Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Worcester Chamber in Ocean Pines sticking to name change despite continued backlash

Controversy surrounding the Ocean Pines Association’s decision to cut ties with the Worcester Chamber of Commerce in Ocean Pines, formerly the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce, was recently rehashed.

Chamber logo
Courtesy Worcester County Chamber of Commerce in Ocean Pines via Facebook

By Tara Fischer, Staff Writer 

The controversy surrounding the Ocean Pines Association’s decision to cut ties with the Worcester Chamber of Commerce in Ocean Pines, formerly the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce, was rehashed as the community prepared to host the OPA Season Kickoff Expo. 

The mission of a chamber of commerce is to advocate for the businesses within a community. Companies that are part of these organizations have access to perks like mentorships, information on relevant legislative issues and marketing trends, discounts, referrals, etc. As nonprofits, these groups receive financial support from sponsorships. 

Ocean Downs Casino, Carousel Oceanfront Resort, Krause Companies, and Gateway Subaru are a few of the Worcester County group’s corporate sponsors. The chamber also has partnerships with 47 ABC and CQI Associates. 

The WCCC was established in 1975, and Ocean Pines acted as a benefactor until January of this year. The OPA cut ties after the group placed less emphasis on the residential community in its official new title and instead encompassed a larger area. The name was changed from the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce to the Worcester County Chamber of Commerce in Ocean Pines. 

“Ocean Pines is a unique portion of the county because it is not a municipality…and businesses are not inside of Ocean Pines,” chamber president Kerrie Bunting said. “To encourage businesses to supply services and products to residents and visitors of Ocean Pines, we have to go outside of Ocean Pines. We have to solicit services from our entire region.”  

Bunting also noted that the group is sometimes mistaken for the Homeowners Association and hopes that adjusting their name will alleviate confusion. The Articles of Amendment were submitted in November to change the title. When the president and her team learned that OPA residents and personnel believed them to be turning their back on the neighborhood, they added “in Ocean Pines” to the official label. 

OPA leaders remained dissatisfied with the modification and decided to terminate their sponsorship. Bunting said she was notified of the partnership dissolution in early January via an email from Ocean Pines Public Relations and Marketing Director Josh Davis. 

“We did not feel that the name change adequately captured the relationship and the history between the chamber and Ocean Pines,” OPA General Manager John Viola said. “OPA leadership had multiple discussions with chamber leadership and asked them to reconsider the change. OPA cut ties when those discussions did not yield any progress.” 

Ocean Pines was a corporate sponsor of the chamber before the split. Bunting said that the community would give a certain amount of money to the nonprofit and in return it got benefits associated with membership. WCCC promoted its events, amenities and news. OPA also had an ad in the business directory. 

The chamber president maintained that the branding switch was the right choice. 

“This community has far outgrown anyone’s imagination from 1975,” she said. “If you don’t evolve, you become stagnant and useless to anyone. We are proud of our successes and look forward to further growth and the ability to serve our community better.”

Conversations about the terminated partnership circulated on the Ocean Pines Forum as the neighborhood geared up for last weekend’s Season Kickoff Expo, designed to showcase the community’s amenities, clubs, committees, and businesses. 

Bunting said the chamber has hosted a similar event since 2020 but opted against it this year once notified of the Ocean Pines function and hoped to work with the neighborhood’s team of volunteers. However, the president was told that OPA strictly conducted the kickoff and that the chamber would not be directly involved. Instead, the chamber paid a fee to be an exhibitor at the expo, where they secured five new partners. 

“I work in Salisbury and have clients throughout the area,” resident Beverly Bromley added to the forum on April 18. “The Worcester County Chamber provides relevant and helpful information that affects businesses all over Worcester and neighboring counties. Most businesses are members of multiple chambers…its footprint covers much more than Ocean Pines and is a great tool for business networking.” 

Brandon Carroll, co-owner of Ocean Pines Handyman, expressed similar sentiments on the forum, arguing that dropping Ocean Pines from the name does not mean the chamber no longer supports the community’s businesses. 

Founder and moderator of the forum, Joe Reynolds, supports the association’s decision to end the collaboration, writing that the chamber “deserted its name, roots, and integrity.” 

Bunting claimed that since the separation, the chamber has garnered more attention and partners and is more significant than ever. 

“Unfortunately, the OPA has decided to dissolve our longstanding partnership,” she said. “However, our chamber was started here and will stay here, and we continue to support this community no matter what.”

This story appears in the April 25, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.