Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce

Betsy Andrus
Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce
https://southernberkshirechamber.com/
(413) 528-4284

 

Betsy Andrus is a fierce advocate for small businesses and she’s not afraid to tell you. As a fourth-generation Berkshire resident, she’s observed many changes to our downtown districts over the years. When asked about the importance of shopping locally, she recounts a story that hits close to home. After her uncle made the difficult decision to close their long-standing family business, Harland B. Foster’s Hardware, Betsy said people would approach her to share how much they lamented its loss because they could always count on finding the random screw or unique piece of hardware they needed. Businesses–especially during COVID– depend on our regular patronage, not just occasional purchases. “That’s exactly why a business goes under,” Betsy retorts. “If you think you’re saving money driving to a big box store to buy an item you think is cheaper, you’re actually losing money, because it’s leaving your area.” 

 

Betsy joined the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce as its executive director after the town of Great Barrington celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2011. To maintain the excitement generated by this milestone, the region needed a local leader who understood the community landscape. At the outset, Betsy recognized a disconnect: chamber membership wasn’t what it used to be and the value proposition for participating wasn’t as lucrative as in the pre-digital era when chambers served as marketing hubs. Betsy took on the task of revitalizing the organization. 

 

Now the Chamber is perhaps best known for its monthly ‘Business After Hours’ networking events, which present great opportunities for employees of member businesses to build community. COVID brought these gatherings to an end, but the Chamber quickly responded by providing resources and assistance with paperwork for loans and grants, in addition to publishing an information-packed weekly newsletter. 

 

Betsy says the value of membership is different for every business. Some businesses like to appear in the Chamber’s directory, some participate in networking events, and others simply pay their dues because it’s ‘just what you do’ as a local business. Of course, the more members that participate, the greater the services the Chamber offers. While Betsy continues to promote membership to businesses, she recognizes their increased needs during COVID and encourages community members to direct their disposable income toward services like heating and rental assistance, food banks, and local nonprofits.   

 

The relationship between the Chamber and BerkShares is a natural partnership. When BerkShares launched in 2006, organizers at BerkShares, Inc. worked with the Chamber to sign up the initial 100 business participants and utilized the Chamber’s downtown location as a point of information. The chamber has always championed our region’s local currency; it’s in their best interest. Betsy knows the value of shopping locally, which is what makes her an effective ally.  

 

Betsy is working to revitalize and preserve our downtown districts in the way she knows best - being unapologetically vocal about the importance of keeping business in the Berkshires. “We all want to maintain the character of our downtowns,” she says “If you don’t support the businesses, they’re not going to be there forever, and you might not like the way it looks.”




Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - 5:00pm