Long Branch — The Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce has announced the recipients of the 2015 Louis G. Libutti Community Service Award.
This year the 81st Annual Business Awards Dinner will be held on Friday, March 20 at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa, 1 Ocean Blvd., Long Branch.
Receiving the prestigious Libutti Award this year is Anthony “Tony” Perri of Fine Fare Supermarket and Michael Bienz and Sam Nativo of MIX Lounge and 2nd Floor Restaurant
The award was established in 1970 in honor of Louis G. Libutti, a former president of the Long Branch Chamber. Exemplary leadership, outstanding professional achievement and community service are the criteria for this award.
Recent recipients of the award include Mary George, the Sirianni Family, The Damiano Family, Ed Johnson, Director of the Higher Learning Center at Brookdale Community College, Nancy Mazza, recent chair and lifelong Board member of Ronald McDonald house and Dr. Margaret “Meg” Fisher of the Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center.
“The Chamber is delighted to honor Tony Perri, Mike Bienz and Sam Nativo. They are all wonderful examples of the essence of this Award,” said Chamber President, Leonard Kiczek. “We are pleased to laud their achievements, especially since all three are entrepreneurs, have established extraordinarily successful businesses and continually give back to the community in so many ways,” he said.
The 2015 President’s Award will be presented to the Dr. Barry Elbaum Dental Health Center on Broadway. The Chamber Business Improvement Award will go to 400 Broadway Business Park.
The Awards Dinner is sponsored by Monmouth Medical Center, Brookdale Community College, Ansell Grimm & Aaron, Maser Consulting and Insurance Office of America.
Tony Perri, Fine Fare
Tony Perri has a strong passion for the retail business. Fine Fare Supermarket is the epitome of a successful family business. Tony works seven days a week, along with his son, Michael, who came aboard seven years ago after graduating from the University of Delaware.
The true indicator of a great place to work is turnover in staff. Most of the employees work there from high school to retirement! Imagine, having an independent supermarket competing with all the big chains and virtually no turnover in staff.
At the age of 13, Tony had his first part-time job in an Acme Supermarket. While attending high school and Monmouth University he continued to work in various supermarkets with a desire to someday own one.
After serving his country in the U.S. Army, Tony went to work for the Carnation Company in 1973. Learning the distribution end at Carnation played a major part in his overall success.
In 1977 Tony and his father Anthony Perri Sr. founded Fine Fare Supermarket on Third Avenue. The site was a former Foodland Supermarket and the two of them remodeled and expanded it to its current size.
Tony and his family have been incredibly generous to the Long Branch community. In February 2012, West End experienced a devastating fire which destroyed nine businesses and 14 apartments. Tony made sure all the victims received substantial gifts cards to shop so they could start rebuilding their lives.
“Tony has been a real friend to the Latino Community,” said Gio Simoes, owner of Latino USA. “He has alway supported us and has been a major supporter of the Copa Latino USA Festival, the largest adult soccer tournament in New Jersey. He has been our largest supporter in the last 20 years,” Simoes said.
Long time Long Branch resident Mary George remembered how Fine Fare handled shoppers after Superstrom Sandy. Like everyone else in the area the store did not have any power. “They had workers greeting shoppers at the front door with flashlights to escort them down aisles to shop. I went through there with my 94 year old aunt,” Mary said. “I was amazed at how helpful and nice they were. Actually I was surprised and thankful they were even open!”
Tony and his family have continually supported Oceanfest at Long Branch since its inception 25 years ago.
Seashore School has a cooking elective taught by Chef Joe Tuzzio of Tuzzio’s Restaurant. Tony donated many of the ingredients for the students taking the course and participating in their “Chopped” Challenge. He also was one of the three guest judges.
“He does so much for the community in general,” said John Villapiano, owner of Seashore School. “He didn’t miss a beat when asked to help us. He has supported us from the very beginning of our Chopped Challenge program.”
Tony and his wife Karen (who also works at the store) reside in West Long Branch. They have three children, Gina, Lauren and Mike and four grandchildren, Luke, Evan, Trey and Liana. In January, Fine Fare celebrated their 38th Anniversary.
Mike Bienz and Sam Nativo
Mike Bienz and Sam Nativo arrived in Long Branch after successful careers in New York City. They were involved in an upper Broadway restaurant and in their off hours they discovered Brighton Avenue. They researched the area, found what was available and successfully opened MIX Lounge and Food Bar in July, 2001. They were an instant hit.
The success of MIX is directly related to their commitment to the area. They have been active with the The Center in Asbury Park with their annual food tastings. Sam chaired the event for ten years. They were an integral part of the Twilight Concerts which benefited St. Claire’s Children’s Home along with other deserving charities.
After September 11, 2001 they arranged for a benefit for the Red Cross. They have had numerous fund raisers for the Jacqueline Wilentz Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center.
Civically they have been active with the Long Branch Chamber, and the West End Business Association. They started the Long Branch Block Party and Pooch Parade in partnership with the Chamber, now in its seventh year. For the last four years, they have chaired the Long Branch Chef Challenge which has highlighted all fabulous restaurants and food purveyors in the area.
Three years ago, February 13, 2012, the terrible fire in West End destroyed 9 businesses along with 14 apartments. With the help of many volunteers on February 29, 400 plus paying guests crowded into the Oceanplace ballroom and raised substantial funds for the victims of the fire.
“Well, Sam and Mike are the most solid citizens in Long Branch, said Chamber Officer Mary George, who couldn’t say enough. “They are selfless in the number of hours they put into the city. They are very positive people. I’ve known them since they opened the Mix. Everybody loves them,” she said.
In the fall of 2011 Sam was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma. While undergoing chemotherapy, he and Michael discussed Sam resuming his culinary career.
“The deal was that if I keep forging through, Michael would make this restaurant happen,” Nativo said. After twelve months, Nativo’s cancer was in remission, construction started in the summer of 2012.
The 28-seat restaurant opened in December, 2012. 2ndFlr restaurant was supposed to open the first week of November 2012 but a little interruption – called Superstorm Sandy – intervened. The opening of the restaurant was put off and with the help of generators reopened MIX as soon as the City would let them, even with an early curfew, and successfully fed so many people.
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Dinner tickets for the 81st Annual Business Awards Dinner are available at $100 per person. Sponsorships and ad space are still available.
Please contact the Chamber at [email protected] or 732-222-0400.