As was customary in the “old days”, several Gretna business owners would convene at certain locations around town to discuss everything from taxes to business. In 1984 some of the local business owners including, Dan Washburn, Mike Wohlers, Joe Piccolo, Jack Koke, Don & Ed Frederick & Web Warren among others, decided a new direction was needed.
They were looking for a way to increase their market share from the local population and resolved to come up with ways to convince the local population that they could provide them the same goods and services at the same price that they could find in the “big city” but with much less hassle and crowds.
At that time, Dan Washburn was a member of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and was aware of their annunal directory of member’s names and phone numbers so the public would have easy access to the information. He presented this idea to the group and it was decided to approach other local businesses with the idea. At that time, for $25 per year, they could get their name and phone number distributed to everyone in the 68028 zip code in this simple local directory by joining this group. Needing name recognition, they chose the name Gretna Area Business Association to avoid fees with the state and national Chambers of Commerce.
In the early years they tried many promotions to attract customers. Everything from giving away turkeys as a holiday promotion to using homemade Gretna Bucks was tried to encourage local patrons to shop locally.
In the early 1990s when the chamber had grown to more than 100 members, Chamber President Emil Beyer led a plan to change the name to the Gretna Area Chamber of Commerce. The name change was voted on, made official, and the Gretna Area Chamber of Commerce was established.
Today, the Chamber boasts more than 150 members. In addition to the one sheet directory, the Chamber publishes a bound directory and maintains a website. The Chamber has become active in community affairs and in recruiting new businesses to town as well as the promotion we provide for existing members. This is augmented by local advertising and ribbon cuttings to promote businesses new and old. With the advent of this website, the Chamber continues to progress by adding more information, a more dynamic site and more information for those choosing to visit Gretna for a day or move their business here and stay for a lifetime.
Yet this is by no means the final chapter. As Gretna continues to grow and more businesses continue to invest in the Gretna area this all volunteer group has plans to grow with the community in the future with talk of adding employees and eventually a chamber office. We continue to adapt and change to the needs of one of Nebraska's most vital and growing communities.