The Heart of the Deal
Tommy Cooper brings passion, innovation—and a touch of Sussex County flavor—to his role as chair of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
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Admittedly, Cooper hasn’t always been as involved in the community as he is today. He became a Realtor in 1972 and has owned Cooper Realty since 1984, but it wasn’t until 1990 when then-chamber president John Burris called Cooper and asked him if he would help him expand the DSCC into Sussex County. Cooper joined immediately and over the past 20 years has worked closely with the board of directors to help influence the business environment in the state. As chair, he works directly with the current DSCC president and former chair, James Wolfe, forming a one-two punch that heads Delaware’s largest and oldest business organization.
“If you call yourself a state chamber, then you need representation from all over the state,” Wolfe says. “When we focused on trying to find someone from Sussex to become chair, Tommy’s name just kept coming up. People respect him and know he’s very innovative.”
The presidency of the chamber is a full-time job, complete with salary, but the chair position is an unpaid and very public position performed in addition to the person’s original employment. Despite the obligations of her husband’s new post, Connie Cooper—Tommy’s wife and business partner—said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m proud of Tommy and his involvement in the chamber,” she says. “He’s very energetic and I knew this was a passion of his, so I fully encouraged him when this opportunity came up.”
The phrase “supportive relationship” doesn’t come close to describing the 10-year marriage between Tommy and Connie. Many couples find it difficult even sharing a remote control, let alone a business, but Connie says it has brought them even closer.
More than a decade ago, with both living in Seaford at the time, the two avid golfers were familiar with each other and hit it off immediately when introduced by friends. At the time, Connie was an elementary school guidance counselor who never considered making a living in real estate, but after a year of mulling it over she made the switch.
Their key to avoiding pitfalls is to keep business out of home life, and home life out of business. Occasionally one encroaches on the other, Connie says, but those instances are rare. “We’re pretty in tune when the other is going through something tough at work,” she says. “I’ve had a couple of trying transactions lately, and if I go through something like that at work, he’s fully aware of it. If he sees that, he eases the load by making dinner at home.”
In order to celebrate the closing of her most recent sale, one Connie admits violated the aforementioned rule, she wanted to repay Tommy, a self-described foodie, the best way she knew: a night of fine dining.
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