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2018-02-07 / News

Remembering Roger

Roger Habeck, founder of the Chesterfield Chamber, dies at 77
BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER


Roger Habeck, pictured here on Capitol Square in 2015, was a well-regarded businessman who gave voice to Chesterfield’s small business community. 
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALYSON L. TAYLOR-WHITE Roger Habeck, pictured here on Capitol Square in 2015, was a well-regarded businessman who gave voice to Chesterfield’s small business community. PHOTO COURTESY OF ALYSON L. TAYLOR-WHITE A decade after the fact, R.M. “Dickie” King Jr. still keeps a T-shirt memento from his friend Roger Habeck’s unsuccessful run for state Senate: “Who the heck is Habeck?” it reads.

For King, it’s an example of Habeck’s dry sense of humor; in fitting tribute, King wears the shirt while cleaning fish.

In a career that included owning a publishing firm, working as a business consultant and his lost political bid, Habeck is perhaps best known for founding the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Chesterfield Chamber.

In the late 1990s, the Greater Richmond Chamber’s Chesterfield Business Council already existed, but in the view of Habeck, it catered too much to large corporations.


Among Habeck’s ventures was the Chesterfield Journal, a publication covering the county in the 1980s. Among Habeck’s ventures was the Chesterfield Journal, a publication covering the county in the 1980s. “Roger was adamant we needed something for small businesses,” says King, president and owner of King’s Korner Catering and Restaurant, and a former Bermuda District supervisor and chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

In 1999, the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce held its first meeting in the King’s Korner banquet hall, where it would reside for its first three years of operation. The chamber in those days comprised roughly 20 members.

The county government wasn’t initially responsive to the rival chamber, King recalls, with one government official saying there was no need for it.

“Roger wouldn’t hear of that. He stayed the course,” King says. “The county, after a few years, became receptive of us, once they determined we were a legitimate organization.”

The 20 or so members would grow into the chamber’s current roster of 630, and weigh in on important county issues such as ordinances for business signs and hotel occupancy and meals taxes.

A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Habeck came to Chesterfield after serving in the Army and living in Roanoke.

Habeck founded First Impressions, a publishing and printing firm that published the Virginia Review Directory of State and Local Government Officials, an annual index that included contact information for every government official in the state. He also published the Virginia Review, a bimonthly magazine that covered cities, towns and counties around the state, and the Chesterfield Journal, alternately a weekly newspaper, monthly and bimonthly magazine.

“He was an entrepreneur,” King says. “He was a self-made man, and when he got something in his head, it just stayed there.”

It was through work that Habeck met his second wife, Alyson L. Taylor-White, a freelance writer and editor.

“He was very charming and gregarious and funny,” says Taylor-White. “Very self-assured. A confidence that inspired others to be confident.”

Habeck would serve as president of the chamber for its first five years.

“Mr. Habeck and others had the foresight to advocate directly for the Chesterfield business community and those efforts have continued for nearly 20 years,” says Danielle Fitz-Hugh, current president and CEO of the chamber. “Our business community is stronger because of the work he did.”

Taylor-White, who now teaches Richmond history and culture at the University of Richmond, and recently published a history book about Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery, agrees.

“His impact on the business community was enormous,” she says. “He just loved helping people in general improve their own business skills and acumen.”

One person he helped was Bob Schrum, a longtime friend and former owner of the Flagstop Car Wash chain in the county. Habeck came up with the name and logo for Schrum’s Box Mini Storage in Chester. A Home Depot is now located there.

“Roger really was a champion for small business, and wanted to be an unbiased voice for businesses,” Schrum says. “He created quite a name for himself.”

In 2007, Habeck launched his unsuccessful run against state Sen. Stephen Martin for the 11th district, an office now occupied by Sen. Amanda Chase.

Habeck also believed in giving back, helping raise money for families through the Chesterfield County Police Foundation, and volunteering at the county jail this past year. Sheriff Karl Leonard says Habeck was a natural, coming in once a week to teach inmates about financial literacy and building budgets.

“He was very well received by all of the inmates,” Leonard says. “They looked forward to him coming in. You could see their growth.”

Habeck is survived by Taylor-White, a brother and two sisters, two children from a previous marriage and four grandchildren.

“He’s a very caring individual, and he would do anything for anybody, but not for the glory or the recognition,” Leonard says. “He does leave a hole in this community with his departure.

“Roger will be sorely missed.” ¦

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