Nov. 7 of last year will always remain a special day for Stephen Haller. It was the day he retired, and sold Minuteman Press, a Levittown-based printing company he’s owned and operated for more than 35 years. “I didn’t want life to pass me by,” said Haller. “Retirement is something you prepare for all of your life.”
But it didn’t take long for Haller, an East Meadow resident for 27 years, to find his next venture — on Jan. 24, he was installed as president of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce.
Haller, who used to print the Chamber’s journals, has been involved with the organization for nearly 40 years, and previously served as vice president. “Going to chamber functions, I learned just how good the people in East Meadow were,” Haller said. “They stick together, they’re for the community.”
Haller expressed his excitement to embark on this upcoming year as the Chamber’s president, and said he has many ideas for upcoming programs. “I have a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “I really think I can make a difference.”
Dolores Rome, the immediate past president of the Chamber, said she believes Haller will be a great leader for the business community. “He is very dedicated to the Chamber,” Rome said. “He has a lot of ideas and they all sound like ideas that would bring this chamber into the future. And that’s all we can ask for.”
One of those ideas, said Haller, includes an inaugural “Run, Ride or Read” fundraiser at Eisenhower Park in May, to benefit the Reach Out and Read program at the Nassau University Medical Center. Reach Out and Read encourages reading to children as early as 6 months of age, to better prepare them for kindergarten and elementary school.
As president, Haller said he has two primary goals: to educate the community about what the Chamber of Commerce does, and to teach local business owners about the advantages of utilizing new technologies, with a focus on social media. A recent Chamber meeting, he said, featured a guest speaker who spoke to members about the benefits of social media marketing. “There’s a lot of people out there who don’t know computers,” said Haller, who admitted he is not technology-savvy himself. “I was one of those guys who was left behind because of computers. I’m a salesman. I liked sitting down and talking to a person.”
Haller’s main concern with East Meadow’s current business climate, he said, is the amount of stores that have recently gone out of business. “If you look at Hempstead Turnpike, there is a tremendous amount of empty stores,” he said.
It’s a problem, Haller said, that is amplified by the abundance of big box stores located in East Meadow. He equated walking into a Costco Supermarket as “Walking into a downtown East Meadow all at once. You see a jeweler, you see a candlestick maker, and it’s really a shame.
Small businesses he said, used to be the backbone of America, and he urged community members to shop local. “I know its hard,” Haller continued. “I go to box stores myself. But whatever it is you might need … use a local person.”
Haller and his wife of 42 years, Theresa, have one son, Stephen, 36, and a daughter, Laurie, 34. Stephen married his wife, Chrissey, last year. Laurie, who lives in London, is married to John, and recently gave birth to a daughter, Tess, Stephen and Theresa’s first grandchild.
In addition to his Chamber duties, Haller said he plans to spend more time with his family, travel, and to improve his golf game.