Photos by Lauren Thomas
Tree local family businesses with strong track records of community service were honored last Sunday evening at the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business Recognition Awards Dinner, hosted by Mohonk Mountain House. This year’s honorees were the recently deceased Carol Ferrante of Wallkill View Farm Market, on whose behalf her son Pete accepted the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award; Doug and Teresa Thompson of the Main Street Bistro, who were given the Excellence in Service Award; and George and Rick Sifre of Seakill Custom Homes, accepting the Business of the Year Award.
Following a cocktail hour and elegant three-course dinner in the resort’s West Dining Room, emcee Chris Drouin of Beyond Wealth Management introduced members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors and Business Advisory Committee to present the awards. Not only a board member but also one of Carol Ferrante’s ten grandchildren, Jason Valentino of Northwestern Mutual became audibly choked up as he reminisced about “our Nana,” whom he described as “the most caring, sincere, hardworking person you’d ever meet.”
Valentino handed over the award to his stepfather, Pete Ferrante, who related how his parents had driven many a mile in Pennsylvania as well as upstate New York seeking the perfect spot to “establish a farm and raise a family. When they drove across the Wallkill River bridge, she turned to my father and said, ‘We’re not looking anymore; we’ve found it.’”
Business Advisory Committee chair Ed Burke introduced the Thompsons, recalling how he had first recruited Doug to help organize the Taste of New Paltz in the 1990s and going on to list many of the community initiatives to which the couple had donated “time and resources and more time” over the years. He praised the Thompsons’ successful effort to rescue the New Paltz Middle School’s music program when it was threatened to be cut from the school budget, and noted Teresa’s current involvement in the Scholastic Book Fair, calling her a “sparkplug that never stops…. Doug’s biggest challenge is teaching Teresa the word ‘No.’”
Calling himself a “behind-the-scenes kind of guy,” Doug Thompson devoted most of his acceptance speech to thanking a host of others, ending by insisting that his staff at the Bistro, who took up two tables at the event, stand and take a bow. After they thanked their boss in return, Teresa Thompson took her turn. “I’m happy to be honored on the local and regional level, but what about national?” she joked. “I’m not leaving until I hear from Barack!” She called New Paltz “a truly special place” and thanked her husband for “supporting, enabling and putting up with me. He allows me to say ‘Yes.’”
Chamber treasurer John Sorlie of the Empire Savings Bank introduced the Sifre brothers, summarizing Seakill’s 30-year history in the community and spotlighting how “Their ideas and enthusiasm made the Family of New Paltz renovation project a reality.” Accepting the award, George Sifre said that the company’s priorities were “quality, care and craftsmanship,” describing his brother Rick as the “master craftsman,” while he himself had “always wanted to run my own business” since childhood. Besides the company’s recent lead role in the renovation work at Family’s local headquarters on North Chestnut Street, he also cited local baseball and basketball leagues and the Make-a-Wish Foundation as among the charitable interests of the construction and property management firm.
According to nutritionist Vicki Koenig, a Chamber board member, this was the first time in several years that the Business Recognition Awards have been conferred. They were formerly awarded at the Chamber’s Gala in January, she said, and the board wanted to reinstate the practice of recognizing outstanding local businesses on an annual basis. “Their accomplishments and how they have demonstrated commitment to improving the quality of life in our community has made a huge impact,” said Chamber executive director Kathy Prizzia of the 2015 honorees.