The Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce has promoted a thriving business community for nearly as long as the city has existed, and will commemorate its 100th anniversary at a centennial celebration on Nov. 8.
The event scheduled to take place at the Beverly Hilton will highlight a century of support for local businesses. Over the decades, the chamber’s influence has helped form Beverly Hills’reputation as one of the luxury capitals of the world, Todd Johnson, the organization’s President and CEO, said.
“There are certain kinds of businesses out there that are extremely successful, but do they all make sense in Beverly Hills?” Johnson told the Courier in an interview.
He and other representatives of the chamber were recently joined by Mayor Dr. Julian Gold and Vice Mayor Lester Friedman on a trip to New York. There, they touched base with about 25 companies and entrepreneurs who either have a notable presence in Beverly Hills or an interest in setting up shop in the city.
Some potential newcomers included several Michelin-rated restaurants and “a type of entertainment we could use in our city,” Johnson said.
“We’ve got a number of businesses excited to continue conversations of potentially coming here,” he said. “Now that doesn’t happen overnight, it’s relationships.”
The chamber was formally incorporated in June 1923, with the mission of ensuring that the voices of local business owners are heard. Since then, it has become a hub where local entrepreneurs and people curious about moving to Beverly Hills can find answers and advice.
Johnson and the current chair of the organization’s board of directors, David Mirharooni said.
The number of businesses partnering with the chamber has steadily grown over the years, Gordon Gelfond, the organization’s board chair from 1978 to 1979, said. He added that it has become more diverse, both in the types of companies it represents and the makeup of its leadership.
“I don’t think we had any women on the board when I was chairman,” he said. “A lot has changed for the betterment of the chamber.”
Mirharooni said prior to his involvement with the chamber, he used to think of it as simply a marketing organization. But over time he saw how they ensured that the concerns of the business community were heard by lawmakers planning out major developments like the location of the upcoming Metro rail station and rules for outdoor dining during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic was one of the most challenging periods in the chamber’s history, Johnson said. The majority of its members are small businesses, and many struggled to stay open amidst the lockdown. In addition to promoting outdoor dining, the chamber also wound up waving membership dues in order to help shops and restaurants stay in Beverly Hills.
The local business community has bounced back dramatically since then, Mirharooni said. Today, Beverly Hills has a lower commercial vacancy rate than any of its neighboring municipalities, with newly available units getting filled practically as soon as they are put up for lease, Johnson said.
“I’m impressed by the growth of Rodeo Drive,” Gelfond said. “Some of the stores, Chanel and others, have increased the size of their footprint. That means the business must be good and they have confidence in Beverly Hills.”
Their upcoming centennial celebration will be an opportunity to celebrate the resilience of the chamber and the
business community it has helped foster. The organization plans to honor seven companies in particular for their longevity and longstanding partnership with the chamber. These include the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and the Beverly Hilton. The healthcare provider Cedars-Sinai as well as the Greater Los Angeles Realtors Association will also be recognized. Retailer Gearys and local chain Mickey Fine Pharmacy round out the centennial event’s honorees.
“This is the most amazing community to be a part of,” Mickey Fine owner Gina Raphael said. “It feels to me like small-time America. It has that type of warmth and concern. We’re just overwhelmed by the support for Mickey Fine now and through history. And to think about the honorees being mentioned, and that Mickey Fine is a part of that, it’s a total ‘wow’ for us.”