Chamber awards dinner highlights many success stories

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Orleans County Chamber honored local businesses and community leaders at its 17th annual awards dinner Friday. Front row, from left, include Kathy Blackburn, Chamber executive director; Lora Partyka, Businessperson of the year; Barbara Waters, accepting lifetime achievement in honor of her late husband Robert Waters; Laura Gardner, Phoenix Award for her efforts at “a lily and a sparrow”; and Lisa Stratton, owner of the Hazy Jade Gift Shop and special recognition for her work in promoting downtown Albion. Back row, Greg Budd, general manager for Business of the Year, Hinspergers Poly Industries; Barb Flow, Community Service Award; Jill and Mike Bower, owners of Small Business of the Year, Erie Way Tree Farm; Bernie Heberle, general manager and co-owner of Roberts Circle R Fruit Farms, named Agricultural Business of the Year; and Bryan and Larissa DeGraw, owners of 810 Meadworks, the New Business of the Year.

GAINES – Orleans County is a place where you can bring your business dreams and turn them into a reality and a success. It’s a place where volunteers can pitch in, and become involved in youth sports, festivals and other community events.

Those were among the themes at the 17th annual awards dinner on Friday for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. Award winners described a welcoming community, open to “outsiders” trying ventures in the county.

Bryan and Larissa DeGraw moved 400 miles from New Jersey to Orleans County to open 810 Meadworks in downtown Medina last November. The business makes alcoholic drinks by fermenting honey.

Bryan and Larissa DeGraw, owners of 810 Meadworks, accept the award for New Business of the Year.

Their meadery, named New Business of the Year, has become a destination, drawing visitors to the county. The DeGraws said the community has supported the business and embraced the couple.

Mr. DeGraw said 810 Meadworks received lots of help and encouragement along the way. Mayor Andrew Meier and real estate agent Katt Battaglia were instrumental in their decision to pick downtown Medina for the business.

The Orleans Economic Development Agency also approved a loan for 810 Meadworks.

“The EDA board puts its faith in our business plan to give us a loan to get us going,” Mr. DeGraw said.

Lora Partyka of Kendall accepts the award for Businessperson of the Year, a new honor presented by the Chamber of Commerce.

Lora Partyka, a Barker native, moved to Kendall with her husband Jeff in 1985. They opened a roadside stand. That has grown to a farm market, gift shop, ice cream and the base for community projects, including the country barn quilt trail, which includes 40 sites in the Kendall area.

The Partykas take produce to several farmers’ markets in the area, and in April opened The Farmers’ Table, a restaurant in Hamlin that serves breakfast and lunch made from local produce, eggs, syrup and hash.

“It’s not frozen food,” Partyka said. “The concept is fresh and local.”

Partyka was praised for her work ethic and community dedication when she was presented the Businessperson of the Year, a new award from the Chamber.

Partyka admitted she didn’t know too much about Kendall when she and her husband moved there 30 years ago.

“We couldn’t do what we do without a great supportive community,” Partyka said during an awards dinner attended by 130 people at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Barb Flow accepts the community service award. Last year’s winner, Ken DeRoller, presented the award to Flow.

Flow also moved into Kendall. She remembers coming to town and seeing no grocery store or a bank. But she is thankful to have raised a family and built her life in Kendall.

“It has the people of a hard-working community,” she said.

The school district and 4-H programs are also assets, she said.

She recently retired after 26 years of leading the recreation program. She is now on the Kendall Town Board and runs a garlic farm with her husband Vince.

“Helping a child succeed and supporting them on their journey is truly a reward for me,” Flow said.

Greg Budd, general manager for Hinspergers Poly Industries in Medina, accepts the award for Business of the Year.

In 2002, a Canadian company opened a site in Medina. Hinspergers has expanded the former Jamestown Container manufacturing building on West Oak Orchard Street from 25,000 square feet to 83,000 square feet.

The company had 17 employees in 2003 and now is up to 70 workers in Medina who make covers and solar blankets for swimming pools.

“We are here long-term,” said Greg Budd, general manager for the Medina site. “We have no plans on leaving.”

Budd moved from Ontario, Canada to help get the Medina plant up and going. The company has proven a “good corporate citizen” for the community.

Other businesses recognized on Friday started from scratch in Orleans, and have found success in the county.

Bernie Heberle is general manager and co-owner of Circle R Fruit Farms in Carlton. The farm started in 1986 and has grown to 80 employees and a retail farm market that sells ice cream.

Circle R has expanded to 550 acres and expects to produce 450,000 bushels of fruit this year. The Chamber praised the farm for its growth and for providing “exceptional local produce to Orleans County and beyond.”

Heberle accepted the award for Agricultural Business of the Year in honor of Lynn Roberts, the farm’s longtime leader who died at age 80 on June 13.

Mike and Jill Bower won Small Business of the Year for their work in expanding the Erie Way Tree Farm of Holley. The couple has run a Christmas tree farm since 1985. It has grown since 2010 and expanded to landscaping, wreaths, centerpieces and holiday decor.

“They are an excellent example of how small businesses can succeed in Orleans County, said Greg Piedmonte, a member of the Chamber board of directors.

Laura Gardner accepts the Phoenix Award for her work in renovating a storefront for her business, a lily and a sparrow in Medina.

Laura Gardner opened a lily and a sparrow five years ago in downtown Medina, after she worked more than two decades as an accountant. About a year ago she moved the business down the street to 438 Main St., a site that had been home to Baughn’s Shoe Store since 1960.

Gardner has given the storefront a vastly different look. “It has been transformed into a modern, chic storefront,” said Cindy Robinson, president of the Medina Business Association. “It’s like a boutique in Rochester or Buffalo.”

Gardner draws local shoppers and out-of-towners for the designer clothing from designers in Turkey, Israel, India and the United States. Gardner also has an array of leather handbags, perfume, jewelry and vintage glassware and note cards.

Barbara Waters accepts the “Lifetime Achievement” award in honor of her husband, the late Robert Waters.

“It’s beautiful,” Gardner said about the renovations. “I love when I look at that building everyday when I’m coming into town.”

Robert Waters and his family ran the local newspaper, The Journal-Register, for decades until it was sold in 1985. Waters expanded its coverage from Medina to a county-wide publication.

After getting out of the newspaper business, Waters would work 10 years as communications director for State Sen. John Daly and his successor, George Maziarz. Waters also served on the Ridgeway Town Board for a decade, and was deputy town supervisor.

He was active in numerous community causes. He helped found the Shelridge Country Club, and was instrumental in finding a new use for the shuttered Medina Armory, which is now the Orleans County YMCA.

He was active in the Medina Historical Society and was president of the Medina Sandstone Society.

Mr. Waters was 90 when he died on July 29.

“He extended such warmth as he worked for the greater good of Orleans County,” said Bruce Krenning, who presented the award to Waters’ wife, Barbara.

Chamber Executive Director Kathy Blackburn also presented a special recognition  to Lisa Stratton, honor of the Hazy Jade Gift Shop in Albion for her efforts to beautify downtown Albion with flowers and also to promote many events to highlight local businesses in the downtown.