Wishnick Retires, Closing a Chamber Era
Residents and visitors alike enjoyed stopping off at the Chamber of Commerce office on Antioch Street to visit Executive Director Arnie Wishnick. He always had a kind word, an interesting tidbit of news and if you had a dog, a nice treat for your pet.
After serving in his position since 1993, Wishnick told the Chamber board of directors last fall that he wanted to retire after Caruso’s Palisades Village opens this September 22.
“I told them I thought they should bring in someone younger, bring in someone with new ideas,” Wishnick, 75, told Circling the News.
His idea came to fruition on August 8, when the Chamber announced it was hiring Bob Benton, 71, as Arnie’s replacement, starting September 1.
“Bob is a good guy,” Wishnick said. “We’ve been friends for decades.”
Benton, who formerly owned and operated Benton’s Sport Shop on Swarthmore Avenue, has more than 35 years of business experience in Pacific Palisades. He served as Chamber president in 1986-87.
When the Chamber board started its search for a new executive director, it hired a consultant, Holly Cole. In addition to vetting candidates, she helped the Chamber reorganize, which included overseeing policies, procedures and methods by which the Chamber operates.
The job was posted on an online employment service and members were asked for personal recommendations.
Circling the News learned that more than 50 people applied, and many were interviewed. Chamber President Susan Payne, a realtor with RE/MAX Estate Properties, wrote in an August 15 email, “We had a lot of applications, but most of them having no qualifications.”
Benton, and longtime resident of Pacific Palisades, was voted in by the board. His title will be president, and Payne will become chairman (succeeded in January by local architect Richard Blumenberg).
“We are fortunate to have Bob in our own backyard and willing to take on the position,” Payne wrote to Circling the News. “Our Directors are thrilled. Bob’s knowledge of the business environment and his dedication to the Palisades will be a big asset as we refocus the Chamber’s purpose toward being in business for business.”
Wishnick will continue as a community ambassador for the Chamber, while also serving as co-president of the Palisades Optimist Club (with Rich Wilken) starting October. Meanwhile, he and Gavin MacLeod are producing “BARK! The Musical” for Theatre Palisades, opening August 31 at the Pierson Playhouse.
When Caruso announced on August 7 that a Chanel store will be coming to Palisades Village, Payne was asked if the Chamber has been giving input to Caruso about the kind of stores that Palisades residents would like to see at the new shopping center.
Payne replied on August 15, “Caruso reached out to the entire community, including Chamber Directors and Members, during their initial outreach process. With Rick Lemmo as a Board Member, we share our opinions and input regularly.”
In other Chamber news, congratulations to treasurer and past Chamber president Nicole Howard, a realtor with Pacific Union International. This spring, she negotiated the purchase of a $4.5 million home in the Palisades Bluffs neighborhood for Justin Caruso, a recent USC graduate and son of Rick and Tina Caruso. The listing agent was Dan Urbach.