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Small Business Banking Partnership proves profitable

Date: 1/17/2013

By Katelyn Gendron

SPRINGFIELD — The success of the state's Small Business Banking Partnership (SBBP) has become tangible in brick and mortar at 673 White St., now the newly expanded Bellucci Salon & Day Spa.

Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman joined Mayor Domenic Sarno, state Sen. James Welch, Bill Wagner, president of Chicopee Savings Bank, and Bellucci owner Maria Sarra on Jan. 14 to celebrate SBBP, which has deposited $293 million in 50 community banks to aid small business growth since May 2011.

"The Treasurer puts his money where his mouth is," Sarno said. "As a business owner himself [owner of Grossman Marketing Corp.], he knows the trials and tribulations of owning a business. When he was first running for treasurer, we talked about how we needed an influx of money coming to small- and medium-sized businesses."

Grossman credited banks such as Chicopee Savings for having the foresight to believe in SBBP and the region's small business community. "There is no banker in the Commonwealth who has used this program more effectively," he added.

In order to participate in the program, Chicopee Savings Bank — and all others — had to "sign a Memorandum of Understanding signaling their intent to enhance their loan portfolios to small credit-worthy Massachusetts businesses," Grossman explained, noting that SBBP is funded by Treasury monies previously given to larger lenders that use the money overseas.

Chicopee Savings was the first bank in Western Massachusetts to participate and received $5 million in state reserve funds, Wagner explained. "We've done loads and loads of start-ups [businesses] at Chicopee Savings Bank. I was thrilled to be a part of it [SBBP]. We're putting that money here and not overseas," he added.

Keeping such funds in Springfield allowed Sarra to expand her business from its previous location on Allen Street to a larger, newly renovated facility on White Street. The move, which occurred in the fall 2012, has allowed Bellucci to double its monthly client base, she noted.

"I think programs such as this can have such a positive impact on local businesses," Sarra said. "Our business has been really well received between our new clients and our old ones who have followed us here. This program afforded us the opportunity to buy this building and it's only because of our clients that we continue to have such great success."

Bellucci Salon & Day Spa opened in 1985 under the leadership of Maureen Bellucci, who sold the business to Sarra and her husband, Silver Sarra, in 2007. Maureen Bellucci still works at the business to this day.

The new location has allowed the business to expand its services with larger areas for hair styling, color treatments, nail design, facials and spa offerings, Sarra noted.

A self-proclaimed optimist, Grossman told the more than 40 people in attendance at Bellucci's, "The best days and years in the city of Springfield are yet to come."