New year, new logo, new president
The year 2017 looks promising for the thriving Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. Back in October, James Skidmore, general manager of Toast Coffeehouse, was elected as president of the chamber with big plans in tow.
Nothing about Skidmore’s vision is business as usual. Instead, he hopes to bridge the gap between old thinking and new by encouraging millennial involvement. The chamber also has plans to announce a new logo in the New Year to pair with Skidmore’s new slogan, Building a community through commerce.
Skidmore, 50, grew up on Silver Street in Patchogue with his parents and siblings, graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School in 1984, spent a brief time overseas, moved to the Bayport-Blue Point area and then finally settled back in Patchogue about 13 years ago.
“The community just called me back,” he said of his love for the village.
At that time, he scheduled an interview with the BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant, where he was then selected as entertainment manager, who wore many hats.
He enjoyed his time at the BrickHouse, but after many years of hiring entertainers, managing the front of the house and bar and helping with catering, it was time to move on.
“I did a lot over there and really enjoyed it, but [Toast] is a much better fit for me at this point in my life,” he explained of his career move. “For me, BrickHouse was my foundation.”
Last year, Skidmore moved on and took the general manager position at Toast, where he currently works. He enjoys music, the arts and the newly revitalized village, where he lives with his dog, Marcy.
At the chamber, he has been a member for over 10 years, most recently serving as secretary and has now become president, a desired position but more of a natural steppingstone in his progression of serving the community.
Over the years, Skidmore has also served on the St. Liberata committee, but is mostly known for being the chairman of the Alive After Five® committee, which requires about six months worth of work out of the year.
“The recent revival is based around our millennials, and all the excitement on Main Street has a great focus on the younger generation. James is tapped into that and just a perfect fit to connect the chamber to new, young energy in our downtown,” said chamber executive director David Kennedy of why the board elected Skidmore.
As the new president, Skidmore will serve a term of two years.
“I have a lot of plans for this community … I want to bring in more young people,” he said. “I am very excited about this position.”
So far, he has already created his first new committee in conjunction with his new way of thought, called the Millennial Think Tank. A session of meditation, spiritual thinking and ideas took place for the first time this past Monday and will occur every month on a selected Monday hereafter. His hope is to encourage young people to become community leaders.
“This is a young community and I would like to freshen some things up,” said Skidmore. “We’ve gotten a lot of places in the last 10 to 15 years and we have a lot of people in their 20s that find value in this community and I want to do something about it.”
To do so, he is attracting the young crowd through social media. He said he already has a large, young following from his years in the entertainment business and hopes they will be inspired by his way of thought.
Village resident Jacqueline Routh, friend and business partner of Skidmore’s, is young blood who has become part of his movement and is a leader of Think Tank. She said they hope the new event will empower young people in the community and make them feel that their ideas are worthy.
“James has been a tremendous inspiration and catalyst for not only my personal ambitions, but on a much larger scale. His involvement with the chamber has made it feel more accessible to a younger demographic,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like this ‘boys club’ anymore. I now have very real aspirations to move up the local political channels ... he’s empowering a new generation of leaders to step into the light.”
He, too, is excited to be not only president, but in this unique position as sort of the bridge between the young and the aging. In the future, he has plans to bring in more community engagement including sessions with Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) and Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael Hynes. He also has plans to create aspects unique to Patchogue such as local commerce, where good deeds receive “commerce” to purchase goods or services at local businesses.
“My goal is to have young, innovating thinking and fresh ideas. I want people to scratch their heads and say, ‘what is going on over there?’” he said. “There are a lot of great things coming.”
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