OUR STORY

OUR STORY

The Oregon Secretary of State indicates that the paperwork for the “new filing” of the Monmouth-Independence Area Chamber of Commerce was prepared on May 11, 1984, and formally submitted on May 22, 1984. However, these older documents cannot be found through their website’s search function.

The anecdotal beginning of the Monmouth – Independence Chamber of Commerce story is quite fascinating and it goes a little like this…

Introduction

Scott McArthur and Al Oppliger, a well-known attorney and real estate agent in Monmouth/Independence, were instrumental in forming the Chamber.

When deciding where the chamber would be located, between the two towns, Scott and Al stood in the parking lot of the A&W Restaurant (known today as Jade Terrace near the intersection of Monmouth St & Gun Club Road in Independence). There they flipped a coin to determine the chamber’s location, and Independence won the toss.

The beginning

The original Chamber was rumered to be located in the building that overlooked Monmouth Street, situated just behind the Jubilee building (formerly known as Taylor’s). It’s unclear whether it was positioned where Fifty-One-Fifty Tactical stands today or slightly further west, where Julie McDonald’s Insurance Agency is now situated.

The initial Chamber Director, if not mistaken, was Sonia Cooper. She was a highly respected figure in our communities, known for her social and possibly political influence. According to anecdotal information, Sonia reportedly “died in the saddle,” meaning she passed away while seated at her desk in the Chamber office. If this account is correct, her death occurred on June 4, 1999.

Sonia Annette Gallaher Cooper, who was born in Chattanooga, TN in 1940, resided in Monmouth from 1993 to 1999. She became a resident of Oregon in 1955 and played a significant role in the Monmouth Independence Chamber of Commerce.

After Sonia Cooper

After Sonia’s term, it has been difficult to pinpoint the Chamber directors. Potentially, one or two people were selected following Sonia. The initial person’s identity remains undisclosed, whereas the second individual was Jennifer Keen, a current Independence resident. Both individuals had short terms, each lasting no more than six months.

During this period, the exact location of the chamber between the two cities in the years 1999-2006 remains unknown.

The next director chosen was Amberly VanWinkle, a Dallas resident, who served in the role for about three years until 2009. During Amberly’s tenure, the chamber was located at 309 N Pacific Ave, Monmouth, in a building owned by AI Oppliger. Currently, the building accommodates the iHomes office in Monmouth and is owned by Dieter Wehner.

In 2009, Karon Gilmore temporarily served as the Chamber director until a new director was appointed. Marilyn Morton took over as the director from 2010 to 2012. Initially, the chamber was based in Monmouth on Pacific Avenue for a year before relocating back to Independence.

The chamber relocated back to Monmouth in 2011, partly due to the imminent substantial increase in rent.

Building Location

311 Monmouth St, Independence building is owned by the City of Independence and previously functioned as the city library. The chamber was given access to this space, paying only for utilities.

The narrative surrounding the building’s ownership is genuinely intriguing. The Polk County Women’s Club owns the land, positioned right behind the 311 Monmouth St structure. At the same time, the City of Independence holds ownership of the building, under the condition that it remains on the Women’s Club’s property as long as it operates as a library. This setup fosters a shared space concept, with the building transformed into the Ash Creek Art Center instead of the chamber.

In 2012, Jean Love took on the role of chamber director and is currently the owner of the Thoughts and Gifts Project in Monmouth. Under her leadership, the chamber relocated back to Monmouth at its present address on Pacific Ave. The Coffman family, previous owners of the Opera House property on Main Street in Independence, including the well-known Independence Appliance business, are the current owners of this building. Ken, the son of the former owner, now possesses the chamber building in Monmouth.

Interesting fact – the Coffman family’s opera house was previously owned by Al Opplinger’s father and functioned as the local Western Auto Store for an extended period.

More Chamber Directors

After Jean’s tenure as Chamber debut ended in 2016, Ryan Kingsella assumed the role. Then, in 2018, Vikkye Fetters took over for approximately two years before she got married and joined the Chamber’s Board of Directors. Subsequently, in 2020, Kathleen Manson, a Dallas resident, served as the director for slightly over two years.

Nicki Marazzani took on the role of director in 2021 and is currently leading the Monmouth Independence Chamber of Commerce.

Income Sourced

One source of income for the chamber is renting out spaces to various businesses. The Pacific Ave building used to serve as a medical facility with small offices, a reception area for patient check-ins, and a waiting room. Other tenants included accounting and income tax services, and a branch of Ticor Title, an escrow company. Currently, Country Financial is leasing the space.

Many Names Of the Chamber Board

The chamber board comprises several well-known individuals. Among them are Eleanor Titus, who, along with her husband, co-owned Greenvilla Barn with the Kennedys, known as Ken-Ti (Kennedy-Titus). This establishment was a hotspot during World War II for hosting USO dances, with bales of hops were used as seating.

Ben Meyer, who runs the Edward Jones office in Monmouth, has served as a board member for the Monmouth Independence Community Foundation for a long time. Bill Foster, an active member of the Monmouth Business Association and a local resident, founded the annual Music in the Park event that takes place in Monmouth every summer.

Elaine Stuart served on the Independence City Council for several years.

Interesting fact – Her husband was the first and only individual to be cremated at the local funeral parlor, which had expanded to include a crematorium. However, due to public protests by residents near the funeral home who noticed ashes falling on their properties during Mr. Stuart’s cremation, the crematorium was subsequently removed.

Josh Brandt, who currently owns and operates Brandt’s Sanitary Service and was the original owner of Crush Wine Bar. Julia Parks, the co-owner of Rookies Sports Tap in Monmouth and Arena Sports Bar in Independence. Jason Cane, a former chief of the Polk County Fire District #1. Terri Gregory, the original owner of MaMere’s Guest House in Monmouth, now residing in Louisiana. Dan Crews, the former manager of Washington Federal in Monmouth. And lastly, Kathy Martin-Willis, a current city councilor for the city of Independence.