- Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

February 14, 2014

Chamber celebrates service above self

Awards dinner honors Mottas

GROVE CITY — Members of the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday night shared their success stories and their ideas for what they hope to be an exciting year.

"I truly know the value of having a small, strong local chamber of commerce in our community," Eric Lindh, the chamber's president for 2013, told the crowd of about 180 at the Legacy Banquet and Conference Center, where they gathered for the annual dinner.

Last year was a good year for this area, despite the tough economy, and the chamber welcomed 26 new members and held numerous fundraisers and events including ribbon cuttings for new businesses, Christmas in the Park, Downtown Sounds and Cash Mobs, he said.

Mike Johnson, the 2014 chamber president, introduced the guest speaker, Mary Jo Palmer, a familiar face to many -- she and Lisa Pritchard own b'gifted, a gift shop in downtown Grove City.

Palmer, one of seven children, grew up in a family business -- her father, Frank Bryer, owned Bryer's Home Furnishings, which was located in downtown Grove City for many years.

Family-owned businesses are the backbones of towns like Grove City, so Palmer decided to share not only her family's story, but also the stories of two other family-owned businesses still located in downtown Grove City: Burdick's Men's Clothing and McMullen Travel and Tours.

"Let's look at our history," she said, turning to video interviews she conducted with the business owners, including her father.

Four generations have kept Burdick's going, and though the merchandise and location have changed numerous times, the support of the community has always remained strong, especially when the business was heavily damaged by a fire in 1980, Tom Burdick said.

His father ran the store until the age of 93 and Burdick continues to use the Golden Rule in his business dealings - to treat others the way you'd like to be treated.

"It's hard to give it up," he said of Burdick's, which has been in Grove City for over 90 years.

When asked for an amusing story, he recalled a visit around 1980 from Tiny Tim, the eccentric singer of "Tip Toe Through the Tulips," who had been performing with a traveling circus.

"He bought some black pants," Burdick said, adding Tiny Tim didn't get out of the car, he so went outside to meet him.

Burdick, who was unable to attend the dinner, ended by saying he wouldn't change a thing about doing business in Grove City.

Doug McMullen talked about how his father and grandfather drove charter buses and taxis before turning McMullen Travel and Tours into a full-fledged travel business.

He joined the business in 1988 after working in marketing with Pan American and after living in places like London and Houston, returning to Grove City was special.

Traveling has always been in his blood and people still stop into the travel agency to share stories about his both of his parents.

"That's an enjoyable part," McMullen said.

Bryer, one of 14 kids, who also had an appliance store in New Wilmington, ran his Grove City store until its closing in 1997, and customer service was the most important thing; he sometimes even visited customers at home to check on their purchases.

"His motto was 'if you treat them right, they will buy,'" Palmer said, adding her 90-year-old father was in the crowd Wednesday.

Bryer in his video said he's proud to have been a Grove City business owner because people were so kind, and that it's helpful to join groups like the chamber and Rotary to bring in more customers, a piece of advice that got a few laughs.

Palmer helped out at both stores, went on to graduate from Grove City College, moved a few times, and ended up back in Grove City in 1988 with her two kids.

She worked for 20 years at Grove City's Orchard Manor as director of admissions and social services, and she and her husband Ed manage the Olde Town Grove City Farmer's Market.

Palmer and Pritchard have owned b'gifted for the last 2½ years.

"I have always had the need to help others," she said of opening a gift shop and following in her father's footsteps.

She thanked her father, family, Pritchard, customers, the chamber, fellow business owners and the staff and students at Grove City High School who helped with the video for their support, and closed with a quote from Thomas Watson, the one-time head of IBM:

"You have to have your business in your heart and your heart in your business."

Beth Black, the chamber's executive director, introduced the 10 members of Leadership Grove City Class of 2013, which is working to beautify to the area and have started on two projects that need funding - updating the six "Welcome to Grove City" signs and adding a gazebo, handicap walkway and flowers to Hillcrest Circle.

Johnson said a great foundation has already been set for this year and the website is being redesigned to be more mobile- and user-friendly, which will help ensure members are using all available resources.

Eric Thomas, who owns Grove City's Guthrie Theatre with his wife Paula, closed out the evening with the presentation of the community service award, the recipient's name a secret until the dinner.

He took a moment to share how thankful they've been for all the support and donations that helped save the Guthrie this past year when it was in need of an expensive digital projector.

"Thank you very much. Thanks for making that a reality," he said, holding back a few tears.

Thomas went on to speak highly of the award recipients - two of them this year - based on conversations with and emails from folks who described why the pair was so deserving of the honor.

"They have given of themselves simply because they knew it's the right thing to do," he said.

They put "service above self," have opened their home and hearts to many people and are involved with their church, the Rotary, soccer, football, basketball and more.

Thomas received many passionate emails from members of Young Life, a Christian youth outreach club based at Grove City High School that meets once a week at the home of the award recipients.

About 40 of the teens filed into the dining room while their group's director, Brad Mowry, spilled the beans.

"Can I say their names? Is it OK at this point? The Mottas?," he asked, some of the crowd applauding Chris and Darla Motta.

Group leader Ashley Sealander described them as loving, generous and compassionate and they have created a safe zone for kids in their home.

The couple accepted the award, a Wendell August plaque, with Motta sharing how he had cancer 15 years ago, and when they'd come home from chemotherapy, they'd find food and money on the front porch. They knew they'd have to give back.

"We feel very blessed to be here," Mrs. Motta said.

They were overwhelmed when the Young Life members walked in, but they knew that meant they've made a difference in their lives.

"It's not about us," she said.

The Mottas have been married for 24 years and have three kids and own the Legacy and Hog Wild BBQ & More. Mrs. Motta is president of Grove City Rotary and Motta is a critical care nurse at Grove City Medical Center, and they are also members of Grove City Alliance Church.

Published Jan. 25, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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