Andy Layman calls himself an organizational type of person, and his organizational talent has helped him arrive at viable solutions to tackle a couple of problems facing the Venice business community.
A Venice Chamber of Commerce member only since 2006, he immediately formed a Tourism Committee to look into ways to help promote tourism and then to help the tourists while they are here. He decided to head the Chamber because, with over 30 years working in Venice, he feels he can unite the business community through expanding membership in the Venice Chamber of Commerce in promoting the many businesses here.
A longtime resident of Santa Monica, Andy was first involved with the Venice Chamber when he was a loan officer at First Federal Bank of California in the mid 1970s. In 1979, he opened a mortgage business, Layman Financial Services.
During the real estate down cycle of the 1980s, Layman Financial foreclosed on an apartment building, then called The Chaplin, located at 1305 Ocean Front Walk in Venice. Built in 1912, it was originally known as The Potter. Andy recalls that at the time of foreclosure, it was a center of the Venice Beach drug culture.
“It was overrun by gangs and drug dealers,” he says. It also didn’t meet any of the code requirements.
Retiring from the mortgage business in 2000, Andy started fixing up the units with a complete overhaul. Lath and plaster walls were replaced with insulated drywall (but the original brick remains) and new kitchens and bathrooms were installed, and double-pane windows keep the Boardwalk noise out when they are closed.
Now called Venice Beach Suites & Hotel and offering fully-furnished studio suites with ocean views from most units, it caters to tourists, business people needing a short-term rental and family members looking for a place to stay while visiting relatives.
As he began to promote his new business, it occurred to Andy that there were several issues that would help not only him, but other Venice businesses as well.
Ocean Front Walk — the Boardwalk — is considered the largest tourist attraction in Los Angeles County. That is what people know. In reality, the Boardwalk is only part of Venice. There are shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Rose Avenue, the cultural area around Venice Boulevard and Electric Avenue, plus other places of interest such as the Venice Canals and walkstreets unique to Venice.
The vendors on Ocean Front Walk are inundated with questions from people from out of the area.
So, what is the best way to get this information to our visitors? As most of us know, just having a good idea only plants the seed when dealing with Los Angeles agencies.
If viable, it has to go through a process and approvals. So, Andy has Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is to set up a Visitors Information Booth at Ocean Front Walk and Windward Avenue.
If that doesn’t come to fruition, Plan B is to take over the area currently used for storage in the Department of Recreation and Parks’ Muscle Beach office at 1800 Ocean Front Walk south of Windward.
One way or the other, Andy is determined to have an area set aside to serve the tourists.
“It’s for everyone in Venice to promote their business and get people to spend their money here,” he says.
The second issue is to interconnect the local beach cities by creating a beach-oriented shuttle system. This is even more important in these times not only because of the lack of parking but also since people are not using their cars as much due to the price of gas.
“A lot of people don’t realize that it takes three buses to get from Venice to Mothers Beach in Marina del Rey,” says Andy. “Most of the buses are east-west-oriented with little continuity north-south.”
Andy has met with regional transportation authorities, including the cities of Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Culver City, plus Los Angeles County. Here the deterrent is money.
“If everyone can get together and pitch in some of their Prop A and B public transportation funds from preceding years, then it’s something that could happen,” he says. “Public transportation is the key to any community.”
As new president of the Venice Chamber, Andy’s number one goal is to get the Venice business community united.
He has had strong experience in leadership as president of the Santa Monica Board of Realtors in 1988 and president of the Beverly Hills Greater Los Angeles Board of Realtors in 1998.
“Right now Venice is Venice and there are factions all over the place,” he says. “If we can all work together it will be beneficial for everybody.”
Power is in numbers and he is looking to increase membership in order to present a strong united front when representing businesses on issues that affect them. Membership will also enable business-to-business referrals.
“Businesses will refer to Chamber members because that is what this is about,” he says.
When most people think of a business, they tend to think of a commercial or industrial enterprise. Venice is so much more than that.
When Robert Feist, owner of Ravenswork Studio, was president of the Chamber in 2005-2006, his goal was to create a Venice Media District comprised of companies with low profile jobs but with high profile work such as casting, directorial offices, production, editorial, music, sound design, acting, special effects, graphic design and photography. He was successful and the Venice Media District is a go-to group for referrals.
The slogan of the Venice Chamber is “Venice the Creative Soul of L.A.”
“People come here just to get outside the box,” says Andy. “With everyone working together we can protect the eclectic community we work in, but still unify to promote our businesses.”
To join the Venice Chamber of Commerce, call (310) 822-5425 for a membership application or go to venicechamber.net to download an application.
A membership is an investment in the future of the business community of Venice.