In the 1970s, there was an organization called the Martinsville Merchants Association, designed to support Martinsville businesses.
It did so through raising awareness by providing fireworks at Chimney Rock Park on July 4 and publishing a map of the area, in addition to giving these businesses a place to network.
And now, more than 30 years later, another group has formed, and grown to 44 members, as they have joined to create the Washington Valley Business Alliance.
The idea to re-establish a local business group began about a year ago, according to Mike Hompesch, chairman of the group.
Hompesch said he approached Jane Gandolfe, president of the Martinsville Community Center executive board, which had been in charge of that earlier business group.
“I was interested in getting to know more of the business owners in and around Martinsville,” he said.
But at the time, when Hompesch and Gandolfe first spoke of the idea, the focus was on renovating the community center itself.
“She expressed interest in getting the group going and promised to keep in touch once the building was further along with the renovations,” Hompesch said.
In July, Hompesch said, they held the first meeting of the new alliance, determining the mission of the group and how to get more business owners involved.
“As of January 2013, we have restructured the group and will be presenting monthly programs with the intention of providing some type of useful educational or networking opportunities to our members,” he said.
Originally, Gandolfe said, the Martinsville Community Center’s business group had only 16 business members, but the new one has grown to 44.
“The business members actually account for about one-third of the total membership of the MCC,” she said.
Gandolfe said it was suggested at one of the recent meetings that they call the organization the Washington Valley Business Alliance so as to avoid limiting the group to only Martinsville businesses.
“If the name was Washington Valley Business Alliance, other business folks could be invited to participate, plus we didn’t want to limit it to one part of Bridgewater Township,” she said. “By expanding the scope of membership, business owners who live in Martinsville, but whose business is not in Martinsville, and businesses that serve the Martinsville and Bridgewater area could also join.”
Hompesch said the group’s footprint includes all of Martinsville in Bridgewater, and the Washington Valley Corridor, including Warren, Bedminster and sections of Basking Ridge that border.
The group, Gandolfe said, strives to serve as a partnership between local business, business owners and members of the community to continue to provide a healthy economy and improve the quality of life in Martinsville.
Gandolfe said they will work to help the community increase revenues by promoting the businesses; provide monthly networking and educational members; provide a forum for the exchange of information among businesses; and support the Martinsville Community Center’s mission through fundraising and scheduled events.
“Fulfilling this mission will instill a sense of community spirit and pride,” she said.
Hompesch said they have already held a seminar on setting goals, and are planning one on insurance education.
“And we have the Somerset County Business Alliance scheduled to do a networking event in April at the Martinsville Community Center,” he said. “We will also be creating a map of the businesses in and around the Washington Valley Corridor in an effort to provide our members some exposure within the community.”
In addition, Gandolfe said, there will be events to help the Martinsville Community Center with its continued fundraising for additional renovations.
For those looking for information, Gandolfe said, the news of the alliance is being spread by word of mouth, and networking, as well as through the community center website.
Hompesch said that the economic outlook in the Martinsville area is not great at this point. But, he said, this kind of group should be beneficial in helping people share their businesses and information with others.
“Certainly we have challenges, but by organizing a group such as this, business owners can get to know each other, and hopefully that will assist in increasing revenues,” he said. “At the same time, we feel that by helping others and contributing to the well-being of the community, we will also help our businesses.”
“It just seems that the more you give, the more you receive,” he added.
Current members of the group include Aesthetic Dental Group, in Martinsville; Arbonne Independent Consultant, in Bridgewater; Avatar Telecom & Energy Solutions, in Warren; Better Than New, LLC, in Martinsville; Business Tech Team, LLC, in Basking Ridge; Chimney Rock Inn, in Bridgewater; Crossroads Premier Insurance, in Martinsville; E.A.Boniakowski Agency, Inc., in Green Brook; Guitar Hut LLC, in Martinsville; Kate!!!Designs, in Martinsville; Martinsville Cleaners; The Martinsville Inn Caterers; Martinsville Florist; Martinsville Pharmacy; Preferred Excavating, in Martinsville; Rinnovo Salon & Spa, in Martinsville; The Jewelry Store, in Martinsville; and many more.
For more information, visit the Martinsville Community Center website.