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Pita Gourmet, 281 Bowl, O’Shea Tire ‘Best of Best’

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Patty Karam, right, and her mother Hana of Pita Gourmet serve vegetarian grape leaves and labneh, a yogurt with garlic salt, to Cortland resident Jodi Gabriel, left, on Friday. Pita Gourmet won the Cortland Chamber of Commerce best international dish award.

Charbel Karam found out on his tenth anniversary with Pita Gourmet on July 7, that the restaurant had won the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce’s Best International Dish award.

And Friday he told the crowd gathered at the Community Restaurant in Cortland to celebrate the Chamber’s sixth annual People’s Choice awards that the award just validates that he made the right decision to move to America and he would keep doing what he does “the way it should be done.”

Karam took over the business from his parents July 7, 2007, he said. He said more businesses should receive the sort of validation the Chamber of Commerce gives through the awards.

“We have an amazing community and great people, a phenomenal atmosphere,” Karam said. “We need to keep doing a good job and keep it going, work hard and stay positive.”

Karam said that positive reinforcement among residents helps make a small-business owner’s job a little easier, as they constantly struggle with providing great service amid financial challenges.

“This award recognizes you are a member of the community and a good member,” he said.

Haight said the awards do just that. The Chamber of Commerce summons votes on its website over the spring and summer for the People’s Choice awards.

Last year the chamber hit a record with thousands of people voting for their favorite establishment, Haight said. This year fell below that level but he did not know the exact number.

“Every one of the chamber members wants to be good community people,” Haight said.

The awards are offered in categories that change every year, highlighting different areas like this year’s favorite automotive service center and favorite recreational facility.

O’Shea Tire & Service won favorite automotive service center and 281 Bowl won for favorite recreational facility.

“It’s a way to point out members the community might not otherwise be aware of,” Haight said. “It gives recognition.”

“It’s what I preach to my people every day,” said Rich Borra, owner of O’Shea Tire & Service. “We want to be the best and we work at every nuance to try to accomplish that.”

In the 14th year of business, Borra said the company has really hit its stride, with nine specially trained employees and opportunities for customers to provide feedback.

“It’s great to get a little something back from the community,” said Scott Becker, who has owned 281 Bowl for 25 years.
Cortland has a great following for bowling, he said, and his center is busy with leagues daily.

“It’s a family sport and a lifelong sport,” Becker said. “Cortland has been very receptive.”