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State's top family businesses honored during Nov. 19 event (Released: 11/20/98)

by Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Family-owned businesses from TORRINGTON, WESTPORT and VERNON have captured the 1998 Connecticut Family Business Leadership Awards, The Nozko's, which annually recognize the best family businesses in Connecticut in large, medium and small categories.

Seitz Corp. of Torrington, Rein's N.Y. Style Deli-Restaurant of Vernon, and Wright Brothers Builders Inc., of Westport were honored Nov. 19 with the awards which, for the fourth year, celebrated the best family businesses in Connecticut. The awards are co-sponsored by ACMAT Corp., in conjunction with the Family Business Program at the University of Connecticut's School of Business Administration. They recognize the businesses for their success, innovation, community involvement, positive family business linkages and for involving multiple generations of family members in their firms.

Jensen's Inc., of Southington; the Moon Cutter Co. of Hamden; and A. Aiudi & Sons of Plainville also were honored during the event, held at the Farmington Marriott, as first runners-up in their respective categories. Two other finalists in each category also won accolades.

"Small business, a category that embraces many of Connecticut's family businesses, is one of the most important engines of this state's economy. Their value, however, should not be measured purely by dollars and cents, for family businesses represent so much more. Indeed, they speak to our cultures, our heritage, our sense of who we are, and the importance of family in all we do," says Richard Dino, associate dean of the business school and director of the Family Business Program. "The University of Connecticut is privileged to be able to serve and assist these wonderful businesses."

Also during the event, representatives from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. presented the 1997 MassMutual National Family Business of the Year Award, in the medium category, to H. Darrell Harvey and Andrew Ashforth, co-managing partners of The Ashforth Co. of Stamford. The Ashforth's real estate development firm, selected as last year's Nozko Award winner in the large category, went on to win the national award. This year's Nozko winners also will be nominated for the national award.

The Nozko Awards are named after ACMAT Corp.'s Henry W. Nozko Sr., whose hard work and persistence led his family contracting firm from the brink of disaster to successes in several ventures. ACMAT is one of the Family Business Program's original sponsors.

The winners and finalists this year, in the large (more than 150 employees) category, are:

  • Seitz Corp. of TORRINGTON, an injection mold and contract assembly company, originally founded as a tool and die maker in 1949 by Karl and Hildegard Seitz. The firm's reins are currently held by fourth generation family members who design, develop and manufacture products exported to more than 28 countries and numerous Fortune 500 companies. During the past three years, Seitz has experienced annual growth rates of more than 20 percent. The company also sponsors numerous philanthropic events, including an annual golf tournament that benefits Cystic Fibrosis research;
  • First runner-up was Jensen's Inc. of SOUTHINGTON. Founded in 1927 as an automobile business, Kristian Jensen Sr. soon expanded the firm to include mobile homes and, eventually, manufactured homes. Currently run by Kris Jensen Jr, Kristian Jensen III, and Keith Jensen, the company has perfected the art of creating "mini estates," with nearly 3,700 home sites based in 26 locations in seven East Coast states;
  • Other finalists were McPhee Electric Ltd. of FARMINGTON, and H. Pearce Co. Realtors of NORTH HAVEN.

In the medium category (49-150 employees), the winners and finalists were:

  • Rein's N.Y. Style Deli-Restaurant of VERNON, a landmark eatery between New York and Boston that was opened in 1972 largely because owner Bob Rein, formerly of New Jersey, was unable to find what he considered a really good corned beef sandwich in Eastern Connecticut. Now one of the largest volume restaurants in the state, the deli is entering its fourth generation of ownership, and remains a focal point of the Vernon community despite a devastating fire in 1990.
  • First runner-up A. Aiudi& Sons LLC of PLAINVILLE, began as a small concrete contracting business in 1923. Today, they have 60 employees and mix concrete from two locations. Now in their third generation of ownership (nine family members are in the business), Aiudi has donated all the concrete necessary for the construction of new athletic fields and facilities at Plainville High School;
  • Other finalists were The C-Thru Ruler Co. of BLOOMFIELD, and Shoreline Pools of COS COB.

The winners and finalists in the small (1-49 employees) category are:

  • Kelly and Chris Wright founded Wright Brothers Builders Inc., of WESTPORT in 1985, turning in annual sale of about $31,000. Today, just 13 years later, the two run a building and remodeling company that employs 38 people and expects to see sales this year of $17 million. Along the way, they were chosen one of the nations' top builders, in 1991, by Builder and Remodeling magazine, and have offered their expertise to a variety of community projects including school playgrounds, stages for charity auctions and other local events;
  • Charlie Moon founded Moon Cutter Co. Inc. more than 40 years ago as a three-man resharpening house in HAMDEN. The firm now employs 14 of his children and grandchildren, offers internships to local children, sponsors town youth programs, provides family volunteers and financial contributions to community events and provides one-of-a-kind, "wobble-free" technology that allows its saws to eclipse industry standards;
  • Other finalists were Bemis Associates of NEWINGTON and the Nutmeg Chrome Corp. of WEST HARTFORD.