New chamber member the Potsdam Lions were honored for their 80 years of service to the community. From left, chamber executive director Marylee E. Ballou, Potsdam Lions secretary Michelle M. Theisen, and chamber president Janice Adderley.
By ADAM ATKINSON
POTSDAM -- About 50 people from local businesses and other organizations attended the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce lunch and awards ceremony at the Town & Country Club, State Route 56, on Thursday.
The chamber formally honored North Country This Week as the 2017 Business of the Year at the event.
An informal census during chamber executive director Marylee E. Ballou’s address focused on the role the paper plays in the community.
“Raise your hand if you look at the North Country This Week paper each week,” asked Ballou, and a majority of those attending the banquet held up their hands.
“Raise your hand if you check out NCN at least once a week,” she continued, as more hands were raised. “Keep your hand up if you do so at least one a day.”
“I can’t imagine the amount of time it takes to stay up to date on so much information as North Country This Week and North Country Now do. I rely on (the paper) at the chamber office as a primary resource for answering many of the phone call questions we receive on a weekly basis,” she said.
Ballou spoke of the many changes and transformations the paper has undergone since it started in publisher Bill Shumway’s living room in West Stockholm in 1984. She highlighted the three primary goals of the publication when it began: produce an informative product readers rely on and appreciate, provide cost-effective advertising that helps maintain and increase sales and create jobs for the North Country.
Today 19,154 copies of the paper are read each week, and Northcountrynow.com receives about 1 million visits and nearly 3 million page views each month. The business employs 20 county residents, as well as 10 part-time circulation staff.
“We’re really pleased and honored. And thank you to the thousands of readers and our many advertisers. Without readers or advertisers, there would be no paper or website, so we appreciate you all,” said Shumway, during his acceptance speech.
The publisher credited the efforts of his staff, past and present, who have played a role in producing a publication which has grown from a local arts and entertainment paper into a major news source for the region, printing features, events, and original stories covering government, economy, crime and other topics of interest.
He also touted the efforts of his wife Cheryl, who helped publish the paper in the the first few years around her work schedule as an educator.
“She is a major reason the paper made it through those early years, and I will forever be appreciative. It’s been decades since Cheryl has actually worked at the paper, but since then she has remained supportive and patient when I have just one more thing to take care of, and I’m appreciative of that as well.”
Shumway said the paper, now printing two editions and posting an active website since 2000, runs about 75 stories promoting coming events each week.
“Everything from church dinners and rummage sales to golf tournaments and of course, chamber of commerce events. We publish lot of stories recognizing people when they get engaged or married, make the dean’s list, complete basic training or even catch a big fish! We might post a photo on the website,” Shumway said.
In addition, the paper and website report serious news, including an award-winning 2016 series on the heroin and opioid abuse problem in St. Lawrence County and the current controversy surrounding the proposed wind farm in Parishville and Hopkinton, he said.
Shumway also noted the media company now provides the main classified marketplace for the region online and in print.
“Going forward, we plan to keep on doing what we have been doing for 32 years – striving to produce the best newspaper and website the market can support,” he said.
The chamber also recognized Milestone Anniversaries for its members. The UPS Store celebrated 10 years, Today’s Hair & Day Spa celebrated 20 years, Orchestra of Northern New York and NBT Bank marked 30 years, and Jreck Subs, Pizza Hut and Reachout of SLC all have reached 40 years. St. Lawrence County Arts Council is reaching 45 years of operation; Sergi’s Restaurant, 50; St. Lawrence Gas, 60; and Kelly Services, for 70 years of operation.
The Potsdam Lions Club was also honored. Although a new chamber member, the local branch of the national organization celebrated their 80th anniversary of community service last year.
Representatives from Lions Club, Massena Nature Center, What a Raquette Music, Northwestern Mutual, and ICaspar Web Development, all new chamber members, gave brief introduction speeches to attendees.
Other new chamber members since May 2016 who were named include: Bonnie Castle Resort & Marina, Viable Options, The Front Porch, The Cottage, Pease & Gustafson, Tactics, Parishville Center Apple Orchard, BitFit-Jamie Bicknell, Clarkson Guest Home, Mahoney’s Auto Mall, Northeastern Sign & Mike Trophies, Burnham Financial Services, St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union, North Country Tigers Football, and Grace, a boutique coming to 78 Market St.