Business leaders to toast ‘Pioneers’ at cocktail reception

October 23, 2012 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Leaders in business, education, and journalism who have helped move Bay Ridge forward as a community will be honored by the Merchants of Third Avenue organization at its 19th Annual Pioneers Cocktail Reception on Oct. 29. 

The reception, one of the highlights of the fall social calendar in Bay Ridge, will take place at Café Remy, 7110 Third Ave., at 7 p.m. The winners of this year’s Pioneer Awards will be presented by Merchants President Bob Howe and Pioneer Event Co-chairman Charles Otey.
The Pioneers, Class of 2012, are: Jason McDermott and James Whiffin, owners of the Pour House, a popular pub at 7901 Third Ave.; Bina Valenzo, co-owner of the BookMark Shoppe, a bookstore at 8415 Third Ave.; and Dr. Roy Blash, headmaster at Adelphi Academy, a private school at 8515 Ridge Boulevard. 

The Merchants of Third Avenue is an organization representing more than 300 store owners on the commercial strip between 68th and 95th Streets. Third Avenue is one of the major shopping thoroughfares in Brooklyn. 

In addition to the Pioneers, two other recipients will be saluted at the reception. Rick Buttacavoli will be presented with a Civic Award in honor of the contributions he has made during his 10 years in community journalism, including serving for two and a half years as editor in chief of the Bay Ridge Eagle. A Civic Award will also be presented to Lori Pedone, an advertising executive with the Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator newspapers. 

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The cocktail reception traditionally features “Taste of Third Avenue,” in which restaurant owners bring trays of their most delicious dishes to the event and give everyone a chance to sample them.
Otey called the annual Pioneer Reception an important marketing tool for the Merchants, a group whose goal is to promote Third Avenue as a premiere place for Brooklyn residents to shop and dine. “We’re just helping Bay Ridge to be Bay Ridge,” he said.
“We’re very pleased with our honorees this year,” Otey said. “And, the day after 150 friends and leaders pack Cafe Remy and have a great time, we’ll begin planning for our big 20th Annual Pioneer Reception for next year,” he said.
The honorees all expressed gratitude to the Merchants group for the award. McDermott and Whiffin, who both grew up in Bay Ridge, issued a joint statement about their pride at being named Pioneers in their community.
“From the very beginning it has been our passion to give back to the neighborhood we grew up in. We would not want to be small business owners anywhere else in the world. We are proud Bay Ridge natives who are dedicated in being proactive merchants on Third Avenue for years to come,” the statement reads. 

Valenzano has distinguished herself as both a merchant leader and a civic leader, according to Otey. She founded the BookMark Shoppe with her childhood friend Christine Fregette, several years ago and has turned the book store into a gathering place for literary fans. The store often welcomes authors to speak to fans and sign copies of their latest books. 

Valenzano served as chairman of “Summer Stroll on 3rd,” a summer time event in which a 10-block section of the avenue was closed to traffic to allow shoppers to stroll down the street.

The event featured performances by local arts groups. Dr. Blash has a long resume in education. In addition to his duties at Adelphi Academy, he has served as an assistant professor in the graduate education department of Pace University for the past 37 years. He has taught diverse course offerings such as school law, management of schools, supervision and administration of schools and new approaches to education.
Dr. Blash has been featured as a speaker and lecturer on educational issues and related topics at innumerable seminars, conventions and assemblages. He has published numerous articles in educational journals throughout the years.

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