MONROE, CT — First Selectman Ken Kellogg touted Monroe’s growing economy during the 57th annual Monroe Chamber of Commerce Dinner Meeting held at Jennie’s Pizzeria, 380 Monroe Turnpike, Tuesday evening.
While highlighting some of the recent developments, he announced that Starbucks filed a formal application to build a standalone building at 255 Monroe Turnpike, at the corner of Spring Hill Road.
“The town of Monroe’s business environment, I believe, is stronger than it’s ever been,” Kellogg said. “I hope you all believe that as well. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of years to make it happen.”
During its meeting, the Chamber of Commerce elected officers, gave Beautification Awards to businesses for renovations and new construction and awarded scholarships to two students.
While addressing his audience of business professionals, Kellogg singled out two town officials for praise, Planning and Zoning Administrator Rick Schultz and Community and Economic Development Director William Holsworth, both of whom attended the dinner.
Kellogg spoke of the revitalization of the former Stevenson Lumber property, now known as Z-Topia, where several new businesses have been opening.
“Anyone at the Barnum Festival saw how alive that site is,” he said, referring to the car show and carnival.
“Our industrial park is getting more interest,” Kellogg said. “California Closets is relocating from Shelton to Monroe at the industrial park.”
An application is currently before the Planning and Zoning Commission to redevelop the former Vishay-Vitramon property on Main Street to build a grocery store, two restaurants and a self storage facility.
The new Dunkin’ Donuts building is under construction in front of Village Square on Monroe Turnpike and Aldi recently won approval to build a Monroe location behind Panera Bread Café on Route 111, Kellogg said, adding, “we can go on an on.”
Aside from changes in people and approval processes over the years, Kellogg credits the partnerships created with public officials, the Planning and Zoning Commission, Architectural Review Board and Inland Wetlands Commission, allowing everyone to work in “harmony and lockstep.”
When Kellogg was first elected in 2017, he said there seemed to be an odd competition between the Monroe Economic Development Commission and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We weren’t achieving the synergies we were seeking,” he recalled. Gesturing toward Chamber President Ray Giovanni, he said, “I think one of the smartest things I did was to appoint this man to the Economic Development Commission of the town of Monroe.”
“I want to thank you Ray, not just for your leadership on the Chamber, but as chairman of the Economic Development Commission, really, truly creating a strong, strong partnership that’s working in harmony for everyone here in Monroe,” Kellogg said.
Looking at the business people seated at tables, the first selectman said, “I think Monroe is continuing to do great things for our business community and it’s thanks to everyone here, so thank you.”
Giovanni was reelected as president and will serve with Vice President Jan Snyder, Treasurer Janice Butler and Secretary Joanne Almonte.
The board of directors includes Ron Bellenot, Gaetano Marra, Bruce Minoff, Danielle Rownin, David Fraga, Jim Weinberg, Wendy Grasso, Previn Patel and Lee Hossler.
Other business receiving Beautification Awards were Carrubba Inc. for its new office building and warehouse at 500 Pepper St., Golf Oasis for its renovated space at 695 Main St. and the Panera Bread Café, built in Town Line Plaza.
Giovanni also presented awards of appreciation to Holsworth, Schultz and Kellogg. He gave Beth Stoller a bouquet in recognition for all she does for the Chamber.
Snyder gave Giovanni a gift bag to thank him for all of the time he volunteers to the Chamber and Stoller presented a framed picture entitled: “Our Fearless Leader: Ray, A Portrait in 30 frames.” It featured a large background photo with 30 smaller pictures of Giovanni in the letters spelling out his first name.
John Dry Scholarship Awards
The Monroe Chamber of Commerce’s scholarships are funded through money raised from its annual Golf Tournament at Whitney Farms Golf Course in Monroe.
The John Dry Scholarship Award is named after the late treasurer of Monroe, who was a three time president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
In the private sector, Dry was a sales and marketing vice president and manager at firms in California and Monroe, including P.J. Murphy Moving and Storage in Bridgeport.
Dry taught business classes as an adjunct professor at the universities of Bridgeport and Sacred Heart.
He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and was highly decorated during his 23 year military career, earning the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, among numerous other awards and decorations. Dry was also a member of American Legion Post 176 in Monroe.
“He was a wonderful man who was very embracing of everything that happened in our town,” Giovanni said. “Poor John struggled with prostate cancer and passed well before his time.”
Students earning the scholarships were Lily Catullo and Kathryn Wittenauer.
“We’re so proud that Lily embodies the kind of person that she can go on and represent Monroe in a very passionate way with her future,” Giovanni said.
He recalled how she received several other honors during Masuk High School’s awards night. Catullo will go to Bryant University in the fall.
Her career goals are to become successful, be independently wealthy, increase her knowledge in the world and enjoy every day as she lives it.
“How many would agree that Lily’s already got it figured out?” Giovanni asked to applause.
Of Wittenauer, Giovanni said, “Kate is a wonderful person. She was so instrumental in our town.”
He credited her with doing the Chamber and the EDC’s social media work over the years.
“Kate says, ‘my overall goal is to become a global luxury marketing executive for a major brand in the luxury fashion industry,'” Giovanni said.
Wittenauer will attend Fairfield University in the fall.
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