District businesses shine at awards gala

Duane Hicks

District businesses got their share of the limelight last Thursday during the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s 18th-annual Tbaytel business awards gala at La Place Rendez-Vous.
Betty’s of Fort Frances was named Business of the Year—the second time the business has been so honoured in recent years as Betty’s also won Business of the Year (1-16 employees) in 2012.
“I’d like to thank our great customers who make our day,” said Blair Anderson.
“Someday soon I’ll be retiring, but they say I can’t because I haven’t worked a day yet in my life,” he joked.
Anderson also thank staff members Ashley Johnson and Judy Kielczewski, as well as his brother and “sometimes” staff member, Doug, “when he does anything.”
Amidst the uproarious laughter of the audience, Doug Anderson got back at his brother—making fun of how he pages him at the store by simply yelling, “Doug!”
The award was sponsored by 93.1 The Border and presented by Leo Melanson.
The Tony Beyak Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award, meanwhile, was presented to Kayne Shaw.
In addition to being a volunteer firefighter with the Fort Frances Fire Brigade, Shaw has been involved with the Fort Frances Curling Club, Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Festival, and Fort Frances Aquanauts over the past 20 years, not to mention various town committees.
“I’d like to thank whoever nominated me,” Shaw said as she graciously accepted the honour on stage.
“No one will tell me, it’s a secret,” she noted.
“I would also like to thank my family,” Shaw added. “They understand that supper at 8 o’clock at night is a good thing.
“And as far as donating resources, I’d like to thank my boss [Daryl Eyolfson] because mostly they’re his,” she smiled.
This award was sponsored by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce and presented by Tannis Drysdale.
She noted the award is given to an individual who has volunteered their time, efforts, knowledge, or resources to the quality of life in Rainy River District, and also recognizes leadership, innovation, and creativity.
Christine Krueger (Fort Frances Dental Centre) was honoured as Employee of the Year, which was sponsored by The Westend Weekly and presented by Teresa Hazel.
“Thank you very much for this award,” said Krueger, who admitted she was nervous and much more used to talking to people one-on-one than to a crowd.
Ben Morelli, owner/operator of From the Grind Up, was named Entrepreneur of the Year.
“Wow. Thank you very much,” said Morelli, whose business opened its door a little over a year ago.
“Everyone who nominated me and voted, thank you very much,” he added, noting he appreciated the support he’s received from the BIA, Rainy River Future Development Corp., and Town of Fort Frances.
Morelli also thanked his family, his “awesome staff,” and his customers who come in and make From the Grind Up a “friendly and tolerant place.”
The award was sponsored by Rainy River Future Development Corp. and presented by George Emes.
Tompkins Home Hardware in Emo earned the Customer Service Award (Business), which was accepted by Deb Zimmerman.
This award was sponsored by TD Canada Trust and presented by new local branch manager Eric Blondin.
Donna Lowey (Lowey’s Greenhouse) took home the Customer Service Award (Individual).
“I appreciate it. Thank you very much,” Lowey said on stage.
“What, another six weeks ’til spring maybe?” she joked with the audience. “Maybe six months?
“I’ll see you in a few weeks.”
The award was sponsored by Good Impressions Printing and presented by Laureen Vandetti.
Jennifer Horton (Curvy Chick/Chick with a Camera) was honoured as Business Woman of the Year.
“I am definitely honoured that I won,” Horton told the Times on Friday.
She could not receive the award in person so it was accepted on her behalf by employee Mackenzie Booth.
“It has been such an amazing year! I am so happy,” enthused Horton.
“I was surprised I won because there [were] many great woman nominated,” she admitted.
“There has been so many supportive [people] in the community and I am grateful to have that support.”
The award was sponsored by the local Professional Women’s Network and presented by Deborah Emes.
Kupila’s Sound Centre took the Home-Based Business Award.
“When you’ve got a home-based business, [the] commute sucks,” Miles Kupila joked after receiving the award from sponsor Mark Caron (M.L. Caron Electric), who also is president of the Chamber.
Kupila thanked his customers and the other businesses that support him.
“I do a lot of work for other people and it’s nice to get word of mouth around, and it’s nice to always see them come back,” he noted, also thanking his “boss” and wife, Becky.
And Bobbie Parker (Mr. Sub) was named Small Business Trainer of the Year.
The award was sponsored by NCDS and presented by Nicke Baird.
The business awards gala was attended by a sold-out crowd of 160 people.
Chamber business and event development assistant intern Samantha Manty, one of the primary organizers of the gala, felt it was “a very successful evening.”
“Everyone who came out really enjoyed themselves,” she enthused.
“We were really excited to have a sold-out event,” Manty added. “I thought that was super amazing.”
Caron said the event is an opportunity “to honour the individuals and businesses that go above and beyond to provide customer services and other services that may be needed in Fort Frances and Rainy River District.”
The gala was co-hosted by Chamber first vice-president Myles Kuharski and Fort Frances-born and raised comedian Ryan McMahon, the latter of whom entertained the audience after the awards ceremony.
The well-attended event was organized by the Chamber of Commerce. It was sponsored by Tbaytel while Sunset Country Ford sponsored the roast prime rib dinner and Gillons’ Insurance sponsored the champagne handed out at the door.
The evening also featured a silent auction, with prizes sponsored by many local businesses.
The door prize—a large photographic print—was donated by Jenny Greenhalgh of Jenny Greenhalgh Consulting.
“Entirely Mac” played music before and during dinner.
The event was decorated by Diane Gibson of Gibson Design.