Chambers consider a merger in move that would see Mattituck group dissolve

The Mattituck Chamber of Commerce has put forward a motion to potentially dissolve the organization and merge with the North Fork Chamber of Commerce at a meeting scheduled for Monday, May 9, members told The Suffolk Times.

The motion has been met with mixed reactions from chamber members, with at least one past Mattituck president arguing an individual chamber can better represent the interests of businesses in the Mattituck hamlet and current leadership asserting the combined resources will both further benefit local businesses and avoid duplicate efforts. 

“The Mattituck Chamber’s been around for many, many years and has been extremely successful, and the North Fork Chamber has been as well. At this stage in the game, many of the needs and issues for our businesses are similar, whether they be a Mattituck Chamber member or North Fork Chamber member,” said president Jeff Strong of Strong’s Marine. “We’re not looking at it as dissolving the Mattituck Chamber, although that would be the net effect … Kind of the collective feeling is that it would be more powerful for both organizations.”

The North Fork Chamber does have a paid administrator, which is helpful as it becomes more difficult for business owners to find time to volunteer, he added. The decision has been discussed for years, he said, but is not yet set in stone. The chamber, which has around 50 members, is looking for a “consensus” at Monday’s meeting, where members and local business owners can offer their “take on things.”

Past president Terry McShane, however, criticized the potential merger in a letter to the editor published in The Suffolk Times this week. Mr. McShane, who works at The Express News Group on the South Fork, said he reached out to other local members who also feel “this is not the way to go.”

“Like everything else, it ebbs and flows. And it’s had a lot of successes,” he said in an interview. He pointed out that the Mattituck Chamber has been around since the 1960s, supporting local businesses at Town Hall, distributing tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and hosting events and traditions such as the Mattituck Street Fair and Santa Day.

Mr. McShane said he understands leaders at the Mattituck Chamber feel there’s not enough interest in the group and the “businesses of the North Fork would be better served as a unit,” but he disagrees. 

“They’ve said to me that having one voice in the town is better. I think that two voices are better. And I think the needs of Mattituck may not necessarily be the needs of the rest of the North Fork,” he said. “There’s a lot of businesses in Mattituck. And the Chamber has always been, I’d say, moderately successful, if not really successful. In the last two years, I think because of the pandemic, things obviously slowed down. But we’ve had very successful street fairs. We had the First Fridays events. A lot has gone on the last couple of years. But every organization faces the same issue, it’s getting people to participate, getting people involved.”

A member of the North Fork Chamber as well, he emphasized that he has great respect for both groups and the people running them. He said other members are willing to step into leadership roles to continue running the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce. “I think that there’s a lot of life left in the chamber. And I think that it’s just a matter of organizing.”

Mr. Strong acknowledged that some may not be in favor of the merger. “As in any type of conversation, any type of change, there’s always going to be differing viewpoints, and different viewpoints are good,” he said. 

He added that “there’s certain things in Mattituck that are really important to continue,” and they would be maintained as long as Mattituck community members wanted them to. There would be at least three seats on the North Fork Chamber that would be held by Mattituck Chamber people. Scholarships and events would be held “jointly as opposed to separately,” he said. 

The North Fork Chamber, which has approximately 160 members, is “completely open” to taking on Mattituck Chamber events and traditions, although the groups are still in discussions, said president Laurie Nigro. The merger would avoid duplicating work, combine resources and represent all of the businesses under one umbrella.

“We think that working together for the North Fork as a whole is a great opportunity for all of the businesses,” she said. “We want to do what’s best for the businesses of the entire North Fork and we are open to whatever the Mattituck business community is open to. We’re looking forward to having a conversation with them and seeing what their desire is.”

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