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Chamber of Commerce president, Aaron Nelson, bartends to connect with members

Aaron Nelson, President of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, prepares drinks at Town Hall Grill. During the months of September and October, ten Chamber members will hire Nelson to work at their organizations for a day.

A familiar face was behind the bar at the Town Hall Grill in Southern Village Tuesday night.

Aaron Nelson, the president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, worked a three-hour shift at the bar and restaurant as part of the Chamber for Hire program.

The program was started three years ago as a way for the chamber to reach out to local businesses.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity to find out what small businesses need — how we can help support them,” Nelson said.

During the next two months, Nelson will work for the businesses and organizations of ten chamber members. He will work for a staffing agency, a woman who landscapes outside of businesses and the waste management division of the Carrboro Public Works department.

Nelson started off the night at Town Hall Grill by learning to make a cosmopolitan from bartender Giovanna Petrulli who helped oversee the new hire throughout the night.

Petrulli said Nelson was a fast learner and helped her out more than she had expected.

“It’s cool because he hasn’t gotten in my way, and that’s always a good thing,” she said.

His responsibilities during the shift included mixing drinks as well as waiting and busing tables.

Joel Levy, the owner of Town Hall Grill, said he thought hiring Nelson would be good promotion for the restaurant and would give the CEO a better idea of what businesses like the grill need.

“It can only help him to help us,” he said.

Levy was one of 30 chamber members who applied to participate in the Chamber for Hire program.

The Chamber of Commerce is meant to advance members’ business interests, and Nelson said the 10 participants were chosen with the goal of representing a diverse group of organizations.

Nelson, who graduated from UNC in 1997 and has served as CEO of the chamber since 2001, said he has enjoyed working for businesses and typically works a full eight-hour shift for each one.

He said his hardest job was helping Mellott Trucking and Supply Co., Inc. pave the driveway of the N.C. Botanical Garden.

“We shoveled asphalt and paved the road all day long in 95-degree weather,” he said.

Nelson said he enjoyed starting off this year’s program bartending at Town Hall Grill, which he said has a neighborhood feel.

And he did have one drink specialty up his sleeve.

“I’m really good at a very dirty martini,” he said.

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