Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Micheal Neveux
When she moved back to Lomita from Redondo Beach, Heidi Butzine lamented
the city had no active chamber of commerce. The previous organization
had disbanded in the mid-2010s. As a small business owner, Heidi had been
active with the Redondo Beach Chamber and saw how much it benefited local
businesses and the community.
“I feel an attachment to Lomita,” says Butzine, who previously
resided in the town throughout her middle and high school years. “When
we do business with someone in our own neighborhood, there are far-reaching
multiplier benefits. The tax dollars stay local and can support services,
such as fire and safety, that improve our quality of life.”
Butzine enlisted support from the city as well as the small business community,
spurring the launch of the new Lomita Chamber of Commerce in April 2019.
She signed on to serve as president, CEO and chair of the board.
The owner and chief marketing strategist of digital marketing agency Localista
Media, Butzine had opened her second Lomita-based business in 2018. Social
Workplace is a coworking office and meeting space on Lomita Boulevard.
Until COVID-19 hit, the chamber held monthly networking meetings and events
at local businesses in the community. During the pandemic, it switched
to online meetings and community calls—in partnership with the city—to
cover fast-moving health orders, financial aid and other information that
helped businesses adapt during the pandemic. The chamber also hosted a
Zoom presentation on COVID-19 featuring Zachary Gray, MD, medical director
of Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s emergency department.
Despite the pandemic, the chamber and city inaugurated a weekly farmers
market in July 2020. It takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
at Lomita City Hall.
“There’s currently no grocery store in Lomita,” says
Butzine. “It’s nice to have access to fresh foods and get
to know our local businesses at the market.” Recently the market
added live music on the last Sunday of each month. Butzine hopes to recruit
more vendors and encourages community members to support the endeavor
with their patronage.
Most recently, Butzine was looking forward to Lemonade Day, a program teaching
youths about entrepreneurship by helping them start, own and run their
own lemonade-stand business. Participants form their own financial plan
and learn to save, spend and share their money.
Held in locations throughout North America, Lemonade Day debuted in Lomita
on August 7 with the chamber’s support, involvement from the local
business community and 100 young entrepreneurs who worked with their mentors
to run their lemonade stand at a Lomita business location. Butzine hopes
it will become an annual event.
She also hopes to start a Lomita Art Walk and other initiatives to bring
people to local businesses, but these endeavors may have to wait. “I
have big aspirations and lofty goals,” she says with a laugh. “The
chamber is an all-volunteer organization. As we grow and bring on more
volunteers with diverse interests, we hope to introduce additional programs
with broad appeal.”