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Avon/Canton Chamber of Commerce recognizes local business, community leaders

By John Fitts

Staff Writer

AVON – Several local businesses and entrepreneurs were recognized at the Avon/Canton Chamber of Commerce’s 58th Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon at The Golf Club of Avon on May 24.

"We are so proud of our members and the businesses they represent,” said Lisa Bohman, Executive Director of the chamber. “The awards that the Avon/Canton Chamber of Commerce bestow annually honor those local businesses, and the individuals that represent them, that make significant contributions toward the betterment of life in the Farmington Valley. Moreover, it is important that we recognize, celebrate, and thank those businesses that have had a positive impact on our towns, and who through creativity, commitment, and a drive for success promote our area's strong business climate."

Those honored include the following:

Dr. Joanne Santiago with previous recipients of the Loren Bristol Spirit Award. Previous honorees include: Peter Vignati - 2007; Steve McGuff - 2008; David Pena - 2009; Cal Miller-Stevens - 2010; John Carmon - 2011; Rich Leone - 2012; Terry Brighenti - 2013; Tom McGee - 2014; Peg Mayer - 2015; Rob DiNicola - 2016; Len Dunstan - 2017; Ed Queirolo - 2018; Lisa Bohman - 2018; Jim Gordon - 2019; Morton N. Katz - 2020; Chuck Joseph - 2021; Peggy and Peter Bakker - 2022

Loren Bristol

Spirit Award,

Dr. Joanne Santiago

Dr. Joanne Santiago received the Loren Bristol Spirit Award, named in memory of the chamber committee member and director known for family devotion, betterment of the community and business leadership.

2022 recipients Peggy and Peter Bakker presented the award, with Peggy alluding to Santiago’s passions, which have included being a pilot, scuba diving and travel.

“By land, by air and by sea, this year’s Loren Bristol Award winner enjoys taking risks in her personal and professional life,” Peggy Bakker said. “Her career began with degrees in zoology and nutrition and continued with many degrees in Chiropractic medicine. Since she was a child, she wanted to follow her parents’ and brothers’ passion as a chiropractor.”

Indeed, her parents Joseph and Vivian and brothers James and Philip were in that line of work as is her daughter Joelle, who is also part of Avon Chiropractic Health Center with her mother.

Joanne Santiago jokingly refers to her sister, the Hon. Romona Santiago, a retired N.J. judge, as the “black sheep” of the family.

Joanne Santiago has been in the chiropractic business for 49 years, 39 of which have been in Avon.

She’s also a passionate dog owner and has Dolce, her Morkie and Stella, a Yorkie.

In addition to the chamber, Santiago is very active in the Rotary Club of Avon-Canton.

Small Business

of the Year,

Jules Poirier Co.

Jules and Julia Poirier of Jules Poirier Co., LLC – Small Business of the Year.

The Small Business of the Year recipient was the Jules Poirier Co., LLC, a third-generation local business run by its president, Jules Poirier, and his daughter, Julia Poirier – a U.S. Army veteran, who serves as vice president.

Jules’ dad – also Jules - started the business in 1955, initially by offering aluminum siding installations and later expanding to roofing and windows.

Today the company specializes in vinyl siding, roofing, gutters, windows and doors.

Jules and Julia are both Avon natives and went to Avon Public Schools and are also deeply involved in many local efforts in other Farmington Valley towns. They have supported local efforts, such as Canton Little League Focus Center for Autism Lupus Foundation of America and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Both Jules and Julia are also known for their support of other small businesses and restaurants.

“We’re pretty deeply rooted in the towns of Avon and Canton,” said Jules Poirier.

At the event, he thanked his late father, his team and his daughter. Jules noted that – as he did for his father – Julia is key to keeping up with technology and new business tools that are critical to modern-day success.

Large Business of the Year, Northwest Community Bank

Northwest Community Bank is Large Business of the Year. From left are: Chamber president Bryan Keilty of Drew & Cohen Attorneys at Law: Northwest Community Bank President and CEO Stephen Reilly; Northwest Community Bank President and CEO elect Maura Malo; and Mark Bonenfant, manager of the Avon Raymour & Flanigan store (Raymour & Flanigan was the recipient of the 2022 Large Business of the Year honor).

Taking home honors for Large Business of the Year was Northwest Community Bank.

The bank has its roots in the Winsted Savings Bank (founded in 1860) and Mechanics Saving Bank (founded in 1875 and later called Northwest Bank for Savings). The two merged in 1996 and Northwest Community Bank formed Connecticut Mutual Holding Company with Litchfield Bancorp.

In 2010, Collinsville Savings Society joined the holding company and in 2021, all three, as noted on the company’s website, “began operating under one charter as Northwest Community Bank; Litchfield Bancorp – A Division of Northwest Community Bank; and Collinsville Bank – A Division of Northwest Community Bank.”

At the chamber meeting, Mark Bonenfant of Raymour & Flanigan (recipient of the 2022 Large Business of the Year honor) emphasized the bank’s community programs including the Northwest Community Bank Foundation, which awarded 66 grants totaling $425,000 in 2022. Additionally the bank’s corporate Giving Program awarded another $300,000 to non-profits last year.

Stephen Reilly, President and Chief Executive Officer for the bank, said the honor showed that community banking is strong, despite the challenges of the past couple years.

“This reflects the fact that the community banking industry is on solid footing,” he said. “We are a community bank; we have been since 1860 and that’s going to continue on. We appreciate your support.”

Reilly recognized members of the Retail Banking and Commercial Lending teams that were at the event, as well as others, but also gave special mention to all employees.

“I really want to express my thanks on behalf of our employees. We have about 160 plus employees back at the bank who really deserve to be here and accept this award,” he said.

Reilly also recognized several board members present and said the board’s hard work was also crucial to the bank’s success.

“Also we are where we are today because of the incredible board leadership that we have,” he said. “They work very hard.”

President and CEO elect Maura Malo, who is set to replace Reilly when he retires this fall, added, “Thank you for this award and we greatly appreciate the fact that you recognize the importance of community banks.”

She also noted that the bank operates much differently from the large retail banks that have been the subject of recent troubles and failures.

“We don’t have the same business model as those large retail banks you’re hearing about. We’re healthy, stable, and well capitalized.”

“Our vision for the future continues to be stability. We’re here and we don’t have plans to go anywhere,” she said, adding that the company will continue to be part of the fabric of the communities it serves.

New Member Advocate of the Year, Liz Ackerman

The new member Advocate of the year award went to Elizabeth Ackerman, General manager at the Shops at Farmington Valley

Ackerman “received the New Member Advocate of the Year because she was responsible, in-whole or in-part, for recruiting Five New Chamber Members between June 1, 2022 and May 17, 2023,” chamber officials noted. The award, established 17 years ago, is “given annually to a member or members that recruit the greatest number of new members over the previous fiscal year.”

Ackerman, who grew up in West Hartford, has been the general manager at the Shops for 5 years.

“We’re just excited for all the new businesses that have come to the Farmington Valley and that see value in the networking opportunities and marketing through the Avon Canton Chamber,” Ackerman said.

Annual meeting

The annual meeting and awards ceremony also included a host of other recognitions, installations and updates on the chamber, its membership and newer initiatives, such as the coming of an updated web site and Valley Vibes podcast.


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