Gazette Article by: Joan L. Moreland – Executive Director, Winnetka Chamber of Commerce
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 1995
Winnetka Way articles are written by guest columnists who have been asked to share their memories of an aspect of Winnetka that they remember fondly. Winnetka Way articles debuted in 1994 and continue to the present.
Chamber of Commerce: Ladies in Waiting
One might expect Winnetka, a quaint English-style village, to have a tourist office. Since it does not, residents and visitors seeking information about our town call the Chamber of Commerce, where I have worked as executive director for the past seven years.
Founded 72 years ago, the Chamber has grown into a hub of pertinent and not-so-pertinent information and a catch-all for community activities and village rumors. It operates with a staff of two out of a second-floor office at 841 Spruce Street. Jammed with desks, file cabinets, computers, and a fax machine, it houses enough records to reconstruct Winnetka’s business community back to the organization’s founding in 1923.
The Chamber is the logical source from which to seek information about a wide range of subjects, including theater information, rummage sale dates, fairs, fundraisers, antiques shows, sporting events, housewalks, and the gamut of volunteer activities. If a question is not readily answerable, we Chamber ladies pride ourselves on having an expert referral at hand.
Both of us are veterans in the art of “schmoozing,” and we answer the deluge of 30-40 daily calls which come into the miniscule office. The majority of this activity is not generated by the Chamber’s 270 members, but from the outside world seeking information.
Winnetka “went Hollywood” in 1992 with the opening of the Christmas film, Home Alone. It generated great interest from fans who wanted to visit the house, see Winnetka, and redecorate their homes with the wallpapers and fabrics featured in the film. Several callers even requested blueprints of the house; they not only wanted to recreate the décor, they tried to requisition the entire house as well! It took some delicate tapdancing to convince Home Alone groupies that the house was off limits for tours, photo-shoots, and interior design seminars.
The variety of phone requests range from broad to specific, from “What’s the name of that antique store in Winnetka?” to “I can’t recall the name of the store south of main street and west of Green Bay with the green awning and little bud vases on the counter.”
The most frequent requests are for:
— the name of a Bed-and-Breakfast (Winnetka does boast one).
–a mansion on the lake to accommodate a wedding ceremony (Winnetkans do not encourage out-of-towners to celebrate their nuptials on private lawns).
–weather reports to answer questions like, “I’m driving from Michigan today; should I bring my sweater?”
Tenacious callers keep the lines humming, and along the way friendships with telephone voices have been formed. A favorite came from the lady in California who requested the name of a reputable matchmaker for herself *and* her mother. We were not able to make that referral, but the caller offered to call us back with the name of a trustworthy matchmaker once she had found one! We declined her offer, but with some regret; it might have been another intriguing call.