From grand openings to pancake breakfasts

December 12, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

It’s the holiday season in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.


Last week was another busy one with events and activities happening throughout our region. Jeff Pugliese represented the chamber at The Connecticut District Export Council’s Annual Breakfast Meeting held at the Courtyard Marriott in Cromwell on Tuesday. The event was attended by a number of important local manufacturers and other area businesses involved in exporting. Anne Evans, Director of the US Department of Commerce’s Middletown Export Assistance Center, continues to do a great job in her role and continues to work very well with our chamber team. On Thursday morning, I attended a grand opening celebration for Body Focus Therapeutic Massage & Ashiatsu on Main Street in Cromwell. Owner Santina Giuliano offers a wide range of massages and other stress relieving options. I was happy to attend the event with Cromwell Mayor Enzo Faienza, Town Planner Stuart Popper, Cromwell Automotive’ s Rodney Bitgood who is co-chair of the Cromwell Merchant’s Association, Police Chief Denise Lamontagne, Jay Polke of Willowbrook Spirit Shoppe and the Cromwell Economic Development Commission, and other community leaders. We all wish Santina the best as she moves forward with her business. Jeff Pugliese and Mike Fallon from the chamber team attended a special Pancake Breakfast held at Macdonough School on Friday morning. This event, organized by our good friend Albert Hamrah, featured a pancake breakfast for the entire student body at Macdonough donated by George Chatzopoulos and Dina Chatzopoulos-Bajko of Chip’s Family Restaurant. The pancakes were cooked in the Chip’s Family Restaurant food truck which was on site at Macdonough. I know the students enjoyed their hearty breakfast, and I thank Albert for organizing, and George and Dina for their generosity. State Sen. Paul Doyle and State Rep. Joe Serra attended the event and presented a proclamation on behalf of the Connecticut General Assembly, and Middletown Councilman Tom Serra shared a proclamation from Mayor Drew which declared last Friday, Chip’s Family Restaurant Pancake Breakfast Day in Middletown. It was a nice community event and I am glad that our chamber was there to help celebrate it.

This week is headlined by Wednesday’s annual Governor’s Member Breakfast Meeting featuring Governor Dannel P. Malloy at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Gov. Malloy, now approaching his seventh year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors going back to the administration of Gov. William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. Not only do we expect a sold out crowd of chamber members and their guests, but a number of important state and local officials have registered to attend including Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith, many local mayors and first selectman, representatives from many of our state’s colleges and universities, and representatives of key departments of the federal government. We appreciate the strong support of Eversource who is the sponsor of this major annual chamber event with our state’s governor. Eversource President and CEO Jim Judge will attend and will introduce Gov. Malloy. I very much appreciate Jim’s attendance and support of this important event. The chamber’s team is gearing up for another successful Governor’s Breakfast, and we look forward to a busy morning in Cromwell on Wednesday.

This week also features meetings of the chamber’s Durham and Middlefield Division and East Haddam and Haddam Division. The Durham and Middlefield Division meeting will be held on Tuesday at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association in Middlefield, and the East Haddam & Haddam Division meeting will be held at Haddam Old Town Hall on Thursday morning. Our divisions continue to play a key role in the chamber’s infrastructure.

Finesse Cuts Barbershop will hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration at its Main Street location on Wednesday afternoon. Finesse Cuts owner Ernesto Vargas was enrolled in the chamber’s Middletown Summer Youth Employment a few years back, and also participated in a workforce development partnership that we have with the Community Renewal Team here in Middletown. His program host worksite was a local barber shop, and I am so proud to see this young man now working at his own shop and contributing to the fabric of the local business community. I look forward to attending the event on Wednesday along with Mayor Dan Drew and other local officials. We wish Ernesto the best of luck!

The chamber’s Board of Directors will meet this Thursday at the Gelston House in East Haddam. This December Board of Directors meeting is sponsored by Anthony Assante and his firm Egidio Assante Wealth Management on an annual basis. In addition to reports from chamber members and key staff, the meeting will feature an update from Attorney General George Jepsen on many of the important issues that he is working on that affect the business community. I appreciate the fact that Attorney General Jepsen is attending our board meeting to visit with our members, and always appreciate Anthony’s support of this meeting and of our chamber.

I look forward to attending the City of Middletown Holiday Party hosted by Mayor Drew on Friday morning at City Hall. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce continues to value its strong and close working relationship with the city.

0 Degree Inc will be having a grand opening and ribbon cutting at its Main Street location on Friday afternoon. Owners Lin Lang and Ivan Lin’s new business serves Thai-style ice-cream that is hand-made with condensed milk and then rolled with your choice of toppings. Lang is a chamber member is also owner of Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill and China King and we look forward to welcoming 0 Degree Inc to Main Street with city and business officials.

I also look forward to attending Joe Serra’s Holiday Party on Saturday night at Cantina Café Ristorante in Middletown. This annual event, which of course always features an outstanding spread of food, will also once again feature a real who’s who of the Middletown scene. I appreciate Joe’s invitation and look forward to attending.

The 31st Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, wraps up this Saturday with a final day of events and activities. Planned events and activities include the Fun Train, which will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, and free rides for children and adults on two mechanical animals, Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer, and Lucy, the Polar Bear. Families will also have the opportunity to meet and greet Santa and take free horse & wagon rides in downtown Middletown. A Petting Farm, courtesy of JD’s Pony Express of Killingworth, will feature sheep, goats, a miniature donkey, a rabbit and a fallow deer. At the chamber, non-perishable donations and pet food to benefit the Middletown Animal Control will be accepted as part of Webster Bank’s 10th Annual Giving Tree. Ornament decorating workshops will take place at the Green Street Learning & Teaching Center from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m., and from 1:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m. at The Buttonwood Tree. Join Pete the Cat for a Holiday Story Time at the Middletown Firehouse where Fire Chief Rob Kronenberger will lead a story reading session. Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in city parking lots. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.

The second annual "Taste of Middlesex County", brought to you by Comcast Business, is scheduled for January 16-22, 2017. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This will be a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to thank Comcast Business for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County, and Johanna Bond from the chamber team who has put in a lot of time and effort on coordination and logistics. Save your appetite for the week of January 16-22, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. More info to come!

I want to close this week’s column by acknowledging the passing of Dorothy Shook, mother of Essex Savings Bank President and chamber Chairman Greg Shook. Dorothy passed away recently at the age of 94 after a long and fulfilling life. Dorothy was very active in a number of activities throughout her life in her hometown of Westport, and was always known as a sweet and caring person. More recently, Dorothy was a Resident Member representative to The Board of Directors for the Essex Meadows Retirement Community and served on the Welcoming Committee. Dorothy enjoyed many things in life, but nothing more than being with her beloved family. I know her family misses her today and will continue to moving forward, but I know they are immensely proud of her. Greg Shook is an outstanding representative of the Middlesex business community and is doing a terrific job in his role as chairman of our organization. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and Dorothy’s entire family at this difficult time. May they be comforted by the fact that she lived a long and fulfilling life, and she was loved and supported by many people along the way. Dorothy Shook will be missed.

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