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Mount Snow Valley Chamber hires interim executive director

WILMINGTON—In a white-hot flash, the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce has hired an interim executive director.

Adam Grinold, a local business owner and former chamber board member, has stepped into the three-month post two weeks after the former executive director’s sudden resignation.

The need was there, said Grinold, when asked about why he applied for the position.

Grinold will hold the reins for three months while the board searches for a permanent director.

The chamber’s executive director, Philip Gilpin Jr., resigned Dec. 20 after less than three months at the helm. Differences between Gilpin and the board of directors, which hinged on disagreement over the chamber’s future direction, caused the parting of ways [The Commons, Jan. 4].

Board president Cheryl Rothman said the board had had concerns about how well Gilpin and the chamber meshed.

Grinold, who owns Wahoo’s Eatery with his wife, Karen, is a former chamber member of 10 years. He also served four years on the executive board and two as board president. He served on the Twin Valley school consolidation subcommittee and as a library trustee. He is a member of the Wilmington school board.

According to Grinold, the board is excited to have an interim ED who can “hit the ground running,” one who has a firm understanding of the chamber’s inner workings andits role, who participates in local business, and who has past involvement with economic development issues.

Moving forward

Grinold said the chamber will develop and implement recent initiatives started under Gilpin, such as marketing, attracting new people and businesses to the valley, and supporting current members.

The chamber will also support the valley-wide events like the Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival and the Blueberry Festival. Gilpin had suggested that the chamber staff relinquish hands-on responsibility for those events.

Personally, Grinold believes the valley lacks a strong marketing group to promote the area nationally. He said the board agrees. Both would like the chamber to fill this gap, he said.

Tourism is the valley’s “bread and butter,” and requires the chamber’s support first and foremost, Grinold said.

But, he adds, the world is changing, and the valley will eventually need to branch out to attract new non-tourism businesses.

Grinold said he agrees with the chamber’s previous direction and will continue working on the “great” recent initiatives.

A stronger, active business community

Grinold grew up in Wilmington and helped manage his family’s business, the White House Inn, for 11 years until his family sold the inn in 2008.

He wants to see the business community re-commit to the valley and one another.

Grinold remembers the valley once had a stronger, collaborative business community. This cohesive spirit has dwindled, he said.

According to Grinold, chamber members’ level of engagement has decreased, even though membership numbers has grown. He wants to change that trend.

Today’s chamber boasts an active board but not an active membership, he said.

Grinold was an active chamber member back in the day, but said his participation dropped away after he left the board in 2005.

As an uninvolved business owner, he remembers having ideas and thinking “the chamber should...”

But, Grinold said, he stopped short of rolling up his sleeves to help the chamber implement members’ ideas, and he doubts that he was the only business owner in the valley who this way.

“I’d like to channel this [unrealized] energy [from uninvolved members] to active involvement, not criticism,” Grinold said.

It’s easy to focus on Irene’s destruction or wallow in the hard times, he said, but focusing on what the community has gained brings better results.

Grinold said that when he looks over the past 10 years, he feels blessed by family and community.

Grinold’s business, Wahoo’s, took a direct hit during Tropical Storm Irene last Aug. 28. Floodwaters surrounded the food stand, and he feared the restaurant would wash downstream.

But Wahoo’s survived, despite a foot of water. According to Grinold, 20 friends dug in to help rebuild the restaurant.

“We feel fortunate,” said Grinold.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #134 (Wednesday, January 11, 2012).

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