Categories Small Business

Shady Oaks honored as family owned small business of the year

The US Small Business Administration recognized the Bristol facility, which took aggressive and innovative measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

BRISTOL, Conn — An elderly living facility in Bristol is being recognized by the US Small Business Administration. Shady Oaks Assisted Living was given the honor of being the family-owned small business of the year for 2024.

The facility made big news at the height of the COVID pandemic for their aggressive and innovative measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

As a former Marine, Tyson Belanger, the owner of Shady Oaks has fought enemies before. But in March of 2020 when COVID came to Connecticut he knew this fight would be different.

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“This is our team in the bubble,” he said as he showed a picture. “Elsewhere in Bristol it was a sad, terrible time; 59 residents died in the nursing homes from COVID in the Spring of 2020. We were safe here.”

Doing what marines do, Tyson was Semper Fidelis, always faithful to his staff and the elderly residents entrusted to his care.

“It’s an extraordinary place,” commented Ann Fromherz, whose mother lives at Shady Oaks. “I liked it from day one,” added Barbara Brenneman, a resident of Shady Oaks.

It was a radical and expensive idea but it worked. Masks, gowns and test kits were still scarce. So Tyson and the Shady Oaks staff formed a bubble and lived in it for months. They bought RV’s and camped in the parking lot, isolating themselves from the community spread and even their own families.

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“Shady Oaks was run with a view to doing the right thing,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal who was on hand for the recognition. “During COVID, it brought out the best in us and the worst in us. In this case you exceeded every aspect of that,” added Katherine Marx of the US Small Business Administration.

As COVID spread like wildfire through long-term care facilities, Shady Oaks was able to continue offering family visitation saving residents not only from physical infection but mental loneliness at a historic time in our state’s history.

“In 2020 COVID threatened our home but we rose to the challenge. We bubbled up and then we wore KN95s, bought 175 air purifiers and then started taking frequent tests. Only eight of our residents have ever caught COVID here,” explained Belanger.

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Financially unsustainable, the bubble eventually popped while Belanger adopted a more conventional mask and test policy, but his efforts no doubt saved lives.

“This year and into the future our love will continue to make it a place for all our residents, families and staff,” said Belanger.

Shady Oaks is the only family owned and veteran owned assisted living facility in the state. Tyson calls it a home filled with love. It was built by his parents and over the years seven of his own family members have received care at Shady Oaks.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook, X and Instagram.

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