Chamber, community, end year with 'BASH'

By Joel Hall


The ties and dress shoes came off as members of the local business community gathered at Pin Strikes Entertainment Center in Stockbridge for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's final BASH (Business and Social Hour) of the year.

On Wednesday, Chamber members and local business leaders left their boardrooms behind to converse over bowling, laser tag, and video games.

Yulonda Beauford, chamber president and CEO, said the event serves the dual purpose of introducing people to other businesses in the community and allowing people to network in a relaxed setting.

"This event is always our last event of the year, and it's just a good way to end the year," said Beauford. "This, for me, is one of the most relaxing programs we do. There is no formal programming ... you get to see everybody in a good light, having a good time."

From 5 p.m., to 7 p.m., many people who were experiencing Pin Strikes for the first time, treated themselves to a myriad of games, while enjoying food catered by the entertainment center. David Ballenberg, general manager of Pin Strikes, said events like the Chamber BASH have helped grow his business.

"February 2007 was the last Chamber BASH [hosted by Pin Strikes], just after we opened," said Ballenberg. "It introduces a lot of people to the business, who may have not been here before.

"It's been a little bit better than our expectations," he added, referring to the growth of the business. "It's almost recession proof."

Jessica Kinard, manager of events and programs for the chamber, said the Chamber BASH offers people, who are interested in chamber programs, more opportunities to be involved.

"Some people can't make the Early Bird Breakfasts or the lunches, but they can do this," said Kinard. "We use the BASH as an opportunity for our different members to host an event at their business. That way, people will get to tour their business and see what they have to offer the community."

Tom Mertl, vice president of Leisure Lines, Inc., -- a playground supplies and equipment company, and the BASH's presenting sponsor -- said the event shows people what is available in Clayton County.

"We do it because it supports the chamber," said Mertl. "From a business standpoint, it keeps our name out in the public. We sell throughout the Southeast. If we could do this in every town, it would be really helpful. It allows people to understand more of the businesses in the community, and what they have to offer."