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Business awards recognize excellence

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Several district businesses and individuals were recognized for their outstanding achievement Saturday night during the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s 12th-annual business awards gala at La Place Rendez-Vous.

“We’re all here to embrace excellence in the Rainy River District,” said Chamber president Christine Denby as she emceed the evening along with second vice-president Nancy Daley.

“The business awards recognize businesses, organizations, and individuals for outstanding business achievement and the contributions made to the economic growth of the Rainy River District,” she added.

A total of 93 nominations, listing 84 different nominees, were received for this year’s business awards—a 12 percent increase from last year.

And Denby said we got this point by working together within the businesses, organizations, and community as a whole.

“It’s great to be able to acknowledge all the hard work and dedication put forth day after day,” she enthused.

Canada Safeway won the Business of the Year Award (16+ employees), sponsored by B93 fm, while Dominos Pizza was honoured as Business of the Year (1-15 employees), an award sponsored by Bell.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” noted Dominos owner Dave Ashworth. “We felt there was a very deserving group of businesses and I think any one of them would be definitely up for them award.

“And we were very pleased that we were chosen.”

As he accepted the plaque from Doug Caul, Ashworth thanked his hard-working staff who have helped to make the business a success.

“I think in the last year between a number of things with the marketing we’ve done and the exposure we’ve received for some of the different promotions, such as delivering out on the lake, has been good,” Ashworth noted Monday.

“And just being a little fun and creative,” he added. “Sometimes doing things a little wacky gets attention and I think we’ve established a little more of a presence.

“I don’t think any business does things to get an award like this, but it’s a little pat on the back, which makes you feel good.”

Ashworth added they believe in giving back to the community, so they appreciate everything the community gives to them.

Also winning awards on Saturday night was Kevin Nielson, owner of Shopper’s Drug Mart, who was named Entrepreneur of the Year (sponsored by the Rainy River Future Development Corp.), while Sherry Kaun of Share Bears Place won Business Woman of the Year (sponsored by the Rainy River District Business Women’s Network).

“It was very unexpected, but very much appreciated,” Kaun said Monday. “It gives me that little boost to continue on when you’re feeling down.”

She said she feels it’s her customer service that caught the eye of the judges.

“Customer service is the key, 24-seven,” she stressed. “If they need you at night, they need you and if they need you on the weekend, you’re there for them.

“You have to be.”

The Customer Service Award (business), sponsored by the Business Development Bank of Canada, was presented to the Super 8 Motel while Lori Pochailo of Howarth’s Home Centre earned the Customer Service Award (individual), sponsored by Good Impressions Printing.

Meanwhile, Gordon Armstrong of Rainy River captured the Tony Beyak Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award (sponsored by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce) while Joe Hendrikx of Northland Basics was named Employee of the Year (sponsored by The Westend Weekly).

The Accessibility Award, sponsored by the Town of Fort Frances Accessibility Advisory Committee, was given to Kevin Busch of the Fort Frances Curling Club while the Safety Award (business or individual), sponsored by AbitibiBowater, was presented to Kayne Shaw of Daryl’s Custom Landscapes.

A brand new award was added to the mix this year, with Revco Carpet Centre Ltd. earning the title of Small Business Trainer of the Year.

“NCDS came to us because they wanted to sponsor an award and they thought that this was a good category to come up with,” Denby said.

It was noted during the presentation of the award by Jenny Greenhalgh that smaller businesses don’t have the options available to them that some of the larger ones do in terms of training their employees.

“It was a good way of recognizing their efforts,” she added.

“We have helped out a few people in training, so it was nice to hear our name called,” Dave Petsnick said Monday.

“There are a few different things we do at the store to promote training,” he added, noting they use NCDS and have apprentices.

“Having apprentices is the way to go,” Petsnick remarked. “Too many business, I think, are trying to get by with an aging workforce. . . . But I’m not going to get caught short.

“The trades are hard work and people can’t do it forever,” he indicated, noting, for example, if he has an employee installing flooring up until their mid-40s and they can’t do it anymore, then they would be offered a different position within the company after that.

“We’re taking steps now to ensure we’ll have some younger people coming up to take those spots,” Petsnick added.

“[But] someone who’s worked here for years and years and given this company 100 percent, we want to make sure there’s a position for them here.”

Denby and Chamber manager Dawn Booth both said they were thrilled with how they 12th-annual awards banquet went.

“The event was another success with over 180 guests in attendance, great food and service from the staff at La Place Rendez-Vous, entertaining music by the Borderland Orchestra Ensemble during cocktail hour, another great video presentation by Shaw, and lots of smiles, laughs, and cheers,” Booth enthused.

The 13th-annual banquet tentatively is scheduled for Nov. 8 next year.

Nominations likely will be sought during September and October, with any business in Rainy River District eligible to be nominated.

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