By Bill Bruns
Palisades News Adviser
Photos by Bart Bartholomew
Susan Payne, a realtor with RE/MAX Estate Properties, was installed as the new Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce president on Jan. 19, during the organization’s 68th annual dinner at the Riviera Country Club.
Payne, who previously owned Scarlett’s Cupcakes on Via de la Paz, succeeds Adam Glazer (Liberty Mutual Insurance), who served an unprecedented two terms.
Her table guests included her husband, Andrew Wilson (“my business partner, biggest supporter and best advisor”), and her mother, Ruby Ann Payne, who lives in Benton, Tennessee, “a town of about 1,300 with one red light, a Dollar General and Family Dollar Store, a huge gun store and many churches. She loves visiting California but also loves going back to Tennessee.”
Payne thanked Arnie Wishnick, who has been the Chamber’s executive director and “our ambassador of goodwill” the past 24 years; administrative assistant Marilyn Crawford, who has “a file for everything” in the Chamber office; and the 14 members of her incoming board of directors.
“They are all volunteers with busy lives, but continue to make time for their chamber work,” Payne said. “We are a team, working together to serve our business community for the benefit of our members and the whole community.”
Key goals, she said, include “new and effective methods of networking, building business relationships and promoting commerce in the Palisades.”
In his farewell remarks, Glazer thanked, among others, his mother-in-law, Edith Matthai, “who has lived in the Palisades for over 30 years and has been one of my biggest supporters since day one,” and his wife, Leigh, “for supporting me through this incredible journey.”
Former Chamber president Joyce Brunelle (founder of the local solar business, Suntricity), handed out the evening’s first award—for Best New Business—to Fay Vahdani, who founded Luxe Homecare six years ago and a senior transportation business in the Palisades for ambulatory and non-ambulatory clients.
“I’m truly grateful for this recognition,” said Vahdani, who today has offices in the Palisades, Long Beach, Newport Beach and Riverside, and over 100 employees.
Holly Davis, president of the Rotary Club of Pacific Palisades, presented her club’s annual Business Person of the Year Award to Palisades High School alum Scott Wagenseller, who she noted is “a successful entrepreneur with two businesses in town”— Gates Security/ Palisades Patrol and the Palisades News. The Naval Reserve officer also served two years as commander of American Legion Post 283.
Richard Blumenberg (RLB Architecture), the Chamber’s president-elect, handed out the Beautification Award to Elliot Zorensky and Randy Nonberg, owners of Urban Development Organization on La Cruz.
Working with architect Steve Albert and contractor Larry Mallery, UDO converted the former Blue Cross Animal Hospital into a building that “pays homage to the architectural history of the Palisades, while adding some modern design elements,” Blumenberg said.
Seven Arrows Elementary School, the building’s tenant, has transformed the space into a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) center.
The 11th annual Mort Farberow Award, presented to a local businessperson who fights hard for the three C’s—Chamber, Community and Children—went to Greg Wood, the chief business officer at Palisades High and a past Chamber president.
Wood, who received his award from Nicole Howard (Gibson International), said that “the Chamber is a passion of mine . . . and trying to make a difference for students is a passion.”
He noted that PaliHi “is one of the largest employers in the Palisades, and I’ve worked hard to make sure the school connects with the community and the Chamber.”
The connection was exemplified by Pali senior Sophia Eberlein, who sang her original composition, “Palisades,” and received rousing applause.
Sam Lagana, the stadium voice of the Los Angeles Rams, was the evening’s emcee. Other entertainment was provided by UCLA’s 15-member Awaken A Capella group, and a comedy riff by Honorary Mayor Kevin Nealon.