The new director of the Boonville Area Chamber of Commerce is a familiar face around the old Katy Depot.

Karen Esser was recently named the chamber’s director, but she’s been doing the job since previous director Laura Wax moved to the Friends of Historic Boonville in July. She’s the only employee in the office at the moment, though she’s had a lot of help from volunteers over the past few months, she said.

Esser first worked at the chamber in 2011 and 2012. She left for other positions, but told everyone to let her know if the position came open in the future. It did, she applied, and she’s been working there as a chamber associate since 2016.

The new chamber board hasn’t been elected yet. Esser and the current chamber board hope to announce her replacement as chamber associate by the end of the month, board President Vickie Zeler said in a news release. For now, her main focus has been building relationships with other chambers and developing ideas to bring more people into Boonville.

Esser invited about 25 area chambers to a summit at Warm Springs Ranch. Being in the heart of festival season, only five chambers were able to send a representative to the Clydesdale tour. Still, it brought several chambers together to meet and share ideas, and Esser is planning another gathering in April, which shouldn’t conflict with as many schedules.

“That was the whole reason to meet was, let’s share some ideas,” Esser said.

Her main goal is just to bring people into town, especially downtown. The people of Boonville sell the city by themselves, she said. She’s worked with groups to help organize day or weekend trips into Boonville, including the recent Orscheln Farm and Home annual meeting. She’s working on other events, too, but they weren’t quite ready to be publicly announced, she said.

“At one point in time, Highway 40 and Main Street were the same, so everything came right through the center of Boonville,” Esser said. “It’s not that way anymore, so we’re trying to find ways to bring people into the city.”

Recently, the city put mums and pumpkins along Main Street, with the chamber paying for the pumpkins. It was a small thing, but people have enjoyed it and have been telling her about it, Esser said. A grant or volunteers could help regularly spruce up downtown which could be good for business, Esser suggested.

She’s also working to improve the community events calendar she emails out weekly. She finds a lot of events by searching the internet and pulling together what information she can find. But she’d like more groups to send their events in so she can get the word out, she said.

bcrowley@gatehousemedia.com