From left, Mill Valley Chamber Co-Director Jim Welte, Mill Valley Refuse Managing Partner Jim Iavarone and Grilly’s Owner Jim Revoir, co-recipients of the 2019 Spirit of Marin Award, engage in a friendly game of rock, paper, scissors. Photo by Richard Wheeler courtesy Bank of Marin.

Guest Editorial by Mike Son, Bank of Marin and MV Chamber Board Chair

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the completion of the City of Mill Valley‘s 18-month, $18 million Miller Avenue Streetscape Project, a massive re-imagining of one of the town’s two main arteries, it’s easy – and appropriate – to focus our attention on just how user-friendly, forward-thinking and downright gorgeous the street is.

But for business owners and residents on and around Miller Avenue, the project was a long haul of headaches, from parking and access disruptions to road closures and the need to remind customers they were open for business and appreciative of the support. Business owners up and down Miller did what they could to mitigate the challenges. Three Mill Valley residents in particular stepped up to lead the way, thinking creatively about the challenges they faced. They will be honored at the 26th Spirit of Marin Awards at Bank of Marin’s 26th Annual Spirit of Marin Awards Luncheon on Friday, September 27 at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael.

Jim Iavarone, a longtime and significant Miller Avenue property owner and managing partner of Mill Valley Refuse Service, went the extra mile to provide his tenants a much-appreciated break on monthly rent to account for the project’s impact on their business. He also served as a liaison with the City in terms of the project’s impact on regular garbage and recycling pickups. At a broader level, Iavarone continues to champion “Zero Waste” initiatives at a wide range of Mill Valley events, including the annual Winterfest in December and the Chamber’s Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tasting in June.
Jim Revoir, owner of Grilly’s restaurant and one of the most respected and influential business leaders in Mill Valley, saw the project as one of the biggest challenges his business faced since he founded it 25 years ago. He provided a laser-like analysis of the impact on Miller businesses to both City officials and Chamber staff, and he successfully lobbied for local business tax adjustments and fought to preserve strategic parking for employees and customers. 
Jim Welte, the third Jim, serves as the Director of Membership and Community Engagement for the Mill Valley Chamber, and also was the communications specialist for the City of Mill Valley, a pair of roles that placed him in a unique position to communicate “the road ahead,” so to speak, to business owners about what project-related challenges were on the horizon. He relentlessly encouraged residents to shop, dine and support Miller Avenue businesses, kept the community informed and ensured business voices were heard in City Hall.

Welte also gave early feedback to project managers about unintended consequences of their upcoming construction plan, and spearheaded the Chamber’s “Snack, Sip & Shop” event series designed to get residents to support Miller businesses. He also was among the organizers the Millerfest celebration in November 2017 to mark the completion of the project.