The Gonzales Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture is ready to break out of the old jail.
The homegrown business and tourism organization has about run out of room at its current location — the county-owned Old Jail — with boxes stacked high in its meeting room and an office where two desks are shoehorned into where only one should go. It may be a good place to get a brochure or book a tour and find out where the famous cannon resides, but to better serve chamber members, it is time to grow.
“As of right now, the Gonzales Chamber is very limited in the space that they currently occupy,” said Executive Director Daisy Scheske. “At this time, we can only have up to three employees because of space, can only host up to 13 comfortably in the board room, and maybe 7-9 people in the front office.”
If you've stopped by for a visit, you know that it is sometimes hard to turn around in there.
“The Chamber also has a lot of items in which they would like to house in one location,” she continued. “For example, there is the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce parade float, stage, ticket booth, food booths used during the Come and Take It Celebration, fencing, tables, chairs, files, flags, and other items needed to assist with Chamber activities.”
In addition, the lack of an ADA accessible wheelchair ramp complicates things, and the plumbing has been cantankerous as of late. Such is to be expected in a century-old building that wasn't designed to do much more than house town scofflaws.
To be able to grow and enhance services for the chamber's membership and community, it was decided that a larger space was necessary. So, the chamber staff and board began a search in 2014 to locate a suitable alternative for their office. Some factors they considered was adequate parking for group tour busses, an exciting and inviting lobby space to showcase member information and Gonzales events, storage, souvenir displays, an attractive downtown locale, and proper public restrooms.
A space was located in the former GVEC home services building located nearly across the street on Texas Heroes Square. The spot was ideal with plenty of space inside to spread out. The building offers 10,300 square foot of space. The chamber looks to occupy 4,700-5,100 square feet of that, with 1,300-1,700 pegged for rental space, 400 square feet for restrooms, and the remaining 3,500 square feet utilized for storage. With the added room, Scheske said that they will be able to better host tour groups, trainings, business meetings, offer incubator office space, and more.
Though the building is secured, the chamber is looking to raise funds to finish out the interior. They aim to accomplish this by having a brick campaign where you can purchase one with your name engraved that will be placed around the building for its new sidewalk. The plan is to spell out “Come and Take It” on the sidewalk located at the west side of the building.
Prices for the bricks range from $150 for a single, $2,500 for a 16 x 16 inch stone at the front of the building, or $5,000 for a 24 x 24 inch stone for exclusive sponsors and a premier location. Options are also available to purchase a full letter on the side of the building.
“This endeavor is not a recent undertaking, so the chamber board both past and present couldn’t be more excited to make this move,” said Chamber Board President Amanda Frederick. “Ventures like this elevate our community as a whole, and by elevating our community, we can see a direct impact on our chamber members' businesses bottom line. A better visitors experience equates to more visitors which equates to more business in town for all. As community members we know how great our town is now our job is to make sure everyone else does.”
In all, Scheske anticipates it being a little over a year until they can officially call the new place home. To inquire about reserving a brick, call the chamber at 672-1095.