Allerton Intern’l Merchants Assoc. selects new president

(l-r) Gene DeFrancis, AIM founder; NYPD Chief of Community Affairs Nilda Irizarry Hofmann and Varahn Chamblee, AIM president.
Photo courtesy of Gene De Francis

On Thursday, February 8, Varahn Chamblee was named the new president of the Allerton International Merchants Association.

The announcement was made during the 49th Precinct Clergy Council’s Holiday Fellowship Dinner at The Sanz Banquet Hall.

AIM also added new officers Larry Mauriello, vice president, Veronica Castro, secretary and Christine Ryall, sergeant at arms.

“I’m excited and I look forward to working with the merchants on Allerton Avenue,” said Chamblee.

Though she was born and raised in Brooklyn, Chamblee has called the Bronx her permanent home since 1999, initially living on Grace Avenue.

“I couldn’t live in a better area than Allerton,” added Chamblee. “This community is so accepting and I want to help highlight the area to bring more business to the area.”

Chamblee, who is a licensed cosmetologist by trade, explained her passion for civic engagement started to develop over years of working as a hair stylist and forming community relationships with her clients.

However, her formal announcement to begin pursuing more civic and politically minded endeavors was made last year when she was honored at the Bronx Chamber of Commerce’s Black History Month celebration.

President of AIM is one of the many positions and memberships she currently holds.

Chamblee’s community resume includes being a membership recruiter for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, the vice chair of the Bronx 11 Neighborhood Advisory Board, and a member of the National Council of Negro Women to name a few.

Some of her personal achievements include working as a hair stylist at the NBC Studios for the Spike Lee directed ‘Malcolm X’ movie and for the movie ‘Crooklyn.’

She is planning many changes as the new merchant leader, including the introduction of artwork on Allerton Avenue by Bronx-based artists and helping the local merchants improve their advertisement strategies, while also increasing their reach.

“I want them to know that I’m here to represent them,” explained Chamblee.

Chamblee has also said she wants to explore the possibility of repurposing unrented store fronts as popup shops to help build business interests for local merchants and others in the Bronx.

Founder of the AIM, Gene DeFrancis said he has the utmost confidence in Varahn’s abilities and is excited for what she will bring to the team.

“What I told Varahn was to rely on the team and listen to the community because communication is our main focus,” said DeFrancis, who explained the overall message of the organization is not about the president, but about the community.

“I told Varahn to stay focused on the mission at hand, the baton has passed and it’s your vehicle now.”

The Allerton International Merchants Association was founded in 2013 when DeFrancis saw a need for focus and leadership in the Allerton community.

Today, its focus is not on membership, but about moving the community forward.

“Varahn is a great listener, like I was, and she’s compassionate,” added DeFrancis.

“It’s up to the community to get together, respectfully voice their opinions, and make the changes because at the end of the day it’s their neighborhood and no one else’s.”

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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