Stockbridge – In a ceremony at the Norman Rockwell Museum hotelier and community developer Vijay Mahida was honored last evening (September 7) as Business Person of the Year by the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. The celebration was held under at tent on the museum’s grounds, and benefitted from a beautiful early fall evening.
“This is the kind of award people receive at the end of their careers,” said Mahida in his acceptance speech, “but I am not getting ready to retire.” Mahida reminded the audience that he has two major projects in the works…the first branded all-suite hotel plus event center that he is building with his brother Pravin Mahida in Lenox, and, next, the 88-key boutique hotel that he will build with his wife Chrystal in downtown Great Barrington through adaptive reuse of the derelict Searles School on Bridge Street. These hotels will enable his family to attract off-season guests, said Mahida. Our goal, he continued, “is to even out the tourist season in the Berkshires so it lasts all year long.”
Also, in the course of his acceptance speech, Mahida announced a contribution to the Literacy Network of South Berkshire. “The Literacy Network helped my parents when they came here as immigrants, and we want to thank them for that help.” This follows the Mahida family’s tradition of making major contributions to Berkshire County nonprofits on the occasion of every important business announcement.
Born in Gujarat, India, Vijay Mahida came to the United States with no money in 1994. Within six years, in 2000, he purchased the 17-key Monument Mountain Motel in Great Barrington, with money he and his immediate family had saved from working long hours in the hospitality industry and from other labor-intensive jobs. Three years later, at the age of 33, he broke ground for a sixty-room Comfort Inn & Suites, located on land in back of his motel. In 2009, he opened a major expansion of the Comfort Inn, which, in 2014, became the first Marriott in the Berkshires. In 2015, Mahida opened the first new hotel in the Berkshires in almost a decade – the 95-key Hilton Garden Inn in Pittsfield.
Mahida credited three factors in his success:
— I thank God every day that I am a citizen of the United States;
— I thank my parents who taught me the value of hard work; and
— I thank both my immediate and my extended family for their support.
The immediate family, all in attendance last night, included Mahida’s wife Chrystal, his children Irini and Prem, his parents, his brother and business partner Pravin, and his in-laws. As for extended family, he cited his “team members…this means my staff, my bankers, my lawyers…this room is filled with people who make my work possible.”
Mr. Mahida’s acceptance speech was preceeded by introductions from friends, fans and officials. They all talked about Vijay’s commitment to his family and his pride in his family’s achievements. Attorney Kathleen (Kate) McCormick of the McCormick, Murtagh & Marcus firm, serving as master of ceremonies, cited Vijay for his hard work and his commitment to the community. Todd Mack, executive director of Music in Common, Inc., and board president of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce explained that Mahida had been selected on the basis of three key criteria: personal qualities, managerial skills and contribution to the southern Berkshires. Lauri Klefos, executive vice president of 1Berkshire, lauded Mahida as a visionary who sees a trend, is the first to act and always delivers what he promises, and as a gentleman who listens, is a great compromiser, a great negotiator and who always ends up doing what’s best for the community.
State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli noted how good it is that Mahida’s family is so big “so you can open more hotels.” Vijay, he continued, is all about community. “It’s hard to say no to Vijay because you don’t want to say no to Vijay.” Pignatelli also presented Mahida with a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, in honor of his designation as Business Person of the Year.
And finally, last year’s honoree, George T. Smith, CPA from the firm of Smith, Watson & Co., thanked the crowd for supporting the Chamber, gave Mahida an example of his own trademark bow tie, and passed along the honorary plaque which Mahida will keep for this year.