February 2017 Newsletter
In 2016, we ended a very successful year for the Chamber with a continually growing membership and many successful, well-attended and impactful events and meetings that we can take great pride in.  We continue to be an ever increasing presence in the Cohase region and have been fortunate enough to have been featured frequently this year in local and regional media.  Such attention increases exposure for the Chamber and brings further attention to our region and the businesses that reside here.

As we begin 2017, we will continue to sponsor events that bring people to our communities and celebrate our region's beauty, provide valuable networking and educational opportunities to our membership,  forge partnerships with other organizations, work on economic and workforce development challenges that face our region, and find new and creative ways to serve our members and communities.

Please be assured that we realize that none of this work can be done without the support of you and other members.  We so much appreciate your membership, your support and your advice and recommendations about how to make our beautiful Cohase region an even better place to work, visit and do business.

Spring is just around the corner in March, a perfect hallmark of growth!  Wishing you a prosperous end to the winter season and looking forward to an exciting and successful Spring!

With gratitude,

Erik Volk
Executive Director
Upcoming Events
Please visit our WEB page at www.cohase.org for more details on any of these events and a listing of other events in our area. Details of the events listed below appear at the bottom of our WEB page

February 10- Moonlight Snowshoe Event, Mountain Lakes, Haverhill, NH
February 10 - NH Small Business Day, Concord, NH
February 10 -  The Medicine Chest Known as the Beehive, Wells River, VT
February 11 - Valentine's Dance, Woodsville, NH
February 17 - Cafe Musico, West Newbury, VT
February 19 -  Winterfest 2017, Mountain Lakes, Haverhill, NH
March 8 - Cash Flow Management for Business Class, White River Junction, VT
March 25 - Session Americana, Court Street Arts,Haverhill Corner, NH
Awards, Updates & Fun At 2016 Annual Meeting

 Wells River Chevrolet F&I Manager Grace Zambon and General Manager Jeff Moore accept the Business of the Year Award from Chamber Exec. Director Erik Volk
Connie Philleo and Claude Phipps accept the Citizens of the Year Award from Chamber Exec Board Member Monique Priestley
Approximately 90 people attended our 2016 Annual Meeting held on January 23, 2017 at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont.  The event included a cocktail hour, a delicious meal and much networking and socializing.   However, the highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Business of the Year award to Wells River Chevrolet and the Citizens of the Year award to Connie Philleo and Claude Phipps.   (See personal letters from both award recipients published separately in this newsletter issue.)   In addition, the event included a fun and informative trivia challenge; a review of the many accomplishments the Chamber achieved in 2016 and our plans for 2017; a showing of the 2016 48-Hour Film Slam winning film “Do Over”; and elections of 2017 Chamber Officers including special recognition of longtime Chamber supporter and outgoing Board Member Steve Puffer. 

For more photos from our Annual Meeting click  here.

For coverage of our Annual meeting from Enterprise Magazine/Valley News, click  here.

For coverage of our Annual meeting from the Journal Opinion, click  here.

 Member Moment - Always Fit Athletic Club
This month we are pleased to speak with Dave Robinson, Jr., co-owner and manager of Always Fit Athletic Club in Woodsville, New Hampshire. Always Fit is a family owned fitness center serving communities in Vermont and New Hampshire. The center offers a wide variety of quality, modern gym equipment; courts for racquetball, wallyball, basketball and other court sports; personal training services; group classes; a sauna and will soon have tanning and hydro massage services available.  Always Fit is owned and operated by the Robinson family who also own the Nootka Lodge and All Seasons Motel, as well as other businesses and real estate ventures.   Always Fit was previously operated as the Railyard Racquetball and Health Club before the Robinsons purchased it.  Always Fit is located at 181 Central Street in the center of Woodsville. You can contact them by phone at 603-747-8006, by email at info@alwaysfitathletic.com or visit them online at alwaysfitathletic.com.
Dave Robinson, Jr. of Always Fit Athletic Club
How did you get involved in the Fitness industry?
I hold a bachelor’s degree in physical education and have a business minor. While working on my master’s degree in business I became involved in the family business and realized I was not going to need the degree but found these higher level classes very valuable. I taught physical education for two years and coached boys varsity soccer for nine seasons. Following the end of my second year teaching, the manager at the Nootka Lodge left. I decided to leave my teaching position and became the new manager of the Nootka Lodge. I held that positon for about five years before we purchased Always Fit.  The previous owners of the property, the Saffos, approached my parents many years ago about purchasing the business but ultimately we decided it was not the right time for us. In early 2014, the Saffos contacted us again. We went through negotiations and decided to buy the business in May of that year.

Is the entire family involved in the business?
We purchased this business as a family. Along with myself, my brother Don, my wife Ashlee, and my parents David and Mary Anne are all owners. Primarily, my brother Don and I manage the business on a day-to-day basis. However, my parents’ guidance has been very important; with over 40 years running multiple businesses there is much to be learned from their vast experience. Each of us plays an important role. Ashlee is key to our marketing. She is a graphic designer at Dartmouth College and rebranded the entire business including our logo, sign, newspaper advertisements, t-shirts and other marketing materials. Branding is so important because people remember you when you have a brand.  

How does the current club differ from its predecessor?
We overhauled the entire place. Members were very patient and appreciated the changes because we did it the right way. We did market research at different fitness centers around northern New England. The fitness industry has evolved a lot over time and we wanted to get a firsthand look at how to improve a small-town fitness center. We started with the cardio equipment, which is utilized the most. We purchased items our members hadn’t necessarily seen before, such as our summit trainer and step mills. Then, we moved on to our selectorized circuit and installed 15 new pieces of Cybex equipment.  There was an old Nautilus circuit here before, which did not have the adjustments people needed. Lastly, we upgraded our weight room equipment. One of our most popular changes was converting one of the racquetball courts into a classroom space. We retrofitted it by installing soundproofing with the help of a company who works on large stadiums. It looks really chic and our members love it. We purchased ten spin bikes, a commercial speaker system and an assortment of individual functional fitness equipment for the classroom. We also put in air conditioning, which the club didn’t have previously. As a result, we experienced as much growth in the summer as the winter, which is typically the busiest time of year for the fitness industry. We’ve utilized the space efficiently, using almost every square inch. Our goal is to keep growing to the point where we have to expand. It’s been very exciting.  Once the energy came back, we saw increased membership due in large part to word-of-mouth. One of our future goals is to offer 24-hour access and install a key card system, which our customers are excited about.

Can you tell us a little bit about your staff?
We couldn’t do this without our staff, instructors and trainers. We currently have six employees including one full-time employee and another who is close to full-time. We also have about a dozen trainers and instructors including four personal trainers, a Zumba instructor, a Country Heat dance instructor, a yoga instructor, spin instructors and others. All of our trainers and instructors are independent contractors but to us they feel like staff members. I think everyone views customers and staff here as a second family.

What kind of customers do you attract? Who uses the facility?
We attract customers from New Hampshire and Vermont. We hit a good demographic and are centrally located for a population base of about 20,000 people. We have members from Haverhill, Wells River, Ryegate, Groton, Piermont, Orford, Bath, Lisbon, Warren, Benton, Bradford, Newbury, Barnet, Corinth, Orange, Fairlee…even as far away as Chelsea. We also have members who live elsewhere but work locally and come in on their lunch hour or after work. We have customers from every age demographic and every socio-economic group; it is a very eclectic customer base. We want everyone to feel welcome.
We restructured the pricing and offer a variety of discounts for members. We have a senior discount, special needs discount, military/first responder discount, young adult discount, junior discount (for those under 18), family discounts and domestic couple discount and several seasonal discounts. While our base rate is around $55 per month, many members are paying $40 or less per month by taking advantage of one of our discounts. We did this to help families and individuals in our area more easily afford their membership. The energy here is fantastic and people really enjoy the atmosphere. The socialization here is so important to people; there are often not a lot of opportunities for that in a small town. Fitness goes beyond the physical health of a person, it is important for stress relief and mental health as well.   
Ask The Chamber
Q.  Can I deduct my membership dues or other money I contribute to the Chamber as a charitable contribution?

A.  Before, we answer this question, we must emphasize that we strongly encourage you to discuss your particular situation with your tax professional as we are not tax advisers.  However, since the Cohase Chamber of Commerce is classified as a 501c(6) organization, membership dues or sponsorship dollars do not qualify as a charitable contribution.  For businesses, membership dues in Chambers of Commerce usually qualify as a deductible business expense and sponsorship dollars also generally qualify as a deductible business expense as long as those contributions help to promote your business.  Our “minor” and “major” sponsorships feature the sponsoring businesses’ logo and/or business name on most promotional materials and therefore would qualify in most instances.  Self-employed individuals generally can deduct Chamber memberships as long as the membership helps that person to carry out the duties of his/her job. Since membership provides, at a minimum,  networking opportunities that are often very important for business growth, membership dues would normally qualify as a deduction. Please note that when discussing such deductions with your tax professional, you will want to be sure to tell them that the Cohase Chamber of Commerce does not engage in lobbying activities or endorse candidates.  Chambers which are involved in lobbying or other political activities may have restrictions on the amount that can be legally deducted.  

Personal Letters From Our Award Recipients

February 6, 2017

I would like to take this opportunity to extend a very big Thank You to the Cohase Chamber for choosing Wells River Chevrolet as their “Business of the Year”.   It is a great honor to be recognized, I am happy that we are now part of a small distinguished group of business’s that have been fortunate to receive this award.

I realize that our success is not only measured by the business we conduct in our daily lives, but equally,  if not more importantly  by the long standing dedicated staff, vendors, and  loyal customers, whom without them, we would not be receiving this award.   For almost 80 years much of the area has been purchasing, and having service work done on their vehicles in downtown Wells River.  It is my intention to maintain the integrity of this business so that we can continue providing quality vehicles and affordable service for another 80 years.

We are proud to be part of this close knit community, and truly believe it is not only our responsibility, but our obligation to give back to the community that has been so instrumental to our success over the years.

Once again, on behalf of myself and the entire staff at Wells River Chevrolet, Thank you, for recognizing us with this prestigious award.   

Jeffrey L. Moore

January 29, 2017

We would like to thank the Cohase Chamber of Commerce for choosing us as recipients of the 2016 Citizen of the Year award.  We admire the previous recipients and are pleased to be joining them.

Among the projects and events we have supported, Claude continues to find pleasure from his work with the Upper Valley Land Trust where he cares for the Vaughan Meadows Campsite on the Connecticut River and the Sleepers Meadow trails.  These sites are ongoing reminders of how lucky we are to be living in this beautiful area.

One of our volunteer activities stands out as especially memorable.  It was May of 2013, and we had agreed to stand watch overnight at the Vietnam Memorial Wall during its visit to Haverhill.  Just being there throughout the night with darkness all around and the memorial bathed in light was a moving experience.  Just when we had decided that we would not see any visitors, a man arrived well after midnight and sat alone quietly in front of the wall.  That memory lingers to remind us of the sacrifices that others have made and it begs us to find ways to mend the current divide in our nation.

We are only two of the many hundreds of people who support local volunteerism with donations of money and hours of involvement.  Many of these people were present at your annual meeting.  We also know that our local businesses are vital to the wellbeing of our area and are always willing to support local causes.  It is great to have such a vibrant Chamber of Commerce providing leadership.

Again, we thank you for this honor, and we thank the many people who have helped us in all our endeavors.


Claude O. Phipps

Connie L. Philleo
Recycle Your Printer Cartridges and Help Teens!

Your business can help support the Bradford Teen Center through the Funding Factory Recycling Program by recycling your empty printer cartridges. The program is FREE and easy, but it won’t work without your support. By recycling items you would normally throw away, the Bradford Teen Center will earn points that turn into cash. Not only will they receive funds but you will be doing your part to help save the environment. Drop off printer cartridges in the big green box in the lobby of the Bradford Academy!  

The Bradford Teen Association’s goal is to provide programs that provide leadership opportunities that will empower and energize the teens of Bradford and surrounding communities.  If you have a question please email them at bradfordteenassociation@gmail.com

Working Bridges Program Now Available to Area Employers
Originally started as a project of the former United Way of Chittenden County,  the Working Bridges program is now available to employers in our region.  The concept is simple: a network of employers work together to effectively develop and test innovative HR practices using the workplace as a platform for services designed to help workers minimize work disruptions, decrease absenteeism, improve financial stability and ultimately increase retention and advancement.

Green Mountain United Way is seeking employers who would like to participate in this program, either individually, or in cooperation with other businesses in the region.  

The program offers among other things:

  • Education/Training for employers about economic class in the workplace.
  • An Employer Workgroup where area employers tackle issues affecting employee stability, including transportation, income supports and affordable housing.
  • Resource Coordinators, who are shared by employers, provide on-site resource assistance to employees so that they get the help they need without disrupting work.
  • An Employee Loan/Savings Program to help employees meet emergency needs, and begin saving and building credit.
  • Mobile Volunteer Tax Preparation Program that provides employees with tax assistance and financial coaching at the workplace
  • On-site Classes for employees including GED, English Language Learning (ELL) and financial literacy classes.

For more detailed information about the program click here or contact Pam Bailey, Director of Operations and Working Bridges Resource Coordinator at (802) 613-3989.

Welcome to Our Newest Members!
We are excited to start out our Chamber year with some brand new members!  Please join us in welcoming them!

  • Renfrew Building Company, Newbury, VT
  • Robert Lawrence Salon & Spa, Woodsville, NH
  • Root 5 Farm, Fairlee, VT
  • K & R Portable Restroom Services, Orford, NH
  • Many Streams, Piermont, NH
  • Upper Valley Roasters, Newbury, VT
  • Green Mountain Monogram, Wells River, VT
  • KellyAnn Donahue (individual membership)
  • Richard Roderick (individual membership)