“That was awesome. It’s amazing what thrills you can feel at 72. Almost 73,” Cheryl “Shep” Rust said exiting Wiscasset Speedway’s pace car that took her and other Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce members on spins around the track Thursday night, June 17.
Members were celebrating WACC’s first decade. They had chicken Lincoln Lodge of Wiscasset masons Chuck Billings, Bill Cressey, Dave Sawyer, Jim Munson and Mike Huber barbecued, and shrimp kabobs and vegetables Sarah’s Cafe grilled onsite. The sun was out and tunes including Bill Joel’s “Don’t Ask Me Why” were playing.
Wiscasset Newspaper asked some longtime members for their thoughts on WACC’s first 10 years. “It’s been a decade of effort and defining who and what we are,” said Rust, a WACC and Maine Restaurant Association lifetime achievement winner who owned Le Garage restaurant 40 years on Water Street. “And there are overlapping chambers, so it’s showing what’s unique, what’s the carve out here, and I just think the attitude has remained very inclusive and engaging, and wanting to provide meaningful services. It’s over the moon. It’s fabulous.”
“I think we’ve brought businesses closer and closer together,” board chairman Chip Davison of Davison Construction said. “We’ve done a lot of fundraisers for our scholarship fund, we’ve found a lot of people connections, jobs and what not.” What’s next? Continuing the “Chamber Chats,” marketing on social media and elsewhere and helping businesses connect with one another are all important, he said. WACC has always wanted to do a barbecue and this turned out to be “a perfect day” for it, at the track, which is a member, he said.
Maine Tasting Center’s general manager and co-owner Sara Gross spent the day scrubbing appliances and building furniture ahead of the business’s planned July 1 opening, “fingers crossed – construction is unpredictable,” she said. The center joined WACC earlier this year, for the marketing the Chamber does, and another reason. “One of our goals for the business is to be very active, contributing members of the Wiscasset community ... that we know our neighbors and that we’re offering up things that benefit people in the community.”
What has it been like preparing to start a business with a pandemic on, and then have the state announce the state of emergency will lift the eve of opening day? “Very confusing, because this whole time we didn’t know if we would be opening in the midst of full-blown COVID, and for a while we thought we would have to open with masks, and then it was, ‘Now we’re going to have to put up one of those signs that say, ‘If you’re fully vaccinated ...’ And now ... I think what we’re going to do is kind of the same as what everybody else is doing, just leave a little bit of extra space between tables and encourage non-vaccinated people to wear masks ... But I am very happy to be opening the business sort of at the tail end of this very weird year.”
“We made it through COVID,” Davison said separately.
At the event were cards that included a dedication to Rust. WACC Administrative Assistant Pat Cloutier said the dedication appears in the Chamber’s cookbook that just went to print, “Pleasures from the Earth and Sea.” The dedication calls Rust “one of the most revered persons in our community,” generous with time and money, and an advocate in the mental health field.
Members kept Davison, Jean Beattie, Sherri Dunbar and Monique McRae on the board and added Phaelon O’Donnell and Gross to it.