The Bay Ridge Merchants of Third Avenue held its milestone 25th anniversary Pioneer Awards celebration on Monday night, Oct. 22. The venerable organization packed both floors at the Bay Ridge Manor at 467 76th St.
Merchants President Robert Howe and event Chair Chuck Otey welcomed elected officials, community leaders, honorees and their families to a memorable evening celebrating commitment to the community.
The Pioneer event, Howe said, was originally conceived by Otey as a way to “recognize merchants on the avenue who distinguish themselves by being able to stay in business for a long period of time.”
Otey called the event “a tribute to the volunteer spirit of our community” and praised the dedication of Howe, event Co-Chair Lori Pedone and Treasurer Brian Chin.
According to Howe, around 400 businesses on the avenue employ from one to 20 people. He referred to Third Avenue as “a small little economic engine of its own.” He said that along with Pioneers, civic awards are presented “to those who’ve made a difference in Bay Ridge life.”
Howe and Otey themselves were presented with a special award for originating the Pioneer event and for 25 years of exemplary service to the community.
The Larry Morrish Community Service Award was presented to Chin, VP branch manager at Northfield Bank. The award was named for Morrish, the late beloved civic leader who wholeheartedly promoted Bay Ridge.
“It was an honor and privilege to receive the Larry Morrish award,” Chin told this paper. “This is a prestigious award. I knew Larry Morrish personally and if there was one thing I knew about him, it was that he was always involved in the community….The 25th Anniversary Champagne Reception is a great event and this year, as always, we had amazing honorees.”
The civic honorees were Rick Russo of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Louis Peters of AMP Insurance Brokerage, Bay Ridge Memorial Day Parade Chairperson Ray Aalbue, attorney Ray Ferrier, DSNY Columbia Associates, and the Salaam Club of New York.
The Salaam Club was founded in 1945 by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants in Bay Ridge and was formed as a cultural fraternity of businessmen of Middle Eastern descent. It originally served as a means to allow these civic leaders to help serve their community. The award was accepted by current club president Joe Avignone.
“The evening was amazing,” Peters told this paper. ‘There were so many stars in the room. Bay Ridge is quite a community that’s continuing to grow into the future.”
The New Business Pioneer Award recipients were Patsy’s Pizzeria at 8814 Third Avenue and Ogo New York, a women’s clothing store at 83rd Street and Third Avenue.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to 97-year-old Jane Kelly, a retired Catholic school teacher and longtime member of the Bay Ridge Community Council. And the Half-Century Award was presented to Dennis Monier, owner of Tops Restaurant and Bar Supplies on 80th Street and Third Avenue.
The other Pioneer Award recipients were Phil Guarnieri of Empire State Bank, Albert Corhan of Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, Anthony Perricone of Anthony’s Butcher Shop, Evans Kotsis of Uncle Louie G’s, MaryAnn Kearns of Caffe Café, Zoe Koutsoupakis of Signature Bank, Dina Morra and Sanaa Morra of Nile Boutique, Nicole Esposito and Tarin Sukkarich of Bohemian Rose Hair Studio, and James Clark of Bagel Boy.
Elected officials at the reception included U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, state Sen. Marty Golden and City Councilmember Justin Brannan.
“The 2018 Annual Pioneer Awards event hosted by the Merchants of Third Avenue highlighted the best of our avenue,” Golden told this paper. “The event honored champions of our community, merchant leaders and it bestowed accolades upon the new stores that have made an investment in our community. It is events such as these that make this community a great place to live, work and raise a family. I look forward to our community organizations and merchant groups continuing to thrive for the good of the neighborhood.”
Brannan told this paper that he was proud to attend the Pioneers reception, citing the invaluable contribution of small businesses to the community.
“Small businesses power our neighborhood, city, state and nation, but as a former small business owner, I know it’s not easy and often a labor of love,” Brannan said.
“Celebrating small business owners new and old is always a good thing,” he went on. “Not only do small businesses create lots of local jobs, but we all rely on them in our day-to-day lives. They’re the owners of your favorite restaurant, the salon that cuts your hair, the corner bodega you get your morning coffee from, these are our neighbors, too. I’m lucky to represent such a vibrant neighborhood with so many great small businesses and new shops opening every day!”