Russ Friedrich, General Manager of Shaker Auto Lease, a business of Warrensville Heights since 1963, is retiring April 1st this year. He’s a member who has given so much to the chamber the past years. He served as the President of the chamber for four years in the mid 90’s, Vice President for four terms and currently, he’s the Vice Chair for the board and the Advocacy committee chair.
I sat down with Russ at his office and asked him questions about his chamber involvement and his plans for retirement. Upon visiting their office, I immediately noticed the Partnership Circle Award from WHACC prominently displayed in front by their reception desk. In Russ’ office, Shaker Auto Lease’s membership and service award plaque from the chamber were on his desk. His years of involvement with WHACC were apparent with the celebratory ornaments all over their office. As someone who just recently started in the business world and in the chamber, It was so humbling to learn how much work has been put into making this chamber what it is today.
We started at the beginning:
How did you first learn about the chamber?
When I first joined Shaker Auto Lease, Stan Davis, the founder said to me, “You have to be involved in something if you’ll be part of our company.” At the time, I was active with the North Ridgeville Chamber of Commerce. That’s why I decided to get involved with the Warrensville Heights Chamber of Commerce right away when I was hired and within the year, I was on the board — serving both chambers at the same time.
What has the involvement done for you?
It’s a good community, a good network and good for business. Our business is part of this community and you make this community stronger by being involved with the Chamber. A strong community is an asset to your business.
What was your first ever chamber event?
I remember my first meetings. They were at Old Holiday Inn at North Randall. It was quite a hotel during its day, it was the second largest convention center in Cleveland.
What do you consider as the highlights of your involvement with the chamber?
Being on the chamber for so long, we rode through some tough times. Right before I took over presidency, it almost closed. We actually considered closing down the chamber. Fran Reimer took over as President as long as I served as her Vice President and we said we’d make a concerted effort to rebuild it. Within that first year, we got into benefits for chamber members and that just expanded and helped finance our chamber. And we survived.
What has changed from your years of being a WHACC member?
I would say the dynamics of the community. Warrensville Heights, North Randall and Highland Hills are more in collaboration now than before. The communities are getting stronger and more united.
What are your plans for retirement?
I’m selling my house and we have another house in Vegas so we’re moving there. I’m an avid motorcycle rider so I plan to take some trips there and to California.
Happy retirement, Russ! Join us in celebrating his years of service and involvement for WHACC at our March after hours!