BRISTOL – “You’ve often heard that small businesses are the engine of the economy, and it’s actually perfectly true,” said Jay Sattler, board chair of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce. “They employ our families, they drive our economy, they contribute to our community, and it just goes on and on.”
Sattler kicked off the Bristol Chamber Small Business Appreciation Breakfast Thursday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
Cindy Bombard, chamber president/CEO, described it as a fun event, where the chamber staff members get to choose their “Staff Picks” like you would see in a bookstore or wine shop.
Justin Malley, executive director of the Bristol Development Authority, reminisced about the local small businesses where he used to hang out with his friends as a kid causing mischief growing up in Bristol – places like the Big and Tall store in Bristol Plaza on Route 6, the Music Shop, True Value Hardware, and Scooters arcade.
At Frankie’s Restaurant, they would eat the pickles and relish put out for customers, he recalled. “We would spend all day in there and we would buy nothing, we would just annoy everyone who worked there.”
“These business owners should have just kicked us out and never seen us again, but they put up with us. They gave us a place to eat lunch, and buy gifts, and that’s what’s important about small business. As Amazon and e-commerce grows, unfortunately you lose some of that. What we want in Bristol here is to encourage good independent small businesses that really take care of a community, because that’s what it’s about,” Malley added.
Tim Bergstrom, regional vice president of Webster Bank, said Small Business Week has been going on for more than 50 years “to recognize the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and business owners, they are truly the backbone of America.”
“More than half of all Americans own or work for a family business, and they create two thirds of the new jobs in the U.S. each year,” Bergstrom said, noting that Webster Bank has been the top small business lender for the past 11 years.
Roberta Wachtelhausen, senior vice president, chief sales and marketing officer of ConnectiCare, said her company has offered health insurance products for small business for many years.
“We know it’s no small feat to be a small business owner in this state,” she said. “We at ConnectiCare are really looking at our plans and trying to be creative at bringing lower cost plans into the market. Little teaser – we think we are going to have some exciting lower cost plans in the market this fall, so don’t forget to talk to your broker about them.”
The keynote speaker, Christopher Santilli, publisher of the Hartford Business Journal, said his own publication is in fact a small business.
“Like many small businesses, we’ve had to fight and evolve and change our ways and our delivery system,” he said. “It’s odd but we still deliver 9,000 copies a week to over 31,000 readers, in 61 communities in Connecticut. We deliver electronically to 11,000 people twice per day, and have over 2,000 people at our events.”
Santilli said developers coming from New York, New Jersey and beyond, see potential here in central Connecticut, but “as New Englanders we’re generally a little bit pessimistic.”
“I would challenge all of us to see the glass as half full, and if we have any real hard realists here I would at least ask you to think of the glass as twice as big as it needs to be, so I think we should start believing,” he said.
Even in Connecticut, which has so many large companies in insurance, defense, aerospace, and manufacturing, more than half of the state works in small business, he noted. “Today’s winners are great representations of the very businesses that sustain our economy. I’d like to thank all of them for taking the chance and making it work, and all of you in the room who may own your own small businesses – I applaud you.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The small businesses and small business founders honored this year are:
Dr. Victoria Biondi, co-founder of Central Connecticut Obstetricians and Gynecologists (CCOG); co-founder and board member of Women’s Health CT & Physicians for Women’s Health; and founder of Briar Rose Networks, Center for Aesthetics and Wellness. She is currently president of the board of directors of the New England Carousel Museum.
Bristol-Towpath BNI, the local chapter of Business Network International, which is an international networking organization. The Bristol chapter was chartered in 2006 with Martin Tobey as its first president. It currently has 47 members.
Computer Development Systems Inc., founded in 1981 by Rose and the late Rick Parenti on North Street. Now co-owned by their son Tony Parenti at 132 Riverside Ave., it has served Bristol’s IT needs since the personal computer was an emerging technology.
Maple End Package Store, founded by Max Friedman in 1945, and now run by his son Marvin and daughter-in-law Lorraine, at 192 North St.
Jerry Rafaniello, an independent insurance agent who has been representing AFLAC since 2003. He serves as chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, a corporator of Bristol Hospital, a director and ambassador for the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the distribution committee for the Main Street Community Foundation.