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Cotati Chamber of Commerce celebrates 60 years

  • Officers of Cotati Chamber of Commerce about 1955, seated left to right, Sophie Gwerder, William O'Brien (president), Mrs. Howard Sisk. Standing left to right;Elmer Chadwick, Mrs. John Hahn, Sam Smith, C.C. Macklin, Dr. Robert Quimby, Harold Taylor, Howard Sisk and Robert VanBreen.

  • Cotati Chamber's float in the Santa Rosa Rose Parade

By: Irene Hilsendager
September 14, 2018

Years before Cotati became a city, its main developing force was its Chamber of Commerce which had begun its life in the early 1900s.Then known as the Cotati Promotion Club was changed during World War I to the Cotati Chamber of Commerce. 

The chamber had many ups and downs during the 30s however, a newly organized Lions Club jumped in and took over most of the civic functions.

In the mid 40s after World War II was over, many family farms began to dwindle and businesses were becoming more diversified, The Cotati Chamber of Commerce sprang into action. When farms were being sub-divided, builders did not want to construct new homes in an area without water and sewer service, the chamber started to press for public utility services.

In January of 1948, the Cotati Public Utility District was formed with donated land for a water tank on a hilltop above Cypress Ave. Work began on laying the town’s first water lines. The district went on in ensuing years to provide a sewage system and to take over the responsibility for street lights. All of the projects had been advocated by the Cotati Chamber of Commerce as necessary for continued development of the community.

Not only was the chamber a main moving force in Cotati’s progress, its meetings were also major monthly social events gathering at the Cotati Inn or the Green Mill Inn for banquets. The chamber boasted that Cotati was “The Hub of Sonoma County” and delegations from Cotati were active in a group called Associated Chambers of Commerce of Sonoma County. 

This amalgamated organization met monthly in the county’s various communities and carried considerable political clout.

Cotati made sure it stayed in the center of public attention. The chamber entered every parade within driving distance during the 50s and one which stood out was the Rose Parade in Santa Rosa being held at the fairgrounds with a huge fireworks display.

Even with all of the events going on, organization members still found time to sponsor carol singing and a visit from Santa Claus which is still happening. The chamber also gave leadership in improving the plaza through a combined community group called the Cotati Civic Improvement Club.

Some of the chambers functions were answering inquiries about the town, manning an information booth at area fairs and publishing town maps and brochures. The Cotati Chamber of Commerce also mounted an extensive publicity and lobbying campaign that resulted in the location in the late 50s of Sonoma State College on what had previously been known as the Forest Benson ranch on Petaluma Hill Road.

In the fifty some years since the incorporation of the City of Cotati, the Cotati Chamber of Commerce has not had to serve as Cotati’s voice on the political front and parades are few these days, but the chamber is still actively promoting Cotati and is a leader in numerous community activities such as the annual June Music (Jazz) Festival and the Oktoberfest.

The Cotati Chamber is a volunteer member organization of business people and individuals that promote the economic well-being of the City of Cotati.

The Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 60th anniversary and are inviting all members past and present to the chamber office at 216 E. School St. Tuesday, Sept. 25th from 5-7 p.m. The theme of the party is celebrating their members. There will be raffle prizes.

Information received from Cotati Chamber of Commerce