Hanson’s Running Shop in Utica carries shoes, clothing and accessories for the avid runner. The shop has been a longtime member of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hanson’s Running Shop in Utica carries shoes, clothing and accessories for the avid runner. The shop has been a longtime member of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Chamber of commerce celebrates 60th anniversary

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 24, 2021


STERLING HEIGHTS — As a Stevenson High School graduate who moved to the Sterling Heights area when he was 5 — back when it was Sterling Township — Kevin Hanson considers the region “my community.”

As the co-owner of Hanson’s Running Shop, Hanson also considers the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce part of his community.

He said he opened his first Hanson’s store with his brother along Hall Road in Utica Nov. 4, 1991. He believes that the business joined the chamber right around then, about 30 years ago.

“I think it was right away, as soon as we opened,” he said. “To me, what the chamber represents is all of our community. I think the best thing about the chamber is that it helps unite businesses so that dollars can stay in the community.”

The Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce is celebrating an anniversary of its own this month. It was set to celebrate its 60th anniversary Nov. 18 with food and casino-style games at Penna’s of Sterling in Sterling Heights.

Stacy Ziarko, the chamber’s current president and CEO, said the chamber was officially incorporated Nov. 1, 1961, as the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce. It underwent multiple name changes over the years until it finally was renamed as the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2009. The chamber still technically goes by that name, though it typically omits “and Industry” in everyday speech, she explained.

Ziarko said she has been doing historical research and concluded that the chamber got started after businesses saw a need for it.

“For a couple of years, we were functioning when it was still Sterling Township trying to industrialize,” she said. “As Sterling Heights was becoming a destination, they were bringing businesses with them, and it was trying to connect those businesses to each other and the businesses to the community.”

Ziarko said one of the chamber’s secrets to its longtime success is “solid, consistent leadership.”

She said she is only the fourth main leader, adding that volunteers tended the chamber until 1976, when Lillian “Lil” Adams took the leadership role. Then Wayne Oehmke and later Melanie Davis — the latter is now Sterling Heights’ community relations director — became president/CEO.

Ziarko took over the position in 2019. She said the chamber’s services include networking, business promotion and more. She said the chamber also puts a public face on the business community by participating in community events such as Sterling Heights’ Patios ‘n’ Pints, and the Sterlingfest Art and Music Fair.  

Ziarko added that the chamber today helps businesses as large as Ford and Stellantis, and as small as real estate agents and independent insurance brokers. She explained that it doesn’t just serve the immediate Sterling Heights area; it also serves “all of Macomb County.”

“We have over 1,000 members today, and they make up every type of industry in the community,” she said.

Like Hanson’s Running Shop, some of those members have been involved with the chamber for a long time, Ziarko added. She listed other examples of longstanding members, such as Wm. Sullivan & Son Funeral Directors, Messina Trucking, Serra Whelan Chevrolet, Roger’s Roost and Sterling Car Care.

“We have very, very loyal chamber members,” she said. “Some of them have been with us for 45 or 50 years. Some may have been for all 60. We don’t have data that goes back that far.”

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce by visiting www.shrcci.com or by calling (586) 731-5400. Learn more about Hanson’s Running Shop by visiting hansons-running.com.