Super Casuals named Business of the Year!

November 24th, 2010

GENEVA, N.Y. (November 24, 2010) - The Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Super Casuals (Geneva Super Army & Navy Store, Inc.) will be honored as the Business of the Year at the Chamber Annual Dinner on Friday, January 28, 2011. Super Casuals is celebrating its 60th year in business.

The Business of the Year is the highest honor a business can receive locally. It is awarded annually to one business and will be presented at the Chamber's Annual Dinner on Friday, January 28, 2011 at Club 86.

"There is no family in Geneva that deserves recognition more than the Fragnoli's. Super Casuals has a great history and is a downtown anchor. They continue to provide a valuable service to all of us in the Geneva area," stated Rob Gladden, President and CEO of the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce.

Super Casuals has earned the honor of Business of the Year due to its long and stable presence in Geneva, and the long and generous involvement of its owners and employees in the affairs of the area and its people. Super Casuals and the Super Army & Navy Store have been anchor stores in downtown Geneva for 60 years. Josephine Fragnoli has been here the whole time, Lou Tandle since 1957, Bob Corcoran since 1975, Joe Fragnoli since 1978, and Steve Fragnoli since 1992. Most of the store's 10 employees are full-time, have many years with the company, and are well known to many Genevans. This familiarity and loyalty has made the store an informal hang-out and stop for many to discuss the issues of the day and catch up with old friends. It is truly a jewel of downtown, with an impact on the community far greater than its economic effects, however significant. 

Joe Fragnoli is past President and Vice-President of the Downtown Business Improvement District, and has been on the BID board continuously since its inception in 1986. Joe also currently serves as Chair of the Salvation Army board of directors, is in his second term on the board, and is part chair of the Red Kettle campaign. He is also currently on the Advisory Board of the Lyons National Bank in Geneva. Joe has been on the board of directors of the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce and the Geneva Family YMCA. He has volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva for its Capital and Endowment Campaign for the Geneva Community Center project and at other Club events. Joe was a volunteer with Geneva Community Projects for its Geneva Community Playground Project and the Seneca Lake Whale Watch Festival. Super Casuals donates money or goods to just about every event and cause in the area that makes a request.

Josephine Fragnoli, who is currently homebound due to illness, has served on the board of directors of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, Our Lady of Peace Parish Life Council, the board of directors of the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Geneva Revolving Loan Fund Committee, the advisory board of the Chase Manhattan Bank, formerly of Geneva, and the board of directors of Geneva Scholarship Associates, where she was fundraising co-chair. She has served on the fundraising committees for the capital campaigns of the Smith Opera House, the Geneva Free Library, DeSales High School, and St. Stephen's Parish. Josephine also volunteered at the Geneva Community Playground Project and the Seneca Lake Whale Watch Festival, and the store has participated in one way or another, with donations of money, goods, or the volunteer time of its employees, in countless community events and activities over the years.

Longtime employee Bob Corcoran has been an officer in Geneva's Knights of Columbus and has been involved in many of its charitable activities for many years.

Super Casuals was founded by Vito Fragnoli in 1950. Vito worked in a clothing store in Cortland, NY during high school, and, when he finished service in the Navy after WWII, he came to Geneva and was captivated by all the activity generated by the Sampson military base. He then talked the owner of the Cortland store into opening a store in Geneva with him, and in 1950 they opened the Geneva Super Army & Navy Store on the east side of Exchange Street. In 1951 Vito bought out his partner to become the sole owner of the business. Vito needed more room to expand his line of goods, and in 1957 he purchased a building on the west side of Exchange Street, and old Market Basket, tripling the size of his store. Vito's sons, Joe, Mark and Steve, still own that building today. In 1970, at the age of 42, Vito died unexpectedly, leaving his wife, Josephine, and three sons, then aged 15, 13 and 3.

Although Josephine had no experience managing the store, she went to work with the help of Lou Tandle, who had been working at the store with Vito since 1957. Son Joe was also working after school at the store, and they managed to not just hold on but prosper. Joe went off to college and began a career with the Armstrong Company, but in 1978 his mother called to tell him of an opportunity she had to purchase a building for the store on Seneca Street, which she offered to do if Joe was interested in returning to Geneva to manage it. Joe said yes, and 52 Seneca Street was purchased and the store was moved. The family celebrated 30 years at that location in November 2008.

In the 1970s, the Fragnolis' business was moving away from traditional Army Navy store goods and into a more casual line, and, to better reflect this and update its image, in 1981 the name was changed to Super Casuals. These were the times when department stores left downtowns for malls and suburbs, and it was a struggle for a store like Super Casuals to remain, but it did, changing styles with the times and cutting margins to compete with larger competitors in higher traffic locations. In 1992, son Steve, who had been working for IBM after graduating from college, decided it was his turn to return home to the family business, and he brought his talents and young ideas to the store. In 1995, Casey & Sons men's store, which had rented about a third of the building since the move, closed, and the Fragnolis took down the wall separating the two storefronts and expanded Super Casuals to the entire building.

Staying with the trends and need to expand market share, Super Casuals went into internet sales in 2001, and by 2003, the last Fragnoli boy, Mark, based in Boston, began working full-time for the company managing its web site and the technical aspect of the internet sales business, which is now a large and growing part of the business. Further renovations to the building took place in the early 2000s when the basement was made into a warehouse for the many goods backing up the upstairs retail space and internet orders. There is really not a compelling business reason for Super Casuals to remain in downtown Geneva, but loyalty to their home of sixty years, and the satisfaction that comes with serving customers face to face, outfitting the third generation of many Geneva area families, keeps the Fragnolis and their staff on Seneca Street.

 Super Casuals and its owners and employees have played and continue to play a significant role in the health and renaissance of Geneva, often against the tide pulling retail enterprises out of small city downtowns.

"We are very honored to be named Business of the Year by the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce, especially because this is our sixtieth anniversary. We are humbled knowing that there are many deserving businesses in Geneva that could be honored. We look forward to serving this community for a very long time to come, and we are grateful for this recognition.

Tickets to the dinner are $50 for members and $60 for non-members. Varied size corporate tables are also available. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Chamber at 315-789-1776.

The Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce is the premier business organization of the Geneva area representing nearly 500 members.

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