News and Announcements For 2016

Happy New Year! I just wanted to share some news with the group, as 2016 is an exciting year for Tuxedo and the business community. I’d like to begin by welcoming two new members of our Board of Trustees!

First, Kristen Heard is the Director of Admissions at Tuxedo Park School, a founding member of the Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce. I have been working with Kristen for years on several projects and can’t speak highly enough of her dedication to the organization and our community. Second, Liz Manko is the owner of Bodhi and Sol Yoga, which specializes in Thai Yoga Bodywork and Ayurvedic Abhyanga Massage (say that 10 times fast!). Both Liz and Kristen bring unique skills and talent to the organization, and both have years of experience in marketing, which is going to be a key focus of the Chamber in 2016 and beyond. We are extremely fortunate to have them as part of our team.

I’d like to take a moment to thank two outstanding board members who are stepping down this year:

Shannon Moore of Guidecraft has served Tuxedo as a board member for the past four years with distinction. Shannon has been absolutely incredible and has contributed to the Chamber in so many ways – every advertisement or flyer that was created for the Chamber, including our mixers, fundraisers, and notices – were created and donated to the Chamber by Shannon. In addition to her skills in graphic design, she has been a driving force of our pro-social mixers as well as a calm and level presence during some of our more heated debates. Her efforts have helped not only Tuxedo but have been instrumental in Guidecraft’s stellar growth since she came to town. She deserves a ton of credit for countless hours of volunteering and working nights and weekends to help us out as a business community – Shannon, on behalf of the Chamber, we thank you.

Robert Thompson of Tuxedo Park Preferred Properties will also be departing the group in the next few weeks, though he has agreed to stay on for the first part of 2016. Bob has served as the group’s Treasurer for more than 10 years, and has been a key leader of the business community since the Chamber’s renaissance. I will always have a close connection with Bob – as a young man who was new in town, he took me under his wing in the first few days that I arrived in Tuxedo, introducing me to several other business owners and the Chamber itself. The board held the majority of my first few meetings in his office in Route 17. Bob’s warm and welcoming personality combined with his savvy political skills have been the heart and soul of the Tuxedo Chamber for more than a decade. I can’t thank him enough personally and professionally for being such a strong and able member of our community.

Finally, after seven years on the board and five years as president, I am stepping down from the board as well effective this month. Doing so mid-term is a decision that I am not comfortable with, frankly, but a unique set of fortunate circumstances has reduced my ability to contribute fully to the Chamber in 2016. I do not feel it is fair to continue in a diminished capacity.

My sense of timing is absolutely terrible, as Tuxedo is on the cusp of a renewal that has been building for some time. We have been working quietly for years on ways to make Tuxedo more attractive to both potential customers and new businesses, and several opportunities for local development will be coming available in the next few months. The future of the business community is incredibly bright in 2016 and beyond. There is much work to do, but physical change is beginning to happen here on the ground with the Tuxedo Farms development as well as our downtown area. I believe that Tuxedo will look very different in a year or two than it does today, and that these long-awaited changes will benefit the entire community.

I am, of course, not going anywhere – a farewell seems silly! I will continue to be the Tuxedo Chamber’s #1 supporter and will be a member as long as our business - Stevens & Sweet - is here. My commitment to Tuxedo is over the long haul – for the next 30-40 years, I’ll be right here at 9 Store Road, doing everything I can to help my clients and the community. We are and have always been in this thing together.
I need to thank our board and director specifically: to Lisa for driving us and being so diligent and holding our group together through patient discussion and outstanding grace, Gary for his incredible warmth and heart, Dale for being at every event and for countless hours of planning and more than a million postcards printed and mailed, to Emily for her energy and opening the Junction every year to us and going far above and beyond for every fundraiser the community asks for, to Diane for her networking abilities and endless talent as a visual artist, and to Bob and Shannon (above). Thank you to Mike Rost, Peter Dolan, and Shari Brooks at the Town for everything that you have done for Tuxedo, as well as Mary Jo and Lili Neuhauser at the Village, Suzy Allman of, and Sue & Kristy of A Better Tuxedo. I am lucky for the opportunity to work with you. I also need to thank Jayme for letting me go for so many nights and weekends, and my business partners Greg and Patte Stevens for all of their kind support and tolerating hours away from the office - particularly to Greg for being our grillmaster year after year!

But what makes the organization work are our members! Promoting membership and community is why we exist. So what I really want to say is thank you to everyone for your tremendous support. There are so many people who have contributed large and small to the Tuxedo Chamber during the past seven years. Volunteers and stakeholders for their time and long hours in meetings or doing work, to everyone who gave us feedback or input on various issues, to all of the outstanding people that I’ve met. I started listing everyone here but had to pull the plug because there are simply too many warm and amazing people who have made an incredible difference to me and the Chamber in the past seven years – you know who you are!

I’d like to leave with just a few final thoughts:

First, the Chamber must – absolutely must – stay positive while being a force for sustainable change. In the past few years, there has been a tendency for conversations and discussions to turn negative very quickly, and this is very unfortunate, as bitterness and burnt bridges can and have blocked progress in the past. We absolutely must work together at all times to make Tuxedo a better place for everyone. Tuxedo is a small place – there are literally just 3,400 people here! We simply must bury the hatchet from old battles fought and find ways to work together on what we do agree on: that we need to come together and rebuild this place instead of watch it stagnate year after year.
Second, we need to find ways to share Tuxedo with the world. This is a fantastic place full of interesting people, great facilities, interesting businesses, and spectacular open & public spaces. Yet what I observe from a lot of people who discover Tuxedo is that they arrive here and then want to slam the door behind them! This observation certainly doesn't apply to everyone, but can be pervasive at times. While I understand the desire to protect our own individual visage of Tuxedo, the reality of best-kept-secrets is that they are still secrets. Tuxedo has been a secret for too long.

Third, we must find a way to recruit and make Tuxedo attractive not only to visitors but to new and diverse businesses. I love every single business that has hung a shingle here with me for the past eight years – especially Chamber members of course – but instead of reacting defensively when a new business comes to town, we should do our best to be friendly and welcoming. Study after study proves that business leads to more and more business – there is a network / multiplying effect that occurs that benefits everyone. It should be our goal to make Tuxedo a destination for a multitude of interests, and the only way to do that is to be open and friendly to anyone interested in our town.

Once again - thank you everyone for your warmth and support. The Chamber is in great hands and will continue to be strong and the voice of our business community in 2016 and beyond. As a business owner and proud Chamber supporter I am excited - because We Mean Business!. I can’t wait to see what comes next. 

William A Sweet