Commerce Chenango Hosted The 2023 Annual Award Gala Night
Published: June 9th, 2023
By: Kelli Miller

Commerce Chenango hosted the 2023 Annual Award Gala Night Commerce Chenango President and CEO Salvatore Testani and Village of Sherburne Mayor Bill Acee present the 2023 Small Business Award to Rich Lewis, owner of Lewis Restaurant. (Photo by Kelli Miller)

NORWICH — Commerce Chenango hosted it's annual awards Gala on Thursday evening at the Canasawacta Country Club in Norwich. The Gala was a celebration of businesses and individuals chosen for their accomplishments and achievements the past year.

Commerce Chenango President and CEO Salvatore Testani said, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here with you tonight. First I would like to thank all of our sponsors, especially our presenting sponsor, from NBT, without your support none of this would have been possible.”

Testani also thanked all of the Chamber members and said it was truly a celebration of all that they do for the community.

One of the most coveted awards, Entrepreneur of the Year, known as “The Sammy,” is given to an individual or business that illustrates creativity and imagination and has a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

Commerce Chenango thanked Mark Golden of Golden Artist Colors for continuing the tradition of providing the Sammy Award, named after his father, Sam Golden, a true entrepreneur.

This year’s Sammy award recipients were The Cirello Family.

Story Continues Below Adverts

The Cirello Family was chosen to receive the Entrepreneur of the Year award based upon the continuing success of their three businesses, the dedication and reliability to respond to a changing business environment, and their continuous support of the Chenango County community.

Testani explained Fred’s Inn was purchased in 1977 by Armando “Chick” Cirello who currently owns and operates the business with his partner and son, David. In 1998, six upscale guest rooms were added to the property. Two years later Fred’s Inn was home to 25 guest rooms with various amenities.

Park Place Sports Bar and Grill, located on East Park in downtown Norwich, was purchased in April 2009 by Chick and David Cirello. They continually provide a place in the heart of downtown Norwich and are a huge part of all of the downtown events and activities.

Dickie’s Barbecue was added to the Cirello’s repertoire of eateries in 2022.

The Commitment to Community Award was presented to ACHIEVE.

Testani said,”The award will be given annually to the member who goes above and beyond the mission statement or business purpose to improve the quality of life in Chenango County and certainly Achieve has done just that by investing $4.5 million dollars into the heart of Chenango County.

Testani invited Achieve board member Denny Morabito to the podium to accept the award and speak on behalf of Achieve.

Founded in 1952 in Broome County by 10 families seeking social and educational opportunities for their disabled children, ACHIEVE now operates 28 sites across three counties, offering an array of support and services to over 2,200 individuals annually, with approximately 450 employees. A new project set for completion in Chenango County in late 2023 will significantly impact the entire community.

The 2023 Small Business of the Year award went to Lewis’ Restaurant in Sherburne. The award was presented to a standout organization that exhibits excellence, best business practices, and commitment to both ethical business practices and employee support.

This family-owned business has been serving Italian food for approximately 70 years. The iconic Lighthouse that sits in front of the restaurant has helped to mark Lewis’ spot in the Sherburne community for decades.

Rich Lewis approached the podium and told the story of his family and friends; how the restaurant came to be and how deeply heartfelt he was at receiving such an honor.

The final award of the evening was the 2023 Member of Distinction Award.

Testani said, “This award will be given out each year to the member who distinguishes themselves and their commitment to their employees, our community, and Commerce Chenango.”

Story Continues Below Adverts

“Certainly NBT checks all of those boxes and they have for many many years,” he added.

Commerce Chenango Chairman Luke Murphy presented the award to NBT President and CEO John H. Watt, Jr. who called the NBT attendees to stand with him in accepting the award.

NBT Bank, recipient of the Member of Distinction Award, recognizes consistent growth and is considered a leader in their industry, makes continuous improvements to quality and innovation, and contributes to the community and its economy. NBT’s support throughout our communities sets the standard for a business that cares about everyone big and small and provides support to all.

NBT Bank’s roots go back to 1856, when a group of business leaders in Norwich saw a need for additional banking resources in the community and came together to form a bank.

Fast forward 167 years and NBT Bancorp Inc. is now a financial holding company head- quartered in Norwich. The Company primarily operates through NBT Bank, N.A., a full-service community bank, and through two financial services companies. NBT Bank, N.A. has 140 banking locations throughout the Northeast.

Organized in 1959, Commerce Chenango is a not-for-profit, community-based organization.

Nearly 180 people attended the award celebration . Entertainment provided by Elvis (Donald Brown) and former Broadway performer Jeff Keller.

The Gala’s presenting sponsor was NBT Bank and is supported by Excellus BCBS, LaBella, Laral Management, GHS Federal Credit Union, Preferred Mutual Insurance Company, Principle Design Engineering, and Golden Artist Colors.

For more information on future programming and services visit