Nathan L.

Reorganization efforts that helped double gift shop sales and restore

the Visitor's Center management contact were featured at Wednesday's

open house at the Baker County Chamber of Commerce.

Executive Director Debi Bainter said the Chamber is wrapping up a

successful autumn of changes highlighted at the open house, when

visitors and chamber members toured the relocated gift shop and a new

business conference center, and saw other changes.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also stopped by to visit.

Planning is also under way for the Jan. 17 Chamber awards banquet,

which honors Oregon's Sesquicentennial (150th birthday) with a Western

pioneering heritage theme of "Happy Trails."

Bainter said the Chamber is looking for businesses wishing to a table

for the banquet. Table decorating takes place Friday Jan. 16 from 4

p.m. to 8 p.m., or Saturday Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The awards banquet begins with a social hour at 5 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Monday at the Chamber, 480 Campbell St., and cost $25.

Bainter said silent auction items will be on display during the social hour.

For more information about table decorating or awards banquet tickets call the Chamber at 523-5855.

Bainter said several changes have taken place at the Chamber since Oct. 1, when the Baker County Marketing Committee approved a new $70,000 per year contract to manage the Visitors Center.

During the spring and summer, the Baker County Marketing Committee took over management of the Visitors Center, but continued to house it in space rented in the Chamber building on Campbell Street.

Now that management of the Visitors Center has been restored to the Chamber staff, Bainter said space inside the building has been realigned to improve service to visitors, gift shop customers and chamber members and their businesses.

Brochures, maps and other information on area attractions and recreational opportunities, sightseeing, shopping, restaurant and entertainment are still clustered around the front entrance, but the gift shop has been moved from the far end of the building to a room at the back, on the Campbell Street side of the building.

With the opening to the gift shop right off the Visitors Center, Bainter said gift shop sales have doubled.

"It's much more convenient. When people are browsing through the brochures and things in the Visitors Center, they walk into the gift shop and wind up picking something off the shelves that they're interested in," Bainter said.

When the gift shop was on the far end of the building, Bainter said it was out of sight, out of mind.

"We're getting lots of calls from people wanting information about what they call the "Made in Baker" gift shop," which Bainter said is actually the Chamber gift shop.

While the gift shop does carry a good selection of "Made in Baker" items ranging from art work to woodwork, clothing, toys, stuffed animals and mementoes of Baker-area events, Bainter said it is for any chamber members who want to consign items for sale or display items.

Other changes include the addition of a business meeting room complete with a telephone capable of handling conference calls, Bainter said. The conference room is the former site of the gift shop. Bainter's office was moved from upstairs to a room adjacent to the new conference room.

The upstairs is now used for storage, but Bainter said her goal is to convert at least part of the second floor into office space for incubator businesses while they're seeking to get started in Baker County.

On the outside, changes include the recently completed commemorative path, which includes displays with historical information about the towns of Baker County.

Those displays surround the information kiosk. Bainter said the commemorative path project was funded in part through a Ford Foundation matching grant.