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Chamber Awards

March 13, 2022 - 9:23pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, Batavia Downs, notify, Chamber Awards.

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There were no mask requirements during this year’s Genesee County Chamber Awards dinner, however, one aspect of last year’s event was brought to the podium: those 2020 award recipients who had to be recognized virtually due to COVID a year ago.

Tammy Hathaway presented the Geneseean of the Year Award to fellow Geneseean Jay Lazarony, recipient of the 2021 honor. Hathaway was one of several people touting Lazarony’s worthiness during the awards event Saturday at Batavia Downs Gaming.

After accepting a tiara from Chamber President Eric Fix, because she is “the queen,” Hathaway began a tribute to the GLOW Work Force Development Board executive director for his 25 years of working with thousands of youngsters in various roles throughout Genesee County.

“Jay is a pretty amazing human being,” Hathaway said. 

Karyn Winters, director of Genesee County's Business Education Alliance, nominated him for being an "exemplary professional and volunteer," and embodying what's great about Genesee County," she said. He founded GLOW With Your Hands in 2019 and has been a "selfless, kind, motivating and fearless leader," she said.

"While his career alone warrants recognition, what truly makes Jay an admirable Geneseean is his infectious enthusiasm to mentor local youth," Winters said in her nomination.

Colleagues, staff, and program participants continued the trail of accolades via pre-recorded videos played on several screens throughout the banquet room. Jocelyn Sikorski has known Lazarony through the county’s Youth Bureau for more than 20 years, she said, and has witnessed his focus on “looking out for the best interests of youth and our families.”

“He’s a very caring and outgoing man,” she said. “I want to honor Jay and say great job, you are so deserving.”

When Lazarony applied for the executive director position seven years ago, the board made “a unanimous decision” to hire him, board member Norb Fuest said. 

“He just exceeded our expectations, to say the least,” Fuest said. “Our training numbers have been some of the best in the state, a lot of that because of Jay.”

Entrepreneur Jessica Pratt, co-owner of several businesses in Genesee County, including Whole Life Fitness in Batavia, knows first-hand about Lazarony’s impact, she said. He has helped her become “the person I am today,” she said.

Lazarony thanked and acknowledged his family, wife Donna and children Christina, Scott, and Nick and his grandchildren, several colleagues within Genesee County, and his staff from the GLOW regions of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming counties. 

He noted a group of counselors that, during the pandemic’s social distancing requirements, turned "traditional services into a virtual system and continued to provide unemployment opportunities during a very, very difficult time,” he said.

“What I was most impressed with was the time and understanding they gave to each and every customer case with massive layoffs,” he said.

He also took a few minutes to urge the audience of at least 200 people to “give youth a chance.” He shared a story of a young man named Justin, a program participant who wasn’t sure of his abilities to pursue a job in nursing. Lazarony made him a promise that if he did all of the work, Lazarony would find the funding to help him succeed on a career path. Justin became a nurse practitioner and worked at a facility where Lazarony’s father spent his last days until he died on December 28.

Justin called the family to notify them, and his demeanor was proof that he had absorbed his lessons well, Lazarony said.

“He provided the information with dignity and respect,” Lazarony said. "Take a chance on them."

Other award recipients included:

Valle Jewelers for Business of the Year, presented by Guy Pellegríno, who grew up next door to the Valle family, he said. 

“What a wonderful family,” he said. “I’m so proud to introduce you, you so earned this. I looked up to Mary and Dominic; I was so in awe.” 

Owners Stephen Valle and Carrie Lawrence, along with former owner and mom Mary Valle, accepted the award. In a pre-recorded video, Mary recounted the story of the store’s humble beginnings 70 years ago. It was founded by Grandpa Dominic, who arrived in New York City with $16 in his pocket. The physical location moved from Carey Mansion to Genesee Country Mall to its current spot at 21 Jackson St., all in Batavia. 

Her son Stephen added that over the years the jewelry business has changed, but “customer service has not.” He thanked the chamber, the store’s “fantastic staff” and one person who has been integral to the business’ success, his late father Dom.

“We’re missing one man,” Stephen said, taking an emotional breath. “But we know he’s smiling down on us.”

Theresa DeMars nominated Valle Jewelers for its customer service, engagement with and support of the community, steadfast participation in downtown events, and being a “fixture in our community for three generations,” DeMars said.

“Valle Jewelers is a community staple, a true family-run business, and one of our best-kept secrets,” she said in her nomination. 

Alleghany Farm Services for Agricultural Business of the Year, presented by last year’s recipient L&M Specialty Fabrication.

Their business protocols pushed the company into its sixth state and garnered the attention of Jeanna Clark of M&T Bank and Farm Credit East. Clark’s nomination cited several reasons, including how the company has:

  • Increased their fleet of tile plows from two to four, including a prohibitively expensive mini tile plow that fits the space constraints of vineyards and orchards 
  • Expanded company size and employees by 25 percent over the last two years
  • Thanked and gave back to customers with a yearly Field Day 
  • Focused on drainage education by working with local soil and water districts

Farm Credit East also cited the company’s impressive expansion statistics and lauded it for its remaining loyalty to Genesee County with headquarters in Basom.

Company partners Drew and his son Chad Klotzbach accepted the award. The business began in the 1980s with a landscaping focus, followed by Alleghany Farm Services, which was founded by Drew and his wife Dianne in 2001. 

The process is about much more than sticking a pipe in the ground to drain water from a field, Drew said. And Alleghany Farm Services has mastered that process to become one of the leaders of drainage issues in the Northeast. 

Business Operations Manager Christina Fetzer acknowledged those who helped make the company a success.

“We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the support of the ag community and our loyal customers. Every project that we do is unique and we take pride in being able to customize a solution that will benefit each farm,” she said. “Our goal is to build long-lasting relationships with each customer to provide ongoing education, maintenance, and guidance. A large portion of our growth has been through word of mouth from our existing customer base. And for that, we are very thankful.”

Drew thanked the Chamber, the company’s employees, and the ag community.

Batavia Muckdogs for Entrepreneurial Business of the Year. Dan Ireland, representing Rochester Regional Health, commended owners Robbie and Nellie Nichols and General Manager Marc Witt for their efforts to bring “baseball back to Batavia in 2021.”

“They didn’t just bring baseball back,” Ireland said. “You revitalized it. We want to say thank you for what you did.”

Their first year at Dwyer Stadium couldn’t have gone any better, Witt said.

“The community embraced everything we threw at them,” he said. “We’re already off to a great start. We can’t wait for the first pitch in June. We found zero challenges and accomplished all our goals. Thank you to the community.”

There was a dance competition, an Alzheimer’s Walk, a Dogs Trick or Treat Halloween event, and other public happenings at the Bank Street facility, plus participation in off-site activities including the Memorial Day parade, he said. Batavia Muckdogs drew the community support, he said, including from City Manager Rachael Tabelski who “was true to her word,” and the very first team sponsor, Bill Hayes of Turnbull Heating & Cooling. 

In his nomination of the Batavia Muckdogs for the award, lifelong Batavian Tom Turnbull said the city and county have been enriched because of Robbie and Nellie Nichols’ hard work and community spirit.

“While the Batavia Muckdogs may not seem like a new business due to the continuation of the name (from the former New York-Penn League), the new Batavia Muckdogs … are not only an incredible local business success story but have enhanced the quality of life for the residents of Genesee County,” Turnbull wrote.

Photos by Howard Owens. Top photo: Jay Lazarony reacts to words of tribute for him as 2021 Geneseean of the Year during Saturday's 50th Genesee County Chamber Awards dinner at Batavia Downs Gaming.

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Tammy Hathaway, the 2020 Geneseean of the Year, received a tiara from Chamber President Eric Fix.

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Lazarony acknowledged his GLOW Workforce Development Board staff during his acceptance speech. 

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Carrie Lawrence, Stephen Valle, and Mary Valle say a few words of thanks and remembrance for Valle Jewelers' Business of the Year Award. 

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Drew and Chad Klotzbach of Alleghany Farm Services accept their Agricultural Business of the Year Award.

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Batavia Muckdogs General Manager Marc Witt and owner Robbie Nichols accept and say thank you for the Entrepreneurial Business of the Year Award.

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The crowd watches speakers at the podium and on screens placed throughout the gold-adorned room at Batavia Downs. 

March 11, 2022 - 10:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, agriculture, notify, chamber of commerce, Chamber Awards.

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From Chad, 33, to Harriett, 92, the Klotzbach clan knows the meaning of running a family business. 

They each do their part to push Alleghany Farm Services into higher levels of success, from Chad’s role as managing partner with his dad Drew to his grandmother’s promotional skills.

“We send out mailers, and she sent out 6,000 of them. She puts labels and stamps on them, it keeps her busy,” her grandson said during an interview with The Batavian. “She calls to ask if we heard from anyone about the mailer. It’s a total family business.”

It’s that close-knit personal touch that has earned Alleghany Farm Services a nod of approval with the 2021 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Business of the Year Award. The company was founded in 1983 by Drew Klotzbach, Chad’s father, and a company partner, and is comprised of multiple companies led by Alleghany Farm Services and Alleghany Construction as the two largest ones.

Although Chad has been literally out in the field since he was about 8 years old, he later wondered — “like every kid” — whether the local business world was for him.

“You leave and go off to college, and I wondered ‘do I want to stay with the family business? I always thought it as more of a challenge to stay than to leave,” he said. 

A native of Basom, he graduated from Oakfield-Alabama High School and went to Clarkson University for civil engineering, followed by obtaining a Master’s in Business Administration at Canisius College. He joined the family business in 2010 and has worked his way up to managing partner with an eye toward serving the community. He also has a seat on Genesee County Legislature.

His age has belied his experience at times, Chad said, and prompted some prospective customers to question his expertise.

“You know, I'm 33 years old. So a lot of times, I'll have customers see me pull up on-site, and they're like, oh, boy, who is this kid?” he said. “It's like, you know, I've been out here since you know, 8 or 10 years old doing this. So I may be young, but that's kind of what I grew up doing.”

Listening to him explain the complexity of field drainage and soil type, how much the industry has become data-driven, and how it’s a multi-year investment rather than a quick payoff, it seems clear he knows what he’s talking about. Still, it has made for “a tough elevator pitch,” he said.

Alleghany Farm Services has 30 employees and millions of dollars in specialized and computerized equipment. The company has installed 20 million feet of pipe over the past 10 years — up to four million feet a year now — and has more than doubled its size in the past five years.

Chad said it is the largest business of its kind in the Northeast and was the first to incorporate Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology in drainage design and installation in the same region. Primarily three machines are used for field drainage work — a tile plow, excavator, and a challenger tractor — and used together can install pipe in the ground using GPS to design it out ahead of time. It’s all about water management and configuring the pipe system to ensure maximum crop production, Chad said.

”You know, I think one of the things I said before is, it's way more complex than just putting pipe in the ground. You have to know the soil types, you have to know the correct pipe, the grades, the spacing, how the water flows through the soil,” he said. “I went to school for civil engineering. And even with that background, there's stuff that we see pretty much in every project that's unique. When you install subsurface drainage in a grid pattern, you’re controlling pretty much the water table, You’re dealing with surface saturation so you can get on the crops earlier in the spring and same thing in the fall.”

The process begins with the company’s sales team, he said, followed by data collection and extensive research “in order to create the proper design.” An average of 15,000 feet a day per machine can be installed, and “we stand by our work and remain in contact after projects are completed to make sure everything is performing correctly.”

Their business protocols have not only pushed the company into its sixth state but have garnered the attention of Jeanna Clark of M&T Bank and Farm Credit East. Clark’s nomination cited several reasons, including how the company has:

  • Increased their fleet of tile plows from two to four, including a prohibitively expensive mini tile plow that fits the space constraints of vineyards and orchards 
  • Expanded company size and employees by 25 percent over the last two years
  • Thanked customers with a yearly Field Day 
  • Focused on drainage education by working with local soil and water districts

Farm Credit East also cited the company’s impressive expansion statistics and lauded it for its remaining loyalty to Genesee County with headquarters in Basom.

With all of that pipe laid down, what lies ahead for Alleghany Farm Services? They have no plans to slow down now, Chad said.

“We’re right down the road from the STAMP project, and, you know, just seeing the community grow, we have new opportunities with that. We just want to continue with employing local people, keeping people interested in agriculture,” he said. "And we love supporting (initiatives such as) Cooperative Extension doing Ag in the Classroom stuff that’s coming up. It's all about that education. I do a lot of education, and I think that's the biggest thing that we want to try to bring to the community.”

Top photo: Chad Klotzbach, left, and father/partner Drew have no plans to slow down their ever-growing success with Alleghany Farm Services in Basom. The company earned a 2021 Agricultural Business of the Year Award, which is to be presented with other chamber awards this Saturday at Batavia Downs Gaming. Photo by Howard Owens.

This is the fourth of four articles highlighting the 50th Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards. The annual dinner is Saturday at Batavia Downs, with hor d’oeuvres at 5 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. For more information about the dinner, call the Genesee County Chamber at (585) 343-7440.

March 8, 2022 - 9:47pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in muckdogs, baseball, sports, Chamber Awards.

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The Batavia Muckdogs’ selection as the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce “Entrepreneurial Business of the Year” is the icing on the cake, says team owner Robbie Nichols, who was the catalyst and driving force behind the rejuvenation of summer baseball at Dwyer Stadium in 2021.

Speaking on behalf of co-owner and wife, Nellie; son-in-law/general manager Marc Witt, and his staff, Nichols said he is “really thrilled that the county recognized our hard work and hard effort that we put into this season.”

“And we are just thrilled with the season -- the way the sponsors, the season ticket holders, and all the fans took to us – and we’re so extremely pleased with the way the year turned out. Getting an honor like this is just the cherry on top.”

It was January 2021 when Nichols, a longtime professional hockey player in the American Hockey League and hockey/baseball owner in Elmira, approached the Batavia City Council with the idea of fielding a team in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Negotiations between the two entities were fruitful, and baseball was back in Batavia after a one-year hiatus.

Attendance increased significantly from 2019 – Nichols said the per-game average exceeded 1,700 with more than 500 season tickets sold. Fans enjoyed the numerous promotions, which included the KMS dance crew, kids running the bases, and in-game host “Kin Dog" (Batavian John Kindig).

Outside of baseball, Nichols attracted dance competitions and clinics, PRIDE Festival, Challenger Baseball, GLOW Academy Youth Baseball and Battle of Badges, high school baseball, Alzheimer’s Walk, Muckdogs Monster Mash, among other events, to the stadium at the intersection of Bank and Denio streets.

Furthermore, the Muckdogs’ players always were available for community appearances and marched in the City’s Memorial Day Parade.

Nichols said he appreciates the way the fans responded to the team.

“It was just a fun season,” he said, “and it’s even crazier as we approach this season. Games already are close to being sold out for next year (2022). We’ll do even better this year. That’s what we're so excited about.”

When it was mentioned that the word “entrepreneurial” was in the title of the Chamber award, Nichols acknowledged that it fits him to a T.

“I think people have always said that (about me). If you look at my background, I guess that would be a pretty accurate word,” he said. “I was signed by the Detroit Red Wings and I was playing in the American Hockey League and I had a hockey card business on the side. And I made more money (with that) than I did for my NHL contract.”

He recalled that he made and sold T-shirts when his team was going to the championship game.

“People are leaving the doors and I'm out on the ice, selling T-shirts as people are walking out. We won the championship. So, I’ve always had that entrepreneur … trying to make it make a buck with a side hustle,” he said.

Nichols also mentioned “a rumor” that a show called The Flint Tropics was based on his seven years managing the Flint (Mich.) Generals.

“They said that they copied all of the crazy things that I did as far as promotions; a lot of stuff they did in that movie was stuff that I did on the ice,” he said. We will do any promotion – and we’ve got some crazy ones coming up this year.”

Although his permanent address is in Elmira, the 57-year-old Nichols said that Batavia has come his second home – literally.

“My wife and I have bought a home in Batavia now – right around the corner from the ballpark,” he said. “We’re really honored the way the City of Batavia has treated us. We can’t ask for better folks; they’re just like family.”

In his nomination of the Batavia Muckdogs for the award, lifelong Batavian Tom Turnbull said the city and county have been enriched because of Robbie and Nellie Nichols’ hard work and community spirit.

“While the Batavia Muckdogs may not seem like a new business due to the continuation of the name (from the former New York-Penn League), the new Batavia Muckdogs … are not only an incredible local business success story but have enhanced the quality of life for the residents of Genesee County,” Turnbull wrote.

Top photo: Robbie and Nellie Nichols on opening day 2021. Photo by Jim Burns.

Game photos below by Philip Casper

This is the first of four articles highlighting the 50th Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards. The annual dinner is Saturday at Batavia Downs, with hor d’oeuvres at 5 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. For more information about the dinner, call the Genesee County Chamber at (585) 343-7440.

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March 27, 2021 - 6:00pm
posted by Press Release in Chamber Awards, chamber of commerce, news.

Livestream courtesy of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

March 5, 2021 - 1:36pm
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Chamber Awards: Ag Business of the Year, L&M Speciality Fabrication

March 5, 2021 - 11:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in livestream, video, Chamber Awards, Tammy Hathaway.
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Chamber Awards: Interview with Tammy Hathaway, Geneseean of the Year

March 2, 2021 - 1:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in umm, chamber of commerce, Chamber Awards, livestream, video.
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This is the first in a series this week of interviews with this year's winners of awards from the Chamber of Commerce, starting with UMMC, winner of the Service Award for 2020. We'll be talking with President Dan Ireland.

March 7, 2020 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in video, news, crossroads house, Chamber Awards, batavia.
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Jeff Allen, director of Crossroads House in Batavia, will receive an award tonight from the Chamber of Commerce at the Geneseean of the Year. The awards dinner is at Quality Inn & Suites.

March 7, 2020 - 10:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tompkins Bank of Castile, business, batavia, news, video, Chamber Awards.
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Tompkins Bank of Castile is Genesee County's Business of the Year. Tompkins will receive the award tonight during an awards dinner at Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

March 7, 2020 - 10:00am
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Purple Pony Therapeutic Horsemanship has been named the Special Service Recognition of the Year award winner by the Chamber of Commerce. The volunteers of Purple Pony will receive the award at the Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner tonight Quality Inn & Suites.

March 7, 2020 - 9:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, MY-T-Acres, Chamber Awards, news, video.
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MY-T Acres, located off Lewiston Road in Batavia, is Genesee County's Agriculture Business of the Year. The Call family will receive the award at the Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner tonight Quality Inn & Suites.

January 23, 2020 - 4:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, chamber of commerce, Chamber Awards.

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is celebrates its 48th Annual Awards Ceremony on Saturday, March 7, at the Quality Inn & Suites, Park Road, Batavia.

This is the County’s premier event that honors businesses and individuals for their achievements in business, community service and volunteerism. Tickets are $50 per person or a table of 10 for $450.

The evening begins at 5:30 with hors d'oeuvres, entrée tables and cash bar (no formal sit-down dinner is to be served). The Award Program starts at 7 p.m. at which time dessert and coffee will be served.

Call Kelly J. Bermingham, at 343-7440, ext. 1026, to make your reservations.

This year’s honorees are:  

Business of the Year: Tompkins Bank of Castile       

Agricultural Business of the Year: Call Lands/My-T Acres   

Special Service Recognition of the Year: Purple Pony Therapeutic Horsemanship                             

Geneseean of the Year: Jeff Allen

March 3, 2019 - 4:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chamber Awards, chamber of commerce, news, notify.

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It was a celebratory evening at the Quality Inn and Suites on Saturday as the Chamber of Commerce honored local businesses and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the community. 

For more on each award winner, click on the story links below:

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Dan Fischer, emcee.

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Jay Gsell, emcee, with the "Genesee Is Great Already" (GIGA) hat that he introduced at the event and gave to each honoree.

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Tom Turnbull, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

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Bob Stocking and Penny Arnold.

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Larry Webster and Mike Davis representing Upstate Niagara Cooperative.

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The Harrower family, Genesee Lumber.

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Jim McMullen and Sue Schuler representing the Rotary Club of Batavia.

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Videos, produced by Paul Figlow, were used to introduce each award winner.

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Bob Stocking's hat.

March 1, 2019 - 11:51am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Chamber Awards, pembroke.

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Editor's note: The  2018 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Awards banquet will be held Saturday, March 2, at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

The phrase “pay it forward” is a bit overworked, but there’s no better way to describe the manner in which Corfu’s Bob Stocking goes about the business of community service and volunteerism.

Stocking, 83 and getting younger every year, is the 2018 recipient of the Geneseean of the Year award from the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

He will be honored at the chamber’s 47th annual Awards Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on March 2 at the Quality Inn & Suites on Park Road in Batavia.

Nominated by longtime friend and neighbor Penny Arnold, Stocking (who has lived in his Angling Road farmhouse since 1945) has made a difference in the lives of people of all ages – from the children who have found their way as 4-H Club members to the elderly who have found comfort and friendship in HomeCare & Hospice, Genesee Cancer Assistance, Mercy Flight and Crossroads House.

Through it all, he raised a family as a top-notch tractor-trailer driver for 41 years, endured the death of his 48-year-old son, John, to a hunting accident in 2008 and now, with the help of his daughter, Tracy, takes care of his wife of 63 years, Donna, who has health problems.

Stocking also has assumed the role of helping those who need to clear out their homes due to the loss of a parent.

Every day brings a new adventure, a new challenge to the Stocking household, and Bob continues to be up to the task.

“Over the years, people have helped us,” he said. “The first auction barn dance that we did was for Hospice, which had taken good care of my mother when she passed away. I wanted to do something to repay them.”

So, putting his words into action, Stocking agreed to chair an annual fundraiser at Bontrager’s Auction Barn on Wortendyke Road – this year’s event to benefit Crossroads House is set for Oct. 12 and, as you would expect, Bob plans on selling the bulk of the 225 available tickets.

Stocking, per Arnold’s nomination, jumped into it feet first.

“In the beginning the (Bontrager) employees agreed to share the chairing of this event, but Bob always seemed to take on the task,” she wrote. “There have been five wonderful events which have helped (the agencies listed above) … Chairing this event is no small task. Bob held meetings at his home and delegated many of the tasks, but has had his hands into many of the aspects of the event.”

Arnold went on to write about Stocking’s many hours on the phone and spent delivering tickets, and has turned the event into one that people look forward to and raises quite a bit of money for the designated causes through ticket sales, donations and a pie auction.

“Todd Jantzi (of Bontrager’s) has been great to us by donating the facility and helping in other areas,” Stocking said. “Other businesses donate to us and it has become a very successful event. Last year, we raised $5,000 for Crossroads House and we’re going to do it again.”

Stocking said the main reason he does this is “because all the money stays in the county.”

“It’s important to me that we help those in Genesee County,” he said. “With some things, you never know where the money goes.”

He said that a couple he met in Tops Market one day came up to him and thanked him for running the dinner-dance at Bontrager’s.

“They told me that they got some of the money that was donated to Genesee Cancer Assistance for gas and other expenses. That meant a lot to me,” he said.

Stocking’s generosity has touched young people who have participated in horse shows through 4-H at the Genesee County Fair by giving them and their animals rides to the shows in his horse trailer, providing accessories for training and donating trophies to the fair that were won by Tracy during her years showing horses.

“We used to have 25 horses and 25 cows,” said Stocking, who also operated a tack shop, “but now we have a dog and a cat.”

Stocking was active in the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department for many years (he’s a lifetime member) and once donated a steer to its carnival to raise money.

In her nomination, Arnold wrote that Stocking, who became a grandfather figure to her daughter, Danielle, is “honest and trustworthy … someone that always helps out other people but doesn’t do it for the acknowledgment … he does it from the heart.”

When he was contacted by a chamber employee, Stocking said he didn’t realize he had won, but thought he had been nominated.

“I never expected anything like this in my entire lifetime,” said Stocking, who said he will have 14 people, including son, Robbie, who lives in Virginia, at the ceremony. “It’s a big, big honor to have something like that. I just do it to help people.”

March 1, 2019 - 11:46am
posted by Mike Pettinella in Chamber Awards, news, business, batavia, Genesee Lumber.

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Editor's note: The 2018 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Awards banquet will be held Saturday, March 2, at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

John Harrower said he recalls a story that his late father, Robert, told him about how Genesee Lumber got started way back in 1928.

“My grandfather, a pioneer in his vision and thinking, shook hands (on the deal) with the former owner of what was Franklin Street Lumber at the time, and he (the seller) said, ‘Good luck, it’s a dying business.’ ”

Today, that “dying business” is alive and well – continuing to serve Genesee County and, in recent years, Erie and Monroe counties – as both a contractor yard and retail outlet.

It’s doing so well, in fact, that it is being honored as the 2018 Business of the Year by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and will be recognized as such at the chamber’s 47th annual Awards Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on March 2 at the Quality Inn & Suites on Park Road in Batavia.

“We are very honored and humbled to receive this award,” Harrower said, speaking for his wife, Leslie; sons, Michael and Eric, who are both in the business, and his employees.

Genesee Lumber was nominated by Batavia John Riter, who praised the Harrowers for their “vision, willingness to bet on the community and commitment to success” as key elements in the company’s ability to expand considerably in recent years.

“Their success has contributed to the community’s success in a variety of ways, not the least of which is an expanded workforce,” Riter wrote in his nomination letter.

John and Leslie purchased the company from Robert in 1994, but John actually worked for his dad as a child before coming on full time after college in 1983. Leslie, an accomplished business person in her own right, came on board in 1987.

Robert Harrower, well-known for his efforts as a Rotarian and on several community boards, passed away last June at the age of 84.

The origins of Genesee Lumber are best captured in John’s words:

“The company was started in 1928 by my grandfather, Harold Harrower, who was a traveling salesman and a lumber dealer. He wanted to own a lumber yard one day, and he called on this place – the old Franklin Street Lumber – and ended up buying it.”

John said the business prospered through the Depression and World War II, and was supported by three big silos, which kept Harold busy during the winter months. “A big source of revenue, and the fuel supply was coal,” he noted.

In time, the coal aspect went away, the silos were removed and the business became known as Genesee Lumber Company Inc.

Robert Harrower worked beside his dad and uncle as a child. In 1963, he bought out his father (who retired) and owned the business until selling it to his son and daughter-in-law 25 years ago.

John Harrower said he sees himself as a combination of the two – a bit of a risk taker like his grandfather and a sense of conservatism, more like his father.

“Yeah, I think I have some of my grandfather in me in that we took a leap of faith about 15 years ago to venture outside of Genesee County,” John said. “We added four or five buildings, and while continuing to be very heavy in the retail business (in Genesee County) we have expanded those avenues into Monroe and, especially Erie County.”

He said the company owns a fleet of a dozen trucks and 10 forklifts, features a large showroom area to “give people a feel of what they could envision for themselves, no matter the size of the project that they have going on.”

The Andersen Windows line has been a key part of the company’s offerings for about 60 years. “They (Andersen) are, if not No. 1, No. 2,” he said.

Genesee Lumber also carries siding, metal roofing, top quality shingles, the Trex decking product, storm doors, windows and more.

“We also do a large amount of interior packages – styles, color, paint grade option or also a stain finish product,” John said, “and a wide array of exterior door options, and patio doors (with a) great selection. It’s quite an expansive line.”

John said Genesee Lumber has several skilled sales and service employees in the areas of kitchen cabinets and countertops – “not our main line, but we can do pre-built or custom cabinetry,” he said.

Much of the expansion has occurred under John and Leslie’s watch.

“We tore down an old building and a house and put up this nearly 10,000-square-foot warehouse – that mostly houses windows and doors,” he said. “We cut lumber, plywood and have a shop for custom painting.”

John said that they take on a lot of lumber by rail, with one railroad car holding more than four tractor-trailer loads.

“Rail helps reduce our costs quite a bit. It reduces the freight tremendously, which we can pass on to our contractor and customer base,” he said, adding that the majority of the lumber comes from Canada or the West Coast.

The Harrower family continues to be active in the community, as both John and Leslie have served on the Genesee Area YMCA board (Leslie is a former president) and as volunteer coaches for a variety of school and youth sports.

Per Riter’s nomination, “John and Leslie have been great ambassadors in that they are always friendly and welcoming to people who are new to the community, including Liz (his wife) and myself.”

John said he embraces what he calls “the hometown spirit.”

“Nothing comes near it,” he said. “We like to see people within the community; we’ve made a lot of friends and have had a tremendous amount of support from the community. And, for that, we’re very grateful.”

March 1, 2019 - 11:42am
posted by Virginia Kropf in Batavia Rotary Club, business, Chamber Awards, batavia.

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Editor's note: The 2018 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Awards banquet will be held Saturday, March 2, at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

As Batavia’s oldest service club prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, it will be honored by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce with the Special Service Recognition of the Year on Saturday.

Rotarian Christopher White stressed the importance of the Rotary Club of Batavia in the community when he nominated it for the Chamber award.

“Founded by local businessmen looking for camaraderie and an opportunity to give back to their community, the Club has made meaningful contributions, not just financial, but of their time, talent and expertise to make Batavia a better place to live,” White wrote.

Rotary’s contributions to the Batavia community include support of Batavia Concert Band, Genesee County Youth Bureau Community Garden, Genesee Cancer Assistance, Crossroads House, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, GO ART!, Fourth of July Picnic in the Park, Genesee/Orleans ARC and United Memorial Medical Center.

And they support local youth in ice hockey, minor league baseball, Boy Scouts, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), YMCA Camp Hough and the YMCA Summer Adventure Program. 

The Rotary Scholarship Program provides $18,000 each year to high school students from Batavia, Notre Dame and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership.

Rotary also gives local high school students a chance to spend a year abroad, and has hosted foreign exchange students looking to experience life in the United States and Western New York. Two of these students, one from Australia and the other from Denmark, are in Batavia now and attended a recent meeting to tell of their experiences at Algonquin Provencial Park in Ontario, Canada.

Rotary has also provided youth leadership training to many local high school and college students through Rotary International. And they support the world by continuing to raise funds from club members to support Rotary International in its quest to eradicate polio from the face of the earth.

Batavia Rotary hosts the annual girls’ and boys’ high school basketball tournaments, the annual Father’s Day Fly-in Breakfast at Genesee County Airport, the annual Beerfest and raffle, and the Memorial Day Flags and Flowers Sale.

Not to be forgotten are the Rotary shows which were put on for so many years.

White noted that many of the current 75 Rotary members sit on boards of local organizations and nonprofit agencies, lending their support and knowledge to them. They can be found making an impact outside of the Club itself, he said. Members range in age from 28 to 88 and all believe in the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self.”

Batavia Rotary was founded in 1919 by Batavia businessman Carlton M. Sleight, who had only lived in the city little more than a decade, according to William F. Brown Jr. in his book "Service Above Self: The Story of a Rotary Club."

Sleight had attended a Rotary meeting in Elmira, while living and doing business in Canandaigua, and Brown believes that his visit may have inspired him to form a club in Batavia. On March 13, 1919, Sleight invited 25 business and professional men to meet at the Holland Club with Dr. John H. Ready from the Rochester club to learn how to form a Batavia unit.

The group was so enthused that, two months later, a dinner meeting was held at the Batavia Club to discuss the reports of committees working on bylaws and a constitution. Officers were installed May 26 at the Odd Fellows Temple (the former St. James Episcopal Church on Ellicott Street). More than 200 Rotarians attended from Rochester to Niagara Falls and enjoyed a five-course dinner served by the Eastern Star. 

Batavia became Rotary International’s charter No. 491.

Batavia dentist Joseph Rowbottom is a 50-year member of Batavia Rotary, along with Dave Schwartz and Don Iwanicki.  

Rowbottom first became exposed to Rotary after moving to Corfu. When he was a freshman in dental school, he had a friend whose fiancee’s mother knew a dentist in Corfu who was retiring. That turned out to be Guy Patterson and Rowbottom bought his building. (Guy Patterson's daughter was the famous swimmer Greta Paterson, who swam across Lake Erie in 1955.)

In 1966, the Vietnam War was heating up, and Rowbottom didn’t want to be drafted, so Patterson agreed to hold the building and Rowbottom enlisted. He served two years in the military and after returning home, started attending Rotary meetings with dentist Patterson. 

“I’ve been coming ever since,” Rowbottom said. “I continued to block off time on my schedule from noon to 1:15 p.m. so I could attend Rotary. I’ve always had a lot of fun at Rotary. I also liked the Buffalo Club, but they were so formal.”

Rowbottom said his friends challenged him in the beginning to propose that women be allowed to join Rotary. At the time, the Batavia Jaycees were thrown out of the organization for accepting a female member. He proposed Rotary welcome in Terry Carauna, the dean of Business at Genesee Community College.

“They didn’t accept her and I almost got thrown out of Rotary,” Rowbottom said. “Today, we would be in a world of hurt without women. This club could not function as it does without women.”

One of the newer, younger members is Pam Sivret, who joined in 2017. Her sister, Teri Yasses has been a member since 1994 and Sivret has helped her with the fly-in breakfasts and Rotary shows. 

When Yasses said Sivret should join, she did.

“I love the friendship and how we are all very like-minded,” Sivret said. 

She was the first winner of a Rotary Youth Leadership Award to become a Rotary member. She won the award in 1990 while a student at GCC.

Lori Aratari was working for Triple AAA when she joined Rotary. 

“They encouraged us to be part of our community and get involved,” Aratari said. “I explored the service clubs locally and Rotary stood out.”

She has chaired fundraisers and is in her second term on the board.

“I’ve made amazing friends through Rotary and my husband enjoys participating in Rotary events,” Aratari said.

March 1, 2019 - 11:38am

Editor's note: The  2018 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Awards banquet will be held Saturday, March 2, at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., a dairy cooperative owned by 340 farm families located throughout Western New York, will be honored March 2 as the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Organization of the Year.

“On behalf of our member-owners, especially those located in Genesee County, we are honored to be presented with this award by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce,” said Keith Telaak, senior marketing manager of Upstate Niagara Cooperative. “We are grateful of this recognition and are proud to be a part of the Genesee County community.”

Upstate Niagara Cooperative is a result of several mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations of local dairy processors over the past 100 years, as dairy farmers realized the need for increased efficiencies to be able to grow their businesses and compete in the changing marketplace, Telaak said.

In 2006 Upstate Farms Cooperative and Niagara Milk Cooperative consolidated, bringing together two of the nation’s top dairy cooperatives. Its history, however, goes back even further.

Some of Upstate Niagara Cooperative’s family-owned farms have been in existence for more than six generations, according to Telaak.

The cooperative operates seven manufacturing facilities – three fluid plants (Buffalo, Rochester and Williamsport, Pa.), with their main office in Buffalo; two cultured facilities (West Seneca and North Lawrence); one cheese plant in Campbell; and O-AT-KA Milk Products in Batavia. The Membership Office is also located in Batavia, Telaak added. 

“Our mission is to serve each one of our customers the highest quality dairy products and services, in order to market milk and maximize returns for our dairy farmer owners, while providing a rewarding environment for our employees,” Telaak said.

“Our commitment to quality dairy products extends to every stage of production, from the farm to the consumer. The success of our cooperative begins with the passion and dedication of our farmer-owners to work hard every single day to produce the highest quality milk.”

Upstate Niagara’s high-quality dairy products have earned several first-place awards at dairy competitions, including their Bison French Onion Dip and light sour cream. They are marketed to consumers throughout the country.

Their products include milk, flavored milk, yogurt, dip, sour cream, cheese and ice cream marketed under the Upstate Farms, Valley Farms; Intense Milk for consumers looking for a healthier way to indulge; Bison; and Milk for Life. 

“We are also a private label manufacturer of dairy products for many of the largest retailers throughout the country,” Telaak said. 

Today, Upstate Niagara employs more than 1,400 people in their offices, manufacturing facilities and distribution network. 

Batavia was chosen as the site for the Membership Office because of its central location to member farmers in Western New York, Telaak said. Mike Davis is plant manager of the Batavia plant.

January 15, 2019 - 12:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chamber of commerce, Chamber Awards, news, business.

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 47th Annual Awards Ceremony which will be held on Saturday, March 2, at the Quality Inn & Suites, Park Road, Batavia.

This is the County’s premier event that honors businesses and individuals for their achievements in business, community service and volunteerism. Tickets are $50 per person or a table of 10 for $450.

The evening begins at 5:30 with hors d'oeuvres, entrée tables & cash bar (no formal sit-down dinner is to be served). The Award Program starts at 7 p.m. where dessert and coffee will be served. 

This year’s honorees are: 

  • Business of the Year:    Genesee Lumber Company Inc.      
  • Agricultural Organization of the Year:    Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc.   
  • Special Service Recognition of the Year:   The Batavia Rotary Club
  • Geneseean of the Year:   Bob Stocking, of Corfu
October 22, 2018 - 1:25pm
posted by Billie Owens in Chamber Awards, news, business.

Press release:

The Chamber’s Annual Awards Committee has announced the 2018 Annual Award Ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 2, at The Quality Inn & Suites, Park Road, Batavia (formerly The Clarion Hotel).

This is the County’s premier event that honors businesses and individuals for their achievements in business, community service and volunteerism.     

Please note that a brief write-up will qualify your nominee for consideration.

Nominations are now being accepted for:

  • Business of the Year, Entrepreneurial Business of the Year;
  • Agricultural Business of the Year;
  • Innovative Enterprise of the Year;
  • Special Service Recognition;
  • Geneseeans of the Year.

Business Nominees must be a Chamber Member (If unsure of your nominee, call the Chamber to verify).   

Nomination forms are available at the Chamber of Commerce office, 8276 Park Road, Batavia, and can also be downloaded from the Chamber website at www.geneseeny.com

Nominations MUST BE RECEIVED BY Dec. 28, to be eligible for consideration.

If you would like more information, feel free to call Kelly J. Bermingham, director of Member Relations & Special Events at the Chamber office, 343-7440, ext. 1026.

March 2, 2018 - 11:49pm

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This is the fifth in a series of five stories about the honorees at this Saturday's annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony. The ceremony is being held at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

Pouring concrete is a young man's game, said Tom Baltz, co-owner of Baltz Concrete Construction in Pavilion.

"We have a lot of knowledge and ability to keep (the business) running, but I certainly couldn't go out and do concrete anymore," said the 64-year-old Baltz. "We have a lot of tough guys. You have to be tough to do concrete work."

Baltz employs between 40 and 50 people regularly, usually more in the summer. They have to work in all kinds of conditions. This isn't school where you can count on a few snow days during the winter. A Baltz construction worker works in the hot and the cold, the wind and the rain, the snow and the bright light of an August afternoon.

"They're working outdoors in all possible conditions," Baltz said. "We only took one weather day off this winter. They're out there in the mud and the water and they still have to think clearly and get a job done, and get a job done in a manner that it's going to stand up. It really is an amazing thing what these guys are capable of doing and what they're willing to do to get the job done."

It's been 45 years since Tom's dad, Robert Baltz, started the company, which his three sons eventually took over. Since then it's continued to grow and increasingly become a bedrock business of the community.

That's why Baltz Construction was selected by the Chamber of Commerce at the business of the year.

"I was only 19 when I started," Baltz said. "I came home from college and got out in the sun and got working, I just put my head down and did it. To be honest with you, I just never looked back. I just loved the physical work of it."

Baltz Construction specializes cast-in-place concrete. In other words, Baltz workers go to a construction site and fill casts with concrete, rather than bring in pre-poured castings. 

Clients include schools and factories.

"If it's concrete, we do it," Baltz said. "We don't do a lot of residential work because that's kind of a different gear than what we're set up to do. We have bigger equipment with more overhead, so we don't do a lot of residential unless it's a large job."

Robert Batlz was working for the B.R. DeWitt Corp. driving a cement truck when it struck him that maybe that was the kind of work he could do for himself.

"He saw a lot of concrete being poured and thought it looked like an opportunity so he decided to give it a try."

He started out with small jobs on the side but by 1973, Baltz Concrete became his full-time job.

That's when Tom went to work for him.

In a couple of years, Robert Baltz bought the Howard Brown Precast Company and Tom's brothers went to work for him there and Tom ran Baltz Concrete.

When the precast company was sold to Kistner, Baltz Concrete became the business of Tom and his two brothers.  

When one of the brothers wanted out, Tom and his brother Nicholas decided to make James Logdson a partner.

"James was looking for a summer job when he came to work for Baltz Concrete," Baltz said. "He worked one summer, he graduated, but he impressed us a lot. I talked my brothers into chasing him down and making him an offer to come to work for us. That was in the 1980s. He's been with us ever since."

Baltz said the company has always valued its employees and they try to treat them right.

"We take jobs that are anywhere within an hour-and-a-half of Pavilion," Baltz said. "We don't go much further than that because we need our people to be home every night. We hire family men. It's important that we get them home every night to be with their families."

They also support some of their after-work hobbies. They might sponsor stockcar or go-kart or some other activity.

"You get involved with the people you work with in a ton of different ways," Baltz said. 

There's a lot of charity support flowing out of Baltz Concrete. They sponsor youth baseball, soccer, softball, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, the Pavilion Community Chest and the Arc of Genesee Orleans.

"Being part of the town and being in a position to do something, you feel like you have the opportunity to help and helping always makes you feel better," Bartz said.

Both Tom and Nicholas are married. Tom and his wife don't have children. Nicholas is a stepfather to the children of his wife, but he and his wife are also parents to three foster children they plan to adopt. 

"So he has many children," Baltz said. "He lives and breathes for them, that's for sure."

What makes the company successful, Baltz acknowledged, is its people.

"We're not like a factory," Baltz said. "There's not a lot of equity in equipment. Most of the equipment we use has little or no market value. When all is said and done, with this place, if we shut it down, there's more worth in the building and the driveway then there is in the equipment.

"With our company, it is the people who are the only real value."

That's why some of the best employees in the company, such as Logsdon, have become partners.

The two new junior partners are Jaret Geitner and Jeremy Trzieceski.

The best workers, Baltz said, are the ones who have a dedication to their job and take pride in what they do. Those are the people who get promoted.

"When you have pride, you do something right for its own sake," Baltz said. "You don't do it for your boss or for your company. You do it for your own pride. You can teach a guy to do a job right but you can't teach a guy to care about his job."

The guys who care are easy to spot, Baltz said. They're the ones who see the boss working with estimating software, so they go home and play with it just to see if they can figure it out. 

"You know who the ones are that wake up in the middle of the night and think, 'Wow, did I get that measurement right?'"

That's why those employees get a shot at being a partner.

"There is a self-motivation in certain people that you have to recognize because if you don't recognize those people, they will go someplace else quick enough."

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