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Chamber honors businesses, community leaders for efforts to better Orleans

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce presented nine awards on Thursday during the Chamber’s 20th annual awards dinner. The following were recognized, front row, from left: Gail Miller, Business Person of the Year; Katie Misiti (Sourced Market & Eatery), New Business of the Year; Wayne Litchfield, Community Service Award; Darlene Hartway, Sourced Market & Eatery; Jaye Sullivan, Lifetime Achievement; and Iva McKenna (Country Lane Veterinary Services), Business of the Year. Back row: Wendy Wilson (LynOaken Farms), Agricultural Business of the Year; Chris Oakes (LynOaken Farms); Jeff Oakes (LynOaken Farms); Jessica Tobin (Penasack Contract Manufacturer), Employer of the Year; Adam Johnson (39 Problems), Phoenix Award; Aaron and Jim Preston (Preston’s Lawncare & Landscaping), Small Business of the Year; and George McKenna (Country Lane Veterinary Services).

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 October 2018 at 11:47 am

LYNDONVILLE – The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce honored local businesses and community leaders on Thursday during its 20th annual awards dinner at the White Birch Golf Club.

The business owners were praised for providing jobs, maintaining buildings and injecting optimism into the community.

The award winners also received citations from State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assebmlyman Steve Hawley.

The following were recognized by the Chamber:

• Business the Year – Country Lane Veterinary Services in Barre

George McKenna, owner of Country Lane Veterinary Services, was recognized as Business of the Year. He is congratulated by, from left: State Sen. Robert Ortt, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Becky Charland, director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

George and Ivan McKenna started the business 28 years ago on East Barre Road in Barre. They have nine employees. They have hosted many interns over the years and George McKenna said five or six have gone on to become veterinarians and many others are veterinary technicians.

“They teach compassion and a work ethic,” said Leonel Rosario, co-owner of last year’s Business of the Year, Mariachi De Oro.

George and Iva are parents to four grown daughters. Kerri Richardson, one of their children, is the business manager at Country Lane.

George said the business may add an associate veterinarian and expand.

He praised his excellent employees through the years and the dedication and understanding of his family.

“It’s a lot like farming,” he told a crowd of 135 at the Chamber dinner. “Emergencies happen.”

• Agricultural Business of the Year – LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville

Wendy Wilson, president of LynOaken Farms and Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, accepts the Agricultural Business of the Year award with Chris Oakes (left), production manager; and Jeff Oakes, storage manager, for LynOaken.

The Oakes family has been farming in Lyndonville since Leonard Oakes started the farm in 1919. His successors have stayed dedicated to growing apples, but they have also expanded into grapes, wine, a retail market and their own delivery business, taking apples and peaches to 90 locations in Western and Central NY.

LynOaken has 34 full-time employees at the farm and with its winery and wine-tasting site on Ridge Road in Medina.

The family was praised for diversifying the business and becoming a destination site in Orleans County. LynOaken has a U-pick orchard that includes heirloom varieties.

The winery is named for the farm’s founder, Leonard Oakes. It hosts a Steampunk Festival in late August each year that draws about 1,000 people.

The farm is expanding and adding a new packing line and eco-friendly refrigeration.

Next year LynOaken will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

• Lifetime Achievement Award – Jaye Sullivan, owner of Blissett’s Specialty Shop in Medina

Jaye Sullivan, honored for lifetime achievement, gets a hug from Bruce Landis, who was last year’s winner.

Jaye Sullivan grew up working at Blissett’s Specialty Shop in Medina. She is the third generation owner of the business, which was started in 1941 by Sullivan’s grandparents, Chester and Beatrice Blissett, who opened their first store in Albion. They opened a second store in Medina, Blissett’s Children’s Shop, in about 1950. After experiencing a serious accident, the Blissetts closed the Albion store.

Jaye Sullivan has adapted the business from a children’s store to include bridal wear and specialty items, such as christening and prom dresses.

Sullivan has served her community, as a member of the Medina Board of Education, and an officer in the Medina Business Association. She also is a member of the Decorate Medina Committee.

She said she is grateful to have grown up in her family and is determined to keep the store going.

• Small Business of the Year – Preston’s Lawncare & Landscaping in Albion

Molly Preston is joined by her husband Jim, left, and brother-in-law Aaron Preston. Preston’s Lawncare & Landscaping was named Small Business of the Year.

Jim Preston started the business in 2015 and his brother Aaron joined him as a partner in 2016. They have five employees.

The Preston brothers had a business as teen-agers, mowing lawns in the Kendall area. They worked other jobs after high school, but came back to working together with lawns and landscaping.

Their business has grown to five seasonal workers, along with the two brothers and other family. They do lawncare and landscaping from cutting grass to the increasingly popular hardscape – patio pavers, fireplaces, walkways and retaining walls. They also trim bushes, put in mulch and tackle over lawncare and landscaping issues.

The business is based at Zig Zag Road where the brothers have greenhouses and grow nursery stock.

They praised their father, the late James Preston Sr., for getting them involved in the business. The elder Preston was 56 when he died on Sept. 23, 2015, following a career at Kodak.

The Prestons’ mother, Marie, also opened her own business, Preston’s Country Market, this year on Ridge Road in Gaines. She sells some of the apples grown by her son, Jim.

The Prestons said they are grateful for the support of their customers, who are almost all Orleans County residents.

• New Business of the Year – Sourced Market & Eatery in Medina

Katie Misiti, co-owner of Sourced Market & Eatery in Medina, accepts the award for New Business of the Year.

The Hartway family was honored for opening a business with a focus on local and natural foods. Sourced Market and Eatery already has expanded its interior and outdoor seating to accommodate the public to the site on Maple Ridge Road in Millville.

The family is looking to add greenhouses so it can grow year-round organic produce and herbs.

Darlene Hartway runs the business with her children. Katie Misiti manages the kitchen and plans the menu every week, while handling the majority of work in the kitchen and coordinating catering events.

“I’m excited for the next year,” Misiti said. “We have some big plans.”

Her brother Travis Hartway is a baker for Sourced and is often at the counter serving customers.

Three of their sons run Hartway Brothers Farm near Millville, land once owned by their grandfather. The boys, Nathaniel, Justin and Franklin, grow squash and pumpkins for the market.

Phoenix Award – 39 Problems Bar & Grill in Albion

Adam and Tina Johnson were recognized with the Phoenix Award for their effort in opening the 39 Problems restaurant and bar in a historic downtown Albion location.

Adam and Tina Johnson transformed a vacant building on Albion’s Main Street into a bar and restaurant. The dining area and bar for 39 Problems opened on March 1, following more than two years of hard work.

The site has added energy and foot traffic to downtown Albion.

The Johnsons were praised for perseverance and vision in opening the bar and restaurant in a building from 1866 that has been the home to many businesses, starting with a coffin and furniture company and more recently to a hair salon.

The couple purchased the building, which includes three storefronts, in 2015. They have been working diligently to renovate the site, while preserving its historic charm. In June 2016 they opened 39 Problems, selling pizza, grilled foods and “chill desserts.” The site didn’t have a dine-in option.

Now 39 Problems has a dine-in restaurant. The Johnsons have two of three storefronts done, and they would eventually like to expand the dining area to the remaining storefront.

The Johnsons have done a major upgrade at the site, adding a new kitchen, two new bathrooms, wiring, gas lines, structural and roof repairs, masonry work and lots of other attention.

The storefront has been changed. The windows are now aluminum framed with insulated glass. Johnson kept the cast iron columns and removed paint on the Medina sandstone at the storefronts. Some of the wood from the storefront was repurposed above the bar.

Mr. Johnson named the business 39 Problems because of the challenges in renovating the site at 39 North Main St. That is the unfinished storefront and the largest of the three.

• Business Person of the Year – Gail Miller of Medina

Gail Miller accepts congratulations for Business Person of the Year.

Gail Miller has been the volunteer coordinator for Medina ’s Canal Village Farmers’ Market since it opened in 2015. The market has grown from 8 to 20 vendors and now has a year-round presence.

The site on West Center Street across from the Post Office brings together farms, wineries, artists, musicians and families on Saturdays. The site has proven popular for bringing the community together, the Chamber said.

Miller retired in 2013 as a business analyst for IBM. She has been heavily committed to growing the market, securing vendors and promoting local agriculture.

She thanked the vendors for being so reliable and for providing quality produce and products at the market.

The vendors offer a variety of products, such as sausage, pork, chemical free and heirloom produce, dehydrated mixes, vegan food, baked goods, poultry, flour and maple syrup.

There are also vendors with children’s books, and wineries that rotate every Saturday. A Canal Kids’ Tent provides games, puzzles, chalk art and free books to children.

• Employer of the Year (presented by Orleans County Job Development Agency) – Penasack Machine Co. in Albion

Jessica Tobin is vice president for Penasack Contract Manufacturer in Albion, which was honored as Employer of the Year.

The Chamber presented a new award for the first time as part of a collaboration with the Orleans County Job Development Agency.

The Chamber and Job Development want to recognize a local business that demonstrates a commitment to its workforce, and in turn a workforce that is committed to the business, said Kelly Kiebala, the Job Development Agency leader.

Penasack Contract Manufacturer on Sanford Street is a sheet metal fabricator. It has 43 employees, with many referred by Job Development.

The company was recognized as Employer of the Year “for consistently providing quality, well-paying jobs in Orleans County,” Kiebala said. “Individuals working for Penasack are provided training and opportunities for advancement.”

Employees referred to Penasack provide feedback that the business has “a welcoming company culture and encouragement to increase skills. Penasack has been quietly and dependably providing these job opportunities in Orleans County for decades, and we are honored to be able to recognize them as Employer of the Year for 2018,” Kiebala said.

Jessica Tobin, Penasack vice president, said the business if fortunate to many so many dedicated employees.

• Community Service Award – Wayne Litchfield of Medina

Wayne Litchfield of Medina was honored with a Community Service Award for his volunteer efforts with many local organizations.

Since he retired as an Orleans County dispatcher in 2013, following a 28-year career, Wayne Litchfield has been an active community volunteer, helping many organizations.

“He is anything that is needed in this community,” said Jacki Mowers-Sciarabba, last year’s winner. “He will offer any help he can give.”

He is a direct care volunteer at Hospice of Orleans, a leader in the Orleans-Recovery Hope Begins Here organization, which offers assistance to people fighting addictions. He is a member of the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force, and a member of the Orleans United Drug-Free Coalition.

Litchfield, 67, is a member of the VALOR Medical Reserve Corps for the Orleans County Health Department. He is the director of media and technology at the Albion Free Methodist Church. He also is a mentor in the Just Friends program through the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern.

He is on the planning committee for the Metro 10 race, and helps with the organization, set up and manning of water stations, and will spring into action when needed.

He also is a consistent volunteer at the Community Kitchen in Albion and the Hands 4 Hope Ministry on Saturdays.

He also helps at Care Net of Greater Orleans, Gotta Dance at Miss Amy and the Ride 4 Life.

He grew up in Holley and was an active volunteer firefighter and member of the rescue squad before becoming a dispatcher.

He was hospitalized in July with congestive heart failure. He has rebounded and said he welcomes the chance to serve the community.

“I always say just give me one more volunteer,” he said. “Just give me one more.”

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