History of the Venice Chamber of Commerce
The business leaders of the new experiment known as “Venice of America” convened to create a Chamber of Commerce to ensure the ongoing economic vitality of the city, previously known as Ocean Park. Today, this institution endures, carrying on the unique, independent vision of the founders: Abbot Kinney, Dr. JA Stanwood, JG French, David Evans, Lewis Brandt and RA Dallugge.
The original “Venice of America” business district was a small tract along Windward Avenue. As the town grew, businesses spread along Ocean Front Walk, then later on Washington and Venice Boulevards. Early businesses included the Bank of Venice, the Venice Vanguard Newspaper, hotels, drug stores, grocery and department stores, restaurants, and Prohibition-era speakeasies. Along the Boardwalk, the Plunge, a few theaters, more hotels and restaurants, the ubiquitous hot dog stands, and, later, keno houses, all provided Venice with a solid commercial base.
The City of Venice was annexed to the City of Los Angeles and for a while its Chamber became a branch of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce which allowed it to survive the Depression. Independent again by the 1950s, the Venice Chamber helped launch the Venice Surfestivals, which brought much-needed attention—and throngs of tourists—to the newly-opened beach area.
The Chamber purchased a building at Horizon and Trolleyway, their headquarters, and that May, the State Senate appropriated $2 million to purchase land for the Marina del Rey small-boat harbor. This was a boon for sleepy Venice of America Chamber of Commerce, as the town would soon become a major recreational center. The Venice Chamber merged into the Marina Area Chamber for several years to promote the development of the Marina, which officially opened in April 1965.
The Marina Area Chamber dissolved and the Venice Chamber resumed as an independent organization. For decades, Venice has enjoyed a reputation as a funky, creative artist colony, which appealed to the Beat generation and hippie subculture in the 1960s and 70s, and has more recently attracted numerous film, video, and other media-related businesses to the area.
The Chamber promoted area-wide celebrations for Venice’s 75th anniversary. Moving into the 1990s, the organization saw a succession of influential presidents, many of whom continue to be involved in the Chamber to this day.
The Venice Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 100th anniversary with the community at Venice Fest on Windward, highlighted by the dedication of the re-created, iconic electric Venice Sign, thanks to three years of hard work by the Chamber’s Venice Sign Restoration project committee.
The vital core of Venice’s historic business district, Windward Avenue still thrives, bearing a direct link to the days of Abbot Kinney. The hotel and visitor-centric attractions remain, however Venice itself has changed and grown over its century-plus history.
The Venice Chamber of Commerce sits astride a dynamic confluence of traditional businesses and the bleeding edge of the technology industry. This juncture of history and progress shapes and promises the very best of Venice. Art, innovation and recreation still are the pillars of business here.
Technology giants and market innovators sit shoulder to shoulder with long-time watering holes; the galleries, boutiques, artisans and today’s mom-and-pop stores – the start-ups are all here too! Here we are, a century later and the Venice business tradition endures!
Some things never change.