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Wellsville Chamber presents business, community awards

Photo by Kathryn Ross

The Texas Hot gathered its extended family, including retired employees, in accepting the Business of the Year Award from the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce.


WELLSVILLE — The first live annual Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner in two years celebrated businesses new and old this past weekend.

More than 70 people gathered Saturday evening at the Wellsville Country Club for an entertaining night filled with music from Darkwater Duo, good food, thank yous and awards.

Bruce Thomas, executive director of the Chamber, said, “We’re happy to be back. It has been an interesting two years, but we’ve come back stronger than ever because Wellsville is a special little town.”

The Community Service Award was presented to Dennis and JoAnne White by Chamber president Bessie Davidson. The Whites are active in the community, volunteering for the American Legion Riders, Hart Comfort House and other programs.

“I worked for the village public works department for 27 years and it is my honor and privilege to give back some of my time to the community,” Dennis said.

The Whites waited until their children were grown before they went into volunteer service.

JoAnne said, “We waited awhile to get active in the community and we couldn’t do it now without the help and assistance of our kids.”

Chamber members Karen Kania and Spencer Peavey presented the Spirit of Wellsville Award to Brenda Szabo of UR/Jones Memorial Hospital.

Kania introduced her saying, “I’m convinced that she is Super Woman, but I’ve never seen her cape.”

The duo pointed out that Szabo is committed to community health and wellness and has worked to improve access to the river as well as promoted the Genesee River as an important recreation resource in Allegany County. In addition, she has used her artistic and organizing ability to benefit the Chamber and its activities.

Szabo credited her children, family and mother, Mable Mong, with giving her the ability and determination to give back to the community.

The Business of the Year award went to the Texas Hot restaurant, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The award was presented by Thomas to James Raptis, 92, son of one of the founders, George Raptis, who opened the restaurant in 1921 with Jim Regis.

The owners invited several older and retired former employees to join their families at the celebration.

The senior Raptis said, “It is not just our two families who have made the Texas Hot a success, it is our employees and you the people who support the restaurant that have made the Texas Hot a success.”

Echoing his father’s sentiments, Mike Raptis, who owns the restaurant along with Chris Rigas, said, “It is you people who keep coming into the Texas Hot that allow us to turn around and be able to give back to the community. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

The New Business Award was presented to Brad and Rebekah Gena who, in the middle of the pandemic in the spring of 2021, opened the Wellsville General Store and Grill.

Thomas also updated members on some of the progress made by the Chamber over the last 24 months, including adding 26 new members, updating computer and payroll systems and creating a visitor’s guide and newsletter. New events included the Chalk Walk, Wine Walk, Hometown Holidays and restoration of the Community Clock.

Thomas also reminded members of upcoming events, such as Evening Under the Stars, the clock dedication, golf tournament, Main Street Festival and, coming this fall, a Buffalo Bills event, scarecrow contest and a brew and barbecue contest.