She spent nearly eight years at the helm
hile today’s business owners need to utilize modern technology to thrive and even survive, there is no substitute for good old-fashioned camaraderie.
The best practices, which range from modern social media platforms to those many others may have relegated to the past, are necessary in today’s tougher-than-ever retail and COVID-19-challenged culture.
Platte City’s entrepreneurs and business executives realize it takes both to be successful today, said Angie Mutti, who is leaving her post as executive director of the Platte City Area Chamber of Commerce/Economic Development Council.
The 43-year-old knows because she has witnessed many cases of Platte City business owners, even competitors, lending a hand to each other in times of need.
“If a truck breaks down and someone needs supplies,” they automatically reach out to help, she said. It’s the attitude behind them that makes the difference.
“Everyone is so humble (about helping others),” she said. “They’re not boastful about it. It’s just something they do.”
The traits are “really unique and what makes Platte City so special,” Mutti said during a recent telephone interview.
Mutti will leave her post Dec. 3 after eight years leading the organization charged with creating and sustaining a favorable business climate in the small city.
Mutti said while Platte City is considered a small town, with about 4,800 residents, its size is a misnomer and is substantially larger when you consider those who reside nearby but technically outside the city limits. Their influx makes Platte City big enough to have the business connections to pull off some of the chamber’s larger events, but small enough to maintain the small-town, friendly atmosphere, said Mutti, who resides with her family in southern Platte County.
Mutti joined the chamber as its leader after hearing of the position following her service as executive director of both the Platte City and Parkville YMCA. Because of those positions, she already had a working knowledge of the chamber and was acquainted with many of its members and board of directors.
“It’s funny to go back and look at pictures of myself attending chamber events (before she was with the chamber),” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever land there.”
One of her major jobs as chamber executive has been leading the planning of about six events each year, tailored to area businesses. Mutti and the Platte City “team” of volunteers who sit on the chamber’s board and one or two part-time employees plan a growing list of events that draw large crowds from Platte City and those who live nearby.
September has become the group’s busiest months with two planned main events-the Main Street Fall Festival and the Communitywide Garage Sale. The festival is a traditional street fair featuring vendors, local entertainment acts, food trucks and child-friendly activities such as make-and-take crafts and face painting. The event typically draws about 2,000 people. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was cancelled due to an inability to control crowds and do contact-tracing of those who attend, Mutti said.
The annual Communitywide Garage Sale is the one local businesses credit with drawing many outsiders, some from nearby states, including Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Mutti said the event is worthy of its own reality TV show due to its unique nature and number of attendees. The event features not only dozens of Platte City homeowners who open their yards and garages to sell their wares, but also includes numerous residents who live outside the area and rent booth space located in front of Platte County High School for a nominal fee.
A major draw is the map organizers create, showing sale locations and key items available. Sometimes unusual, valuable items have attracted a lot of attention, including a recent year when a participant sold an authentic Las Vegas slot machine, she said. Of course, Mutti is quick to point out that each year’s turnout is largely dictated by the weather that weekend.
Chamber staff routinely survey area business owners to learn about foot traffic from the garage sale weekend and most report it draws 25 to 30 percent more shoppers and diners. That event, more than any other, tends to have long-lasting effects on the area, including stories of people who traveled to the event for the merchandise, but ended up moving to Platte City after becoming familiar with and falling in love with the community.
The Celebration of Businesses, which is the chamber’s largest event in terms of fundraising, is held each March. The gala typically draws about 250 people and includes a dinner, silent auction, and entertainment, all at the KCI Marriott.
This year’s holiday lighting ceremony, which typically includes many family-friendly activities, from train and carriage rides and businesses offering giveaways, including hot dogs, popcorn, and donut holes, has been canceled due to COVID concerns.
Still, scenes painted on store windows by area high school students cause Platte City to look “a little like a Norman Rockwell (painting),” she said. While this year’s event has been called off, families are encouraged to drive by to view downtown lights and business window scenes, she said.
While the pandemic has added extra hurdles, she said business owners still find success. She said, “Be creative, use social media and be willing to change.”