Aldridge reflects on nearly 30 years with Claremont Chamber

The City of Trees’ official business point person for 30 years is calling it a career.

Maureen Aldridge—who has been with the Claremont Chamber of Commerce since 1988—will spend her last day on the job handing out toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters at the Chamber’s Yale Street office on October 31. “It’s coming up real quick!” Ms. Aldridge said.

She and her already retired husband of 47 years plan on “Traveling, playing golf, reading, getting back to doing a lot more cooking, relaxing, obviously doing some volunteer work, playing with my grandchildren, and just enjoying life,” she said.

The couple, both Brits by birth, came to the US in the mid-1970s. They lived near San Francisco and in the eastern US before coming to Claremont in 1980. They have a grown son and two grandchildren, 10 and 4, who live in Pomona.

It’ll be quite an adjustment for Ms. Aldridge, who has been CEO of the Chamber since 1999.

“It’s not going to be easy, I know that,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult because I love being involved and I love being in the know. And yes, it’s going to be hard to step back. But it happens to all of us. We’ve all got to do it. I know it’ll be a lot of fun. I’ve got a lot of girlfriends who can’t wait for me to go off with them and enjoy life.”

Those concerned she and Mr. Aldridge might be at a loss for how to fill up their suddenly wide open schedules need not worry, apparently.

“We have our trailer and enjoy camping and have a couple [camping] things already booked,” Ms. Aldridge said. “We’ve got a cruise already booked. My brother lives in England he wants us to go and meet them and do some traveling with them.”

Though there have been certainly been changes, Ms. Aldridge said, overall the job remains remarkably similar as when she began her Chamber career in the era of big hair and shoulder pads.

“I think the subject matter is much the same. They would call or come in, much as they do now, and ask us when the next council meeting is, or where they can get the Claremont COURIER, or the COURIER Almanac. Visitors would come in—as they still do—and ask us what is there to see and do in Claremont, and parents, whose children are coming to Claremont wanting to know if it’s a safe community to leave their children here.”

As one would expect, the main difference between then and now has been the advent of the internet and the online economy. “It was as a lot more one-on-one, face-to-face communication,” she said. “You would notice a lot more people walking in the Chamber office, and a lot more people would call for information, because again, they didn’t have the internet. But even now, if they don’t know who to call, they call the Chamber.”

Back in the day, the calls weren’t always, well, urgent business.

“People would call us and ask,  ‘Can you tell us what the temperature is up on Foothill Boulevard?’ and ‘Do you know if it’s snowing in Arizona?’ Silly questions like that that they expected us to know.”

Still today, with ubiquitous smart phones containing seemingly every bit of information the world has to offer, and with GPS, Yelp and Google to guide us, there remain Chamber customers who prefer to learn about Claremont the old-fashioned way.

“I think it’s the face-to-face, wanting to talk to somebody people that walk into the office, especially the visitors,” Ms. Aldridge said. “They want to sit down and talk to somebody.”

The Claremont Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1922. “You know what’s really, really interesting is if you go back and you look through the old Chamber minutes, it seems like parking has always been an issue on the Village,” she said. “It doesn’t matter, you look back to the 1920s and they say we need more parking.”

She was first hired in 1988 as the Claremont Visitor Center manager. From there she worked her way up to become the Chamber’s executive director in 1999. Her title later changed to CEO.

Among her proudest achievements over her career are the Chamber’s role in helping shape the Village expansion and her empathetic ear with respect to the city’s business concerns and ability to help affect policy changes to address them.

She’s also gratified that attendance at the Chamber’s monthly networking breakfast has increased from about 20 when they began to more than 100 at the last gathering.

“That’s something to be really proud of as well, that people are coming and networking, that even in this day and age of technology, people still find it important to come out and network.”

The expansion of the upcoming Village Venture is also something she counts among her most prized accomplishments.

“It’s really a fun, family oriented day. It will really be nice to come back next year when I’m not working and I can wander around and enjoy the show!”

 Strolling around Claremont as a citizen only, and not being so pivotal to the city’s business community will be a change, she said.

“But I’m not going to go away. I still here in town. I’m going to volunteer with some local organizations if they’ll have me. And we’ll go from there.”

The Chamber board has not yet named a successor.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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