Venice Chamber of Commerce President George Francisco at the opening of Surfside in Venice. Photo by Venice Paparazzi.

by Melanie Camp

Is there a Chamber of Commerce out there as…creative… as the one in Venice?

In a huddle before LAPD Pacific Division Captain Dominic Choi, the soon to be sworn in board members raised their right hands. Ready to pledge their allegiance to the Chamber.

“I pledge to represent the Venice Chamber of commerce with dignity, integrity, and pride…” said Choi. The group echoed back, “I pledge to represent the Venice Chamber of Commerce (beginning to trail off) with dignity…(mumble, silence) pride…” Any attempts to bring the serious interrupted with the eruption of laughter.

LAPD Pacific Division Captain Dominic Choi and the VCC Board. Photo by Venice Paparazzi.

“It’s a fun organization. This is Venice. So, it’s not stuffy like other Chambers of Commerce,” said Chamber Executive Director Donna Lasman. Abbot Kinney is the Venice Chamber of Commerce’s founding father. The organization is 110 years old. “We organize to network and connect with people who live and work in Venice, and we organize to help our businesses promote,” said Lasman.

The current Chamber Board is a mish-mash of OG business owners, Venice artists, and young entrepreneurs with a social conscious. There’s Don Novak from Hal’s, who moved into the neighborhood when people were still dodging bullets on Abbot Kinney. Casey Parker of Big Daddy’s Pizza; who makes it a point to train and employ local homeless people. And much-loved Venice couple Alex and Edizen Stowell, from Venice Paparazzi. Long-time Venice local George Francisco has served as the Chamber’s President for the past two years.

Regular networking events connect the organization’s 375 members. Events like Chamber Happy Hours at Ra Sushi, or the Venice Whaler, or the upcoming Marina sunset cruise. The events are all about combining business with pleasure and are open to members and non-members who are interested in joining.

The Chamber’s philosophy is that the Venice business community and business professionals are stronger and more empowered as a group. Overall the Venice Chamber of Commerce represents over 25,000 business professionals.

“We advocate on behalf of the business community supporting issues that are important to keeping Venice a great place to work and live. Working with elected officials as well as city officials to address issues of concern. Like homelessness, like traffic, like public safety,” said Lasman.

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Did you know?

The Venice Chamber of Commerce owns the trademark for the Venice Sign. Anytime you see the Sign in a film or commercial, that money is going to the Chamber to help take care of the sign. The white bulbs are switched out for special events; like Venice Pride and Holidays. “It’s a symbol of history, culture, and inclusiveness. that’s what Venice was founded on,” said Venice Chamber of Commerce George Francisco.

The Venice Sign is maintained by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Venice Paparazzi.