Although the awards presented by the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce’s Honors & Hors D’oeuvres event at Steel Club Thursday went to an individual, a nonprofit and three businesses, the theme of the honors bestowed upon the recipients and the real winner was clearly “community.”
That theme was also echoed in the remarks delivered by the recipients to around 100 attendees who included Hellertown mayor David Heintzelman, borough council president Tom Rieger and Lower Saucon Township council president Priscilla deLeon.
Mobile Technology Graphics received the chamber’s Community Partner Award, which “goes to the person or business who lives the word ‘community’ with consistency, professionalism and integrity,” the chamber said.
A family-owned and operated company that is based in Lower Saucon Township, MTG supplies ultra high quality LED video walls, Jumbotrons, video and audio production services and more to clients across the U.S., including such nationally-known events as the Rose and Fiesta bowls.
Technical Director and VP of Operations Zac Estojak accepted the award, which was given in recognition of MTG’s support of numerous community events such as movies in the park and Light Up Night, which have benefited from their donation of video equipment supplies and services.
Estojak said Mobile Technology Graphics’ goal has been and will remain “to help improve and give memorable events to the local community.”
The chamber’s Community Lifestyle Award was presented to a business that has become one of the most popular gathering places in the community and a major local draw for beer lovers since it opened in the summer of 2016.
Lost Tavern Brewing was begun by home brewers Robert Grim and Anthony Gangi, who teamed up with father and son Ken and Kenny Rampolla to open a brewery and taproom on the first floor of the RMI Building at 782 Main St.
The partners’ success there has led to expansion plans, which include opening a second taproom on Main Street in downtown Bethlehem this spring and a Hellertown production facility they hope will be open for tours and include a retail shop in 2020.
“We kind of think you’ve got to be nuts not to open a business in Hellertown,” said Ken Rampolla, who in receiving the award along with his partners thanked the community and their patrons for their support. “We honor the past, but craft the future, and we craft it right here where our heart is, in Hellertown.”
The chamber’s Good Samaritan Award was presented to the man who owns the venue at which the event was held, Lower Saucon Township resident, businessman and volunteer David Spirk.
Spirk is the owner of Steel Club, which is being expanded and reinvented both physically–with renovations–and with new membership options to better meet the recreational needs of 21st century patrons. Along with his brother he has owned construction company Spirk Brothers Inc. since 1985.
Outside of work he devotes a considerable amount of time in service to local young people as youth sports booster, through his involvement as a coach with and chair of the Saucon Valley Wrestling Club, and to Lower Saucon Township, as chair of its Parks & Recreation Board, and in other capacities.
Those efforts made him deserving of the Good Samaritan Award, which “is bestowed upon the person or company that finds a need and meets it,” according to the chamber.
“I truly am grateful for this award but it’s a very humbling thing to get,” said Spirk.
He thanked his wife, Ann, and their three children Grace, Jill and Thomas, for their love and support, and also recognized his Steel Club team, which he said has grown to include 80 full-time employees and many more seasonal staff who this summer will serve a membership that’s grown exponentially since he purchased the club in February 2018. “It’s a huge endeavor,” he noted.
The chamber’s 2019 Small Business Leadership Award was presented to another well-known business owner, Steve LaBrake, who has owned and operated Saucon Valley Bikes in Hellertown for nearly 20 years.
The Small Business Leadership Award is presented “to a business that has demonstrated integrity in everyday management and in reaction to challenging circumstances: a businesse known for its character and ethics as much for its duration and operation,” the chamber said.
LaBrake is an upstate New York native who has lived with his family–including his wife Kim and their two daughters–in Hellertown since 1987.
He recalled that when he opened Saucon Valley Bikes in 1999, the business climate in the borough was not what it is today, and people told him, “A Bike shop in Hellertown? Good luck.”
Nevertheless, LaBrake persevered and grew a business that eventually became one of the area’s premier retail destinations for bicycling enthusiasts.
He is also active as a volunteer, serving on the Saucon Rail Trail Oversight Commission as a representative for the borough of Hellertown.
LaBrake thanked his bike shop staff, noting that success is not necessarily an individual pursuit. “It’s the employees you have that work for you,” he said.
The final award of the evening was presented to an institution that most if not all Saucon Valley residents are likely familiar with: the Hellertown Area Library.
The library received the chamber’s Champion Non-Profit Award for “consistently setting and achieving goals for themselves that cause them to stretch and grow, causing those around them to grow with them,” and that’s a good thing, because “when they win, we all win,” the chamber noted.
The Hellertown Area Library began as a modest community endeavor in 1989, when a group of citizens began a book collection that led to the founding of the Hellertown Area Library Association and ultimately the construction of the current library building at 409 Constitution Ave., Hellertown, which opened in 1993.
“It’s really tough to be a champion without a team,” noted Robin Rotherham, the library’s director, in accepting the award.
Rotherham thanked library staff–many of whom were present at the event–as well as the library’s board of trustees and the Friends of the Hellertown Area Library, a volunteer group that assists with fundraising and other efforts.
Toward that end, the library was presented by the chamber with a donation of more than $2,800 that will be used for the purchase of a custom “book bike” that will enable children’s librarian Andrea Milliren to take storytimes and reading materials out into the borough’s neighborhoods.
Rotherham said she believes Hellertown will be the first community in the area to have such a vehicle.
“Do you know what they call people who use the library?” she said. “Smart!”
For more information about the library, visit HellertownLibrary.org.
For more information about the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce, and how to become a member, visit the GLVCC website.
Please see below for more photos. Photos by Chris Christian.