'The heartbeat of the business community': A Destin staple celebrates 50 years

Savannah Vasquez
Employees of the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce from left; Elizabeth Spies, Dena Critch, Shane Moody, Reanna Cairns and Bryce Trafford.

After half a century of service, The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce is celebrating it’s longevity throughout the entire year of 2016.

Looking back

Destin is a relatively young city at 30 years old, but the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce has been around since 1966. On April 26 of that year, 17 locals gathered at the Destin Community Center with the sole purpose of uniting the business people of the area.

The minutes from that inaugural meeting reflect that there were 95 Destin businesses in existence at the time — not including the charter boats — a far cry from the 1,000s of local businesses in Destin today.

When asked the importance of the 50 year milestone, Destin Area Chamber of Commerce President Shane Moody said that the chamber’s endurance is a reflection not only of a healthy economy but more than that, a healthy community.

“I think the significance of the chamber being here for 50 years, being the heartbeat of the business community, you have to look at how many businesses actually survive a full 50 years,” said Moody. “When you realize how few that is in comparison to the number of businesses that have opened; for the chamber to exist for 50 years shows the commitment that the business community and the volunteer leadership have made to the organization. We’ve been able to provide products and services and benefits to businesses over that full 50 years.”


Since taking the reigns as president 13 years ago, Moody said the largest success for the chamber during the past decade involved overcoming hurdles with the help of the community.

“The biggest success we had was when the economy crashed and then the oil spill happened, we were able to overcome that,” he said. “The way the community rallied together and we were prepared for the bounce back after that, I think that’s what got us back to our second highest number of members we’ve ever had last year.”

Moody said technology also helped pave the way to a new form of success for the Chamber in most recent years.

“One of the big things that has changed is how technology has allowed us to do more for our businesses than ever before,” he said. “We can promote our businesses online 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and use social media to get messages out. It’s a more efficient way of communication and as rapidly as communication tools change it’s always a learning process for us.”

The future

Looking forward, Moody said the upcoming 50 years look as promising as the first.

“Florida’s Chamber of Commerce celebrates 100 years this year and I have no doubt that in 50 years Destin will be celebrating 100 years,” he said. “The big thing I’m looking forward to this year is the big party in September. I think the fun part will be building in components of ‘50 Years Strong’ into everything we do.”

The chamber plans to hold a birthday party in September but will kick off this commemorative year with it’s Annual Awards & Installation Banquet to be held Jan. 15 at the Emerald Grande at 6 p.m.

“We have some surprises,” Vice President Elizabeth Spies said of the banquet. “We will reveal the new logo, welcome new members and recognize two members who have been members since the very beginning. We are also going to have a video showing a short history of the chamber, and Sam Seevers with Life’s a Beach has compiled a collection of note cards with photos from 1966 and some nice pieces with our new logo.”

For more information about the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce, see or call 837-6241.