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Business Beat

July 25, 2012

Business Beat: Oneonta native and wife to offer samples of berry powder

An Oneonta-born man who lives in Chile next week will offer samples of maqui berry powder that he and his wife have developed at their island business, Isla Nutura.

Britt Lewis and Sandra Echegaray will be at The Green Earth Health Food Market between noon and 2 p.m. Monday offering samples of the powder in smoothies, yogurt and chocolate.

The native Mapuche of southern Chile have used maqui berries for centuries, said Lewis, who is promoting its antioxidant and healthful factors.

He, Echegaray and their three daughters are visiting local relatives this month. Lewis said he was born in Oneonta in 1970 and attended Greater Plains Elementary School and Oneonta High School.

An interest in travel led him to Central America, then to Chile, where he spent two years mountain and rock climbing. Later, he and his wife started Austral Adventures, a company offering bilingual tours focusing on special interests such as birdwatching and kayaking. Through botanical tours, he said, he became "enamored of the unique flora of Chile" and at home began to harvest native berries for personal use.

That interest became a business venture. Lewis said the firm has USDA organic certification for its wild-berry harvesting and production facility. Products are available on Amazon.com, and Lewis is seeking other marketing venues.

"We are not the only company offering maqui berry powder in the U.S.; however, we are the only Chilean company that does," Lewis said in an email, "and also the only company that harvests the berry and takes care of it all the way through to the finished product."

The Green Earth is 4 Market St. in downtown Oneonta.

Program set on health care reform

A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta and the Otsego County Chamber will present "Health Reform: 2012 Overview and Implications" at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, a media release said.

Eve Van de Wal, regional president of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, will share information about the changing environment for medical insurance and what may be expected.

The program will be at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center on Market Street in downtown Oneonta. A question-and-answer period will follow her presentation.

Otsego Chamber Executive Director Barbara Ann Heegan said local businesses hope for consistency and a comprehensive plan that will reduce costs.

"Our concern is for stability for our members and for our members not to be overburdened," she said recently in regard to the Affordable Care Act.

A continental breakfast will be served at the program, and the Otsego Chamber requests reservations be made by Aug. 3 by calling Shelly Giangrant at 432-4500 or by sending an email to info@otsegocountychamber.com.

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