Last Sunday evening at Mohonk Mountain House, the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce conferred its 2017 Business Recognition Awards upon four local businesses or entrepreneurs whom its membership deemed especially deserving. This year’s winners were Historic Huguenot Street for the Lifetime Achievement Award; the Accent Financial Group for Excellence in Community Service; Alfandre Architecture for Business of the Year; and Mark Masseo of Masseo Landscape, Inc. and Kalleco Nursery as Entrepreneur of the Year.
Like pretty much all Chamber shindigs, the awards ceremony started out as a business “mixer”: a networking event where members sipped drinks and munched delectable hors d’oeuvres (the oyster/ponzu poppers were to die for!) while they exchanged their latest news and business cards. Julie Robbins and Nicole Langlois of One Epic Place, who were awardees in 2016, this year served (with Ulster Savings Bank’s Kristin Bauer) as two-thirds of the Honoree Selection Committee. “It all comes down to what’s most compelling,” said Robbins in describing the process of winnowing through piles of nominations received from Chamber members, many of them telling “heartfelt stories” about respected fellow businesspeople.
Chamber of Commerce executive director Kathy Prizzia struck a similar theme as she opened the dessert-and-awards portion of the program, describing the challenge of choosing the winners from among so many worthy nominees. “It’s nice to hear your colleagues — and sometimes even your competitors — step up and say such nice things about you,” she said. “It’s not an easy process… It’s heartwrenching because every one’s deserving.”
After thanking her board and staff, Prizzia went on to praise all four of this year’s award-winners. She joked that Historic Huguenot Street deserved its Lifetime Achievement Award simply on the basis of being 340 years old, but grew more earnest as she noted the “young, lively staff” and new programming that is “very inclusive of the community” that characterize the preservationist organization in recent years. “They are bringing back the original Main Street of New Paltz,” Prizzia said.
For the Excellence in Community Service Award, she called the philanthropic involvement of the Accent Financial Group’s Ralph Smith and Larry Ratick “exemplary.” She made special mention of the Highland-based company’s new program called Paying It Forward, which donates to a new small not-for-profit each quarter based on the number of referrals received.
“Doing well by doing good” was Prizzia’s summation of the career of Rick Alfandre, whose architectural firm was named Business of the Year. While Alfandre Architecture has certainly received considerable recognition — including the coveted and difficult Platinum level of LEED certification — for its commitment to energy-efficiency and sustainable design, that’s not a model often lauded within business communities who measure success by profits alone. “In my mind, what’s the difference? Alfandre said to the New Paltz Times. “What we do is directly related to the community and the environment where we are.”
Mark Masseo, who recently added a new building to his Kalleco Nursery property in Tillson, took some ribbing for his loquaciousness from Bauer of Ulster Savings, who said that she had “known Mark since grade school.” Before handing over Masseo’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, she noted that, although Masseo/Kalleco clients might never get a word in edgewise with Mark, they would find that he had noted and met their needs. “This is what he was born to do,” Bauer averred. “He reaches to everyone. He’s funny, and he cares about people.”