The Commercial Club, one of several precursors to the Chamber of Commerce, was founded on January 23, 1914. The first meeting was held in the “St. Louis Park Auditorium.” The President was G.M. Wade, and the purpose of the (all male) organization was
to encourage and promote the commercial and manufacturing interests of St. Louis Park and to foster and encourage, through social intercourse, a public spirit and a feeling of loyalty to the Village.
CIVIC AND COMMERCE ASSOCIATION
The Civic and Commerce Association of St. Louis Park was formed in 1935. One of two early meetings elected E.H. Shursen, temporary president; Torval Jorvig, secretary; J.E. Pockrandt, treasurer; and C.Warren Chapman, Kleve Flakne, Torval Jorvig, N.H. McKay; J.A. McNulty, Robert Scott, William C.Shroder, Milo Stevens,
Another article states that Edwin H. Renner was elected President of the newly-formed group, after two earlier attempts to organize. The other officers were H.J. Bolmgren, E.H. Shursen, and J.E. Pockrandt. In a letter dated October 16, 1935, Renner indicated that the group strove to be:
a medium through which meritorious civic projects may be initiated and constructive ideas be given the benefit of a public hearing and discussion. Our citizens need us as a vehicle through which they may move to accomplish the things to be done in providing the best in planning, transportation, utilities, schools, form of government and opportunities for livelihood.
BUSINESS MEN’S ASSOCIATION
The St. Louis Park Business Men’s Association started in 1939. Despite its name, by 1941 it was open to women, and from the start, Lydia Rogers served as Secretary and Treasurer. In the 1942 Directory, its purpose was stated as “advancing the commercial, industrial and general interest of the community,” and its slogan was “Build your Home and Business in St. Louis Park Where the Highways Meet.”
A 1952 ad stated:
The St. Louis Park Business Men’s Association is organized for the purpose of advancing the commercial, industrial and general interests of the community. This organization is non-sectarian and non-political.
The membership shall be composed of business and professional men or women having a business address in St. Louis Park, memberships to include managers or superintendents of businesses located in the village.
The dues of each active business and professional membership shall be five dollars annually payable in advance.
Businessman’s Association, 1963
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The St. Louis Park Chamber of Commerce was formed in the fall of 1950, and was incorporated the following year. The dedication dinner was held on January 30, 1951 at the Lilac Lanes Café. J.R. Pratt, northwest regional director of the U.S. Chamber, presented the Park chapter with its charter. One account is that the Chamber was formed at the behest of Mayor O.B. Erickson by 17 Park business and professional men. On January 19, 1951 the Chamber was located at 5925 W. 37th Street. The original board members were:
Henry Allbrecht, President
R.C. Fernstrom, Vice President
C.L. Hurd, Secretary
John Rodgers, Treasurer
Steve E. Anderson
In 1954 the Chamber office was located at 5407 Excelsior Blvd. (That’s either a mistake or it was a building lost to Highway 100.)
Charles Friedheim, Sr.‘s obituary noted that in about 1957 the Chamber was threatening to fold, but Friedheim and a few others stood behind it financially until it was able to sustain itself.
In 1958 it was located at 6610 West Lake Street. In 1959 it hired its first paid staff, Executive Manager Harold Trumble.
George Williams served as executive secretary for 20 months, hired when Dutch Eherenfeldt was president. During that time the Chamber decided to take a stand on community affairs, assist NSP with a survey of the City, and work to cut down on the number of solicitations of local merchants.
John B. Bergan became the new President of the Chamber in June 1960.
In 1962 the Chamber was located at 3560 Dakota Ave. That year it put out a tri-fold brochure inviting out-of-towners to friendly St. Louis Park. Of the attractions pictured, such as the Ambassador Motor Hotel, the Foo-Chu Cafe, Lilac Lanes Cafe, and McCarthy’s, by 2015 only the notorious Lakeland Motor Hotel (now renamed) is still with us.
In June 1964 the Chamber moved to the new MB Hagen building at 6010 Highway 7. Hal Trumble was the Manager, but he soon quit to work with Schadow Insurance.
In 1965 Eugene L. Strommen became Executive Manager of the Chamber. His secretary in 1965 was Bonnie Carlson.
From 1967 to 1971, the Chamber sponsored Robin Hood Days, Park’s official summer celebration. Each year, an army of volunteers carried out a smaller version of the Aquatennial, with parades, floats, beauty contests, picnics, tournaments, and more. Each year one man was designated as King Richard and another as Robin Hood, tights and all. In keeping with the spirit of the festival, Miss St. Louis Park was dubbed Maid Marian. The theme was inspired by the Robin Hood Four ad painted on the side of the Interior grain elevator.
Jon Groth was appointed Executive Manager in February 1970. He replaced William Gleeson. Groth had previously been with the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. It was during this time that the Park Chamber elected the first woman president of any chamber of commerce in Minnesota. She was Adelyn Gordon Luther, CEO of the M.L. Gordon Sash and Door Company/Cardinal Glass.
In 1971 there was a bogus Better Business Bureau of the Suburban Twin Cities, Inc. that was using the name to solicit memberships. The group was incorporated in December 1970 as a for-profit organization. In 1971 the real Chamber published a 16 page promotional book called “Our Town,” that pointed out the advantages of living in St. Louis Park.
After the summer’s Robin Hood Days were through, in September 1971 the Chamber opted to discontinue sponsoring the event. In July 1972, they also voted to discontinue the Miss St. Louis Park contest.
In the wake of the tragic death of his wife in September 1972, Jon Groth left the Chamber on February 1, 1973, taking a job with the Minneapolis Camp Fire Girls.
WEST SUBURBAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
In June 1973, the St. Louis Park Chamber became a part of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce. West Suburban was formed in 1970 when the Hopkins and Minnetonka Chambers merged. Reasons given for the move considered the benefits of consolidated facilities, the loss of Park’s manager, and especially the increased legislative clout. At the time, Park’s Chamber had 300 members, Hopkins 350, and Minnetonka 200. In 1974, the Director of West Suburban was Dennis Sederholm.
TWINWEST CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Today, St. Louis Park is a member of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, along with Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Medicine Lake, Minnetonka, New Hope, and Plymouth.