The newest executive director of the Malden Chamber of Commerce is a familiar face to many businesses in the area, having filled the same role in Melrose for eight years. Joan Ford Mongeau took over for longtime Malden leader Jenna Coccimiglio in early March, after a two-year hiatus from chamber business that saw her work in fundraising for Hallmark Health, then the YMCA of Metro North. “Malden is a city with a lot of opportunity for business,” Mongeau said of her reasons for taking over the city’s chamber. “There is a lot of development in Malden, opening opportunities for new businesses to move in, and established businesses to grow. Also, I like working with small business owners. These are the people who invest so much in the community in which they work, and I enjoy being a part of their success.”
Mongeau will bring lessons learned in Melrose to her new post.
“I spent eight terrific years at the Melrose Chamber of Commerce,” she said. “I learned many lessons from my time in Melrose. I learned the importance of collaboration—working together as a business community we are much stronger than working independently toward goals. While I always realized the importance of collaboration, I was able to see firsthand the huge impact it has on the success of community. My time in Melrose also strengthened my admiration for the entrepreneurial spirit and incredible drive of the business owner.” Those lessons are applicable to Malden, despite its larger size and greater diversity, Mongeau said. “There are so many similarities. First, I find the Malden business community, just like Melrose, has incredible pride in its city. Many of the businesses here are family owned and run for generations—just as they are in Melrose. And many of the business people either lived here at one time, or are currently residents. Just like Melrose, it is a very warm and welcoming community—a big city with a small town feel. To my great joy, it is a real ‘foodie’ city just like Melrose.” Mongeau said Coccimiglio left the Malden chamber in good shape and under the care of a committed Board of Directors. She does have plans for how to move the city’s business community forward, though.
“My first plan is to increase our membership,” Mongeau said. “There are many businesses in Malden who are ‘not yet’ members, and I want to work with them to highlight the value of chamber membership. I do have other ideas for the chamber as well, but I will need to share them with the board first.”
Lauren Grymek, who took over for Mongeau in Melrose, said her predecessor’s advice was invaluable in learning the ropes. “There’s a lot of nuances, there’s institutional knowledge, there’s a ton of history regarding city politics, relationships, and Joan was very helpful in sharing that,” Grymek said. “I call her my fairy godmother, and she knows this, because I would think of something only she would have the answer to, and instead of racking my brain about it I would just pick up the phone and call Joan.”
The two chambers already work together on many initiatives. “We try to do a lot of multi-chamber events,” said Grymek. “We try to do bigger events that will bring in new members, help members connect.” That close relationship is likely to grow even closer with Mongeau installed across the town line. “There’s this natural relationship that I have with Joan, so I imagine there will be some things we can partner together on,” Grymek said. Mongeau agreed wholeheartedly.
“Doing business locally doesn’t mean we stop at the Malden/Melrose border,” she said. “Both cities offer unique products and services, and together, we can help both communities.”