n the temporary tent city created every year at Crandon Park for Sony Open Tennis, one small canvas pop-up represents an entire community, serving as a gateway to an array of opportunities on Key Biscayne.
The Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce is all at once a bevy of information, tourist attraction, friendly meeting place and local fixture on a tennis campus that is promotes businesses nearly as much as sport.
Michele Estevez, past president, chairperson and current advisor for the Chamber summed-up the multi-purpose agenda of the makeshift temporary Chamber office located near the Grandstand on the south corner of the tournament site.
“We are the ambassadors,” Estaevez said, explaining the purpose of the tent in simple terms. “We’re there every year to make people aware that there is a Village they can visit while they are attending the tennis, because a lot of people don’t know.
“We promote our local business, we promote the island, we give people a little bit of history about Key Biscayne, she said. “What we do at the tennis is a lot of work, but a lot of fun, because we are helping people and helping the community.”
While most of the tents at the Sony are enticing you to spend money, the Key Biscayne Chamber tent offers giveaways just for the sake of fun.
It’s common to see kids making return trips to the tent to grab a piece of free candy purposely place in a bowl to draw fans to the entrance of the booth. There is a video that plays on a loop at the tent that is narrated by actor and Key Biscayne resident Andy Garcia that highlighting attributes of the Island Paradise. Visitors can also grab a free copy of The Islander News at the booth and try their luck spinning a prize wheel giving them a chance to win a variety of gifts.
“We have the big wheel and people spin the wheel and land on different prizes, like everything from a small pen to write with to like a night of The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne for example,” Estevez said.
A host of Key residents help with the effort, working long hours making sure there is always a friendly face to greet people passing by realizing you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Former Key Biscayne Chamber Chair and current Secretary Karen Lllorente has helped promote businesses and activities on the Key for years.
“It’s a wonderful experience and we meet people from all over, and we try and every year to get people to come back and visit Key Biscayne.
“There are people who want to do kayaking, for example, they come for the whole day and don’t want to stay on-site the whole time. We tell them where they can go eat or how to use the shuttle service to get into the Village to find a restaurant.
“Last year we got people to go visit the Lighthouse and they didn’t know we had a light house here. We send people to go rent bikes and explore. I would say 50 to 60 percent of the people who come to the Sony don’t even realize anything exist beyond the tennis here.”
Tatiana Lora, area communications manager The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, appreciates the support they receive from the Chamber during the Sony and throughout the year.
“It’s very important to have the partnership and have their support we work together,” Lora said. “We’re here for one common goal: to work together to promote the island of Key Biscayne and welcome locals as well as tourist.”
Sailboards Miami Vice President, Karen Deleon, is also appreciative of the cross-promoting done by the Chambers to help locals boast businesses during this busy time of year.
“I’m a full believer in community partnership with the Chamber and other local businesses” Deleon said. “We all need each other.
“I feel happy to refer people to other businesses as well. I so appreciate the Chamber is there speaking on my behalf, and locals will go to the tournament and use me during another time of year.
“I’m all for events that help the community,” she said. “I’m so glad its here it puts Key Biscayne on the map in a beautiful way.”