In Auburn, who is the fairest of them all?
Auburn – Doesn’t it make perfect sense that a hotbed of commerce like the town of Auburn would have a “Best Of” contest run by the local Chamber of Commerce?
Wouldn’t the expectation be for much fanfare when an event of this nature is rolled out, as prospective winners hold their breath awaiting word of results to be announced at a Chamber breakfast in October?
Well, yes and no.
“I am not familiar with that by any means,” Jason Villatico, owner of J Anthony’s Italian Grill on Southbridge Road in North Oxford said. “Tell me more.”
On the other hand, “I would love to win one year!” Sally D’Arcangelo, executive director of Auburn Youth & Family Services on Pheasant Court in Auburn, said. Ms. D’Arcangelo doesn’t think that is going to happen, however, even though, unlike Mr. Villatico, she is well aware of the promotion. “Probably not,” she said, noting that Auburn Youth & Family Services may lack the ballot-box appeal some nominees in the Business/Service category boast. Which is unfortunate. The agency, founded in 1976 with the intent of preventing drug/ alcohol abuse among children in Auburn and now even more diversified, provides “a warm and welcoming environment,” a place where “people feel when they come in that they’re taken care of.”
Meanwhile the Velentzas family’s Auburn Town Pizza on Auburn St. has good reason to look forward to the sixth annual “Best Of” competition (entries for which close the end of this month), Lika Velentzas said.
“We won once (in 2010, for Best Lunch),” Ms. Velentzas, whose father Dimos took ownership of the popular eatery in the 1970s, said. “I am putting the word out with this poster (which is prominently displayed on the counter of the store) and on Instagram and Facebook. Also this year the Chamber has added a new subcategory, Best Pizza. But there are a lot of pizza places in town!” Indeed, Auburn Town Pizza is up against the likes of Golden, Holiday, Papa Gino’s, Uncle Chuck’s and “other” in that runoff.
The contest has attracted the eye of businesses considering membership in the Auburn Chamber as a way to obtain instant celebrity status, acknowledged Tracy Brusa of Paint2Gether on Millbury St. “I am interested,” she said. Ms. Brusa said her business caters to pre-school to adult patrons with “go-to-you” private parties for all occasions and fundraising assistance.
Mary Gough, Auburn branch manager of Webster First Federal Credit Union’s office on Southbridge St. and a Chamber Board member, said the online survey enables people to “vote for their favorite restaurants, banks, salons, pizza, service stations, etc.” Sandwich boards around town advertise Best Of. “We at the Chamber think [the contest] is nice recognition for our businesses,” she said.
Kathy Kirk, general manager at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites on Johnson St., agrees. “We have been involved in the Best of Auburn and been fortunate enough to have placed three times out of the four times it has run,” Ms. Kirk said. “I think it’s a great program that brings the community together to recognize excellence and it’s a great marketing tool when you win and have other products or businesses in the market that are similar to yours.”
Owen Russell, branch manager of Central One Federal Credit Union’s office on Southbridge St. and Ryan Belhumeur of Bell’s Lawn & Garden Center, also on Southbridge St., are two more businesspersons who would be pleased to see their companies singled out—as a total of 27 businesses were in 2014.
“We have won, two years in a row,” Mr. Belhumeur said.
On that note, let the voting begin.
-by Rod Lee