George Fritz, owner of Lockport’s Mills Jewelers, has been named the winner of the 16th annual Key to the Locks Award. A volunteer selection panel drawn from the Lockport community chose Fritz as a person who exemplifies the community spirit of the historic Erie Canal.
Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman will present the award to Fritz in a public ceremony on the lawn of the Erie Canal Discovery Center (24 Church St.) at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 22.
Attendees will be asked to observe all relevant pandemic protocols. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place indoors and attendance will be limited to a very small list of invited guests.
Fritz has long been recognized in Lockport for his generous support of local nonprofit organizations and for his willingness to serve on committees that work to promote Lockport and its Erie Canal area. He has been a goodwill fixture in the Lockport community for many years.
A Lockport native, in his youth he was the downtown Lockport paperboy for the Lockport Union Sun & Journal, where he delivered papers to Mills Jewelers. In 1972, he was hired by Mills to wash the glass, sweep the floor, and run errands. He continued to work there through high school and college, eventually becoming the manager and then buying the business in 1989.
Fritz has served as president of the Downtown Lockport Business Association, and as a board member of the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce. He was instrumental in leading the effort to produce the mural on Main Street, and was the chairman of the drive to save the Historic Palace Theatre in 2003.
A press release stated, “On any given day, you might see George on the Pine Street Bridge playing Lockport ambassador to customers who are first time visitors to Lockport. From day one, George has been a supporter of the historic Flight of Five Locks rehabilitation and the Lock Tenders Tribute. George Fritz is the grandson of Ida Fritz, the flower lady, who has a park dedicated to her name. He has a son Andy, a daughter Heather, and three beautiful granddaughters.”
The Key to the Locks Award was established to recognize persons in Niagara County who exemplify the community spirit – or promote the heritage and preservation – of the Erie Canal. Email [email protected] or call 716-434-7433 for more information.