STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — Being recognized by your peers is an absolute honor, even if that recognition happens only a few short hours after the sun comes up.
But the 8 a.m. time slot did not stop 300 people from filling a room at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield, to recognize 10 remarkable Staten Island businessmen and businesswomen as part of the annual Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award Breakfast.
This year’s honorees are: Vittorio Asoli, Trattoria Romana; Dominick J. Brancato, New York Center for Interpersonal Development; Dr. Tomás Morales, The College of Staten Island; Elizabeth Egbert, Staten Island Museum; Brian and Michael Farley, Hudson Elevator Group; MaryLee Montalvo and Marlene Markoe-Boyd, MLM Public Relations; John E. Nikolai, Jealan Fireplaces, and Chris Williams, Williams Eye Works.
A West Brighton resident, Miller was a tireless community activist and local leader, known for his contributions to small-business development. He died in 1994 at age 93.
The event is co-sponsored by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Advance. This year’s breakfast included a few firsts: Glen Cutrona shared co-chairing duties with new co-chair Janet Langton-Magnuson. Al Lambert and Ted Maloy joined the cast of veteran heavyweight presenters, Scarangello brothers, Frank and Tom, and the biggest surprise: the unveiling of a portrait of Miller done by Fred Sklenar, son of Peggy Sklenar, the first woman named to the Chamber board of directors and the first elected board chair.
Sklenar recounted how Miller spent a year consulting him for his marketing business. He said Miller taught him many successful business techniques.
“He took on the task of tutoring small businesses over the years and he went on to become a Staten Island legend and the best small-business guru ever,” said Sklenar, just before unveiling the lifelike portrait and garnering applause.
The portrait will hang in the Chamber’s headquarters, said Linda Baran, Chamber President/CEO.
Cutrona spoke highly of the recipients, “all of whom are special deserving people, and I am pleased this year’s recipients are joining so many others who all make our community a better place to be,” he said.
After all the pleasantries, the honorees endured some good-natured roasting coupled with plenty of compliments from their presenters.
Singer Al Lambert got everyone to stand and sing, “That’s Amore” in honor of Italian chef Vittorio Asoli before joking that when people want real Italian food Asoli, “sends them to over to Brioso Ristorante in New Dorp.”
Tom Scarangello noted that John Nikolai said fireplaces have been his passion for the past 35 years. “How sad is that?” quipped Scarangello, noting Nikolai likely got a smile just watching the old holiday Yule Log burn on WPIX.
“It is flattering and an honor to be part of this group. You don’t realize how powerful it is until you are there,” noted honoree Dominick Brancato.
“Lou Miller embodied integrity, professionalism and goodness, and to receive an award in his name is a tremendous honor,” said honoree Ms. Montalvo.
The honorees also received citations from Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who attended.