Chamber History

CHAMBER HISTORY

Bob Conroy grew up in his family’s business, Villas Lumber, run on a daily basis by his parents, Bob and

Gloria Conroy, his sister Nancy and a handful of employees. Later he owned Villas Café, another

business on Bayshore Road, which provided additional insights about the importance of a healthy,

thriving business community to Lower Township.

When Conroy was elected mayor of the township in the 1990s, he made it an early priority to re-

establish the township’s chamber of commerce that, years earlier, had been an important business

organization.

Conroy had been an active member of the original chamber that was probably organized sometime in

the 1960s. The organization had no office and met at different locations around the township, including

the Villas Café, which later became the Pirate’s Den.

When Guarantee Bank decided to build a permanent structure to the replace the double-wide trailer it

had been using as a branch office on Bayshore Road in North Cape May, ten Lower Township Chamber

members – among them Carl Buck, Dom Santo, Warren Andrews, John Linnington, Dan Senico, Sr.,

Jimmy Augustine, Ellery Bowman and others each pledged $500 to pay for the purchase and to move

the building to the Villas, near where the Lower Township library is today.

The chamber, now with a building and more of an identity, remained active for years until a variety of

changes and circumstances – businesses sold, closed, or replaced with corporate, rather than family

owners – resulted in a lack of interest and the chamber closed its doors.

In 1995 Conroy, now mayor, decided it was time to revitalize the dormant chamber and he organized a

luncheon meeting in his office for local business owners and leaders. That day, Linda Williams was

helping to open bank branch in the Villas and decided to check with the township office to see if there

was a local chamber. That call resulted in an invitation to the luncheon and, as the old saying goes, the

rest is history.

The landscape of the business community within the township has changed in ways no one could have

imagined when the people who ultimately revitalized the chamber met in 1995. Wineries were a

fledgling industry and no one ever envisioned a successful brewery at the county airport. Historic Cold

Spring Village was only a few years old as was Naval Air Station Wildwood. Other businesses – Gaiss’

Market in business since 1928, the Cape May Lewes Ferry that started service in 1964, Apex Realty with

a 30-year history, plus local banks, campgrounds and other small businesses have continued to provide a

stable base for chamber membership and economic growth in the township.

For more than two decades, the Lower Township Chamber of Commerce has grown, encouraging and

supporting member businesses, recognizing the contributions of business owners and emphasizing the

importance of the goals of the chamber to residents and visitors.

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