, an event that last summer attracted an estimated 700 vehicles and 100 motorcycles that took over much of the town and featured music and a swappers meet. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is another event that draws hundreds of people to town every March. Then there is the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby, which the chamber doesn’t put on itself, but supports. “We’ve been told by other chambers that for such a small town, we have such big events. They are just amazed,” Hennen said. The chamber also organizes two craft fairs throughout the year, Christmas in Maple Lake, Business Trick-or-Treat and an all-city garage sale in June. The organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year is the Irish Party held the Saturday before the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Open to the public, it features a silent auction, dinner and entertainment. Past entertainers have included the Church Basement Ladies, a magician, comedian, ventriloquist and hypnotist. The fundraiser helps to support the St. Patrick’s Day parade and other chamber events. Paul Manuel, of Lake Central Insurance Services, enjoys the networking, exposure and strong sense of community he experiences as a Maple Lake Chamber member. “I feel most businesses should join the chamber, if they can afford it. The mission of any chamber is to promote business in a community. Whether an active member or non-active, all members benefit when the chamber is strong, active and visibly promoting its members and area events,” he said. Lake Central Insurance Services has been a member since 2007 when the business was purchased from Gary Swearingen. The cost of being a member of the chamber is $125 a year, and the organization does its best to give members the best “bang for their buck,” said Hennen who is also the chamber treasurer. Two years ago, the group started incorporating speakers at its monthly luncheon meetings two or three times a year. The first was an attorney from the metro area who spoke on employment law changes. Sergeant Brian Johnson, of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department, spoke about safety in the work place and another speaker gave a presentation on distracted driving. Last June chamber members learned about Ransomware, and this fall, they heard a presentation on social media. Coming up in 2018, Annandale Police Chief Jeff Herr will talk about active shooter awareness and preparedness, and overall business security and employee safety. Members also get their names in the chamber’s resident newcomer packet that is distributed to new residents of the area through channels including the school district, Star Bank and the City; are listed in ads the chamber takes out two or three times a year in the Maple Lake Messenger; can have their business website linked to the chamber website; and receive discounts and brand marketing at chamber-sponsored annual events including Gear Head and St. Patrick’s Day (members are not charged a parade entry fee). The chamber also has a facebook page for members to keep up to date with happenings in town and to share their promotions or events. Members also get discounted pricing on the use of the chamber’s Highway 55 finger board messaging signs. “It’s an inexpensive way to advertise,” Hennen said, and since the chamber has added lighting and new tracking, the signs – positioned on both ends of town – are even more effective than before. Contact Hennen at the lumber yard for more information. The Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce is home to a broad spectrum of members, from large industrial corporations to small, downtown bookstores. The chamber is also home to several non-business organizations including the City of Maple Lake, Maple Lake School District and Bethlehem United Church of Christ. All work together to make Maple Lake a better place for its residents and its businesses. The school district, which has been a member since before 2003, continues to be involved to “help promote a sense of community within Maple Lake and the surrounding area. Our membership provides opportunities to build relationships that benefit Maple Lake businesses and organizations,” Superintendent Mark Redemske said. Businesses or organizations can join the Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce anytime throughout the year. Contact Hennen at 963-3612 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.