RYE traders are without a united voice following last month’s winding up of the Rye Beach Business Association.
Its former secretary, marketing and business coordinator Jeanne Anderson – the association’s only paid employee – said a lack of support from members, who at one stage numbered 130, had caused its demise.
“We could not run it without their support,” she said, adding that only one trader had turned up for the final meeting on Thursday 8 April.
“No one was prepared to make decisions; some traders didn’t want to pay; some just didn’t see the benefits [of being a member].
“It’s a shame it’s gone because the traders will have to find out what’s going on for themselves now.”
Traders paid $200 to $2000 in membership fees, depending on the size of their premises. Woolworths and the Rye Hotel paid the most. In return they received online exposure, liaison and connection with Mornington Peninsula Shire’s economic development department, and a voice to councillors.
Ms Anderson said she also represented the traders in meetings with other chambers of commerce at Mornington, Mount Eliza and Rosebud.
“We did a lot of things in the background – organising funding for the proposed but now abandoned Rye music festival that was to have been a massive street party in April but had to be shelved due to the pandemic,” she said.
Fees were waived for most of last year, with Ms Anderson saying that, ironically, this was the period she worked the hardest. “I put so much work into it and yet my hours were reduced,” she said. “We still met monthly via Zoom because the association’s role was so important in advising traders and keeping them up-to-date with the latest information.”
Former president Anton Vigenser said a catalyst for the group in 2014 was news that itinerant food vans would be setting up on a vacant block near Weir Street. Traders who had paid dearly for their established premises and in rates joined the fight to protect their “turf”.
“Yes [the association’s demise] is disappointing,” Mr Vigenser said.
“We were almost at the point where we could have had some great projects up and running, such as festivals, markets, networks, competitions …”
Apathy among traders was partly to blame as was a belief that they could market themselves through social media without having to pay any fees, he said.
Successes included the installation of shire-financed CCTV cameras, the setting up of small-scale markets, liaising with the shire over campers and a voice in the formation of the Rye town plan.