High Springs Chamber of Commerce sees hope for future following the pandemic

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High Springs Chamber of Commerce President Sharon Decker walks into The Bird Nest, a vintage market on Main Street in High Springs.

As she passes by the store owner and guests shopping, she greets them warmly, asking how they’re doing and making small talk about town events.

Decker is content in this atmosphere doing what she loves: helping others.

Sign for The Bird Nest, a small business in Downtown High Springs (Violet Comber-Wilen/WUFT News)

“When I come into a small town, I go out to talk to the community,” she said. “What they like, what they need and what they don’t like.”

During the pandemic, the chamber of commerce was unable to do many of its regular activities.

Decker says that High Springs relies on its small-town connection, and that this period was difficult.

As soon as Decker stepped in as president earlier this year, she immediately began to form connections with people around town.

She noticed that many businesses were not a part of the chamber of commerce and decided to see what she could do.

One of the businesses Decker reached out to in this process was The Mantle. 

This home décor store suffered during the pandemic, but owner Dannielle Meissner says residents in the small town were adamant about supporting her small business during this time.

 “We had such sweetheart customers, asking things such as if they could book a private shopping trip for their family, or privately pick up certain furniture items,” she said. 

Meissner says the chamber has been incredibly helpful in getting her footing back following the pandemic.

“Before Sharon came along, I never saw anyone from the chambers reach out,” she said. “Sharon will come around to local businesses and is really helpful in asking what we need, and she’s really worked on revitalizing this town.”

Decker says there are a lot of benefits to High Springs businesses when they join the chamber.

“We have a new website, and it is important to get your name out there,” she said. 

Businesses that are members of the chamber are advertised through this site and maintain relationships with people around town. 

Another initiative Decker hopes to push is community events.

Decker said a recent yard sale was one of the chamber’s successful events. 

“We put the word out for the yard sale on Facebook, and we had over 50 vendors and 2,100 people show up,” she said.

 The turnout was so big that the town has another yard sale planned on Nov. 20.

 Another event that excites Decker is the town’s upcoming Christmas parade. Her Hallmark Christmas vision includes a tree lighting and members from Alachua, Fort White and Newberry participating in the parade. 

Vice Mayor of High Springs Linda Jones is grateful for Decker’s work in the business community and the city more broadly. Over the past six months, the chamber has put on new activities, she said. 

“She’s such a friendly person, that people tend to gravitate towards her,” she said. “I’ve been involved in the chamber somewhat as a liaison of the city, but she’s done so much of this herself.”

 With this renowned spirit and calendar of events, Decker hopes to continue to serve this small town the best that she can.

 “This is a quaint town,” she said. “I don’t want to change it. I want to do what people like.”

About Violet Comber-Wilen

Violet is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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