Joe Pillitteri is living every boy’s dream, or certainly his — the owner of Lakeview Vineyard Equipment is making a career of operating heavy machinery, showing off grape harvesters and other farming equipment to those who might be in the market to purchase what he sells.
But he has one dream yet unfulfilled, he said — he has his heart set on driving an ice resurfacer, and he thinks it might be within reach.
He’s cautious not to use the word ‘Zamboni,’ which is not a generic term for those machines that clean the ice between hockey periods or figure skating classes. It’s a trade name that draws a hand-rap if used in error to describe another brand, such as the Olympia the Town has ordered to replace one of its aging machines used to clean the Virgil ice rinks.
PIllitteri has won the right to put his Lakeview sign on the new piece of machinery he is sponsoring, and is convinced the Town is going to let him take it to Tim Hortons so he can order coffee at the drive-through, he jokes — after all, he’s paying $25,000 to have his company name on it for the next 10 years, at $2,500 a year.
A huge hockey fan and supporter of minor hockey in town, he’s been picturing himself on the Olympia since he applied to sponsor the new ice cleaner, which is expected to be delivered to the arena in March and put into use when the ice opens again in September.
“I’ve been around equipment my whole life, and around hockey my whole life, but this is one piece of equipment I’ve never driven and I’m dying to do it. I have all sorts of plans for it,” he jokes. “I want to fulfill some childhood dreams.”
But in true Pillsy fashion, he says, “rumour has it” by the time the machine hits the ice, it might not look much like other cleaners — he included some preliminary drawings in the sponsorship application that show it in a wrap, looking more like a grape harvester than anything customarily seen on a rink.
“I’m really excited about it,” he says.
“If we look at our customer base, we have baby boomers, grandparents who are at the arena watching their kids play hockey or figure skating, and moms and dads there sometimes four or five times a week. But it’s not just about advertising — we want them to know youth sports are important to us and keeping kids healthy and fit is important. If we can do something to help that in any way we can, we want to do that.”
Pillitteri and Jesse Willms, his business partner since 2014, sponsor two hockey teams, and Lakeview has donated more than $150,000 to local causes, including minor hockey, lacrosse, and Kidsport Niagara, which supports kids who need financial help to participate in organized sports.
Pillitteri says that to him, the name he will always associate with the ice resurfacer at the arena is Simpson’s Pharmacy, and he’s always looked up to Ward Simpson as the ultimate example of a man and business owner who gives back to his community.
“He’s been such a good example for business owners to follow, including me, and Sean is a chip off the old block.”
Simpson’s didn’t apply for the sponsorship this time, choosing instead to open up the opportunity for others such as Lakeview, which was one of three applications.
“I had heard Joe wanted the sponsorship,” said Sean Simpson, “and was hopeful that he would get it if we didn’t participate.”