Former Apple Granny’s co-owner excited to meet-and-greet more community members
By Joshua Maloni
Chuck Barber has a new home-away-from-home.
He recently joined the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce as its director of membership. Prior to that, he was co-owner of popular Lewiston restaurant Apple Granny.
Barber said he was looking for something a little less 24-7-365.
“One of the reasons I left my nonprofit career after close to 20 years was to work in this community; have something that's closer to home; family could be involved with it; and work differently,” he said. “Apple Granny’s was a dream; I got to meet wonderful people, work with talented people, my family works there. Two of my boys work there. My wife works there. But this year, unexpectedly, my mother passed away due to COVID.”
The sudden illness and tragic loss forced Barber to reevaluate his work-life balance. “And to continue on to meet the obligations successfully and properly at Apple Granny's, the demands of the restaurant, I just needed to make the decision,” he said.
“My focus has changed. My priorities have changed a little bit. I just have to work differently. The restaurant’s wonderful. The restaurant’s outstanding.” But it’s also “a lot more physical demands, unexpected demands; you know, it's very unpredictable.”
Barber has been an NRRCC board member and active with its Lewiston Business Group for four years.
“I've known this crew; I've always enjoyed the chamber. So, when this opportunity came up, it seemed like a great fit,” he said. “I feel like I have my board of directors’ hat on, so I know the chamber's operations and what they're about. And I'm also a business owner. So, I hope that I'm able to speak to the businesses. I know a lot of the folks from the restaurant, my kids, being a member of the Kiwanis. I've been involved with so many things, so I'd like to think that I check a lot of the boxes.”
Chuck Barber is now a member of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce staff. To contact him, call 716-754-9500 or email [email protected].
NRRCC President Jennifer Pauly said, “The director of membership position was one we envisioned prior to knowing Chuck was going to apply – but once his application came in, I knew that he would be a contender. He went through the interview process and, having had a background as a small business owner, member of the chamber and board member, it was clear that he was the perfect candidate for the position. Chuck also has nonprofit experience, which is where I personally knew him from prior to owning Apple Granny and becoming a board member.”
She noted, “One of the areas of growth for the chamber is to focus on membership – specifically growing and retaining membership. We offer so much and needed a better way of making sure our members knew the value of the chamber. I knew that our current staffing structure needed to be updated, and that membership needed to be laser-focused. Chuck's role will be responsible for making sure our members are engaged.
“I'm so excited for the growth of this organization! Putting the right people in the right positions, and focusing on growth is a priority for the fourth quarter and going into next year.”
Barber said he’s looking forward to this new opportunity.
“The activities the chamber does flows a lot with my family life, from the events, the mix, all those things that my family could still participate in,” he said. “I just love being part of the connecting of this neighborhood, the community. The customers would come in to see me at Apple Granny’s, and now in this job I feel like I'll be going out to them.”
“I appreciate that I still get to keep all of those relationships – just now with a different hat on,” he said.
Barber stressed his decision to leave the restaurant “was not anything to do with the status of Apple Granny's. Apple Granny’s is going strong. We've made it through COVID. I'm proud of being part of something that none of us will ever forget, is how we made it through COVID. And being a restaurant owner through COVID, I'm very proud of being part of that team to navigate through the waters of it. I loved being part of the community support of it.
“It had nothing to do with Apple Granny’s not thriving still and going strong. This wasn't me trying to take an opportunity to get out of the restaurant world due to COVID. I thought I'd be there for many years to come.
“It's important for me to let people know that – that this was really an unexpected change of life that drove this. An opening came up. They say when one door closes – hate to be so cliché – but it truly was that for me.”
Barber said he spoke with Apple Granny co-owner Michael Burke, and “It was just a life change that I needed to do. I knew I needed to make a change, and the opportunity for the chamber – literally within weeks – presented itself. Mike and I talked about Apple Granny’s, because I wasn't sure what was going to be next. So, it really just seemed like the timing could not have been better for me.
“Mike, I stayed on board with Apple Granny's to transition out. He brought in a new person to welcome into there to help carry on Apple Granny’s, and I still help behind the scenes right now.”