FLORHAM PARK – Sunlight streamed through the huge windows in the second floor ballroom of the Brooklake Country Club as members of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce gathered for its annual awards dinner on Tuesday, June 12.

The chamber presents seven pre-announced awards and the Extra Mile Award which is a surprise until the announcement at the end of the evening.

TAPintoMadison.net sponsors the awards.

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This year’s Extra Mile went to Healthy Italia on Main Street, owned and operated by four young entrepreneurs from Northern Italy. Chamber Executive Director Karen Giambra presented the award to the restaurant, shop and cooking school.

None of the owners, Paolo and Laura, Roberto and Cristina, were able to be at the dinner. One of the couples was in Italy, the other was holding down the fort at the restaurant.  Get last names.

Giambra cited an office party/cooking class as an example of the type of hospitality the four offer. She noted this award is a “people’s choice,” with nominations taken by the chamber.

“They make time for conversation,” she said of the proprietors.

Giambra said the dinner was the largest event the chamber has had. “We are one of the best local chambers in the area, we’re the most active and we grow each year,” she said.

The chamber presented four Business Improvement Awards.

Robbin Salmeri presented Best New Building Award to Ave Florham Park’s Jamie D’Ericole for an apartment building with one- and two-bedroom units plus extended stay facilities for business travelers.

She presented the Innovation Award to Matty James of Daddy Matty’s. She explained James works with the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry. “Every purchase puts a meal on someone’s plate.”

“It is my mission to create a business model to give back to the community,” James said.

Georgeanne Limbach presented Best New Relaunch to Harvest Bistro’s Tushar Patel.

Patel said he decided to change the eclectic menu at his Main Street eatery, once called On a Roll. Since “with the next season comes a harvest,” he renamed it Harvest Bistro.

Limbach also awarded he Museum of Early Trades and Crafts the Outstanding Preservation Award.

Director Deb Starker and her second in command Tara Efferman accepted the award.

“This building is one of the most iconic in Madison,” Starker said as she accepted the award. “We are proud to be stewards of the building.”

“This restoration project is a collaborative effort,” she said, noting Efferman has been managing it for two years.

The 118-year-old slate was removed and replaced with a brand new slate roof. She said she is going to contact local artists to have them do renderings of the building on the slates so the museum can sell them for a fund raiser.

The building, the former library, is on the state and national Registers of Historic Places. It became the museum in 1969 and holds 8,000 tools and artifacts used in New Jersey prior to 1880.  

The other three award are for community service.

John Morris, president of the Chamber, presented the Appreciation Award to Thomas Haralampoudis, a principal in Bottle Hill Tavern and a member of the borough open space and environmental commissions as week as the borough board of education’s technical task force and a hockey and soccer coach. A former member of the board of education, he has donated many books to the library sale and purchased a Zamboni for the Rosedale Rink.

In his acceptance, Haralampoudis said “volunteers get motivated by other volunteers. The biggest challenge is to continue to bring in more volunteers. When the next generation gets involved, they’ll realize how much they can do.

Carmine Toto presented the Community Service Award to the Forum Club of Madison.

He said the Forum Club was started in 1928 by Italian-Americans helping their countrymen get used to their new home.  By 1933, there were 130 members and the group purchased property on Howard Street. Toto explained the goal of the club was “Americanization and Social Welfare.” In 1937, the club purchased land on Walnut Street. The club dedicated its building on Columbus Day 1941. The building was used for athletic events, festivals, parties and weddings.

Now adjacent to the YMCA, the club sponsors a bocce tournament with 128 players per season. In the 18 years of the tournament, it has raised several hundred thousand dollars.

Victor Bocchino represented the Forum Club in accepting the award. He announced that Dave Schiano is taking over the presidency.

Giambra presented the Distinguished Service Award to Gina Striffler of The Bar Method Madison, a barre fitness studio. Striffler “hears a call to action” whenever she finds out about a problem, Giambra said. She has arranged countless fund raisers for local residents in need and has connected with and promoted local businesses. Giambra cited a fashion show Striffler arranged that showcased local shops and boutiques while raising money for charity.

Striffler accepted the award surrounded by employees and her two daughters. All were wearing “Kindness is Cool” shirts that Striffler sold as a fund raiser. She said the students at St. Vincent Martyr School, where her girls go, all have the shirts. They were made for the charity “Mallory’s Army,” named for a Rockaway girl who committed suicide after cyber bullying. She dedicated the award to the girl’s mother, Diane Grossman, “who taught children kindness is cool.”