Gina C. Lynn is trying hard to keep a secret. That’s a tough task when the secret involves the itinerary of an exciting new event. As executive director of the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce, Lynn had to scramble when The Willow Room, the longtime venue for the chamber’s annual Ladies’ Night Out event, closed last year. Rather than searching for a new location, she came up with a new approach – why not switch from bringing local businesses to a gathering of people and instead take those people to the businesses on a fun bus crawl?
That’s how the Magical Mystery Shopping Tour idea sprouted. “I have to say, the response has been very positive,” Lynn says. “It’s funny, though. I can’t give out too much information, because, well, then it wouldn’t be a mystery after all!”
One bus is already half filled, with more calls coming in every day. The idea is to board a bus in Rostraver at noon on Saturday, Nov. 4, and head to 15 mystery stops in Rostraver, North Belle Vernon and Charleroi, ending back in Rostraver. Along the way, guests will enjoy shopping, food, beverages and fun at local businesses with collaborations, pop-up shops and giveaways from other businesses not on the bus route.
“This event has been swirling around in my brain for a number of years,” explains Lynn. “I thought this was the perfect time to switch gears and develop what had only been a blip on my radar. What better time and better way to showcase our local, unique businesses than to bring a busload or two or three to their doorsteps?”
Lynn did a test pitch to three business owners who immediately signed on for the event. “The goal is for you to see and experience businesses that you may not know exist or never thought to enter,” Lynn adds. “This tour will encourage you to keep your spending dollars local, not only for the holiday season but throughout the year.”
The GRC is focused on promoting local, living local and supporting local, which is why events like this are a part of its mission – and Lynn walks the walk. “I don’t shop online,” she says. “I’ve always done that to some degree, but even more so since I’ve been in this position because I see how much our communities rely on our small-business owners. They’re the backbones of our community and the ones taking the risks and putting in hours 24/7, plus supporting little leagues and booster clubs and generating tax revenue.”
The Mon Valley is home for Lynn, who grew up in North Belle Vernon. She moved to Virginia for several years, but after having a family, she and her husband wanted to return home. She’s been executive director of the GRC for nine years and says she hardly feels like she’s working because she loves her job. “I love working with our members – you have to love what you do,” Lynn says. “When I see other people succeed, I’m sincerely happy if I can contribute to that in some way.”
She credits her diverse board of directors for the success and growth of the organization, saying, “We have a great mix of young and old both in age and tenure, and that makes for a great team. They trust me and give me the freedom to make front-line decisions and to operate the chamber to the best interest of our members.”
Despite her busy schedule running the chamber, Lynn finds time to volunteer, which she feels is just as important to a thriving community as a strong business focus. She serves on the North Belle Vernon Community Bank Park Recreation Commission and boards for the Belle Vernon Area Charitable Fund and Mon Valley Alliance. Her favorite give-back is as a volunteer for the Monessen Salvation Army’s Bridging the Gap after-school program for at-risk teens. “I share with them topics on leadership, community involvement, being a good neighbor and citizen,” says Lynn. “Some days it might be through a presentation, a walk around the city block or just hanging out with no set agenda.”
Whether it’s working with youth, promoting local businesses or helping an entrepreneur get established, Lynn has a passion for wanting to better the Mon Valley. “Any community that can be surrounded by leaders who get it is just such a benefit,” she says. “We advocate for local business owners and support them, help them market and gain awareness about the importance of keeping them here.”
For information and tickets to the Magical Mystery Shopping Tour, call 724-929-3329 or visit www.greaterrostraverchamber.org.