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Chamber moves into cozy Maple Hall Fireside Room

The La Conner Chamber of Commerce is back in business.

It’s just not business as usual.

The Chamber office has moved from its Morris Street office venue to the Fireside Room at Maple Hall. Director Heather Carter dons a face mask while tending to much of her work on-line. And the local business network must make do without its loyal corps of volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Carter is thankful.

With La Conner and Skagit County now in Phase II of the state’s Safe Start Plan, offices and storefronts are starting to re-open, albeit on a more limited basis.

“You’re really not in the loop when you’re working from home,” Carter, a Stanwood resident, told the Weekly News on Monday, two weeks into her new digs. “I think that after the first month we all got tired of working at home.”

COVID-related economic conditions, among them projected declining shares of hotel-motel tax revenues, led to moving the Chamber office – Carter’s workspace, behind the larger La Conner Visitor’s Center – to the Fireside Room.

That visitors center is now operating virtually.

“All our information is on-line,” Carter said. “We’re starting to get calls again from people asking about the status of La Conner. Those calls are picking up.”

The Town is making the Fireside Room available to the Chamber for the next year-and-a-half, said Carter. The rental fee is $1 per month.

“We really want to stress how much we appreciate the Town providing us this space,” Carter said.

The Fireside Room is adorned with an array of Chamber promotional material. The centerpiece is a large gift basket donated by the La Conner Soroptimist’s Vintage La Conner store. Shoppers in town are eligible for chances to win the basket with every five dollars they spend here. The raffle is among various approaches the Chamber has taken to spur local business during the virus crisis.

Though minus volunteers, Carter has managed to avoid being short-handed. On Monday, she enlisted her daughter, 15-year-old Stanwood High student Lily Carter, to help with office tasks in between school assignments.

“I’m becoming a really good homeschool teacher,” Carter said, her mask unable to conceal a hearty chuckle. “Lily is definitely learning real-life lessons here.”

Carter’s son, Aidan, also a Stanwood High student and left-handed pitching prospect, had joined Lisa Judy in moving essential Chamber items from Morris Street to the Fireside Room.

“It actually went pretty quickly,” Carter said. “It only took a couple days.”

The new locale, while cozy and comfortable, has taken some getting used to, she said.

“It’s different,” said Carter, “being on this side of town. On Morris Street, we were one of the first things people saw when they came into La Conner.”

Carter is on site on Commercial Street three days a week – usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Her schedule is necessarily flexible since there are times she must briefly leave the office.

There is, Carter said, one standard rule of thumb.

“If the sandwich board is out,” she explained, “we’re open.”


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