Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Micheal Neveux
When she moved back to Lomita from Redondo Beach, Heidi Butzine lamented the city had no active chamber of commerce. The previous organization had disbanded in the mid-2010s. As a small business owner, Heidi had been active with the Redondo Beach Chamber and saw how much it benefited local businesses and the community.
“I feel an attachment to Lomita,” says Butzine, who previously resided in the town throughout her middle and high school years. “When we do business with someone in our own neighborhood, there are far-reaching multiplier benefits. The tax dollars stay local and can support services, such as fire and safety, that improve our quality of life.”
Butzine enlisted support from the city as well as the small business community, spurring the launch of the new Lomita Chamber of Commerce in April 2019. She signed on to serve as president, CEO and chair of the board.
The owner and chief marketing strategist of digital marketing agency Localista Media, Butzine had opened her second Lomita-based business in 2018. Social Workplace is a coworking office and meeting space on Lomita Boulevard.
Until COVID-19 hit, the chamber held monthly networking meetings and events at local businesses in the community. During the pandemic, it switched to online meetings and community calls—in partnership with the city—to cover fast-moving health orders, financial aid and other information that helped businesses adapt during the pandemic. The chamber also hosted a Zoom presentation on COVID-19 featuring Zachary Gray, MD, medical director of Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s emergency department.
Despite the pandemic, the chamber and city inaugurated a weekly farmers market in July 2020. It takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lomita City Hall.
“There’s currently no grocery store in Lomita,” says Butzine. “It’s nice to have access to fresh foods and get to know our local businesses at the market.” Recently the market added live music on the last Sunday of each month. Butzine hopes to recruit more vendors and encourages community members to support the endeavor with their patronage.
Most recently, Butzine was looking forward to Lemonade Day, a program teaching youths about entrepreneurship by helping them start, own and run their own lemonade-stand business. Participants form their own financial plan and learn to save, spend and share their money.
Held in locations throughout North America, Lemonade Day debuted in Lomita on August 7 with the chamber’s support, involvement from the local business community and 100 young entrepreneurs who worked with their mentors to run their lemonade stand at a Lomita business location. Butzine hopes it will become an annual event.
She also hopes to start a Lomita Art Walk and other initiatives to bring people to local businesses, but these endeavors may have to wait. “I have big aspirations and lofty goals,” she says with a laugh. “The chamber is an all-volunteer organization. As we grow and bring on more volunteers with diverse interests, we hope to introduce additional programs with broad appeal.”