Chamber Chat – Business Advocate of the Year

July 04, 2021 | Written by: sanford-user

By Meg Moss

We were blessed to have amazing weather for the 2021 Chamber Annual Membership Banquet, which recently took place at Sugarneck on Buckhorn Road in Broadway. This wedding and event venue was the perfect backdrop to present this year’s business and community awards presented by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.


By presenting a Business Advocate of the Year Award, the Chamber of Commerce honors an individual or organization for their significant contributions to the success of businesses in our community. This year’s award winner is Downtown Sanford, Incorporated. They understand that “it’s more about the community around them… than it is their own organization” according to DSI Board Member and Sanford Area Growth Alliance staff member, Bob Joyce.


Joyce went on to say that DSI is not just a marketing department for the community, but they are also event planners, “creating unique, people-pleasing activities. Ones that are driving families, couples, and money to our businesses, by conceiving and executing on gatherings with the perfect mix of food and fun.”


Business advocates are the people in our community who roll up their sleeves and do what is necessary to help others succeed.


DSI’s Executive Director and Board of Directors develop, organize and promote events that will draw people to downtown, which is where many of our small businesses are located. These businesses are reaping the benefits of the work of DSI.


DSI promotes downtown through the Downtown Alive! Music Concert Series, Downtown Trick or Treat, downtown Holiday Open House, the Holiday Artisan’s Market, the Holiday Punch Card Program, and Depot Park’s Train and Tree Lighting.


Through various partnerships, this organization also brings people downtown for events such as the Sanford Farmer’s Market, and Strawberry Jammin, where ten locally owned locations were featured, such as Café 121, Smoke and Barrel, the Chocolate Cellar, Mrs. Lacy’s and Kathy’s Java Express. From strawberry mimosas to strawberry pancakes, this event brought hundreds of people to our local restaurants and retailers. There wasn’t a parking spot in site, which is a great problem to have! They also partnered this year with Sanford’s Tourism Development Authority to present our community’s first Boo and Brew virtual ghost tour.


In a very innovative partnership with the City of Sanford Police Department, DSI now employs off-duty police officers to keep our streets safe and friendly for the merchants and shoppers.


DSI also oversees a building improvement grant program which has provided more than $250,000 over the years for exterior business improvements and public art.


DSI’s Executive Director, Kelli Laudate, accepted the award on behalf of their Board Chair, Sharon Spence, and the rest of the DSI Board members.