Burbank Chamber of Commerce Mixers Return

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Kicking off the first post-pandemic business mixer were Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas and State Sen. Anthony Portantino.

The Burbank Chamber of Commerce mixers have a longstanding tradition for being fertile networking ground for representatives of the local business community.

That, however, was not really the case as the chamber resumed its bi-monthly gatherings during an open house at its Magnolia Boulevard office this past week.

More than doing business, people were clearly thrilled with seeing one another unmasked, engaging in greatly missed hugs and handshakes, and catching up with friends, associates and local dignitaries they have not seen throughout the pandemic.

“It is just so great to be out with everyone,” said chamber board member Gema Sanchez. 

Little could any of the 200 attendees that gathered at the Smoke House restaurant for the chamber’s 100th anniversary celebration in January 2020 have known that it would be the last time the local business community would be mingling together for more than 16 months. That made last week’s mixer — hosted by chamber CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas, member services director Chris Hunter and board chairman Steve Mora — draw an attendance greater than the centennial celebration.

Telling the assemblage that: “The time is now to get back to a thriving Burbank,” said Keyser Thomas, who took over as the chamber’s CEO this year and hopes to help businesses in a post-pandemic world get back up to pre-pandemic speed.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Chamber board member Paul Herman and board chairman Steve Mora flank Bronwen Keiner and Emmanuel Trigueros of the Burbank Transportation Management Organization who sponsored last week’s mixer.

“We understand the challenges that face our business community as we come out of the pandemic,” she said. “I want everyone here this evening to know [is] we are ready to face those challenges.”   

That work has already begun as the chamber has partnered with the city of Burbank to roll-out a 90-day campaign known as Chow Down Burbank, designed to showcase the city’s restaurants, bars and cafes. 

That program, which will be launched this coming Monday, will highlight the menus and specials available at local eateries and also give diners the opportunity to win an array of prizes, including tickets to professional sporting events, entertainment packages and hotel stays. 

“We will also be having some big surprises when it comes to who will be working with us and our public relations firm, Counterintuity, to promote this campaign,” Keyser Thomas said.  

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Among the local dignitaries who mixed and mingled at the Chamber of Commerce business mixer were Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse and City Councilman Nick Schultz.

To be eligible to win, people can visit chowdownburbank.com and upload photos of themselves picking up their takeout or dining at a participating restaurant. You can enter up to three times per day on the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms. You can also enter by submitting photos directly to the website, which will be providing valuable information on local dining options and encourage people to rally behind local restaurants with your support.

“We are a valuable resource center in Burbank, and we’re focused on small business recovery,” Keyser Thomas said. “This program will be a part of a phased approach to support our business community. Our first phase will be focused on our city’s restaurants — not just eateries who are chamber members, but the entire restaurant community within the city. We want to encourage people to dine out, try new restaurants and post their experiences. This website will also give any restaurant who wants to participate in this opportunity to promote their daily specials and events.” 

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Chamber CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas, fourth from right, was thrilled to have the support of her former Disney colleagues, Karen Kawanami, Hara Melillo, Vicky Todd, Andrea Gibson, Mark Pulley, Joan McCarthy and Sarah Whitney, at last week’s mixer.

Along with those in attendance at last week’s mixer was a contingent from the Walt Disney Company, where Keyser Thomas worked for 29 years prior to accepting her new position with the chamber.

“I was so blessed to have worked at Disney, where I made so many wonderful friendships,” she said. “Disney has, of course, been a significant supporter of our chamber for decades, and along with that support from the company, I feel blessed that so many of my former colleagues came out to rally behind me and support me as I take on this new role.” 

Last week’s mixer was sponsored by the Burbank Transportation Management Organization, which is led by Bronwen Keiner, who brings together local employers, developers, building owners and others to establish policies, programs and services that address transportation and air quality issues. Its offices are housed within the chamber’s building. 

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Mayor Bob Frutos was welcomed to last week’s mixer by Gema Sanchez and Chris Hunter of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

Established in 1920, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce is the city’s leading business advocate group that helps to promote economic growth and prosperity. The chamber represents nearly 1,000 member businesses with more than 33,000 employees.

For more information about upcoming chamber mixers, events and membership, visit www.burbankchamber.org.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.