Bradford business

Starke agencies find a new home in an old bank


Members of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce and other dignitaries pose for pictures Wednesday outside the historic Bradford County Bank building, the chamber's new location on Call Street in downtown Starke.

Photos by MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 11:16 p.m.
For the first time, almost everything you'd want - or need - to know about doing business in or moving to Bradford County is housed under one roof.
The North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday moved out of an office building on Walnut Street into the refurbished historic Bradford County Bank building on 100 E. Call St.
State politicians, city officials, chamber members and a handful of residents participated in the ceremonial grand opening with short speeches and a table full of food.
Other agencies sharing space in the building are the Bradford County Economic Development Council, Bradford County Film Commission, Bradford County Welcome Center and the Bradford County Tourist Development Council.
On hand for the event were state Reps. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, Ed Jennings, D-Gainesville and Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, as well as state Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, Starke Mayor Carolyn Spooner and Police Chief Gordon Smith. Outgoing Chamber president Jeff Moody and incoming president Linda Tatum also spoke briefly.
The two-story Ocala brick bank building, built in 1914, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been vacant for more than four years. After the bank moved a number of years ago, the structure housed a jewelry store and a mortgage company. The massive vault is still in the center of the main floor.
Inmates from the New River Correctional Institution spent a month renovating and painting the interior in preparation for the move. Prisoners also built the huge wooden doors at the entrance, according to speakers at the event.
There is a conference room upstairs available to members and offices - formerly teller stations - downstairs. The chamber is in the process of purchasing the building from Robert Blauer of Ocala for $185,000, said Ron Lilly, CEO of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The celebration also noted the incorporation of Main Street Starke Inc., part of the national Main Street Program - a comprehensive approach to commercial district revitalization that combines historic preservation and economic development to restore prosperity and vitality in downtowns and neighborhood business districts.
The North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce is barely two years old, but already has more than 600 members in Bradford, Union and southwest Clay Counties, according to Kim Skidmore, special events coordinator for the chamber. The communities of Melrose and Hawthorne are likewise represented. There are satellite chamber offices in Keystone Heights and Lake Butler.

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