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Hollywood Chamber at 100: Celebration of a century 'sails' into the future | PHOTOS – South Florida Sun Sentinel

The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (GHCC) celebrated becoming a centenarian on Friday, June 24th. The organization celebrated its big birthday fest exactly 100 years after it was founded in 1922. June 24th. The event was held on The Grand Princess yacht for a luxury dinner cruise. The Great Gatsby theme of the celebration was borrowed from the “flapper” era, the same style as the first decade of the GHCC. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which serves businesses and encourages community development, has been around now for 100 years.
The chamber had its first meeting on Hollywood Boulevard on June 24, 1922, three years before Hollywood became an official city in 1925. A dozen businessmen, along with some of the first residents of Hollywood, met under the leadership of the first Hollywood Chamber President Joseph Young. He was one of the founders of the city, an original developer and eventually its first mayor.
The Great Gatsby theme of the celebration was borrowed from the “flapper” era, the same style as the chamber’s first decade. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
The celebration event took place on The Grand Princess yacht out of Hollywood for a luxury dinner cruise. The chamber used the fashion and design theme of the Great Gatsby and flapper era, borrowing from the decade in which the chamber was founded.
Hundreds of chamber members and friends, bedazzled in flapper dresses and tuxedos, participated in the big fest led by CEO and Executive Director Marie Suarez, along with Board President Natacha Yacinthe. The event was full of historical memories, food and stories that were shared. After the food, the evening was capped off with a DJ and dancing on the deck of the ship.
The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce celebrated its big birthday fest exactly 100 years after it was founded in 1922. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
The celebration of a century of the chamber is seen as the end of one era and the beginning of another by the leaders of the organization.
Suarez has seen the chamber evolve over the 23 years she has been involved in the organization.
“I’m originally from Quebec City, Canada. I moved here in 1987 and I joined up with the Hollywood Chamber 12 years later,” she said.
Maria Suarez (Hollywood Chamber/Courtesy )
Suarez said that, although the 100-year anniversary of the creation of the organization is impressive and historic, her main concern is looking beyond the recent pandemic to see what kind of a Hollywood will emerge for the future.
“In the past, the tourism industry was really the big thing that drove our economy in the 1960s, ‘70s and the ‘80s,” she said. “Now the chamber is really focused on future economic development, helping businesses network together and create business between each other.”
Suarez said that as the community and businesses have emerged from COVID, they’re trying to figure out how to serve a new way of doing business.
The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce celebrated becoming a centenarian aboard The Grand Princess yacht for a luxury dinner cruise. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
“A lot of people have changed their work habits,” she said. “Because there are a lot of hybrid work styles going on, we’re readjusting our strategies. I’m calling 2022 and 2023 experimental years to see how we need to evolve. We’re also currently working on a five-year strategic plan to design a roadmap for where we’re going to go, which we’ve never really done before.”
One annual project that has been going on for decades to build leaders of tomorrow is Leadership Hollywood, one of the oldest programs of its kind in the state. The chamber has sponsored 45 annual programs, where each year they take a group of about 30 to 40 people and engage them in personal leadership development as well as community leadership.
Suarez said she’s optimistic about the state of development in Hollywood right now. And, she says, the future potential for business growth is great, given the city’s location, the nearby beach and that new apartment complexes are popping up all over.
“Hollywood is in a perfect spot, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” she said. “I feel we have the most beautiful beach in Florida with the Broadwalk. We have a real downtown and it’s very dynamic right now. So many developments are happening. For instance, the new 1818 Building has just opened and they are doing very well.”
Another factor that Suarez said will help bring more visitors and new residents is the future installation of a railroad station in the city.
“We’re looking forward to getting the new Brightline railroad station here in Hollywood. It will be great for people who want to commute to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach,” she said.
Chamber CEO Maria Suarez, left, made a presentation. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
Suarez said that the spirit of the party for the 100th anniversary for the chamber was really about people and members celebrating each other.
“The attendees were the people and businesses who were able to get together to reflect on the last century,” she said. “We especially wanted to compare where we were in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s to where we are now. We also want to celebrate the next 100 years.”
One modern reality Suarez said she wants to celebrate is the diversity of the chamber, compared to where it used to be.
The Great Gatsby theme of the celebration was borrowed from the “flapper” era. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
“In the mid 1990s, the chamber really started diversifying its leadership. It was back then that we elected our first African American chamber president. In 1997, the first woman became the head of the board of directors. Now we have Natacha Yacinthe, our first Black woman as the chamber board president.”
“We have been thriving throughout our history, but we want to continue to do that in a relevant way,” she said.
Yacinthe is not only the first Black woman who has held the office of chamber board president, but she is also the first Haitian in the position. Yacinthe is promoting the theme for the year as “Sailing Toward Possibilities.”
Yacinthe has a background that includes engineering, environmental urban systems and public administration. She has been working with Port Everglades for 15 years and is now its executive planning manager, handling capital projects. About eight years ago, she was appointed to represent the port at the Hollywood Chamber board meetings, which got her involved with the organization.
Natacha Yacinthe (Hollywood Chamber/Courtesy )
“For the past 2 1/2 years, I served on the executive committee,” she said. “Then they asked me if I wanted to become the president in 2022 and I said definitely yes.”
For Yacinthe, the 100th anniversary shows how far the chamber has come. In 1922, the members were all white males. Now her being in the position represents how much things have changed both culturally and with the chamber.
Natacha Yacinthe, right, is the chamber’s board president and Marie Suarez, left, is the CEO. (Scott Luxor / Contributor)
Yacinthe said that she is also proud of the fact that the chamber made it through the pandemic and is poised to help the community move into the future.
“Many people don’t know that there are a lot of chambers of commerce throughout the country that didn’t survive COVID,” she said. “But we stood firm and we’re still here. We have stayed extremely engaged in the community as a chamber.”
Visit hollywoodfl.org/187/History-of-Hollywood and hollywoodchamber.org/.
Copyright © 2022, Sun Sentinel
Copyright © 2022, Sun Sentinel

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