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Friday, June 17, 2011

Chamber Passes the Gavel at Annual Meeting

Chamber Passes the Gavel 
at Annual Meeting:
Members mingle at Brooklawn Country Club
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – As the sun dipped down and cast long shadows across the fairway, a polished crowd stood on the adjacent veranda, clinked glasses and talked business.

It was the 65th Annual Meeting of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, held Wednesday evening at Brooklawn Country Club, 500 Algonquin Road. Sixty people, including members and family, came together to enjoy cocktails, a buffet dinner and the exchange of command from outgoing officers to incoming.

As jazz pianist Peter Randazzo tickled the ivories to set the evening’s tone, Chamber President and CEO Patricia Ritchie summed up the meeting’s goals. “We’re here to pass the gavel, from outgoing Chairman Andy Aziz to incoming Chairman George Szondy, and say goodbye to others that have served their time,” she said. “But our other important mission is to eat, drink and be merry. I’ve said it 100 times – we’re the fun Chamber. This is just a nice way to get together.”

Asked about the state of Fairfield’s business climate, Ritchie commented, “The community is in pretty darn good shape in comparison to other towns. You’ve got a lot of new stores, like Whole Foods Market, CVS, Chipotle Grill. And once the train station opens, that whole area is going to boom.”

Ritchie added, “On the horizon, we have Chips coming in on Black Rock Turnpike. The vacancies don’t last long.”

Incoming Chairman Szondy said his own business, Abbey Tent and Party Rentals, was going gangbusters. He looked forward to helping steer the Chamber and cited his objectives. “One is to bring in more members,” he said. “Andy had initiated efforts to ally with the BRBC (Bridgeport Regional Business Council) and Westport Chamber of Commerce. I plan to pick up on that and make it grow. And I want to recruit more members here in Fairfield.”

Szondy’s view of Fairfield is that it has a great base of businesses and is well off, but that business owners can’t just sit back and expect things to fall in their laps. “Many businesses are service oriented and have to maintain quality,” he said. “The Chamber can help fortify connections.”

Szondy’s own journey with the Chamber began about five years ago, when he joined and got involved. “You meet great people and have the opportunity to talk with other business owners about positives and negatives,” he said.

Incoming First Vice Chairwoman Rose Corr, in the Law Offices of David H. Dworski, was eager to support Szondy and learn the ropes from him with regard to becoming Chair in 2012. In her view, “Fairfield’s business climate is holding and, if everyone can stay strong, by the close of 2012 things will be on the up and up.”

Outgoing Chair Aziz, President/CEO of Payzone, reflected on his tenure. “The past year was challenging,” he said. “I’m very passionate about creating commerce for the members. My main accomplishment was the alliance with the BRBC. It was driven by the comment that many of the same people are at Chamber functions. More members equates to wider networking and business opportunities.”

Serving up a spoonful of advice to Fairfield businesses at large, Aziz said, “If you want to increase your business, you can’t hide. You have to meet more people to see results. My job was to create opportunities for businesses – I feel I did a good job of that.”

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