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Chamber honors its business leaders of the year

  • Dave and Diane Panopoulos, owners of Pizza Haven in Rindge, have been named the Rindge Chamber of Commerce Business Leaders of the Year. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dave and Diane Panopoulos, owners of Pizza Haven in Rindge, have been named the Rindge Chamber of Commerce Business Leaders of the Year. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 10:33AM

During the ice storm of 2008, Pizza Haven owners Dave and Diane Panopoulos made a commitment to give back to the community that welcomed them with open arms back in 1985. 

As one of the only places in town with a generator, the Rindge-based pizza place remained open while much of the community was without power, offering those in need a place to warm up, eat a hot meal, and charge their phones and other electronics. 

“When we saw people in need, we knew we couldn’t close our doors,” said Diane, days after she and her husband were named the Rindge Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Business Leaders of the Year. “We had heat, power, and enough supplies to last five days.”

Dave and Diane moved to Rindge in 1985 from Peabody, Massachusetts to open Pizza Haven, spurred by Dave’s desire to open his own pizza shop after working at his father’s since he was a child. 

The newlywed couple, who were expecting their first child, were drawn to Rindge after hearing from a relative about a piece of property for sale. Diane said the two had never been to Rindge prior. 

It was Hjalmar Aho, the previous owner of the Pizza Haven property, and other members of the local Finnish community who would offer immediate support to the Panopouloses and take the family “under their wing.”

“Without the support of the community, how do you succeed?” asked Diane. “[Hjalmar] was the type of guy who really cared about other people. He always checked in on us.”

As soon as they were able to, the Panopouloses were quick to give back to the local community, especially in the realm of sports and children, sponsoring Hoops for Hopes, the Rindge Recreation 5K Race, Rindge’s Trunk or Treat, Jaffrey’s Kitty Rescue, local police and fire departments, and more. 

“We do what we can do to help make things easier, these children are our future,” said Diane. “We work seven days a week, but we don’t do it for the recognition, we do it because we take pride in what we do.”

The Panopouloses also donate to local church organizations for their fairs, raffles, and auctions, and donate pizza to Conant teams that win championships. They also deliver pizza to Conant home basketball games at a discount rate to help athletes make money for their sports programs. 

Diane has been active in the community, serving on boards such as the Rindge Chamber and Jaffrey-Rindge Education Foundation. She also volunteered at St. Patrick School and hosted the JREF pancake breakfast for four years. 

Shari Fish, a director for the Rindge Chamber of Commerce, said Friday that awarding the Panopouloses as this year’s Business Leaders of the Year was a unanimous decision.

“They are kind of like icons in Rindge,” said Fish. “They are very well known and well liked. They are hard working and put their blood, sweat, and tears into everything they do.”

The Panopouloses will be honored during the chamber’s annual gala on Jan. 20 at Hidden Hills Banquet Facility. For tickets, contact info@rindgechamber.org. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.