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Three men stand next to each other: Brian Calley, Paul Santoro and Rick Snyder. Paul is holding an award.

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Baldwin small business owners honored with Spirit of Entrepreneurship award

October 25, 2023

LANSING, MI – The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) recently honored Baldwin small business owner Paul Santoro and his partner Dina Velocci with its 2023 Rick Snyder Spirit of Entrepreneurship award.  

Santoro and Velocci are the co-owners of 876 Restaurant in Baldwin, Michigan which opened in October of 2021. They embarked on a three-year journey to design and reconstruct the historic Masonic Temple in the center of town. 876 Restaurant prepares made-from-scratch food items and handcrafted, top-shelf beverages.  

“Paul and his wife Dina represent the heart and soul of small business,” said SBAM President and CEO Brian Calley. “Opening a restaurant isn’t for the faint of heart, but Paul and Dina took a great leap to invest in their community. The hard work that they put in, especially during their redevelopment process, has paid off tremendously. They couldn’t be more deserving of this award!”   

The Rick Snyder Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award is named in honor of former Gov. Snyder for his work in modernizing Michigan. Award-winners must be small business employing less than 500 people, headquartered in Michigan, and have a turnaround story that has resulted in significant growth. This is the fifth year the award has been presented.

876 Restaurant has helped to revitalize a sleepy village while coordinating renovation efforts for much-needed housing options. They also work with local farms to support and sustain small businesses and continue to invest in their employees. 

“Paul and Dina’s passion and vision for their business and the Baldwin community is exactly what entrepreneurship is about,” said former Gov. Rick Snyder. “It’s inspiring to see a dream become reality through hard work and 876 Restaurant is a great example of that. Congrats to Paul and Dina on their success.” 

Paul and Dina’s main goal was to draw people into the charm of Baldwin and change the perception that a high caliber restaurant could exist in a tiny West Michigan town.  

“My wife and I wanted to bring our passion for Italian-American heritage and wonderful food to Baldwin and are thrilled with the success it has had,” said 876 Restaurant owner Paul Santoro. “We know the success relies on the people, so we want to continue to take great care to support those who are helping build this dream with us. We appreciate the recognition from SBAM.” 

The award was presented at SBAM’s recent annual Leadership Council Summit on Mackinac Island by Snyder and Calley on October 12.  

Previous Winners: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019

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