History of the Venice Chamber of Commerce
The Venice Chamber of Commerce was formed more than a century ago on January 17, 1907, by business leaders of the young town then known as Ocean Park. Abbot Kinney, Dr. J.A. Stanwood, J.G. French, David Evans, Lewis E. Bradt and R.A. Dallugge, all well-respected stakeholders in Venice’s future, wanted to ensure the success of this fledgling tourist destination.
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.
In 1925, 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.
In 1954, 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 its 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. In 1973, 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.
In 1980, the Chamber promoted area-wide celebrations for Venice’s 75th anniversary. The 1990s saw Jimmy Merlino become the organization’s president, followed by Carol Tantau, Mary Richert, Robert Feist, Andy Layman and, currently, Alex Rosales. On June 24, 2007, 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.
Today, the Venice Chamber of Commerce focuses on promoting Venice as a small business mecca, while remaining committed to the people and the business community that they serve.
And with its help, our eclectic town will continue to be the creative soul of Los Angeles.
Original version © 2008 Paul Tanck. Revised 2011 by Teri Breier