Kevin Schmitz (l.) and David Renner accept their plaques as Businessmen of the Year. Photo courtesy of Stephen G. Donaldson Photography
David Renner and Kevin Schmitz met in 1990 when they both worked at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, Connecticut. Renner had been trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and he and Schmitz had worked at renowned dining venues in New York, but what solidified their relationship was a shared passion: providing high-quality prepared meals using ingredients premises so that people can take them home.
They opened The Marketplace in Sheffield in 1993. Today, almost 30 years later, they have a thriving restaurant business, serving food in three dining/takeaway locations – The Marketplace Café in Sheffield, The Marketplace Table at Great Barrington and The Marketplace Café in Pittsfield—sell food at the new Marketplace Specialty Food Shop on Route 7, just north of downtown Great Barrington, and operate The Miller Pub, a cozy gathering place in right in downtown Great Barrington.
And last Thursday, September 8, at a festive celebration in the newly built clubhouse at Catamount Mountain Resort, they were honored as “Businessmen of the Year” by the South Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.
It was the 13e time the Southern Berkshire Chamber presented this Businessman of the Year award. Each winner is recognized for three main characteristics: personal qualities, management skills and contribution to the South Berkshires community. Suggestions for candidates are solicited from the general public – chamber members, non-members and local residents. To ensure an impartial result, an independent committee of the Board of Directors reviews all applications, makes a selection from the group of candidates and sends its recommendation to the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
After a welcome from current House Board of Trustees Co-Chair Bill Tighe, presentations from three of the honorees’ colleagues made it clear to the audience why Renner and Schmitz were so deserving of this recognition.
Chef Christopher Brooks met the winners years ago through Berkshires hospitality channels and recently joined The Marketplace as a business partner. The Marketplace offers “real food made by real people,” Brooks said, and he’s long admired the way these two real people have lived their lives. Renner and Schmitz both enjoyed long marriages and rich family lives. Their skills complement each other, with Renner as a planner and Schmitz as a perfectionist who also bakes wonderful cakes. ” Life is hard. We all need to support each other, and these people do.
Chef Douglas Luf has developed the qualities of kindness and consideration that characterize Renner and Schmitz. Luf recounted his first encounter with Renner and Schmitz in the mid-1990s at a tasting dinner where each chef prepared a dish. “David and Kevin were making dessert (a killer caramel dessert) and I had the first course. I had come alone and suddenly wondered how I was going to be able to do it on my own. that night, only David and Kevin offered to help. Twelve years ago they hired me to run their kitchen, and five years ago I became a partner. Their act of kindness stuck with me.
Nina Ramos, Manager of the new Marketplace Specialty Food Shop, has worked for Renner and Schmitz since 2017. She continues to marvel at the breadth of their knowledge. But, more than that, she concluded that “there couldn’t be a better pair. Nothing is too small or too big to ask them. They’ll deliver a meal to an elderly customer, drive the dishwasher home if his car isn’t working, give meals to people who need it, even staff members. Ramos recalled a crazy Thanksgiving when the Marketplace still had a counter at Guido’s and they were overwhelmed with orders. “Dave jumped in to serve in the deli (“He loves working that slicer”). Kevin was working in the cheese department. Even Claudia, Kevin’s wife, joined in. According to Nina, David, Kevin, Doug and now Chris are a team formidable, guided by the motto “We can do it!”
State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli presented the winners with a House citation. “David and Kevin continue to develop, to grow, to be committed to the Berkshires. Thank you for believing in the Berkshires. I can’t think of two better people. It’s people like David and Kevin who call the Berkshires home.
Wheeler & Taylor Chairman Scott Rote, the newest Businessman of the Year, rounded out the testimonials by sharing ‘little things people might not know’ about Renner and Schmitz’s engagement. towards the community. “I’ve worked with Kevin in the House, and he’s always given and cared about him. David is a volunteer firefighter in South Lee and I’m a volunteer firefighter in Great Barrington, and I know what commitment it takes to make that service to the community Next week, Wheeler & Taylor will celebrate its 150e birthday party and who else would we hire to host the party other than The Marketplace? »
Finally, Renner and Schmitz each spoke, told war stories, and especially thanked their families, partners, dedicated staff of over 100 now, and customers.
And perhaps the greatest testament to all that the Chamber could give to these winners is the fact that The Marketplace has been hired to host this event!