STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — For more than 27 years, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Advance have partnered to honor individuals in the business community who contribute so much to the community.
On Wednesday, Feb. 16, nine honorees will join a long line of fellow business award recipients at this year’s annual Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Awards, sponsored by Gateway Arms Realty.
The awards ceremony, which will begin at 8 a.m. at LiGreci’s Staaten, West Brighton, honors recipients under four categories: Emerging, Established, Master and Not-For-Profit. For tickets, visit https://www.sichamber.com/lou-miller-2022 or call the Chamber at 718-727-1900.
This year’s recipients are: Linda Baran (Staten Island Chamber of Commerce); Carol Bullock (The Pride Center of Staten Island); Robert J. Fitzsimmons Jr. and Laura L. Volsario (Gateway Arms Realty); Billy Hanson (Reliable Office Solutions); Ettore Mazzei (Chez Vous Caterers); and Jeanine and John Tardy (JVN Restoration Inc.). Lastly, John J. Amodio (SCORE Staten Island) will be honored with a special “founder” award for helping establish the Lou Miller Awards in honor of his former mentor.
Louis Miller, the namesake of the annual award ceremony, was a tireless community activist who mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners and community leaders. Affectionately known as Lou by his colleagues and mentees, Miller viewed volunteering as a way of giving back to his neighbors.
Like Miller, this year’s nine honorees have shared their business success by giving back to the local community. The Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Advance are pleased to introduce each of this year’s leaders, who exemplify the work of Miller. (Click on each honoree to read their full profiles.)
When Amodio worked at Community National Bank, he struck up a friendship with Miller, who quickly evolved into a valued mentor and surrogate father. In addition to helping jumpstart the awards, Amodio has carried on his mentor’s legacy by remaining a committee member of the community honor since its inception.
Similar to Miller, Amodio’s work resume is impressive, boasting more than six decades of experience in strategic planning, financial services, management, marketing and problem-solving. After retiring for the third time in 2013, Amodio dedicated his free time toward mentoring small business professionals by joining the Staten Island chapter of SCORE. In 2017, Amodio was elevated to chairman of the non-profit organization.
Amodio’s devotion to the community is just as lengthy. He has volunteered for a host of local organizations and lectured at each of the borough’s three local colleges. In addition, the former chairman at the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce is a 42-year member of the Rotary Club of Staten Island and serves as the chairman of the Staten Island Rotary Foundation, which has raised and distributed $1.9 million to the community.
Baran started as a part-time bookkeeper at the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce in 1986. After serving in several roles, she was elected as the first woman president and chief executive officer of the business non-profit in May 2004. For 25 years, she has worked as a tireless advocate for countless local causes and issues, and has supported a multitude of local businesses. Baran and her staff have assisted businesses through tough times, including the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession, Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
When Bullock became executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island, she quickly became one of Staten Island’s strongest voices for the LGBTQ+ community. The non-profit leader keeps her finger on the pulse with LGBTQ+ individuals, and adapts to their changing needs. She is constantly investing in new services and support groups to benefit the people she serves. And in 2021, Bullock spearheaded the organization’s recent move to a new headquarters so it could better serve the community.
When Robert J. Fitzsimmons Sr. founded Gateway Arms Realty Corp. in 1977, the real estate business became ingrained within his family. So, it was inevitable that his children, Robert and Laura, would follow in his footsteps. Today, the siblings team up to operate the family-owned, full-service real estate agency that provides property management services throughout the entire borough. When the brother-and-sister duo is not running their thriving business, each is active in the local community, especially with the Seamen’s Society for Children and Families, where they created the Robert and Barbara Fitzsimmons Children and Family Fund in their parents’ honor.
Hanson may not have planned to take over Reliable Office Solutions from his father, Bill, but that’s precisely what happened in 1999 when he was just 26 years old. The company, which offers an array of office products and solutions to improve office workflow and productivity for organizations, has grown under the CEO’s leadership with an immediate relocation into a new headquarters in Charleston, as well as expansions into Manhattan and New Jersey. In addition, Hanson is a Cabinet member of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, an active member of the Bucks Business Network, and serves on local school boards.
When Mazzei entered the restaurant industry as a 12-year-old dishwasher at Lucchese’s House of Seafood, he unknowingly entered a lifelong career in the foodservice industry. Mazzei founded Chez Vous Catering in 1996 and, one year later, settled at Stapleton’s historic Edgewater Hall. Passionate about the North Shore, Mazzei has played an integral role in the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce’s economic revitalization work in Downtown Staten Island by donating space at Edgewater Hall to host meetings. And he regularly participates in cleanup and beautification events.
When opening JVN Restoration Inc. in 2002, the husband-and-wife team drew upon decades of experience to ensure the new company thrived. As business flourished, the Tardys became involved within the community. The duo often makes donations — whether it’s labor, services, or contributions — to worthy people, organizations and causes around the borough. Through the years, they have been recognized by several groups, including the JCC’s Sunrise Day Camp, for their big heart.