Being part of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce has always been an easy business decision for Bill Hemming, owner of Walters & Hemming Plumbing and Heating in downtown Traverse City. The business, founded by his grandfather Charles Hemming in 1926 after he returned from World War I, has been part of the Chamber since the initial membership records from the organization which date to 1935.
“It’s just something we’ve always been a part of,” Hemming said. “We use it in our advertising and other things….it puts our name out there having been a member for that long. It’s important to us.”
Walters & Hemming is part of a handful of active Chamber members who’ve been part of the organization from the first membership roster that dates to January 1, 1935. The others are the downtown Traverse City pharmacy Petertyl Drug, Oleson’s Food Stores and DTE Energy, formerly known at the Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. Other active members that joined the Chamber later that year included Votruba Leather Goods in downtown Traverse City, and a pair of local auto dealerships presently owned by the Bill Marsh Auto Group and Fox Motors.
Hemming takes pride in the company’s long history with the Chamber – and with its history in general. His office at the West Front Street location – once the site of a Nash Rambler auto dealership in Traverse City – is filled with historic artifacts from his grandfather, as well as his father who served in World War II. Hung on the wall is a telegram dated January 4, 1919, informing the family of Charles Hemming that a previous telegram sent in October 1918 that said Mr. Hemming had been killed in action had been in error; he was alive and recovering in a French hospital.
Bill’s office also includes pieces of “trench art” that his grandfather crafted during his time in the war to pass the hours spent waiting to make their next move in the trench warfare of the Great War. There are numerous other items he’s kept from both his father’s and grandfather’s military service.
The office is also a testament to Bill’s love of sports. A life-long fan of the Detroit Tigers, Bill has seats from now-demolished Tiger Stadium along an office wall. There are autographs from golfing legends Arnold Palmer and Walter Hagen, and a program from the 1973 Kentucky Derby won by legendary super horse Secretariat, who would go on to win horse racing’s Triple Crown.
Bill’s knowledge and appreciation of the community’s history is part of his connection to the Chamber, which dates to 1915. He doesn’t attend as many events like Business After Hours as he used to. But he does take advantage of member benefits including the workers compensation insurance discount from Accident Fund of Michigan. He also follows Chamber activities through the weekly Bulletin and particularly monitors the Chamber’s business advocacy efforts locally, in Lansing and beyond.
“I pay attention to what’s going on,” he said. “I know (the Chamber does) a lot of things for us in the business community that are important to what we do.”
Today, Walters & Hemming continues to serve the community much like it’s always done. It provides plumbing, heating, HVAC and related services across the region, and does extensive walk-in business for the many “do-it-yourself” customers it serves. The company’s long history remains entwined with its ongoing success; Hemming said many of its customers are the children and grand-children of local families served by his grandfather, father and uncles before him.
The Chamber is grateful for the support of its membership, especially for the area businesses who’ve been part of the organization for multiple decades and generations. The history of these companies and the Chamber have built the foundation for the success the region enjoys today. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership or know of a business that should be part of the organization, contact Executive Director Max Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org